Doom publisher Bethesda’s star-spotted, belly-bloated role-playing game Starfield is delayed to 2023, but game director and executive producer Todd Howard shared details of its dialogue and traits system in a Q&A video released this week. Howard says in the video that he considers Starfield to be “hard science fiction,” or as close to scientific reality as an entertaining video game can be, and gets specific about the game’s super massive dialogue options and optional character trait system, which was first described briefly in a June gameplay reveal. Here’s what you need to know.
We already knew that Starfield would be dialogue dense—Howard previously estimated that the game would have over 150,000 lines of dialogue, not nearly as many as Disco Elysium but likely still more than a spacefaring hopeful like Elon Musk could process—but now we know that it’s dense, dense.
“We just passed 250,000 lines of dialogue,” Howard said in the Q&A, “so, that’s a lot of dialogue.”
Well said. Some of those lines are organized in what Howard calls a “classic Bethesda-style dialogue,” where you’re simply choosing options based on your interpretations of another character’s emotes and reactions. Other dialogue seems to be arranged in more unique systems, including the Oblivion-inspired “speech persuasion system,” which Howard says is his “favorite.”
Under this system, dialogue options will show up as expected when talking to another character, though each will have a certain number of “persuasion points” necessary to activate them.
“It feels like it’s part of the dialogue, but you’re spending points to persuade [the character you’re speaking to],” Howard said.
In June, Howard called Starfield’s character creator Bethesda’s “most flexible yet,” with what appeared to be the ability to fine tune everything from a range of skin tones, walk styles, and body types.
The creator also lets you choose a professional background for your character, like Beast Hunter, Chef, or Explorer, that comes with three starting skills (choosing the Cyberneticist background, for example, lets you deal extra damage to robots and turrets), and then there are the optional personality traits.
Howard, in the Q&A video from this week, said that he loves Starfield’s “super fun” trait list, but notes that each one has a downside. The Extrovert trait, for example, helps you conserve oxygen when exploring planets with companions, but drains oxygen quicker when traveling alone. The Kid Stuff trait gives your character a healthy relationship with their parents, who you’ll be able to visit, but it also automatically sends 10% of all money you earn to them. Not cool, fictional parents.
Thankfully, just like in real life—this is a hard science fiction game, after all—players don’t need to stay married to traits once they deem their drawbacks too unpleasant.
“We have a way in the game—kind of an activity or quest you can do—to remove that trait,” Howard says. “Each of them are something that you can solve, that removes the entire trait for the rest of your playthrough.” Howard did not say if you can re-add traits or swap them out once one is removed.
Do you believe that marriage is an unbreakable bond? And, follow up, are you looking forward to Starfield?