“There is no fire” and why the Starfield had to have ten planets

Digging through the relative chaos that was The Game Awards this year, there was a particularly noteworthy appearance from Hello Games. It can happen Light not firea game that uses the core technology and features of No Man’s Sky for a new experience, reduced to a single procedural Earth that can be explored, inhabited, conquered, or simply survived.

It’s another ambitious project from Hello Games who originally tried to create an infinite world with No Man’s Sky, promised it a bit, and then spent most of the decade adding systems to it to make it that much better. Now, although one of the planets is “smaller”, the amount of detail could be denser, judging by what we’ve seen, and the goal is to make a planet full of unexpected adventures that guide the best “stable” planets ever. No sky man.

I find this an interesting crossover with Starfield, something No Man’s Sky has always been compared to since we first learned that Bethesda was sending us to 1,000 different planets in 100 star systems to explore. And yesterday, YouTuber NakeyJakey released a rare video focusing on Starfield specifically, and how he believes it reinforces how dated Bethesda’s game design is in 2023. And how it’s been that way for a decade.

Even if you’re someone who likes Starfield a lot, it’s interesting to watch his video and think about his points, many of which I agree with. Basically, one of the things he was right about was how exploration had changed. While the large central worlds are detailed and unique (although still full of loading screens), when you go out to “explore” planets, you lose something that games like Fallout or Skyrim had, which is the idea that you might be on a journey towards a main quest Get sidetracked by random encounters or other adventures along the way.

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It just…it doesn’t happen the same way in Starfield. Most missions will put your ship on the ground and take you straight to a point on the horizon. If you’re lucky (10% of the time) you’ll be on a planet full of wildlife. Then maybe 10% of them, they’ll be cool wild animals that actually want to fight you.

If there are “distractions” here, it’s things like enemy bases or abandoned outposts that are spotted on your radar. Although there are a number of unique layouts for these…they do have their limitations. Near the end of the game, you can basically save down to where the final boss and chest will stand. There were very few deviations from this throughout the match. There are no random dragon attacks, and no mysterious caves that lead to some sort of grand off-road adventure.

The problem here is size, and bigger is not always better. Bethesda has gone a little more “realistic” here, where your spaceship is in this universe Can Travel to 100 star systems and 1,000 planets and 900 of those planets will have almost no connection. Half of the planets with life may contain nothing more than some insects, palm trees, and beaches. Gorgeous “alien” moons or planets look like they should be cool to explore, but instead they’re just a few metal structures and one mini-game that makes you play them 40 times.

It feels like, in trying to chase No Man’s Sky and its endless procedural generation, Bethesda lost something in the exploration aspect. Now, after seeing what Light No Fire plans to do with one sprawling planet, I wonder if Bethesda would have been better off making ten more detailed and interesting planets to explore instead of 900 dead planets, pirate space bases, and 100 living planets. Planets with alien wildlife and… pirate space bases. There’s something to guide the only thing that, despite the funky controls (which Starfield mostly improves on!) and the rigid dialogue (which it doesn’t), the exploration and sense of adventure that its previous games demonstrated in many ways, is absent here. Or at least it could quickly fade away after the first dozen planets you might find. Sometimes you’ll fall down a very interesting rabbit hole, but I can understand why many players wouldn’t. With such a large universe, a lot of it is simply down to… luck, and that’s not great game design.

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Although I still enjoyed my time with Starfield, it’s easy to see many ways it could have been better. I agree with Jake that this is one of them. I’m very curious to see what Light No Fire might do running in the opposite direction from here.

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