Starfield and its birth as a 10th planet

Starfield and its birth as a 10th planet

Bethesda Game Studios’ first unreleased intellectual property in 25 years and one of the most anticipated games of 2023, Starfield is close to coming to PC and Xbox Series S|X. However, to track its origins, it is necessary to go back a long way in time, more precisely to 1994, when the studio started a project called The 10th Planet.

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Credit: Disclosure / Bethesda

Excited about game successes The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall e The Terminator: Skynet, the developer decided it was time to move on to other environments and the creation of an RPG in space gained momentum. However, creating something so ambitious would require help and she would come from the cinema.

The partner for such development would be Centropolis Entertainment, a studio co-founded by director Roland Emmerich and which had created special effects for films such as Stargate, Key to Humanity’s Future, Universal Soldier e The Ghost Hunt. It would be up to them to produce the artwork, concepts, and story for the game.

baptized as The 10th Planet, the game would take place in the distant future, where the solar system has become a huge battleground. This happened after an alien race settled on an unknown 10th planet in our system and from there prepared an invasion of Earth, with spaceships being used as weapons of destruction. As usual, it would be up to the player to rise as the savior of humanity.

Starfield concept art (Credit: Disclosure/Bethesda)

Created on the powerful XnGine, a development kit that emerged as one of the first truly 3D engines on the market, the title was scheduled to be released in 1996, with versions for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. However, the deadline was not respected and although a postponement to October of the following year was announced, such a launch would not happen either.

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With Centropolis having dropped out of the project to return to dedicating itself to films, Bethesda found itself without many options, opting to cancel development. At the time, those who had acquired the The 10th Planet in the pre-sale were compensated with a copy of the XCar: Experimental Racinga game that had only an average reception and that was far from the proposal of being a mixture of Star Fox com Star War: X-Wing.

However, the company’s interest in space would not have appeared only with the development of the The 10th Planet or so long after, with the Starfield. Growing up in the 1970s, Todd Howard was fascinated by NASA and the American space program, and when he joined the studio, he found he owned the rights to the RPG system. Traveller.

From there came a game called Delta V and a few years later, Howard would get the chance to explore another franchise he loved. “We had the rights to the ‘Star Trek‘ at a certain point and we made some games [nos anos 2000],” revealed the producer. “I suggested an RPG from ‘Star Trek’ at the time, which we obviously didn’t.”


Starfield concept art (Credit: Disclosure/Bethesda)

But Todd Howard’s desire would not go away. Even with the passage of time, he would continue to wait for the right moment to start such an ambitious project. Among the biggest difficulties was the lack of ideas that differentiated it from other science fiction games, which would only happen when artist Istvan Pely introduced it to what he called NASA Punk.

In this concept, although history speaks of the future of humanity, all technology could be traced back to space missions carried out by the United States aerospace agency. Thus, they began to write the plot, dividing by decades the 300 years that precede the history that we would know in the game. According to Howard, the goal would be to ask: “Now man is living among the stars, what does that mean?”

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Even so, the concept they had created would still remain shelved for several years, a situation that only changed in 2013, when the studio registered the trademark. Starfield. Interestingly, Howard never considered using another name and development would only become active in 2015, after the release of Fallout 4 and being the company’s first title to use Creation Engine 2.


Starfield concept art (Credit: Disclosure/Bethesda)

Almost three decades later, the truth is that the Starfield bears little resemblance to the The 10th Planet. With that game, Bethesda Game Studios wanted to compete with titles like Star Wars: TIE Fighter, without there being exploration and the focus being on aerial battles. However, something that could already be seen at that time was the developer’s ability to surprise people.

In its February 1997 issue, Next Generation magazine tore up compliments to a presentation they watched of the game. With the project having moved to the PC, the matter spoke about XnGine’s power and flexibility, with it being so fast that “the graphics card [com 2MB VRAM] dropped frames before the engine slowed down.”

And one of the reasons why the game demanded so much from the machines of the time was the lighting system it used, the result of a shading model called Phong. Having started to become more common in games only in 1999, when Sega released the Hikaru board for arcades, most computers had difficulty running it and one of the first games for the platform to use this technique (and in a way very limited) would be the Doom 3which would only hit the market in 2004.

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Another feature of Bethesda that has not been abandoned over the years is the large number of bugs present in its creations. On this, Pete Hines preferred to look at the glass half full. “Bethesda Game Studios has a reputation for the things that happen in their games, yes. What people often don’t realize is that there is a certain amount of this that is intentional, meaning that we embrace chaos,” defended.

Starfield concept art (Credit: Disclosure/Bethesda)

According to the developer’s head of publication, it would be possible for them to create a safer game, but they always prefer to increase the freedom given to the player. This consequently causes a little problem to arise here or there and to illustrate his opinion, he cited an example:

“On Neon, a planet covered entirely in water with a city sitting on top of it, we had a bug where a shark was able to get into an elevator. Then the elevator doors opened at street level and the shark glided out—everyone screaming and starting to run in all directions. I’m attacking him with weapons, people are screaming and guards are running. I said, ‘Don’t take this bug out of the game!’ I’m pretty sure they did, but I love that stuff.”

And to think we had to wait 29 years for the opportunity to see a shark riding an elevator and that unique moment was probably taken away from us.

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