Emil Pagliarulo, the lead designer of Bethesda’s upcoming mega-RPG Starfield, recently revealed that the developers had a Jesuit priest-in-training advise them when creating the game’s religions. Shane Liesegang, the up-and-coming priest in question, actually served as a former writer for Bethesda who specifically worked on both Skyrim and Fallout 4. That former connection combined with Liesegang’s studies helped the team at Bethesda make one of Starfield’s original religions as authentic and believable as possible.
Pagliarulo shared this aspect of Starfield’s development in a recently published interview with Polygon editor Owen Good. In it, he delved a little bit into the two religions that Bethesda crafted for Starfield, which exist in the game’s universe alongside the religions we have in the real world. One of these religions, dubbed the Enlightened, functions as a sort of atheist or humanist church, whereas the other one, the Sanctum Universum, “believe[s] that humans going through space and being able to explore the universe is a sign that God exists, and God wants us to be closer to him.” Liesegang mainly helped write for the Sanctum Universum and, according to Pagliarulo, “really grounded it in the believable.”
Exploring a sensitive topic
Pagliarulo cited 2001: A Space Odyssey, Contact, and Interstellar as significant sources of inspiration when it came to Starfield’s exploration of theology. But while the game does aim to tackle big concepts related to religion, Pagliarulo emphasized that the developers did not want to explore these topics too deeply so as to not inadvertently offend certain individuals.
That last part may disappoint some who would love to see Starfield go all in on the concept of religions and the complex questions that surround them. But of course, Starfield is a major mainstream release by a big publisher, so it’s understandable that it won’t cover absolutely everything so that it doesn’t risk alienating people. Plus, depending on how they turn out, the ways in which Starfield covers religion still may end up pleasantly surprising players.