Bethesda surprised the entire world when it revealed Starfield at E3 2018, but maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a shock after all. The first trademark for Starfield surfaced in 2013, sparking rumors which only grew when that trademark was renewed three years later. So clearly Bethesda’s been working on this game for at least a few years, but it turns out the company’s actually been developing Starfield (or something like it) for even longer than that.
Bethesda’s interest in the stars dates back to the company’s earliest days, company founder Christopher Weaver told me in a wide-ranging interview last year for Rolling Stone. At the time, I included a brief mention of Bethesda’s long-forgotten plans for a sci-fi game with “massive docking stations” and “phenomenal” ships. Then I moved on to the next interview, the next article, the next job.
But this week I dug back into the notes from that interview to see if I had missed anything interesting, anything that could offer even the smallest clue about Starfield. With that in mind, here’s the full quote from Weaver about Bethesda’s earliest plans for a sci-fi game:
There were some internal games that were killed that had great promise. Many times the games got killed because of external stupid reasons. Not enough money to make three games at once, allocating resources and people. There were some great projects. We had a few very cool space games, one in particular with massive docking stations and vehicles and ships that were phenomenal. One of the chief programmers lost his visa and had to go back to Denmark. With all these game companies you have to realize it’s proportionality. You have to have more wins than losses. Bethesda was generally fortunate there. Part of it was we tried to keep our mistakes the least costly as possible. We weren’t always successful, but we were able to continue and prosper.
There’s not a ton to go on, but the basic takeaway is clear. Bethesda has been thinking about space for a very long time. Weaver founded Bethesda in 1986 and left the company in 2002. That’s 11 years before the first Starfield trademark was filed. So clearly this is something that’s been in the works for a very long time.
In all that time Bethesda’s never made a sci-fi video game. Sure, the company’s acquired other studios and published space-based titles like Prey and Doom, but Starfield represents the first sci-fi experience to come directly from Bethesda. It’s a direct fulfillment of those early starry-eyed dreams.
Of course, it’s possible that this early scrapped game has nothing at all to do with Starfield, but it’s just as likely as some of those ideas — those epic spaceships and docks — could have stuck around in the company’s DNA for a decade or two before making their way into this new adventure.
Bethesda’s also changed a lot since those early days. Now the company actually does have enough money to make three games at once. Hopefully that means we won’t have to wait another two decades if something goes wrong at the last minute for Starfield like it did with that original sci-fi game.