This Starfield memo reveals way more about the story than the reveal trailer did

(Image credit: Bethesda)

A Starfield in-universe memo has given us a ton of new insight into the game's sci-fi setting, though it's not clear whether we are actually supposed to be able to read it.

Bethesda shared a new Starfield video that was full of concept art for the game earlier today, and an eagle-eyed viewer tipped me off to the fact that it isn't just art on display (thanks Avi Love). If you pause the trailer at about 0:57, you can see a developer working on a document of some kind. The text is quite small, but zoom in enough and it seems to be an official statement from one of Starfield's factions. Specifically, it's a warning about space pirate activity from the United Colonies fleet, which sounds official and important, and like the kind of thing which is usually blurred out in this kind of video.

Here's the full text of the message, including the portions of the document which indicate visual elements to be added to the fina, in-game version. Since it's small and a little blurry, I've indicated the couple words I wasn't so sure about with a (?) mark.

United Colonies logo at the top|

SysDef logo below to the left | | UC Vanguard logo below it to the right|

Urgent Communique

Please Be on Alert

Pirates of the Crimson Fleet have extended far beyond the Krys(?) system, and have established footholds in the Sagan, Cheyenne, Lunara, and Narion(?) systems. Both SysDef and the Vanguard are committed to ridding United Colonies space of these parasites.

This is clearly no longer just a Freestar Collective problem.

Also be advised that the "Crimson Fleet" is not a single organized entity or faction. Rather, it is a loose confederation of individual captains, all organized under the same banner.

Shown here is the symbol, or "jolly roger" they've adopted. Anyone displaying that symbol is assumed to be associated with the Crimson Fleet, and can be terminated at will.

|Crimson Fleet logo here|

Any questions should be addressed to Lieutenant John Tuala at MAST for the Vanguard, and Commander Kibwe Ikande aboard the UC Vigilance for SysDef.


UC Fleet Admiral Pascual Logan

MAST (Military, Administrative and Scientific Triumvirate)

New Atlantis - Planet Jemison - Alpha Centauri

So, what have we learned from this memo, assuming it isn't a red herring created to throw off snooping fans? In the fiction of Starfield, the United Colonies is a governing body for several systems worth of settled planets, possibly operating alongside another such body called the Freestar Collective. Both of these factions are plagued by a loosely affiliated group of pirates calling themselves the Crimson Fleet, and the United Colonies has no qualms about calling these pirates "parasites" and giving kill-on-sight orders for anyone flying the fleet's banner. Honestly, that last part makes me feel a lot more dubious about the United Colonies than the Crimson Fleet.

Finally, at least part of the game (or its backstory anyway) is set in Alpha Centauri, the closest planetary system to our own. Alpha Centauri is likely home to humanity's oldest and best-established colonies in Starfield, since it's just a hop, skip, and hyperjump away at 4.37 lightyears out from the Sun.

Again, it's not clear whether Bethesda included the memo in the trailer as an accident, a little wink to fans, or as a red herring, but hopefully we don't have to wait much longer to hear about the story behind Starfield.

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Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.