Starfield Quest Design Had Bethesda Going Back to Its Old School RPG Roots, Says Lead Quest Designer

Alessio Palumbo

Starfield may not have appeared at The Game Awards 2022, much to the disappointment of Bethesda and Xbox fans alike, but BGS Lead Quest Designer Will Shen (known for his work on the acclaimed Fallout 4 Far Harbor DLC) has now appeared in official interviews via the website and YouTube.

The blog post published on the official Bethesda website had Shen discussing the return to the studio's old-school RPG roots (previously hinted at by Todd Howard himself).

I think for Starfield a lot of quest design was going back to our old-school RPG roots: lots of dialogue choices, referencing the player’s skills and background, a variety of combat and non-combat activities, and highlighting our brand-new setting in a way that signals where to go for what kind of stories you want to experience. We really tried to draw on all of our previous titles to build quests we were excited about.

Later in this interview, Shen teased the things he's most excited about in Starfield's quests, whether he is personally working on them or others are.

I can’t wait for folks to play the Main Quest and meet all the members of Constellation, the key faction for the story. We really wanted to capture that sense of shared adventure and optimism that was part of early space exploration going back to the Moon landing and the Apollo missions.

I have a few favorites in the main quest, but there’s a lot of spoilers there. I love the beginning of the Ryujin Industries questline. The quest designer in charge of that story did a great job turning a seemingly ordinary activity (an employment interview) into a memorable moment.

As mentioned earlier, Shen was also featured in the latest episode of Bethesda's 'Constellation Questions' video series. Here, Shen went in-depth about a few Starfield systems, such as the upgraded random encounter system.

Will: Very exciting. This time around, we have entire planets that we have to populate. We actually have new tech to take whole locations that we've built and put them on the planets. Now, you could say maybe you're going to an outpost, and you actually discover there's a whole group of people there with a particular problem, whereas before, it might be just a person coming up to you along the road. Now it's an actual whole location that can be put there. And maybe there, they have a problem like, “One of our members was kidnapped. They've been kidnapped by some pirates. We think they're over there”. The player is actually placed in a whole other location with that person in it and enemies around it. So, it is a dynamically placed settlement that is taking you to a dynamically placed dungeon as you're walking through the planet.

Jess: That’s amazing. So basically, at any point in time on a planet, you can just experience a random encounter anywhere?

Will: Yeah, exactly. And I think we're really only just scratching the surface of what that tech can do.

One of the many questions Starfield fans have about the game, the role of Earth and its Solar System, was also touched upon. The BGS Lead Quest Designer mentioned players would indeed be sent back to the Solar System (which is called Old Neighborhood by the game's characters), more specifically to Mars, by the Constellation faction. On the Red Planet, they'll get to explore one of the very first settlements made by humankind when it left Earth: Cydonia. The video also provides a brief glimpse of the city, which seems to be mostly located underground.

Speaking of factions, Will Shen stated that Starfield would allow players to play through all of the faction lines independently of each other, just like in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and unlike Fallout 4, which automatically excluded players from certain factions once they had joined others.

The reason provided by Shen was that stories would be more personal this time around and players won't necessarily end up heading every faction, making it less problematic to keep the stories coherent between one another.

Lastly, the Starfield Lead Quest Designer said companions would provide lots of opinions and points of view on the various quests undertaken by the players. In some instances, the developers also added an option for the player character to allow companions to speak on their behalf, with potentially unintended consequences stemming from that. Companions will also be crewing the player's spaceship.

Originally scheduled to launch on November 11th, 2022, on the 11th anniversary of the release of Skyrim, Starfield was delayed to the first half of 2023 alongside Arkane's Redfall. We haven't heard any updated release dates for either game, but you can check all the previous Starfield information we've collected on the dedicated product page.

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