Starfield Previously Had More Punishing Environmental Damage on Planets

Director Todd Howard said it was more complex and “very punitive,” but the developer eventually “nerfed the hell out of it.”

Plans change continuously in game development, and some content a team has spent months, even years, of resources on may not make it into the final release. Starfield is no exception, even with an eight-year development cycle. While speaking to Ted Price on the AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook Podcast, director Todd Howard highlighted how the game’s planets previously had much more punishing environmental effects.

In Starfield, you can have resistances to different types of effects like Radiation and Thermal. The environmental damage system was originally more complex and “very punitive.” “So we kept trying where you get these afflictions. We kept trying to tune it… we get to a point where we’re tuning it, and you’re having to heal those things. What we did at the end of the day, and it was a complicated system for players to understand, is we just nerfed the hell out of it.”

In the end, it mattered but only a “little bit”, where knowing you had the Affliction is more annoying “than the game result usually.” “I’m generalizing, so it was, let’s just dial it down. Because if we dial it way back, it becomes more flavor on the screen than a gameplay system.” The original plan was to have multiple spacesuits for high radiation planets, cold planets, etc.

Howard notes, “People play the game like, you don’t think about it that much.” It may be addressed going forward, though nothing is confirmed. Perhaps it may be reworked into Survival Mode, a staple of many Bethesda titles, but time will tell.

Despite all these changes, Starfield is still a massive hit for Bethesda, with over ten million players. It’s available for Xbox Series X/S and PC while also playable on Game Pass.