Why Bethesda Made Starfield’s Environmental Damage Easier

Exploration is a key part of the Starfield experience, with large planetary spaces through which to wander across the galaxy, but it can be risky. On top of combat and quests, environments feature an assortment of hazards, each of which are capable of afflicting the player with specific conditions. However, Bethesda’s original plans for such hazardous environments and Afflictions were far more complicated.

In a recent interview with Insomniac’s Ted Price for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Game Maker’s Notebook podcast, Starfield’s director Todd Howard described how and why Bethesda chose to scale back certain elements of the game as it moved toward launch.

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Bethesda ‘nerfed the hell out of’ Afflictions and made enemy ship AI ‘really stupid’

In his interview with Price, Howard said that Starfield’s first concept for environmental damage on planets and in space was dramatically more complex and what he described as “punitive.” Originally, Bethesda wanted players to cycle through different specialist suits for specific hazardous zones, such as radiated worlds, extreme temperatures, and other environments. Each would impose potentially more significant Afflictions and damage types on the player than reached the final game, to which they’d need to respond in order to survive.

To scale things back, the studio “nerfed the hell out of” Afflictions and environmental damage, to the point where “you don’t think about it that much.” Howard described the result as creating more “flavor” than an actual gameplay system the player needs to manage.

Read More: Starfield: Afflictions And Environmental Damage Explained

Afflictions weren’t the only thing to get tweaked and scaled back. Referring to the challenge of designing space combat, Howard said that in order to avoid scenarios where players and AI were “just just jousting” with one another, Bethesda had to “make the AI really stupid” so that they’d be easy to follow and pursue during a dogfight.

Environmental damage, however, might see some changes in the future. Howard suggested that the Affliction system might be “something [Bethesda addresses] going forward.”

Bethesda has indicated that Starfield is likely to evolve a bit over time. As reported earlier in September, the studio plans to add missing features to the game over time. In 2022, Howard also didn’t rule out potential gameplay additions like a hardcore mode that would amp up the difficulty. More advanced mod tools are also expected to arrive in 2024.

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