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Bethesda promises larger maps, better AI, and livelier cities for Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6

It’s been years since Bethesda has actively talked about any of its in-the-works AAA games, but based on an announcement in 2018, we know that two are in development: Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6. Both games are largely still shrouded in mystery, but studio head Todd Howard dropped a couple interesting tidbits about them today. For example, Starfield is set to feature Bethesda’s “biggest” map to date.
That’s notable because Bethesda’s maps are already absolutely massive, even in aging titles like Skyrim and Oblivion (and especially Fallout 76). Indeed, some would argue that the playable areas were a bit too large, and lacked enough compelling content to fill in the empty space as a result.

Regardless, whether you fall into that camp or not, the way that Howard and his team have gone about creating Starfield’s massive map is quite intriguing.

Instead of opting for traditional handcrafted world design, the folks over at Bethesda are employing procedural generation to create massive regions quickly. Bethesda has used procedural generation in the past, but it sounds like it will play a bigger role here.

If you’re worried about how Bethesda’s aging (and almost archaic) Creation Engine will handle all this additional scope, Howard hopes to put those fears to rest.

According to him, the engine has been materially upgraded in the past several years, receiving numerous improvements to world rendering (hopefully that means less pop-in and visual glitches), animation, and AI.

These three things have always been pain points for players in past Bethesda games, so we’re happy to see Howard & co. taking them seriously this time around.

As PC gamers, though, we really just hope Bethesda has finally stopped tying physics engines to game framerates. It’d be nice to play at over 60 FPS without wagons, NPCs, and wildlife going haywire, thank you very much.

Some other useful information released by Howard recently includes news on cities and NPCs in future games. Apparently, the former will be bigger, livelier, and more realistic than ever before.

That should be a welcome piece of news for anyone who played Skyrim: the game was visually stunning back in 2011, but its cities never truly lived up to their full potential due to the restrictions of the consoles available at the time.

As for NPCs, there will be more of them this time around, and they’ll also be more important to the gameplay experience, though Howard didn’t deign to offer any further specifics on that front.