Starfield is the upcoming space-set RPG in development at Bethesda Game Studios. Not much is known about the new IP, though Todd Howard has commented that the game will make extensive use of procedural generation to create a large in-game world to explore, implying that the game will take place over several planets.
Starfield is set to release before The Elder Scrolls 6, and as a new IP is one of the developers' riskier outings in recent memory. It's currently unknown what sort of NPCs will populate Starfield's galaxy, what themes it will tackle, and which works have had the biggest influence on the game and its story. However, in the likely outcome that Starfield includes several different alien races, Bethesda has a chance to break the genre's mold with the design of those aliens to help distinguish itself from the competition.
Starfield will be the first new IP Bethesda Games Studios has worked on directly in decades, with the studio having relied on the hugely successful Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises for years. Little is known about the new game other than that it will be a space-faring RPG. Leaked images of Starfield appear to show a spaceship, a third-person perspective, and a UI which includes potential survival elements like oxygen and CO2 levels. However, none of the details seen in the leaks have been confirmed by Bethesda. Even if the leaks are real, the third-person perspective in the screenshot might not be the primary viewpoint of the game, and any other elements are still subject to change as development goes on.
What is known, however, is that years ago Bethesda purchased the rights to make a Star Trek game which never came to fruition, the plans for which likely had an influence on Starfield. This makes it seem likely that Starfield will include alien species. Adding to that possibility is the fact that Bethesda will likely need NPCs to fill out Starfield’s apparently large in-game world, a task which will be considerably more difficult without aliens. Despite the lack of aliens in the leaks, if Starfield's planets are just populated by human visitors the game’s galaxy could feel empty and unworthy of exploration.
Starfield’s aliens should not follow in Star Trek’s footsteps. Star Trek was limited by the technology of its time, creating so many races of suspiciously humanoid aliens to accommodate the show's makeup and costuming budget that the storytellers even had to come up with an in-universe reason that the Alpha Quadrant was so packed with life resembling Earth's. After The Original Series, however, humanoid aliens would continue to be a part of the franchise’s charm. Humanoid aliens and the idea that alien life would look broadly humanoid would then go on to influence the design of sci-fi series like Mass Effect, despite its aliens not being limited by the human actors portraying them in the same way the original Star Trek aliens were.
Starfield may have a huge number of sci-fi series like Star Trek to look at as inspiration, but as a new IP Bethesda should take advantage of the greatly advanced technology available to the studio when making its aliens, and the freedom which comes from not needing human actors to portray them physically. Starfield’s aliens could vary drastically from humans, forcing players to confront totally new forms of life than the relatively comfortable humanoid forms present in much of the genre. Through this, Starfield could create a game world full of opportunities for exploration which also cause the player to ask real questions about the different ways life might manifest.
This would fit with other parts of Starfield’s aesthetics as well. While not much is known about the game’s visual design beyond what appears to be true from the leaked Starfield images, it is known that developers toured SpaceX when looking for influences. This suggests that the game will attempt to present a far-flung but aesthetically realistic portrayal of space travel, a visual realism which, if applied to the game’s alien races, could help distinguish the game from many other entries in the sci-fi genre. This would be particularly true if Starfield's aliens aren't portrayed as villainous, which is the usual role non-humanoid aliens like Mass Effect's Reapers and Rachni have fulfilled.
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