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Bethesda could’ve put more planets in Starfield, here’s why it didn’t

Starfield could have had more planets and star systems at the 'press of a button', according to Bethesda's Todd Howard - here's why it opted for 100 systems

Starfield difficulty systems and planets: A man in a white and red space suit

Bethesda head Todd Howard has revealed some interesting new tidbits about upcoming space RPG Starfield, including that the game could have had way more star systems and planets.

With Bethesda promising so many systems to explore (with a total of around 1,000 Starfield planets between them), there were questions as to how exactly they would be navigated. Is the Starfield galaxy completely open? Will systems unlock linearly, where completing one will allow passage to the next? Will your ship’s capabilities dictate where you can explore? Well, it now seems like difficulty is the main navigator.

Speaking on a podcast with Lex Fridman, Howard says that Starfield could have had many far more planets than it actually has, but factors such as naming them, making them all meaningful, and especially difficulty scaling all led Bethesda to opt for the “finite” galaxy of roughly 100 systems and 1,000 planets.

“We wrap [the number of systems and planets] in so we can name them all and have a finite set,” Howard says. “It’s a set that we can validate and know about even though it’s a huge number. But once you’re building a system that can build a planet, […] if you’ve got a system that can build that much space, doing a hundred planets, or a thousand, or ten thousand, or a million planets is not [difficult], you just change the number and press the button.

“But you can’t name them all, you can’t control them all. When you’re getting into really big numbers [of systems], it’s like ‘hey, what does this system way out here feel like if you take your ship and jump that far?’ We do level the systems – when you go to a system, you’ll see that this is a level 40 system, and us being able to at least control that scale is kinda how we ended up with the hundred-ish systems we have.”

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It seems then that difficulty will be the main gatekeeper as to when you can confidently explore other systems. Howard also mentions that there are varying environmental conditions on planets, such as temperature or toxicity, which require different kinds of spacesuits to survive, so the acquisition or upgrading of your suit will also likely be a big factor in this too.

There’s plenty more insight on Starfield – as well as Bethesda’s other upcoming projects – in Howard’s chat with Fridman that you can bowl up on ahead of the Starfield release date.