Game Theory

Starfield director reveals how it can fix Fallout 4's biggest mistake

Choices are important, which is why Starfield having three times the dialogue as Skyrim is an excellent approach to.

Starfield could be the most ambitious RPG yet from Bethesda Games Studios. While this sci-fi game is still mostly shrouded in mystery, the little that we actually know about it hints at a massive scope fitting for a game where players will explore multiple worlds. At Tokyo Game Show 2021, Bethesda’s Todd Howard gave a brief update on Starfield and teased just how much dialogue players can expect from the game. And it’s a good indication that developers have learned a lot from the mistakes of games like Fallout 4.

Now that we have a better idea of the amount of dialogue in Starfield, we’re wondering how it should be delivered. Hopefully, Bethesda Games Studios looks to their older games like Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas for inspiration rather than Fallout 4, its most recent single-player RPG.

What did Todd Howard say? During Xbox’s Tokyo Game Show 2021 livesteam, Game Director Todd Howard confirmed a Japanese localization for Starfield. When speaking about the localization process, Howard revealed how many lines of dialogue would be in the game.

“It’s our largest translation ever,” he says. “Over 300 actors and over 150,000 lines of dialogue.” That’s an absolutely massive amount of dialogue, especially when you consider that hundreds of actors will voice most of it. According to gaming Twitter account Nibel, this is over double the amount of dialogue that was in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

While he’s specifically talking about the Japanese localization here, the English version of the game will likely have a comparable amount of actors and dialogue, if not more. As such, Bethesda needs a good way to package this dialogue in a way that’s faithful to the RPG genre.

Todd Howard revealed Starfield’s massive narrative scope at Tokyo Game Show 2021.

How should dialogue work in Starfield? Different games all take different approaches to their dialogue systems. Some show the player everything they will say during a conversation, while others give the player a word or two to discern the tone of their response.

For a long time, Bethesda Game Studios titles delivered their dialogue as most classic RPGs did. You’d be presented with multiple fully written-out lines of dialogue, some of which were connected to your skills, and you would have the choose the best response for the situation.

Fallout 3 from Bethesda Game Studios and Fallout: New Vegas from Obsidian pulled this system off remarkably well. It makes the game more immersive as you know what the character will say and ensure the nuances of your character’s lines are what you want them to be.

Fallout: New Vegas’ dialogue system aged the best out of any Bethesda game. Microsoft

But over time, Bethesda Game Studios slowly moved away from this kind of dialogue system. Skyrim was less dependant on player choice in dialogue, and Fallout 4 dropped the classic design entirely for a terrible system where players only had four short options to pick from, all of which lacked nuance.

This aspect of Fallout 4 was highly criticized (and even modded out by some fans), and Bethesda seems to be aware of their mistake there.

"Obviously, the way we did some dialogue stuff, that didn't work as well," How Howard told GameSpot back in 2016. "But I know the reasons we tried that — to make a nice interactive conversation — but [it was] less successful than some other things in the game. For us, we take that feedback, and I think long term.”

Fallout 76 included a more traditional dialogue system, though its impactfulness was muted in a multiplayer sandbox game. Starfield is Bethesda’s first big single-player RPG in over six years, so it needs to deliver an engaging dialogue system.

Having over 150,000 lines of dialogue suggests that there will be a lot of player choice, and looking to a game like Fallout: New Vegas for inspiration rather than Fallout 4 will be the key to making conversations in Starfield enjoyable.

Starfield will be released for PC and Xbox Series X on November 11, 2022.

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