Digital Foundry’s Starfield tech breakdown should calm your FPS concerns

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Last week, following the Xbox Showcase, Bethesda hosted its own Starfield Direct. The focus was entirely on Bethesda’s upcoming space RPG, and one of this year’s most anticipated titles.

During the 45-minute deep dive into Starfield, we were shown extensive gameplay. From the updated character generation system to ship building to planet exploration, it was our best look yet at the game. And so far it looks like Starfield is living up to the hype.

But despite all the promising gameplay footage shown, one bit of news to come out of the show was that Starfield will not run at 60 frames per second on consoles. Game Director Todd Howard confirmed that Starfield will run at a locked 30 FPS on both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

“I think it’ll come as no surprise, given our previous games, what we go for. Always these huge, open worlds, fully dynamic, hyper detail where anything can happen,” Howard said in an interview with IGN. “And we do want to do that. It’s 4K in the X. It’s 1440 on the S. We do lock it at 30, because we want that fidelity, we want all that stuff. We don’t want to sacrifice any of it.”

This immediately set off a chain of overreactions within the gaming community. Some blamed the Xbox hardware, while others blamed Bethesda. Why can’t Starfield run at a smooth 60 frames per second on Xbox, while games like Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 can do so on the PlayStation 5?

Well, as it turns out, Starfield and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 are two very different games with very different scopes. While Spider-Man 2 is more of a straightforward action-adventure, Starfield is a massive RPG that not only allows the user to travel to thousands of planets, but also interact with many of the items found there.

During the showcase, a story was told by producer Jamie Mallory in which she explained that one of her favorite things to do in the game is go around and steal sandwiches. She would then take these sandwiches and hoard them in her ship’s cargo hold, where they would stay, regardless of where she travels. This ability to pick up random objects throughout the world and store them in other places where their position will be retained until you move them again is quite possibly the big reason behind Starfield’s FPS cap on consoles.

It’s not because the Xbox is underpowered or Starfield is unfinished. This is an intentional design decision made by Bethesda so that they can achieve the game they sought out to originally make.

Digital Foundry’s John Linneman briefly posted an explanation on Twitter, but a full-fledged tech breakdown for the game was later released on YouTube. I highly suggest you check it out because Linneman and Alex Battaglia go into way more detail on the whole FPS “controversy” and explain why it shouldn’t be cause for concern. They also discuss other aspects of Starfield tech, such as the lighting system, character rendering, motion blur and more.

Starfield releases on September 6, 2023 for PC and Xbox Series X|S.