Starfield became too realistic with space, and now everyone is disappointed
The euphoria surrounding Starfield spiraled out of control as players meticulously dissected every comment from Bethesda and spread speculations as f...
The euphoria surrounding Starfield spiraled out of control as players meticulously dissected every comment from Bethesda and spread speculations as facts, ultimately leading to inflated expectations.
In Starfield, Bethesda aimed for realism to portray space as vast and awe-inspiring. However, players found this approach dull and disappointing, as some planets appeared empty and the travel between them took too long.
While Bethesda's ambition to achieve realism is understandable, there exists a significant gap between players' expectations and what they have received. This highlights the pivotal role that players' expectations played in the disappointment surrounding Starfield.
Starfield was intended to be the groundbreaking space game of our generation, combining the freedom and exploration of No Man's Sky with the role-playing elements of earlier Bethesda games. Against their better instincts, players allowed themselves to be swept away by the excitement and dreamed of exploring a thousand planets, each with its own unique aspects and secrets to uncover. They yearned to soar through space in their spacecraft, encountering peculiar encounters, exploring every visible planet, and meeting new potential friends or foes. They yearned for a truly open world, devoid of loading screens, a game that was nothing short of a cohesive universe. Then they launched the game and found themselves disappointed.
What went wrong? Well, for one, the hype train went off the rails. People scrutinized every comment from Bethesda about the game down to the smallest detail, and fan theories were rampant. Individuals treated assumptions as facts online, and rumors circulated repeatedly before the release. This happens sometimes, especially with games as massive and highly anticipated as this one. However, that's not really Bethesda's fault. But where we can fault Bethesda is in the fact that they aimed for a certain level of realism with Starfield, which ended up being rather underwhelming for players who already had inflated expectations.
The reality of space is that it is mostly empty, traveling between objects takes an eternity, and most things in space are chunks of rock. In an interview with The New York Times last week, Bethesda managers revealed that explicit emphasis was placed on realism to ground the project and that striking a balance between realism and entertainment was another significant focus. Survival in space had to be challenging but not excessively difficult.
Some planets were intended to appear empty because that's how space is. Bethesda's CEO, Ashley Cheng, stated, "The purpose of the vastness of space is to make you feel small. It should be overwhelming." That is a very valid point and an important goal when developing a game that emphasizes feelings of awe and solitude. However, I'm not entirely sure if Bethesda executed it perfectly.
Of course, there is also the issue of space travel, which personally, I don't consider a significant problem. Many players are frustrated that they cannot fly from planet to planet, partly because it takes a darn long time—seven hours in real-time to reach Pluto, who would endure that? Starfield's commitment to realism means they have made it appropriately challenging to travel to distant planets, turning a journey into a lengthy expedition spanning several hours. In the real world, it would take years, decades, or even centuries to reach these planets with the technology we currently have. This has been adjusted for gameplay purposes, so it takes considerably less time, but still a darn long time. That's why there is a fast travel system, so we don't have to laboriously navigate through galaxies. However, for those who want to freely fly around in space, it is a major disappointment. (Pro tip: Use your scanner in the spaceship to avoid menus.)
I don't necessarily think Bethesda did anything inherently wrong here, but there is certainly a significant gap between players' expectations and what they received. A realistic space game is fine, truly, and if someone wants to spend hours wandering through the emptiness of space, that's a matter of personal preference. However, player expectations did hinder Starfield, but perhaps a higher flight speed at the beginning of Starfield could have alleviated many of those initial disappointments. Well, now it's too late! It's Bethesda's universe, and we all play within it.