Starfield's new Creation Engine took 'so long to do,' Bethesda's Todd Howard happy with results

Bethesda's Todd Howard praises Starfield's tech team for the new Creation Engine 2 upgrade, promises consistency and says the game 'feels great' to play.

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Starfield made quite the splash in the Xbox 2023 showcase with its graphics and overall presentation, and Todd Howard says a lot of that was because of the new-and-improved Creation Engine 2.

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Bethesda Game Studios has been working on the major Creation Engine 2 overhaul for quite some time. Starfield has been in development for 8 years, and during that time, the studio has been iterating on its existing Creation Engine to upgrade it for the new Xbox Series X/S console generation. While most of Starfield's development has been in-house, Microsoft's ATG (Advanced Technology Group) has been assisting Bethesda Game Studios since early 2022, helping with things like console optimization to ensure Starfield looks and runs great on both the Series S and Series X consoles.

In a recent interview with Kinda Funny Gamescast, Todd Howard shared his thoughts on the enhanced games engine and discussed things like volumetric fog and the new global illumination system.

"We are just so happy with the new engine. It took us so long to do," Howard said.

"Our tech team there are wizards, led by Chris Rodriguez and Joel Dinolt. What we're able to do in the game, and have all these things looking amazing and running from all the items that we're simulating in people's spaceships, full planets, our lighting model is just awesome...it's a real-time GI (global illumination)."

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Howard goes on to highlight the volumetric lighting system, which we may have seen evidence of in some of the biomes shown off in the Starfield Direct clip.

"We didn't really show this off, and I'd love to in the future, but we have some really great volumetric fog and how that interacts with the lighting. Then you get into the physics and we start messing with gravity, it gets crazier. Our guest system...I think people are...you know there are a lot of open world games now, but I think what really makes ours different is that all these quests are running. It's not like you start a mission and we shut everything down.

"You can be on dozens of these at once, and that creates a lot of chaos sometimes in our games, we're aware of that, but it also creates these magic moments that we just love and our players love and I think that's what is really really special about it."

Howard goes on to talk about if the Starfield team thought about adding in a performance mode to hit, say, 60FPS at the cost of withholding or dialing back certain features.

Q Was it ever under consideration that you would take away some of these features that you talked about with the volumetric fog?

We never looked at taking features away. Our focus was on delivering all of that, obviously we've seen all the comments. Digital Foundry, the do an incredible job, I don't think they know how everyone in the games industry watches every single one of their videos...they do a fantastic job.

Ultimately look, we boil it down to...we wanted the consistency. The game is running great but we don't want players to ever think about it. We have obviously seen other games have performance modes, we lean towards consistency overall. We talk to our fans and hear from everybody, so we're feeling really great. The game feels great in your hands. and I would say that developers know this and there are things you can do to make that look and feel great, things like motion blur, the refresh rates, all of those things matter to something feeling great. I can honestly say this is the best-feeling game that we have.

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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