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2023-09-06 –

Raw: [Todd Howard tells the BBC his team wondered if they ‘were in over our heads’ when creating the game.] Starfield creator on 'choice anxiety', long games and exclusive titles – BBC NewsBBC HomepageSkip to contentAccessibility HelpYour accountHomeNewsSportReelWorklifeTravelFutureMore menuMore menuSearch BBCHomeNewsSportReelWorklifeTravelFutureCultureMusicTVWeatherSoundsClose menuBBC NewsMenuHomeWar in UkraineClimateVideoWorldUS & CanadaUKBusinessTechScienceMoreEntertainment & ArtsHealthIn PicturesBBC VerifyWorld News TVNewsbeatEntertainment & ArtsStarfield creator on 'choice anxiety', long games and exclusive titlesPublished22 hours agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Bethesda Game StudiosBy Steffan PowellGaming correspondent"I had a moment of realisation of just how much we'd have to design, there's a lot of space in space!"Todd Howard, game director of Skyrim and Fallout 4, is speaking to the BBC ahead of the launch of his most ambitious project to date.Starfield is a sprawling space epic, giving players the freedom to navigate the stars in search of action and adventure. Howard admits candidly that this new release, "ended up being much larger than anything we've done. At times we thought, 'are we in over our heads?'"It's not surprising, given the scope of the game Howard and his team were aiming to create.Starfield promises players unrivalled freedom. As a member of a space exploration group trying to uncover the story of a mysterious artefact, players can choose to travel to more than a thousand different planets, customise their ships and weapons in an immeasurable number of ways and experience hundreds of different stories, missions and side-quests.Bethesda Game Studios, established in Maryland, America, is well known for making role-playing games that players invest a lot of time in and Howard explains the vision for this title was for something "that people are going to play for a long time."But how long is too long? It is a question that is often asked in gaming lobbies, Whatsapp chats or in pubs and coffee shops.Image source, AlamyImage caption, Starfield is the first Bethesda game in 25 years that tries to establish a brand new settingAren't shorter, more focused and polished experiences the way forward? Do all modern titles need hundreds of hours worth of material? Doesn't that risk the inclusion of errors – all for the sake of providing untold options for players to choose between – when the majority of players won't access all the options?Howard isn't concerned: "In my career I've found two things about people who play games. Often they do play one title for a really long time rather than moving on to something new. "But even if they only play for 10 or 20 hours, finish the main story, save the world then move on, they'll have at least seen all the other choices that could have been taken. It means those 20 hours will be different for every player because they were exposed to so much choice – which impacted their appreciation of the story and experience." Long role-playing games that players can sink tens if not hundreds of hours of playing time into are currently re-emerging as the big trend in gaming. This year the games which have impressed critics and audiences alike are titles like Hogwarts: Legacy, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur's Gate 3. All give the player countless options of quests and locations to explore at any given moment. Starfield is the latest.Howard's games are renowned for this style of gameplay, and Starfield is no different, even if he does acknowledge there are some drawbacks to this style of game design. "At times I suffer from choice anxiety," he admits. Image caption, Todd Howard argues that exclusive games are good for the games industry"But options are what I think keeps a game going in your head. When you put it down, you start thinking about when you can pick it back up? What am I going to do next? Or when you get distracted by choices in a game, and the hours go by, that's when I start feeling good about a game I'm making."Things are always a bit of a mess during development, but you know things are starting to gel together when you go in to test something, and it's late in the day and you've got to finish up soon, and you start playing. Next thing you know, three hours have gone by and you're like 'oh my, I didn't even know!'"That's when I start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and I know we're on to something."Many of the concepts seen in Starfield have been explored in games before and comparisons with titles such as No Man's Sky have already been made. However, the promise of this freedom to explore space coupled with Bethesda Games Studio's legacy of storytelling is what made Starfield one of the most hotly anticipated releases of 2023.The reaction so far has been broadly positive, with the review aggregator site Metacritic giving the game 87 out of 100. In his review for IGN, which scored the game seven out of 10, Dan Stapleton argues that the "combination of disjointed space travel, non-existent maps and a slow rollout of essential abilities very nearly did it in. It was the joys piloting a custom spaceship into and out of all sorts of morally ambiguous situations in a rich sci-fi universe that eventually pulled it out of a nosedive."In The Video Games Chronicle, Jordan Middler scored the game five out of five saying, "The sense of wonder, adventure, and possibility is an intoxicating trick that never wore off."Image source, Bethesda Game StudiosImage caption, Starfield gives players the opportunity to explore more than a thousand planetsScoring it seven out of ten, Michael Higham, writing in Games Spot, argues that: "Bethesda's spacefaring adventure has its moments with impressive scale and satisfying combat… but its uninspired vision of the cosmos make for a journey that's a mile wide, but an inch deep." Other publications, like The Guardian, Eurogamer and Kotaku, whose reviews are highly regarded, have been unable to fully analyse the title yet because of a dispute over when they received a copy of the game to try. We sat down to speak with Howard before this was public knowledge,This release is an important moment for Microsoft and especially its Xbox console. As an exclusive title, bosses hope it will draw more players to choose their machine over main rival the PlayStation 5.Image source, Bethesda Game StudiosImage caption, Starfield is trying to live up to the successes of Bethesda's previous role-playing games, like Skyrim and Fallout 4Despite many of the world's most popular titles being cross-platform, Howard argues that exclusives like this still have a place in the industry: "When you're making something exclusive then the more you can focus."You know this is the hardware or the thing people are playing on, so the ability to focus on that always yields a better product. You do want people to be able to access it of course. But being with Xbox means there is an ease of access for us and I'm told we're expecting more people playing this launch than anything we've ever done before and that's despite the success of our previous games."I do also think people attach brands to certain games. When you think of Zelda you think of the Switch and I think there are times when that can be a real benefit."For more gaming content, go to Press X to Continue, the BBC Sounds gaming Podcast.Related TopicsGamingXboxMicrosoftMore on this storyWhat's behind Netflix's expansion into gaming?Published30 AugustMicrosoft makes new bid to unblock Call of Duty dealPublished22 AugustAI will 'lead to more games and more gaming jobs'Published21 JulyTop StoriesScientists grow whole model of human embryoPublished8 hours agoProsecutors want to indict Hunter Biden this monthPublished2 hours agoThe YouTube star killed by her fatherPublished23 hours agoloadingFeaturesPalestinians set out terms for Saudi-Israeli dealSlums hidden as India puts on its best face for G20The YouTube star killed by her fatherStarfield creator defends long video gamesLies fuel racism ahead of historic Australia voteThe million-dollar hustle changing US sportClimate change and crocodiles in a Kenyan lakeUkraine’s cyber-teams duel with Russians on front linesWorry at antibiotics overuse at India's Kumbh MelaElsewhere on the BBCFive of the best countries for expats in 2023How bad skin influences ageIs Hollywood self-destructing?Most Read1US man stopped in 'hamster wheel' ocean crossing2Scientists grow whole model of human embryo3Security lapse let killer 'crab walk' out of US jail4Biden honours Vietnam pilot who disregarded order5Trump suffers loss in E Jean Carroll defamation case6Lee could become 'extremely dangerous' hurricane7The YouTube star killed by her father8Terror suspect escapes prison by hiding under van9Prosecutors want to indict Hunter Biden this month10Palestinians set out terms for Saudi-Israeli dealBBC News ServicesOn your mobileOn smart speakersGet news alertsContact BBC NewsHomeNewsSportReelWorklifeTravelFutureCultureMusicTVWeatherSoundsTerms of UseAbout the BBCPrivacy PolicyCookiesAccessibility HelpParental GuidanceContact the BBCGet Personalised NewslettersWhy you can trust the BBCAdvertise with us© 2023 BBC. 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