Starfield performance preview: what to expect based on what we’ve seen so far?

Starfield is one of the most anticipated games in the next few years. Coming from the team that brought the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, Bethesda’s space-focused RPG has generated excitement since it was announced in 2018, despite the fact that very little has been shown. With a 2023 release planned, a recent gameplay reveal finally gave us a look at upcoming Xbox and PC exclusives, and a chance to understand what the team plans to deliver.

At the title level, the game is based on an evolved version of the Creation Engine. Entitled Creation Engine 2, within its rendering output there are clear similarities to both Fallout 76 and Skyrim, both of which were built upon its predecessor. Fallout 4 and later games introduced some significant changes to the engine, such as physically based lighting shaders and materials, a deferred tile-based rendering pipeline, enabling high dynamic light sources, volumetric lighting, and other modern technologies. But technology offers much more than just visuals. Hawk physics aids animation, for example, and stems from the AI ​​and search creation engine’s Radiant System — most of which make up the core DNA of Bethesda games.

Before we go any further, keep in mind that all of this is based on work in progress footage shown, so some or all of these areas may change when released.

rendering improvements

Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 improved real-world rendering and environments with scale. From stepping out of your shelter to the sprawling ruined wasteland in front of you, to the depths created with volumetric lighting, it immediately had a grand and grand feel. Dynamic time of day and physics-based rendering materials (PBR) all aided the reality of that, with projected cube maps on metal and protruding surfaces, screen space reflections and shadow-casting light sources enhancing entire scenes.

Starfield has certainly taken this as a baseline and has improved resolution, the overall level of those materials, and some form of global illumination boom has now been factored in. Scale, again, is front and center, with long, barren vistas-like fallout. Elevation fog is used again, which will be a combination of flat 2D billboard sprites that can be raised and lowered to create depth and simulate atmospheric scattering of air pollution and light responses. Then volumetrics are used, but mostly here within the inner sections, as there seems to be a distinct variation in them from the outer sections. Shadow-casting light sources are markedly higher, due to the electrical light dotted around them, as is the shadow map quality itself, using a soft, partial effect, but with an obvious low resolution cascade that results in dithering. Causes. These appear to be using a reconstruction or TAA-specific pass, making the shadows of some creatures more stable, but exhibiting ghostly artifacts when they move.

Light and shadow effects mixed with volumetrics and cube maps create a metallic look for most of the squares shown, with high gloss on surfaces, metallic or not. This also suggests that what we see here is likely to reside within the Screen Space Reflection (SSR) engine and not be replaced with any ray traced reflections or other post effects. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but the game doesn’t use a great deal, if any, of the SSRs from the squares shown so far, which means projected cube maps and imposter light probes to simulate specular highlights. And rely on to emphasize the quality of the material. It may be the dual goal of keeping resolution and performance targets as close as possible across all platforms, ensuring the game can scale and run on lower-end PCs. It’s a good start to be sure, with rocky surfaces and cities like techno noir showing that the arts and tech team has created a diversity within the engine and game worlds to make sure it’s only on 1000+ planets All different colors which are not copied and pasted gray.

character improvement

Characters and emotions are another core aspect of Bethesda games, and Starfield seems to have made a significant improvement here. The PBR content shows finer and more fleshy skin, a simulated subsurface scattering is present, and specular highlights on the skin and high bone rigging on the faces show a marked improvement over the fallout.

The quality in the conversation sections is also pretty high which we’ve seen include both main and side quest NPCs. Performance capture here will be a huge undertaking, so these will be made using the improved text to speech phonetic system seen in earlier games. Vowels and syllables are well shaped, with a good mix of facial expressions to emphasize meaning.

Like many of these solutions, it can have wild moments, but given the wide range of dialogue, story, and play, the level and quality shown is certainly good enough to allow the team to iterate as fast as possible. A high quality for us to enjoy. From a visual and rendering perspective this area is the biggest improvement from previous games, and I’d be interested to hear more on the specifics of what I’ve done here to balance script and voice recording with automatic or procedural. Animation System.

The actual character models you create aren’t as impressive, with the same issues we’ve seen in earlier games – such as eye parallax, blinking, pupils, and emotion, limited facial bones, cards with less hair, and a Made worse by the usual top-shift. Feature set to choose from. That said, you won’t see yourself in the game very much, so it might not be as impressive, but it’s far from the best avatar creator we’ve seen.


Animation itself is another area that has always had mixed results in Bethesda games. Starfield certainly shows improvement, but not to the level that our characters have. The running, fighting, hiding and even walking animation shows clear transitions between cycles, helped by hawk physics when shot or hit. In one segment shown, the enemies’ tight attack and their relatively weak grip on life means they look like little more than low-level cannon fodder.

The set is re-reflected on the outside with AI routines and features a harsh-looking combat example, not helped by another major area built on from previous Bethesda games: the dynamic movement of the world, and especially the leaves. and destruction. Boxes are either crates for opening or adamantium barricades that are either weighted and floaty or immovable. If I may request the team, it would be to integrate physics more into the world. Allow trees and shrubs to move and move, and allow objects to break and respond to pressure waves of explosions, or break when used as cover under a fire. This will not only enhance the visual presentation we see but also improve the interaction and tactical elements of the gameplay. I need to caution that with the statement at the outset, this is what we’ve seen so far, and these ideas may already be in play or planned to arrive by launch. The point is that the world and material look perfectly good, but the materiality and fragility of that world is an area I’d like to see improvement in.

Animals, robots and NPCs is another area that is always of good quality in Bethesda games, but not the best. The panning shots and walking section on the Terra-Forma show that there has been a slight change here. Spider-like creatures or aliens like cargo skeleton robots all look like anything we’ve seen before. The obvious similarities to No Man’s Sky are unavoidable, but resource collection can be greatly improved with more dramatic and effects-based geometric destruction levels when you break down parts for mining. This paired with the procedural destruction of enemies would really help enhance the exploration and combat classes and materialize what we see here. Everything seems particularly nice and physically plausible, but its interaction and rigor can undermine its strong influence in other areas.

Space travel and combat

Of everything we’ve seen, the space segments of Starfield seem to me the most promising. Space and galaxy-traversal takes me back to the dangerous days of the elite having to choose between trading cargo or hunting for bounty. This can be the game’s hidden gem as you go on missions and then engage in dramatic and dynamic space battles with friend and foe alike. Build your own ship, design the layout, chassis, cockpit, weapon arsenal and more – it’s science-fiction heaven for Trekkie like me. The combat takes on the floaty physics we see elsewhere in the game and works perfectly here with particle explosions, dogfight cloaks and daggers and even warp speed travel.

Some questions remain, such as how space travel is linked to the landing of the planet – thunder these segments are just canned animations that are played as they enter the atmosphere. The range of planets and locations shown is positive so far, ranging from the fauna-filled planets and dense neon metropolis to baryon craters and rocky plains we’ve seen so far. Still, with Bethesda claiming that the game has over 1,000 planets to explore, it remains to be seen how many of those interesting places are actually worth exploring.

By resolution and performance levels, the footage released targets a full 3840×2160 level at 30fps on the Series X. It would be of great benefit to the team to offer a dynamic 4K/60fps mode, which would go a long way and help mitigate. The well-established concern of Bethesda Games is struggling to hit that 30fps level. Fallout 4 in 2015 had a few issues on Xbox One and PS4, and although the PS4 was initially poor and has since been patched, both remain with some impressive sub 30fps sections that stifle your enjoyment. Work in Progress footage highlighted a drop below that 30fps level at times, but release data is a good way to go and with Bethesda Games’ prior history, I have a cautious but optimistic view of the final release.

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