- Bethesda Game Studios' latest game, Starfield, is making headlines for its performance issues on PC, despite its overall success.
- According to Todd Howard, Starfield is a "next-gen" game and implied that players might need to upgrade their PCs.
- While Starfield offers a vast universe for players to explore, it's evident that there are optimization issues that need to be addressed.
Bethesda Game Studios' space opera, Starfield, has already amassed significant attention, breaking records and creating waves of discussions, drawing criticism for its slow-paced start but also for its optimization, especially on the PC platform.
Todd Howard, Bethesda's Game Director on Starfield, was recently under the spotlight during a Bloomberg Technology interview.
Alongside Xbox chief, Phil Spencer, Howard fielded a question many from the Starfield community were eager to have answered: why is the PC version of Starfield not properly optimized? This isn't an ordinary inquiry. It stemmed from user complaints, suggesting that the game wasn't running smoothly on their PC systems. Issues ranged from audio bugs, visual stuttering, crashes, and other performance-related hitches.
Howard's response, however, was unexpected, diverting from the usual script of developers asking users to double-check system setups or update drivers. "We did. It's running great," he said, unapologetically. "It is a next-gen PC game. We really pushed the technology, so you may need to upgrade your PC for this game. But it's got a lot of great stuff going on in it, and the fans are responding awesomely."
So, yes, that just happened. The founder of one of the most acclaimed gaming studios just told Starfield players on the PC to "git gud" with their money and spend more on a better set-up.
While admittedly humorous and bravely transparent, the affected didn't care for Howard's hubris. Howard's dismissive directness belies the frustrations by players voiced on several platforms, from X to Steam and even Reddit. Although the systems close to the specs of the Steam Deck and maybe even the Xbox Series S/X aren't expected to perform as well as their console counterparts - it's no secret that developers spend more time optimizing games for consoles - there's no reasons that set-ups that meet the Recommended PC Requirements for Starfield are struggling to maintain 60 FPS in 1080p at low settings.
To make matters worse, Bethesda still hasn't properly explained why Starfield doesn't have DLSS 3.5 and an FOV slider - these are two features considered as basic inclusions for, as Howard's words, "a next-gen PC game."
Nevertheless, it's undeniable that Starfield has been performing impressively in its early days. The game saw over a million concurrent users on its launch day. This milestone speaks volumes about its appeal, bolstered by its inclusion on the Xbox Game Pass, which, according to Spencer, has already seen "huge success" across both PC and Xbox platforms.
Despite the criticisms, Starfield's optimization is, at the very least, at a level that's "better" than its competitors, like, for example, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, which only recently got "fixed" following a botched launch.
Yet, PC users can't shake off some evident oversights in the game's design. Fundamental aspects like FOV settings need workarounds, reminiscent of issues faced in older Bethesda games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which is probably not the comparison Phil Spencer had in mind. Other technical details like brightness options, resolution adjustments, and post-processing settings, also remain points of contention. It's clear that the game's PC version needed more care and attention, with the game's UI being locked at 30FPS causing stutters, especially inside the starship. Finally, subpar mouse controls and disparate healing mechanics for on-foot and in-ship scenarios are other issues exclusive to those who play Starfield on desktops.
Regardless, Starfield's universe remains vast and the bugs are, for better or for worse, part of the gameplay experience. It promises a plethora of gameplay opportunities, as highlighted by Howard's comments on ship shields and defense strategies as well as character builds. He suggests the game offers almost five or six experiences in one, urging players to make it their own. But, as players traverse its expansive cosmos, it's clear that their journey will be accompanied by debates on optimization, system requirements, and Bethesda's vision for next-gen gaming.
While Starfield showcases Bethesda's ambition to push technological boundaries, it also brings to light the challenges of meeting diverse player expectations.
Only time will tell if Bethesda will respond to these critiques with updates or if players will adapt to the universe as it's currently presented.
If it's any consolation, modders are already doing Bethesda's work.