Todd Howard of Bethesda Game Studios has admitted that the developers had to reduce the AI in the battles between the ships to the level of a wooden block.
We recently quoted from an interview with Howard by Ted Price, CEO of Insomniac Games. Howard talked about the inspirations (FTL, early MechWarrior games) and also about the fact that the AI was held back: “The ship combat system was actually set pretty early on. I really like, and you’ll see it, the way FTL does some things with power allocation. You can kind of see that in the game. I really like MechWarrior, the old ones that I played a lot, where the pace of combat is a little slower and you’re looking at systems and power allocation, but in a way that people can understand where we don’t have to pause the game in space.
That part worked out pretty well, but you mix all that with the AI… You know, it’s very easy when you get into space, especially with certain types of physics, to make the enemies really, really smart or to end up in a situation where you’re just jousting forever. It turns out you have to make the AI really stupid… You know, you make them fly and then they have to turn. Like, ‘Hey player, why don’t you just shoot me for a while?’.
Then you give the AI tools that the player can see, like how they boost away, and the player goes, ‘I can do that.’ Once we got the pacing down and we had the enemies moving around in Starfield, we were able to dive into the systems and look at the damage levels, look at how the shields work, look at how it feels to upgrade your ship. I think the people who worked on that did an incredible job. I can’t say enough about the people who worked on this in terms of getting feedback and being willing to completely change it. That kept it moving forward. Then we’d try things and we’d go all the way back and then go a different way with it,” Howard said.
Starfield mod support is coming in 2024. We bet there will be one that makes the AI ships smart!