Todd Howard responds to controversy over Starfield's $7 mission: 'We hear the feedback'

 NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 04: Video game designer Todd Howard is seen arriving to The Inaugural Gotham TV Awards at Cipriani 25 Broadway on June 04, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images).
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In the wake of a controversial release of a single Starfield mission costing $7 as part of the game's new Creations program, Bethesda executive producer Todd Howard says the studio "hears that feedback" from unhappy players and will "take a look at that and how we deliver content like that" in future releases.

A recent update heralding the release of the Starfield Creation Kit included a new mission that enables players to become bounty hunters for the Trackers Alliance faction, with the promise of future Trackers Alliance missions coming in subsequent updates. But the second Trackers Alliance mission, The Vulture, is only available as a paid add-on costing 700 Starfield Creation Credits—the equivalent of $7, which in reality is $10 because that's the smallest amount of credits you can purchase to cover the cost.

The move was not well received. Unhappy players immediately recalled Bethesda's disastrous attempt to launch paid mods for Skyrim in 2015, and of course the infamous Oblivion Horse Armor DLC from 2006. The mission also received unfavorable comparisons to the Starfield premium edition upgrade, which includes the full Shattered Space expansion, the Constellation skin pack, digital art book, soundtrack, and 1,000 Creation Credits for $35: "Is Shattered Space actually just two quests in a trenchcoat?" one redditor rhetorically asked. Steam user reviews, predictably, took a nosedive.

All of this has not gone unnoticed at Bethesda. "We're always trying to be kind of looking at what else is out there, really make sure we're giving value to everybody," Howard said in a recent MrMattyPlays interview. "And where we're not, hey, you know, we definitely will adjust."

Bethesda's intention with The Vulture, according to Howard, was to "go the extra mile" by adding the Trackers Alliance outfit and weapon in a quest, the idea presumably being that it would be more interesting that simply throwing some new cosmetics and hardware into the game. What happened instead, said Howard, is that players got the impression they were "chopping up" a faction and selling it for "700 credits at a time." That's "not what we want at all," said Howard.

"And so I do think we're going to take a look at that and how we deliver content like that, and whether we're changing pricing or breaking it up, or what we should do there. So, great feedback from the community."

"We hear the feedback," Howard responded when asked whether Bethesda will change how it releases content like The Vulture in the future. "We need to evaluate both pricing, what we put out for free, how we communicate what's in something, and really hear from the community there."

That "feedback" continues to be reflected in Steam reviews, which are now down to "mostly negative" over the past 30 days thanks primarily to the paid mission—which some players find especially egregious given the sense that Starfield itself was a disappointment.

Starfield user reviews on Steam as of June 17 2024
Starfield user reviews on Steam as of June 17 2024

But while adjustments may be in order, Howard emphasized the importance of enabling content creators to monetize their work, which he said was a big part of ensuring the long-term health of the community—and for the most part, he said players dig it.

"Our view is that a lot of [modders] have gone from hobbyists to professional, and it's part of our job to make sure they can do that, and that they do get paid, and they see the monetary rewards from if they make awesome content. And so we had a great experience with Creation Club with our creators, and then the version we're doing now that first launched in Skyrim, everyone's just responded to really really well. I think it's important for us, that part of it gives a really healthy modding community where you do have professionals, and we've seen their content kind of 'rise all boats' in it."

And, he added, the release of the Creation Kit means there's a huge, growing pile of free Starfield mods for players to choose from, regardless of how they feel about the ones that cost money.

"It's super important to us that all of that stays really really healthy," he said. "We think it's a big fabric of who we are as a studio, how we talk about modding, what our community is there, and just make sure that we're active and making sure it's as good as it possibly can be for really everybody involved."

While there's obviously some real unhappiness with the way Bethesda has handled The Vulture, I'm not sure I'd expect any big changes anytime soon. Much like the notorious Horse Armor DLC, people are complaining but they also appear to be buying it: The Starfield Creations page says the mission has more than 1.2 million "plays" across PC and Xbox, and it currently ranks among the top-10 most popular of the more than 600 Starfield Creations released so far.