Starfield's planets were originally supposed to be much more punishing for players, that is until Bethesda "nerfed the hell out of it," reveals Todd Howard.
In an interview with The AIAS Game Maker's Notebook Podcast, Howard discusses many elements of Starfield's development, including the news that the space RPG's planets were once much more difficult for players to survive on: "So the way the environmental damage works in the game, on planets and on your suit, you have resistances to certain types of atmosphere effects, whether that's radiation or thermal, etc. and that was a pretty complex system - actually, it was very punitive," the developer explains.
Discussing how the system had to be altered and "tuned" by the developers at Bethesda, Howard reveals that "it was a complicated system for players to understand," and so "we just nerfed the hell out of it." Instead of punishing players too much, the afflictions they could get from planets' atmospheres were instead "more in flavor," Howard says. "it was 'let's just dial it down' because if we dial it way back, it becomes more flavor on the screen than it does a gameplay system," he continues.
Originally, the Starfield director explains, the team wanted the RPG to require players to use multiple spacesuits: "one for high radiation planets, one for really cold planets," etc. But, as Howard knows now, Starfield players don't need to think about the system that much. If this sounds like something you would have liked to see in the game, don't worry, as Howard also said that it "might be something we address going forward."
There's a lot to unpick from the Todd Howard interview, but another thing that stood out to us is that Howard actually had the idea for Starfield back in 2013, and pitched it halfway through the development of Fallout 4. As the developer explains: "It was kind of boiling for a while and there was a point in 2013 where we were in the middle of Fallout 4, and that's usually the time where we're going to figure out what we're gonna do next - just for us to have conversations in the studio."
Around two years before Fallout 4 came out, Howard said he went to Robert Altman, the co-founder of Zenimax Media - Bethesda's parent company - and pitched Starfield to him after already trademarking the name, as Howard says: "I was worried that someone else would use the name Starfield in some way." This is around the same time that we all learned about Starfield since fans quickly noticed the company's latest trademark filing.
Find out everything you need to know about the Starfield Planets with our guide.