“Starfield”: Space exploration, an old moon of video games that still fascinates

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A little closer to the stars Several large-budget games highlight the theme of space exploration, ideal for “meeting the need for imagination” of players

« Starfield » : Space exploration, an old moon of video games that still fascinates

From space, certain planets proposed in Starfield are similar To the earth. — Screenshot from the game/X.R./20 Minutes

  • The new RPG video game from Bethesda studio, Starfield, was officially released on Wednesday, September 6.
  • As in the big productions Star Citizen, still in development, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, released in April, the exploration of the galaxy is a central theme and a game mechanic highlighted.
  • To “meet the need for imagination” of players, space is a particularly popular material, even if it often offers monolithic planets. “A limit to our knowledge”, underlines expert Olivier Sanguy, which Starfield strives to avoid.

It’s the story of three behemoths who set off on their journey. the conquest of the stars. On the one hand, a cult saga for over forty years. On the other, a project started ten years ago, whose fundraising and slow development have become a subject of jokes in the industry. And in the center, a thirty-year-old studio known for its RPG series and shooting games. In the world of video games, 2023 has been placed under the sign of space exploration. A central theme in Star Wars' Jedi: Fallen Order, the MMORPG Star Citizen and Bethesda's new title, Starfield, which was officially released this Wednesday.

The entire main quest of Starfieldrevolves around this theme, since “the protagonist will join a group of explorers” composed of the “last people in the world” pushing the limits of the universe and what we know”s, ” explains Hadrien Cheru, marketing manager at Bethesda France. And the stars, to both visible on a daily basis but so distant and inaccessible, had enough to titillate the imagination and the desire for exploration of the players.

From Galactic Empire to; Outer Wilds

The discovery of other planets is nothing new, however; in video games. In 1980, at the very time when The famous “I am your father” resonated for the first time in cinemas, the first gamers launched themselves into the game. conquer the galaxy in Galactic Empire. For Olivier Sanguy, space news manager at the City of Toulouse Space, “space has always interested us’ part of the population,” but has experienced “waves of interest.” « In France, Thomas Pesquet's two missions served to “reset this interest,” he deciphers.

In the video game, this gave the Mass Effect license, then the titles Endless Space and FTLin 2012. Then come, in quick succession, Interstellar and Alone on Marsside movies, Kerbral Space Program, Stellarisand No Man’s Sky aside; video game, between 2014 and 2016. The latest video game gems to date, Outer Wilds and Astroneer share the bill in 2019, and Ad Astra, material inspired by the developers of Starfield, was released in cinemas the same year. All, except in their own way, offer to “participate in a fictional way” à the discovery of other worlds.

The stars, so close and so far

Because if the passion is present among the general public, “space has something frustrating,” for Olivier Sanguy: taking part in the adventure is “extremely difficult, it’s an area still seen as elitist”. Faced with the extremely small number of people who go into space each year, video games represent the ideal solution to meet this need. this frustration. In Starfield, past character creation, it only takes a good hour of play to be able to leave the rails of the main quest and find yourself free to go almost anywhere you want to go. we want in space. “Very quickly, the player can say to himself 'what happens if I choose to land in such and such a place on such and such a planet?' lay eggs this need for imagination, develops Hadrien Cheru.

Because exploration, Bethesda knows how to do. In Elders Scrolls or Fallout, the player was already moving on to his time at; scan the map in search of careful details and explore navigate between radically different cities and environments. “It’s a very strong theme” from the studio, confirms Hadrien Cheru. Remained at apply it to space. From Star Wars, the discovery of a new planet or a satellite often comes down to the vision of a single biome: Endor and its infinite forest, Hoth covered with ice, Kamino the planet-ocean. So many monolithic surfaces “influenced by our solar system”, according to Olivier Sanguy.

Indeed, around the Sun, it is on Earth that we find “the greatest diversity; geological, fauna and flora” But it is familiar to us. On the other hand, otherness, and therefore the unknown, the distant, is “Venus, 400 ° the surface, quite monotonous, the Moon, which seems uniform for neophytes, Mars the same,” even if scientists know its richness and subtleties and “monolithic vision is a limit of our knowledge. Starfield, where exploration is sometimes more a subject than an experience, bypassing in its own way the problem: from the spatial view, certain planets reveal continents, oceans, icy poles, but we can only land there in corresponding areas à certain archetypes (abandoned mine and rocky surface, scientific outpost surrounded by open vegetation).

Fortunately, sometimes, imagination surpasses knowledge. In 1977, when Tatooine appeared in the first Star Wars, orbiting around a double star, “it was classified as science fiction. It was only years later that a stable system around a double star was discovered. in real life, says Olivier Sanguy. “There is a back and forth between reality and reality. and fiction,” he smiles. Among the 1,000 planets that Starfield offers, is there one that astronomers will one day observe?