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During Starfield’s development, gameplay was second to music and vibes

Bethesda head Todd Howard shares, in an interview with Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price, that music was one of the first things the studio started on for the RPG.

Starfield music development: an image of Sarah Morgan from the RPG

When it comes to introducing the gaming world to a new IP, it really doesn’t get much bigger than Starfield – in scale, scope, and (of course) just raw hype. Bethesda’s latest RPG really is a behemoth and deciding where to start when it comes to development must be a daunting task, right? Well, as Bethesda head Todd Howard now reveals, your typical Bethesda space RPG development journey starts with Starfield music and vibes.

Okay, we know (right now) there’s no such thing as a ‘typical Bethesda space RPG development journey’; Starfield isn’t your typical Bethesda game, space game, or RPG either. However, if the studio does eventually decide to follow up on one of the best RPG games out there with a sequel, the development of Starfield will be something of a guide for it to follow – the best frame of reference when it comes to a project so large. While discussing this – in a way – with Insomniac Games’ CEO Ted Price, Howard reveals that the first few steps of this theoretical guide – where Bethesda started when it came to Starfield – would include establishing the vibe of the game through concept art and, unusually, the music.

Specifically, following on from a brief discussion on creating the lore for Starfield at around the 33:30 mark in the video below, Price asks Howard “is that something that happens immediately, or do you start somewhere else when you begin development?”

Responding to this question, Howard explains that Bethesda “starts with a number of things” when it comes to a project like Starfield. These include: “what are the themes of the game”, “what’s the vibe”, and “what does it look like”. Questions on the game’s setting, specifically the year the game is set and the tech level of society at that point, are also raised – we think those both contribute to the ‘vibe’, though.

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Howard then goes on to share that alongside concept art (which is a fairly expected starting point when it comes to game development), Bethesda also starts working on the music (which isn’t quite as expected). We know it’s going to be hard to definitively say just how commonplace this is, but our interview with Star Wars Jedi Survivor music director Nick Laviers certainly makes it seem like this is an ongoing process that isn’t necessarily wrapped up until late in development. So, the fact that Bethesda starts with that to set the tone of the experience is really quite interesting. Unfortunately, Howard doesn’t actually share how long it takes Bethesda to settle on the music we hear in Starfield today; for all we know, it could take it years – which would explain why it starts on this so early in the process.

Another interesting insight into the development process from this part of the podcast interview is where Howard likens the game’s HUD and UI to a menu at a restaurant. On this, Howard says “interface tells a story for a game, just in how it looks… it’s like the menu… Good UI is a great party host”. The analogy might seem a little hard to understand, but Howard essentially explains that the UI helps developers work out what the game looks like and what it feels like to play. Again, it sounds like it’s all about the vibes.

The one question we’re left asking at the end of all this, though, is ‘does Starfield actually have good vibes?’

Well, quite a few of the Starfield characters you come across are well-rounded and interesting individuals. We think that’s a check. You can even loot any outfit you want in Starfield using a bizarre trick that involves double murder. Not quite a vibe, but quite amusing. So, we think that’s a check too. If you want to survey all the planets in Starfield, though, you’ll be wasting your time. That’s not quite a check.

If you want to come to your own conclusions, though, you can check out our Starfield review right here and judge for yourself. We also have a list of all the best Starfield weapons out there and all the best Starfield outpost locations right here. As one of the best Xbox Game Pass games available right now, you really should check it out if you can.

Still looking for more? While a good Starfield wiki can be a handy source of information, our new Starfield Database goes further, offering you daily news, searchable databanks, and even interactive tools like a New Atlantis map for exploration.