Starfield players cannot actively pilot their ships to a planet's surface

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,491   +1,040
Staff member
Facepalm: Bethesda didn't waste much time whipping up some controversy after its much-hyped Starfield gameplay reveal. The epic space exploration sim doesn't have real-time flight between space and landfall because Bethesda says that a seamless universe is "not that important" to players.

Bethesda finally revealed some gameplay for Starfield over the weekend. One gameplay pillar that Todd Howard tried to hype up was the game's emphasis on planet exploration. There are over 1,000 fully explorable planets, which is nice, but with one caveat.

Players cannot just fly from space to their landing spot in an immersive way. From orbit, you pick a location to land, and then the game transitions to that area without actually flying there. So, planetary navigation is more like fast travel. Starfield is not a seamless universe. According to Howard, space and a planet's surface are two separate "realities."

"People have asked, 'Can you fly the ship straight down to the planet?' No," the Bethesda boss told IGN in an interview (below). "We decided early in the project that the on-surface is one reality, and then when you're in space, it's another reality."

So when you look up at the sky from a planet, what you see does not exist in your current reality. Likewise, looking at a world from orbit (assuming orbital flight is possible) is just an illusion — a visual representation of that planet that does not exist until you warp down to this other reality.

This dual-reality aspect also suggests that there is no atmospheric flight. When on a planet's surface, your ship is useless until you want to return to space — it's just set dressing. Howard did not explicitly say this; it's just a logical assumption based on his explanation.

That leaves a lot of critical questions. What is it like to travel between those "two realities?" Will there be load screens, or is it just an uncontrollable transitional animation from space-to-planet or planet-to-space? Will this get boring after landing and leaving 1,000 various planets multiple times?

According to Howard, transitioning from space to planetside in a realistic way is "just not that important to the player" to justify the extra engineering work. Whom did the developers ask about that? In-house testers? Focus groups? Or is it just an excuse to justify not putting it in the game?

As a player, I care about it. It is important to me. I want to enter and exit orbital and atmospheric flight at my whim. It would be interesting to see how many other players share these feelings rather than Bethesda just using it as a blanket excuse for being lazy.

Is it truly that much more "engineering work?" Elite Dangerous added real-time space-to-planet navigation with its Horizons expansion. No Man's Sky has had it from the very beginning. It was one of the few things that Hello Games got right at launch.

What do you think? Is a seamless universe important, or is it just fluff that is not necessary for a space exploration sim?

Permalink to story.

 

psycros

Posts: 4,148   +5,783
Bethesda makes "open world" games with very linear quests as their primary form of user engagement. That's kind of to manage if players can just fly around and skip most content. I assume that someone will eventually mod flying into the game, or failing that, skooma jumping.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,206   +4,245
This pretty much confirms they're using the same lousy engine they've been using since Skyrim Special Edition and Fallout 4: most of the upgrades were cosmetic in nature (And not as good as what they modders accomplished before or since for the very same games) And that limitation of instanced cities is the same we've seen since Oblivion. Acutally since Morrowind given how bad some open cities performed and how the main one was designed to be instanced anyway.

So that's over 20 years of the same engine with the same limitations and Todd hiding behind fast travel as a feature.
 

dangh

Posts: 578   +914
I'm getting less and less interested in this game. It's difficult to imagine a good space opera rpg when "space" is mostly a cutscene. Many games did it well, and that's a very important part of experience. I will probably play something else until a complete edition be released - I have a feeling it will be mt heavy on top of anything else.
 

Thanthan

Posts: 76   +162
Yea players really wouldn’t be interested in making a quick getaway from a shuttle station under heavy fire a la Star Wars episode IV, or survey a planet from low orbit while picking out the perfect landing spot. Seems like a reasonable design decision /s.

As others have pointed out, Bethesda is an insanely lazy company when it comes to investments in the engine department, and this looks like that hasn’t changed. In a world where seamless portal hopping between whole planets is a thing this just seems like another excuse to cash out in an ever shrinking brand value. Maybe they’ll have their faithful modders rewrite the entire game in UE5 to include the feature.
 

m4a4

Posts: 2,892   +3,703
TechSpot Elite
On one hand, it would be cool to fly down to the surface manually... but on the other, I personally wouldn't miss it (since there would be nothing special about it). And as a dev, I do know that is a loooot of extra work (performance when going from space to planet, streaming of detail, physics, etc) for something that probably can be skipped after the first several times.

And it's not like it's a standard feature one would expect in a space game. I'm not seeing how this is a big deal...
 

moon982

Posts: 100   +26
Yea players really wouldn’t be interested in making a quick getaway from a shuttle station under heavy fire a la Star Wars episode IV, or survey a planet from low orbit while picking out the perfect landing spot. Seems like a reasonable design decision /s.

As others have pointed out, Bethesda is an insanely lazy company when it comes to investments in the engine department, and this looks like that hasn’t changed. In a world where seamless portal hopping between whole planets is a thing this just seems like another excuse to cash out in an ever shrinking brand value. Maybe they’ll have their faithful modders rewrite the entire game in UE5 to include the feature.

This game does not use Unreal engine 5? But the older Unreal engine 4?
 

moon982

Posts: 100   +26
On one hand, it would be cool to fly down to the surface manually... but on the other, I personally wouldn't miss it (since there would be nothing special about it). And as a dev, I do know that is a loooot of extra work (performance when going from space to planet, streaming of detail, physics, etc) for something that probably can be skipped after the first several times.

And it's not like it's a standard feature one would expect in a space game. I'm not seeing how this is a big deal...

Well 1,000 planets is lot of work it will take very long time to explore $1,000 planets.

So I think this game seems to be more about planet exploring than space battles it seems.
 

m4a4

Posts: 2,892   +3,703
TechSpot Elite
Well 1,000 planets is lot of work it will take very long time to explore $1,000 planets.

So I think this game seems to be more about planet exploring than space battles it seems.
I mean, it is a Bethesda game. It will certainly focus on the exploring part.
 

SIlent

Posts: 6   +3
And it's not like it's a standard feature one would expect in a space game. I'm not seeing how this is a big deal...

Anyone whose played Kerbal Space Program knows that quite a lot can happen during planetary ascent/descent.

Personally, I would find it very interesting to actually pilot (NOT QTE) a spacecraft forced to aerobrake and not end up as a lithobraking incident. Or for that matter purposefully re-entering the amosphere in such a way to force a plasma-blackout to evade sensors. The possibilities are quite numerous.
 

defaultluser

Posts: 409   +332
I'm getting less and less interested in this game. It's difficult to imagine a good space opera rpg when "space" is mostly a cutscene. Many games did it well, and that's a very important part of experience. I will probably play something else until a complete edition be released - I have a feeling it will be mt heavy on top of anything else.


So Fallen Empire is suddenly a bad game, then?
Or borderland 3?
or Mass Effect

the only fplks out there crying for an immersive s;ace shooter are folks who still buy the Stare Citizen bs a decade later!
 
Last edited:
These are the biggest hack developers on fhe planet. This will be a bottom of the list issue when this pending train wreck launches.

Bethesda makes/releases games that are completely unplayable, then during the full price Beta, they apologize profusely on Social Media, that we can do better, and fix these issues. Eventually, The game becomes barely playable, and thats when they close the door on that game forever.

They can't even release simple DLC or patches without major issues.
Am filing this under "It won't matter"
Because the rest of the game won't work.
 

m4a4

Posts: 2,892   +3,703
TechSpot Elite
Anyone whose played Kerbal Space Program knows that quite a lot can happen during planetary ascent/descent.
Ha! That game practically revolves around the mechanic. Easy to screw up and have a fun little explosion in that one lol

Personally, I would find it very interesting to actually pilot (NOT QTE) a spacecraft forced to aerobrake and not end up as a lithobraking incident. Or for that matter purposefully re-entering the amosphere in such a way to force a plasma-blackout to evade sensors. The possibilities are quite numerous.
And yup, as I said, it would be cool.
But it doesn't sound like they were going for a full space sim experience. I'm not sure if they ever advertised it either (for people to feel entitled to getting this particular mechanic).

That said, I have a feeling that a lot of the current hate is from people who never were interested in the first place for other reasons...
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,446   +2,416
You nailed it, Cal.

I don't know where these studios are getting their data from either. It's sad that so many "mistakes" have to be made before consumers get a good final product that makes the majority happy. Why is it so hard?! 😥
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,446   +2,416
So Fallen Empire is suddenly a bad game, then?
Or borderland 3?
or Mass Effect

the only fplks out there crying for an immersive s;ace shooter are folks who still buy the Stare Citizen bs a decade later!
You're good with the same ol' same ol'. Cool. Some of us aren't and expect greater design changes than an iPhone.
 

FaTaL

Posts: 79   +119
Bethesda is right in thsi case. I don't give a **** about entering the atmosphere I'm buying a game for an express elevator to hell. plus, they're already known for their fck ton of load screens..... this shoulda been a given.

I swear people manufacture things to b1tch about
 
Oh well another one bites the dust. I was looking forward for this game even considering buying Xbox for it. Not anymore.

No normal planetfall/launch renders game obsolete before release.

Thanks for letting me know about it Techspot.
 

Edster

Posts: 117   +87
So Fallen Empire is suddenly a bad game, then?
Or borderland 3?
or Mass Effect

the only fplks out there crying for an immersive s;ace shooter are folks who still buy the Stare Citizen bs a decade later!

If the game was sold as a game set in space, I think this is fine. None of those games remotely implied they are an exploration game, or a space ship game. Fallen Order is about a Jedi, Mass Effect is about the battle against the Reapers. Borderland never played, but blow things up would be my first impression. What was Starfield's selling point? If is about freedom and exploration and ability to limitless fun like their previous games, then I be more miffed. I think until now, they are quite vague on what it was.

My fear for this game is just that it is Fallout re-skinned to a space theme, and that the spaceship element was secondary. And this just confirms it. There is nothing fundamentally wrong though on not wanting to include the landing; if their goal is to have different explorable, but not fully, planets. If you can land wherever you want means you have to program the whole planet. And the barren-ness of planets in exploration game can attest, bigger means emptier. If you give a richer experience elsewhere by sacrificing that, all good.

But don't tell me "That's really just not that important to the player." Just say, we have a lot more to gain by refining other aspect of the game.
 

defaultluser

Posts: 409   +332
If the game was sold as a game set in space, I think this is fine. None of those games remotely implied they are an exploration game, or a space ship game. Fallen Order is about a Jedi, Mass Effect is about the battle against the Reapers. Borderland never played, but blow things up would be my first impression. What was Starfield's selling point? If is about freedom and exploration and ability to limitless fun like their previous games, then I be more miffed. I think until now, they are quite vague on what it was.

My fear for this game is just that it is Fallout re-skinned to a space theme, and that the spaceship element was secondary. And this just confirms it. There is nothing fundamentally wrong though on not wanting to include the landing; if their goal is to have different explorable, but not fully, planets. If you can land wherever you want means you have to program the whole planet. And the barren-ness of planets in exploration game can attest, bigger means emptier. If you give a richer experience elsewhere by sacrificing that, all good.

But don't tell me "That's really just not that important to the player." Just say, we have a lot more to gain by refining other aspect of the game.
I agree, I wont buy another Bethesda game until figure this **** out:

1 their predefined texts selections constitute more than three cardinal directions (thanks fallout 4 for making dialog worse than skrim!)

2. fifteen years after Oblivion, they have yet to offer a main quest that bis actually enticing. Skyrim really stepped things up here wtth "insert random dragon battles here...and here...and here!"

if all they want to do is roll some dice, I could just play dnd!
 
Last edited:

George Keech

Posts: 175   +288
You nailed it, Cal.

I don't know where these studios are getting their data from either. It's sad that so many "mistakes" have to be made before consumers get a good final product that makes the majority happy. Why is it so hard?! 😥
I think they probably miss communicated this, I mean it is probably the most boring part of any game travel between 2 places. When someone says starfield I dont think - well I sure hope I can do the less than minuet long flight to and from the atmosphere