We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Ex-Bethesda dev thought Starfield would be better with fewer planets

An ex-Bethesda developer believed Starfield would be better with a smaller number of planets, but says that Todd Howard wanted more.

Starfield planets: A smiling blond woman, Sarah Morgan from Bethesda RPG game Starfield

Starfield planets are vast, numerous, and, in a lot of cases, totally empty. In Fallout, Elder Scrolls Oblivion, and Skyrim, traveling between locations becomes a rich gaming experience in itself, with random encounters, incidental discoveries, and your own, personal organic stories. Similarly, each city and dwelling is hand crafted. Exploration in Starfield is more disparate, as you navigate menus to fast travel between space and the procedurally generated planets. One former Bethesda developer explains how, in the initial stages of Starfield development, this might have been different, but that Todd Howard wanted a bigger RPG.

Between Starfield planets and Starfield cities, the new Bethesda RPG game feels almost infinite. Travel through the many solar systems. Choose a place to land. Spend hours gathering resources and building Starfield outposts. Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest games ever made in terms of sheer size, but compared to Skyrim, Oblivion, and Fallout 4, Starfield can also feel a bit diffuse and empty. If you’ve ever thought that perhaps Starfield would be better with a smaller number of planets, former Bethesda developer Bruce Nesmith, who worked on the game as a systems designer, had similar thoughts early in production.

“There was a lot of discussion about the scope of the game, the size of the game,” Nesmith says during an interview with MinnMax. “At one point, I said, ‘I bet this game would be a lot better if we restricted ourselves to about two dozen solar systems and focus on them.’ And the point was made, quite legitimately, that once you’ve done one solar system, doing 100 isn’t really adding to your work all that much.”

“Todd [Howard] pretty much pulled the number 100 for the number of star systems out of thin air, but the more we went out, the more it was like ‘okay, so all the core activity takes place in these two dozen in the Settled Systems region and the rest of it is open space.’ But people love our big games. People love that open area to explore. So let’s go ahead and let them have it.”

YouTube Thumbnail

Nesmith explains how once Bethesda successfully created a single planet, and finalized the various systems and mechanics to make a single planet work in Starfield, it became easier to replicate those designs for a larger number of solar systems. Nevertheless, the systems designer, who also worked on Fallout 76, Fallout 4, Fallout 3, Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind, says that exploration in Starfield “didn’t come through as well as it could have.”

“You have to succeed on one planet,” Nesmith says. “Once you’ve got that formula, you have that formula for all the planets. I think some of the exploration stuff didn’t come through as well as it could’ve because they decided to make other choices. And never misunderstand this. In every game studio on the face of this planet, they know the choices they’re making. They know the things that are not going to be in there. They know what the players are going to moan about. But you’ve got to make the hard choices.”

Grab all the latest and greatest Starfield console commands and cheats if you want to bring some wacky new life to the Settled Systems. Alternatively, get the absolute best Starfield mods, which make the entire game even better.

Want even more? While a good Starfield wiki can be a handy source of information, our new Starfield Database goes further, offering you daily news, searchable databanks, and even interactive tools.