If Starfield is going to give players the freedom to roleplay as whoever they want, it needs to take one lesson from Fallout: New Vegas.

  By Charlie Stewart

  Published 1 day ago

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  Bethesda’s upcoming space-set RPG Starfield is the studio’s first new IP in over 25 years. More importantly, it is its best hope to regain some of the prestige lost over the last few years due to the rocky release of Fallout 76 and the lack of news about The Elder Scrolls 6. Todd Howard has notably avoided comparisons with Bethesda’s other sci-fi RPG series, instead comparing the game to Skyrim?and focusing on its player freedom and multiple joinable factions.

  If Starfield is going to be Bethesda’s return to form, it needs to learn a big lesson from a game that wasn’t developed by Bethesda Game Studios. Fallout: New Vegas has a key lesson to teach Starfield?about roleplaying freedom, and one that could be particularly important to implement based on the information revealed about the upcoming game so far.

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  Starfield’s player character is something of an enigma. It’s not clear if they’ll be voiced or have a set background like Fallout 4’s protagonist, or if they’ll be more of a blank slate like Skyrim’s Dragonborn. It does seem very likely, however, that at least one detail about the game’s protagonist could be set from the start.

  Although there will be multiple factions in Starfield, it’s practically confirmed that the player will start as part of a space exploration group named Constellation, which is embarking on “humanity’s final journey.” The E3 trailer specifically states that “you’re part of Constellation now,” implying that the player character themselves made some sort of discovery that will form the basis for their journey.?All that’s confirmed for now is that whatever the player discovers near the start of the main quest is “the key to unlocking everything” from Constellation’s perspective.

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  Skyrim’s intro sequence is very open from a roleplaying perspective. The player can leave Helgen without ever getting confirmation that they are the Dragonborn, allowing them to ignore the main quest if they should so choose. Regardless of how much players get to customize their Starfield character, it does seem like the game’s premise will be slightly more prescriptive while still aiming to let players define most of their character. As such, this setup is more comparable to Fallout: New Vegas.

  RELATED:?Starfield May Be More Blade Runner Than Cyberpunk 2077

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  At the start of New Vegas – excluding additional story introduced in DLCs – there’s only one confirmed detail about the player character: their job. New Vegas’ protagonist is the Courier, an unlucky mail carrier who, unbeknownst to them, is given an extremely important package and ends up being shot in the head and left for dead over its contents. Although the last job they took is already defined, Obsidian does a great job avoiding prescribing too much about the player character’s past. In the game’s retail release, the only bit of background players have to accept is that at some point they took at least one delivery job. Every other aspect of their life and personality is left up to the player.

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  Starfield’s main quest may involve the player joining Constellation, but Bethesda needs to avoid that premise implying too much else about their character’s past if they want to create a blank-slate player character?that gives players a wide variety of roleplaying opportunities. Fortunately, the implication that the player makes some sort of discovery that kicks off the main quest could come in handy.

  The Courier gets pulled into Fallout: New Vegas’ main quest by pure coincidence as far as the player is concerned at the start of the game, allowing them the freedom to roleplay as whoever they want with any particular motive. The same can not be said for Fallout 4 or Fallout 3, where the player is tracking down their son and father respectively. Whatever discovery Starfield’s protagonist makes at the start of the game, Bethesda needs to make it open to interpretation as a coincidence? – the sort of discovery that anyone could have accidentally stumbled across, suddenly making them vital to Constellation’s final mission.

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  The player, for example, might find a piece of technology which blasts some sort of alien signal into their mind, making them key to Constellation’s efforts to find intelligent alien life in?Starfield’s universe regardless of who they were beforehand. It’s a cliché example, but it shows that it’s possible for the player to be a part of Constellation without prescribing that, before the beginning of events, they were a space-explorer in training or any other more prescriptive backstory.

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  The player should also have the opportunity to ignore the main quest, and for their decision to ignore the main quest to make sense in-character. Turning away from the main quest in Fallout 4 in particular can be immersion breaking. It’s hard to imagine any parent with a missing child finding themselves embroiled in the game’s sillier side-missions like the Silver Shroud questline, making it difficult to get immersed in some of the game’s?more lighthearted questlines. In Fallout: New Vegas, not pursuing Benny after he shoots the player makes as much sense as pursuing him, setting the player free in the game’s open world not just physically, but in terms of roleplay.

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  Bethesda?could let the player loose in Starfield’s galaxy before they make whatever discovery that makes Constellation take notice of them. If the game opens with the player making that discovery, and they aren’t a member of Constellation beforehand, it would make more sense for them to reject Constellation’s call to?action?if that’s what they want to do. In any case, the game’s opening will need to be carefully crafted to avoid restricting the roleplaying opportunities of the player.

  If a player wants to start Starfield and commit to the life of a brutal space pirate while completely ignoring the main story, they should be able to. The setup of the main story should be able to accommodate that choice without it feeling like the player is pulling against what the game wants from them. Like New Vegas, players should be drawn to the main quest through curiosity, not obligation. Otherwise,?Bethesda may have a tough time matching the level of roleplaying freedom found in its best open-world RPGs.

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  Starfield?launches November 11, 2022, for PC and Xbox Series X/S.

  MORE:?Starfield Could Steal the Show at E3 2022

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