Starfield can achieve the impossible: decent people in a Bethesda game

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For all the success and longevity of games like Fallout and Skyrim, the appearance of Bethesda Game Studios’ character models has never been one of its strong points. Even in the most recent Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, people look stiff and puppet-like. They also look ugly. But for Starfield, Bethesda’s upcoming massive space role-playing adventure, the development team is changing the way it does things.

In a new promotional video for Starfield, Bethesda chief artist Istvan Pely revealed that the company is evolving how it designs characters. Rather than drawing models from scratch in a 3D rendering application, the studio has started scanning real-world people to bring into play.

“We’ve always allowed the player to create really interesting, unique characters. With this game, we’ve definitely taken that to the next level,” said Pely. “The technology is based on scanning real-world models, similar to the photogrammetry we do with our landscapes. We also apply the same to our people.”

This is something other game studios have been doing for years. While the technology probably isn’t exactly the same, BioWare has scanned model Mark Vanderloo as the basis for Commander Shepard in Mass Effect. Players know that game for its intimate interactions between characters, and Pely made it clear that Bethesda wants to replicate that for Starfield.

“We want all face-to-face interactions with NPCs and other characters in the game to be as impactful as possible,” he said. “For that you have to believe that these are real people.”

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