If Bethesda’s track record is anything to go by, then we should all be prepared for some viral Starfield bugs. Few videogame publishers are as synonymous with buggy, bungled launches as Bethesda, and it’s hard to foresee even Microsoft’s involvement being enough to change things. However, while the general mood towards unpolished releases has soured significantly since Bethesda Game Studios’ last single-player release, perhaps Starfield can remind players that there’s a very thin line between bothersome bugs and highly anticipated features.
We’ve already seen one Starfield bug in the gameplay trailer, so just imagine the possibilities. Skyrim and Fallout have gone viral countless times, whether it’s been Deathclaws soaring through the sky, dead wedding guests, or Doc Mitchell’s Exorcist impression. But with Starfield’s dramatically increased scale comes even more potential for things to go wrong.
All the wobbly physics bugs we expect from BGS games are gonna get cranked up to eleven when there’s interplanetary travel and spaceship combat. Sure, 99 out of 100 landings will go smoothly, but that 100th touchdown is anyone’s guess: will you clip through the planet’s surface or violently bounce away and explode moments later? The space battles look slick, but I can’t help but imagine my ship getting lodged in an asteroid and becoming stuck, spinning around helplessly until the pirate ships put me out of my misery. The brief snippets of gameplay showing delicate space station docking sequences should also produce a nervous sweat from anyone who’s played a Bethesda game.
How will the faction AI react when we’re not dealing with city guards, but instead interplanetary armies? I’ve had an innocent Sweetroll theft end with the entire town taking up arms against me, only to return after a few days and find everyone’s forgotten all about my transgressions. Will I be hounded across the entire planet for trespassing in an NPC’s home for just a little longer than they’d be comfortable with?
Of course, there’s a whopping caveat in that any bug that drastically affects performance or progression is just plain annoying, and no amount of rose tint could make us excited for corrupted save files or crawling framerates. But the other kind of bugs? The kind that have seen players jump up mountains, enter orbit via the heavy end of a Frost Giant’s club, or ransack a store by placing a basket over a merchant’s head in Bethesda games – those are worth celebrating. That’s not only because they produce funny videos, but because they represent player freedom.
Cyberpunk 2077’s disastrous launch might be considered par for the course had the same bugs happened under Bethesda’s stewardship, but there’s a key difference in what CD Projekt Red set out to achieve that made its issues far less palatable. While Bethesda games are increasingly marketed on player freedom, Cyberpunk 2077 was sold on the promise that it would be an immersive roleplaying experience. Believing in the world of Night City and that you’re just one small part of it is crucial to the experience, and even relatively small glitches can shatter that facade.
Some of Bethesda Game Studios’ most iconic bugs are a direct result of the studio giving players more tools and attempting to make the world as interactive as possible. Being able to grab objects in Fallout and The Elder Scrolls might create some spectacularly bonkers bugs, but it also means you can arrange any item in the world however you want, whether that’s to decorate your house or to tell a story in the world by shifting a few objects around.
I’ll never forget clearing out Skyrim’s Bleak Falls Barrow, running out of arrows, and resorting to hurling a cabbage at a floor trap to take out a pursuing Draugr – that physics interaction wouldn’t be possible in most games, and it’s worth every other dodgy collision bug I’ve encountered.
Starfield’s 1,000 planets and space travel will produce issues and goofy glitches galore, but it’s a small price to pay for the freedom those systems allow.