The COVID-19 pandemic forced Bethesda to cut content from Starfield

It's crazy to think that Starfield could've been so much bigger than it already is if not for the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the globe.

Starfield might be getting its fair share of negative reviews now, but it has still been huge for Bethesda and Microsoft.

Starfield's gravity has engulfed gaming conversations, for better or for worse. The buzz surrounding Bethesda's newest game has been nothing short of phenomenal - a beacon that's flickered for years, beckoning to gamers from all around the world. But, while it might seem like Starfield magically dominated the charts, the journey it has undertaken is a testament to perseverance, innovation, and adaptability.

Just in case you've lived on a remote space rock somewhere out there in the outskirts of Milky Way, Starfield is a space RPG that Bethesda has sat on for decades before eventually getting the green light only to see its initial release see multiple postponements.

While these delays, often seen as hindrances, are now viewed as necessary evils, especially when we delve deeper into the underlying reasons. Todd Howard, Bethesda's director and executive producer, recently engaged in enlightening discussions on the game, shedding light on the intricate processes and challenges faced during its creation.

Earth's state in Starfield is a potential future for our own planet if we don't change course.

Howard, in conversation with the Washington Post, hinted at some fascinating "could-have-been" content. Imagine the surprise on player's faces when landing on Earth inside Starfield and stumbling on the desolate landscape of what was formerly Washington D.C. from Fallout 3, a post-apocalyptic backdrop that served as the setting for Bethesda's take on Interplay Studios' former isometric RPG.

"We talked about it," Howard remarked jovially, suggesting that while the idea had been part of the initial plans, it was eventually shelved.

The reason behind such pivotal design decisions stemmed from a deeper technical conundrum. Bethesda's initial work on Starfield was rooted in their old Creation Engine. However, as the game's vision expanded, it became evident that they needed to transition to the newly minted Creation Engine 2. A significant portion of the groundwork had to be ported to this new engine, a task daunting in its own right. Yet, the universe threw another curveball at Bethesda: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starfield has already lost the GOTY race at this point but that has never been the goal for Bethesda from the start.

As the pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide, Bethesda, like countless others, had to pivot to a work-from-home model. However, unlike conventional tech jobs, game development thrives on collaboration.

Think of artists working side by side, sharing their creations in real-time, deriving feedback, and weaving a tapestry of immersive experiences. While developers can conduct daily progress reviews remotely, the true essence of development blossoms when artists and developers are in close quarters.

Coupled with the unique challenges games pose, such as handling terabytes of data and the intricate dance of syncing changes, the work-from-home model began to show its cracks.

We can only imagine just how much bigger Starfield could've been if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Underlying all these technical challenges, Starfield was not just any game but a project that required the development of a brand-new technological backbone. The planned release for November 2022 seemed feasible with a comfortable buffer in place. But as Howard admitted, even a small deviation in percentage when scaling up a project of this scale is going to translate into significant time lags.

Thus, the decision to push the game's release to September was not a whim but a calculated choice to ensure the final product was nothing short of perfection.

For the most part, this appears to have worked for Starfield. By all intents and purposes, it's a commercial success that, although might not win any awards, will likely be enjoyed by players for years.

Even post-launch, Starfield has captivated audiences, boasting 1 million concurrent players on its debut day and racking up a total of 6 million players shortly after. The journey, however, is far from over. With expansions like Shattered Space on the horizon, Bethesda is committed to enriching the Starfield experience.

Starfield is still lagging behind Fallout 4 in terms of numbers but there's no doubt that it has the staying power to, at the very least, last as long as its predecessors.

So, as critics and enthusiasts alike delve into the myriad worlds of Starfield, one thing becomes clear: the stars, while challenging to reach, are undoubtedly worth the journey.

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Ray Ampoloquio

Ray Ampoloquio // Articles: 5841

Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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