Bethesda has turned the trickle of information about its upcoming space RPG game Starfield back on, even if only a bit, and in the most recent splash of intel we learn that Starfield ships will run on fuel. However, director Todd Howard says that while Starfield is at least adjacent to ‘hard’ science fiction, you won’t be able to run out of fuel and get stranded deep in space.
In the first episode of ‘Constellation Questions,’ Howard explains that the Starfield team has wrestled with how to handle long-distance space travel in a more grounded science fiction setting. Howard says he’s read scientific papers about ‘bending space’ to achieve warp speeds, but that ultimately the developers wanted to avoid making space travel too punishing to the player: “In a hard science fiction videogame, you die in space, cold,” he says.
In different iterations of Starfield’s gravity drive system, Howard says, ships would inevitably head in the wrong direction and not be able to reach any habitable planet or station.
“Your ship would run out of fuel, and the game would just stop,” he says. “You just want to get back to what you were doing.”
Fairly recently, Howard explains, the team shifted the design of the grav drive so that it automatically limits the distance you can jump to based on the amount of fuel your ship has available. This is somewhat similar to how the frame shift drives work in Elite Dangerous – your engines’ power sets a limit on your maximum interstellar jump distance, and that limits the stars you can select while planning your routes in the galactic map.
So it sounds like you’ll only be able to initiate jumps in the Starfield map when you have sufficient fuel to reach your chosen destination – you won’t run out of gas in deep space with nowhere to go.
“Maybe there’ll be a future update or a mod that allows that, but that’s what we’re doing now,” Howard says.
The quick video also provides some new details about Starfield character creation and attributes, so it’s well worth sticking around through the whole chat.
We’ve got plenty more great space games on PC, and be sure to check out our guide to Starfield cities, which includes all the known locations in the game to date. The Starfield release date is expected to be sometime in the first half of 2023.