If you’ve been following Bethesda for the past few years, you know that they are hard at work with their next big RPG, Starfield. It’s gained a massive following as fans knew that this title would be landing for the next-generation platforms at the time of its announcement. Of course, since then, we found that Bethesda came under the Xbox umbrella after Microsoft picked up ZeniMax Media. So now this game is set to be a Microsoft exclusive, which means it’s only releasing for the PC and Xbox Series X/S platforms.
Regardless, the game has continued to blow in popularity. Since then, fans have had plenty of questions despite the various trailers and deep dives. Fortunately, while the game is still in the works and not set to launch until next month, the development team from Bethesda decided to hold a little Q&A. Fans of the game could enter their biggest questions, and the team hand-selected a total of sixteen that they offered to answer.
Taking to the official Bethesda Game Studios Discord server, Bethesda’s Will Shen, who is the lead quest designer on Starfield, along with Emil Pagliarulo, the lead game designer, took to the server and answered some of your questions. We have the complete Q&A from earlier today below in case you missed out. You’ll get some lore regarding the Colony War, dwellings, smuggling contraband, to even some of the religious groups within this game universe.
Starfield Discord Q&A
Can we buy houses or properties in main cities?
Will Shen: Yep! There’s housing in different cities that the player can get. Some you have to purchase and some are rewards for specific quests.
Emil Pagliarulo: Sure can! You can purchase a dwelling in all the major cities in the game. And there’s at least one that you get specifically for completing… something.
If we get the Kids Stuff trait, will our parents be generated based on our characters look or are there standard parents put in place? What benefits might there be?
Will: Our programmers on our new face tech were excited to make a function that could try to match your custom face and then create the two parents. So they are based on what your character looks like, although the specific math involved is a bit beyond me. We had similar tech in our previous games.
Emil: Yes, totally. Just as we did in Fallout 3 with your dad, and in Fallout 4 with your son, in Starfield, if you take the Kid Stuff Trait. your parents are based off of you. No spoilers, but I think fans will really appreciate the actors we got to play those roles. And they just get SO into it, it’s awesome. (Oh, and yeah, you can get… stuff)
For those of us who have never played a BGS game and will be starting with Starfield, what information should we know that will make the experience more impactful right from the start? How deep should we go into creating our character’s backstory before we start the game?
Emil: We always make our games for fans both old AND new. So you can jump in without ever having played a Bethesda title before.
Will: While we do start you off in the same spot, what happened to you before the game starts is totally up to you and your head canon.
Emil: But we like to look at it less as playing a game, and more about living in the universe we created. So settle in, go at your own pace, and pretty soon you’ll learn all the systems and be adventuring through the Settled Systems the way you choose. As for going into a character’s backstory, that’s entirely up to you. I’m all about that head canon. For example, my latest character is a working shlub named Mitch Dombrowski. He’s a husky, good-natured space trucker, and while he’ll do whatever he needs to defend himself, he’ll never shoot first. He’s like Han Solo’s sweeter older brother. And yes, there are Traits and Backgrounds that support that kind of thing.
Will: There is a Trait and Background system that will let you specify more about yourself, but you can also select an anonymous background and no traits if you want. In terms of if you’ve never played a BGS game before: Try anything! We’re a simulation as well as a roleplaying game, so we try to support the player doing what they want as much as we can.
How will the smuggling cargo system work? Can we hide it somewhere on the ship and sell it for more currency later?
Will: Certain items are considered “Contraband” and you’ll need to smuggle them past security ships that are in orbit of major settlements.
Emil: There are specific items that are considered Contraband, meaning they’re pretty much illegal everywhere. And yes, you can hide them using special ship modules you can purchase. So, you know, don’t get caught with those harvested organs. The economy is fixed, but prices of bought and sold good can change based on the Skills you choose.
Will there be a jail system if we committed crimes?
Will: Yes, you can elect to go to jail or pay a fine when you’re arrested (or even resist arrest and try to escape).
Emil: Yup. The Settled Systems is more like Skyrim than Fallout 4’s Commonwealth in that regard. Ya bancha criminals! There’s civilization, there’s government, and there are laws. And in a couple cases, we actually explore the themes of crime and punishment in our futuristic universe.
Will time pass when not in the game? For example, will my trade routes, outposts, and mining operations continue to produce or does that only occur while actively playing?
Emil: The sim only runs when you’re actively playing. No sleeping on the job!
Will: Only when actively playing.
Can you be a double agent in the game? For example, if you join the United Colonies, can you also join the Crimson Fleet and give the United Colonies information? And what factions have that feature if they do?
Will: All of the playable factions can be completed independently. The Crimson Fleet storyline does feature you being an undercover agent inside the Fleet on behalf of UC SysDef (a specific military branch of the United Colonies), but whether you betray the Fleet or UC SysDef is a choice you will get to make.
Emil: Ha! That is exactly what you can do – infiltrate the Crimson Fleet for UC SysDef! It’s specific to that questline. In the studio, I have been (half-jokingly) accused of referencing movies that some folks have never seen, because I’m old. So with this particular plotline, the inspiration was very much the movie Donnie Brasco, which is the true story of an FBI agent who infiltrates the mafia. HOW FAR WILL YOU GO?!
Depending on traits selected during character creation, will it at all be possible to play through the game in a ‘pacifist mode’, i.e. without killing anyone, or even potentially, anything?
Will: I can’t guarantee every mission can be completed in pacifist mode, but we do have a couple of systems that will help. One system is our Speech Challenge game, where you can persuade someone to do something like not fight you. The speech challenge game is added in specific scripted moments, and we try to add one in to most quests where important characters confront you.
Emil: So, we talked about this very early on during pre-production, whether or not we would fully support a “non-lethal” playthrough. We realized that, for various reasons, that wasn’t totally feasible. Now, that being said, there are some good non-lethal options, whether through dialogue or by using a non-lethal weapon. Those can be used in certain situations, honestly a lot of situations, though I couldn’t comfortably say you can complete the entire game without any killing whatsoever. The Settled Systems is mostly civilized, but it can be a dangerous place if you’re going off the beaten path. And you’re absolutely going off the beaten path!
What are the beliefs and basic history of the religions we can join (Sanctum Universum, Enlightened, Great Serpent)?
Emil: Okay, so this one…
Emil: Existing, IRL religions are part of the Starfield universe, (with folks of all religions and denominations out there) but we don’t really focus on them. Instead, we highlight three new ones specific to the game.
Will: The Sanctum Universum is only a couple decades old in our timeline, but has gained a lot of prominence. They believe that God is out there, somewhere in the universe, and that humanity’s ability to travel the stars brings us closer to God.
Emil: Sanctum Universum – The members, called “Universals,” believe that God very much exists somewhere in the universe. That a higher power is guiding us all. Specifically, they believe that humanity’s ability to travel the universe and grav jump is God’s way of saying, “I’m out here. Come find me.”
Will: The Enlightened are an atheist group that focus on humanitarian and community work. They believe that life is something every person has to take responsibility for, so that if we want the world to be a better place, we have to do it.
Emil: The Enlightened – These folks are essentially organized atheists. They don’t believe in any kind of higher power. Rather, they teach that human beings have to take care of each other, and they practice what they preach through various community outreach programs.
Emil: House Va’ruun – Ho boy. So, in the game, you’re not really sure what the complete truth is, but…the gossip among the guards is this: a colony ship sets off for a new world, making grav jumps along the way. After one of the grav jumps, one of the passengers claims he spent that time communing with a celestial entity known as the Great Serpent. What was a few seconds for everyone else was… much longer for him. And he brought back a mandate, which is basically, “get onboard, or be devoured when the Great Serpent encircles the universe.” Is it true?? I ain’t sayin’. So in the game, you sometimes face off against House Va’ruun Zealots (as an enemy group), and that’s their motivation. I recently got the House Va’runn logo tattooed on my wrist. So yeah, I dig them.
How many companions total will we be able to recruit?
Will: There are over 20 named characters who can join your crew. Four of them are from Constellation and have the most story and interaction with the player, but all of the named characters have their own backgrounds and can follow you around (and carry your stuff).
Emil: Over 20 total, and we really focused on the members of Constellation. When we first began Starfield pre-production, we looked back at our previous games, and realized how popular and effective the companions were. So they were a big priority for us, and we really wanted to tie them directly to the main quest. There are some really big moments with them specifically. I should also mention that our companion voice cast is amazing. We haven’t released the list yet, but you can be sure there are a lot of talented actors bringing those characters to life. (Same for Constellation in general)
When we assign crew members to work at outposts, do we have to pay them salaries?
Emil: You just pay them once. We actually experimented with paying them regular salaries, but ultimately decided to just have the one cost up front. There’s a lot to do in Starfield, and we wanted to minimize what the player had to constantly keep track of.
Will: Yep. One time payment (that you can use the speech challenge game to negotiate over. Some traits also affect the cost)
Will our companions be able to level up their perks? Will their perks stack with ours?
Will: All crew start with a set of perks at specific ranks. So you might meet a character that’s especially good at rifles, and you hire them to watch your back. Or you might meet an Astrodynamics expert that will increase your grav jump range when assigned to your ship.
Emil: They don’t level up, but they come at different ranks, depending on the companion. Well, we call them Skills in Starfield. And they do stack with yours, when relevant. Some are there for flavor, to highlight the companions’ backgrounds and interests. But you’ll really feel the benefit of the ship- and combat-related ones. Getting a boost to your shields, or seeing your companion laying down fire with a weapon they’re proficient in, are pretty sweet moments.
What are your favorite parts of the game?
Emil: Shipping it! But seriously, folks. Because of my position, my experience is a little different than yours. I won’t speak for Will, but personally, I’ve seen every questline, every city, every major piece of content in the game at every stage of development. So my answer is colored by that. For me, the real pleasure is seeing how they’ve all evolved into the versions they are today – the versions everyone here will play. I have a real soft spot for Neon. Getting that city nailed down took a lot of work by a lot of different people, and the result is, really, the cyberpunk settlement I always hoped it would be. I also love all the questlines. I think they’re the best we’ve ever done. The designers on this project totally killed it.
Will: I love finding content that I haven’t seen yet or forgot about. Our games are so big that no one person is likely to have seen it all, even after all our passes and levels of review. Our quests really evolve over development and its great to see how everyone adds to them (designers, animators, voice actors, lighting, everything).
What books or movies had a big influence on some of the quests?
Will: I’m a history nerd, so I actually listen to a lot of podcasts like Hardcore History and The History of Rome. While our game is science fiction, I like how historians can tell you about how human beings react to extreme circumstances (like war, famine, and technological breakthroughs), and you can imagine how we’d react to similar circumstances in a fictional setting (just at a grander scale).
Emil: Well, I’m a child of the late 70s-early 80s, and I have very fond memories of the sci-fi of that time. Star Wars, OG Battlestar Galactica, Space: 1999, Buck Rogers, Battle Beyond the Stars, Ice Pirates… and let’s not forget the classic that is Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jaryd Syn. I think I actually saw that one in 3D. But also much “headier” sci-fi stuff, like the writings of Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, or films like Contact, Interstellar, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even Event Horizon. In all of those examples, you realize that outer space is two things: 1.) A source of mystery and wonder, sometimes terror AND 2.) A giant blank page on which you can write any story. And we have written a lot of VERY different stories in Starfield.
What are some favorite small details in Starfield to add to the immersion?
Emil: I think what I really love is that, although humans are living in space, and our aesthetic is very much “NASApunk,” this is a very lived-in universe. And you can see it everywhere. You know, everyone loves the sandwiches. But it’s the books that are lying around, the notes on bulletin boards, the environmental storytelling that our level designers and world artists are so good at. Totally love the work from our voice actors, too. And the music. And sound effects. And clothes.
Will: I look really closely at all our outfits. You can see seems, materials, especially on the spacesuits (Constellation members have patches on their spacesuits and they’re tied to what skills they have). We also love buttons. There’s a lot of buttons.
Emil: Buttons! We do love our buttons.
What is the history of the mechs?
Emil: Oooooo the mechs. Good one. So, we showed this a bit in one of the animated shorts. The mechs are leftovers from the Colony War. (Note it’s Colony War and not Colony Wars. Singular) Both sides, United Colonies and Freestar Collective, had mechs. But the Freestar Collective really mastered them. The United Colonies had mechs, too, but they also relied on the controlled alien beasts from their Xenowarfare division. Both of those were outlawed with the Armistice that ended the Colony War. Both of those were outlawed with the Armistice that ended the Colony War. I’m not saying there’s an old mech battleground in the game. I’m typing it.
With the Q&A wrapped up, we can go back to waiting for the game’s official release to arrive. Currently, Starfield is set to launch on September 6, 2023. When the game does arrive, you can expect this game to be available for the PC, Xbox Series X/S, and the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. If you particular question wasn’t answered, then we still have a couple of weeks left before the game launches. Perhaps we’ll even get some new insight into the game during this months Gamescom.