Are 1,000 ‘Starfield’ Planets Too Many Planets?

Are 1,000 ‘Starfield’ Planets Too Many Planets?

Are 1,000 ‘Starfield’ Planets Too Many Planets?

Yesterday, Xbox and Bethesda showed real Starfield gameplay for the first time, along with new information about how much bigger the game was than many initially thought.

In addition to robust base and shipbuilding systems, along with space combat, Todd Howard revealed that Starfield has 100 systems and 1,000 planets to explore, planets you can land on anywhere and explore the whole thing.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because No Man’s Sky promised something similar, albeit with no upside limit on its planets and systems, as they are quite literally infinite due to a procedural generation engine. But the reveal has sparked a secondary debate about the game: how big is too big?

To get things out of the way, yes, it’s true that, like No Man’s Sky, Bethesda uses some degree of procedural generation on its 1,000 planets, meaning every square mile isn’t handcrafted. That should not come as a surprise, but it has to be said. What this means is that there will indeed be large swaths of these planets automatically populated by No Man’s Sky-esque mining outcrops or wildlife, or in the case of Starfield, maybe randomized pirate outposts and the like, who knows.

I’ve been a proponent of the “Games Too Big” syndrome lately, where certain games often overwhelm me with their sprawling maps and millions of icons that need to be cleared. That’s why I haven’t finished a Ubisoft game since 2018.

However, I think what Starfield is doing here is at least the… potential to portray the joy and wonder of No Man’s Sky style infinite exploration, but given the hard shell of 1,000 planets, that opens up some extra aspects that I think make it better in many ways.

Yes, it’s true that if you, a solo player, try to explore every inch of all 1000 planets to find something hidden and cool, you will probably die of old age before you get through a quarter of it. However, with the limit of 1,000, we have monkeys with typewriters syndrome. The larger Starfield community of millions of players will explore these 1,000 planets all at once. If Bethesda were smart, and I have a feeling they will be, they could hide, say, a totally unique and awesome ruin with a rare boss and weapon on the back corner of planet #976, and someone will eventually find it, and then it will in turn be distributed throughout the community. One person who finds something cool can then translate into hundreds of thousands of players doing the same.

This really can’t be done in No Man’s Sky because that game is infinite so it usually won’t put a single unique thing on one planet because most players can never even physically find or to get to that planet, so each planet is just discovering cool combinations of the procedural system. That’s fine, but that’s different from the potential that Starfield offers with its large, but ultimately limited collection of planets and systems.

I must, of course, make some guesses about Bethesda’s intentions here. They may not do this and it’s just a bunch of boring mining and encounters with the same enemy. But since Fallout and Skyrim are built on a core of exploration, I have to believe they have that in mind by expanding the system on this scale. We’ll know in a year, it seems.

follow me on TwitterYouTubefacebook and Instagram† Subscribe to my free weekly content newsletter digest, God rolls

Get my sci-fi novels on the Herokiller Series and The Earthborn Trilogy