As the game industry continues to evolve, it’s easy to forget that not every idea that’s put forth in development can make the final cut. Even a game as massive and expansive as Starfield had to let some plans fall by the wayside. As Bethesda’s director Todd Howard explains, hundreds of ideas were left out of the final release of the space-faring RPG.
It’s a big reason why the title took eight years to finish up. The COVID-19 pandemic made working from home much more difficult, which in turn slowed down progress on the project and ultimately forced the company to scrap some features that were set for the game.
Some of these lost features were pretty substantial, too. For example, Howard said that Earth was originally supposed to look a lot more like a nuclear wasteland straight out of Fallout 3. This would have been fitting, considering that Bethesda had a strong relationship with modders and the community for its Elder Scrolls and Fallout series that helped launch open world gameplay into a phenomenon.
However, Howard said that the team couldn’t find a satisfying way to pull off this idea. As a result, Earth looks very different from the rest of the galaxy in Starfield and is hardly recognizable as a planet that once supported life. The director added that they didn’t want the player to feel as though they were just visiting a random location on a massive planet.
The other large missed opportunity was a dynamically-generated level tool. This is something that’s common in roguelike games, which allow players to run through levels over and over again until they beat the game. However, Howard says that this was a hard feature to balance because of the need for the game to be accessible to people with slower computers.
Howard went on to say that they’re still planning on bringing this type of functionality into the future. He believes that the industry will eventually get to a point where players can use a tool to create their own missions and scenarios, which could be a great addition to the series.
Among the many other interesting bits of information Howard shared was that he pitched an Indiana Jones game to LucasArts in 2009, but it never came together. He also revealed that he’s been working with Machine Games on the new Star Wars Battlefront game, and he believes that the partnership will be a good fit because of how well they work together.
Howard will be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences 22nd Hall of Fame at a ceremony on February 23. He’s the latest recipient of this honor for his influential work in open world design, and he’s worked on such iconic games as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. The Academy’s Game Developers Choice Awards has celebrated other prominent industry figures in the past, including Warren Spector, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Ken Kutaragi and Peter Molyneux.