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Game Analysis: Starfield

Analysis of Player Experience (2023)

Many images on this page are screenshots of the game Starfield developed by Bethesda Game Studios published by Bethesda Softworks (2023). Find more about Starfield on Bethesda's website

The Question

There was a lot of discussion around the UX of Elden Ring, with some designers openly criticizing it for "bad UX".

In this analysis I want to analyze elements of Elden Ring's UX, and explore the question, does Elden Ring truly have bad UX, or does it prioritize player experience before usability?

Many images on this page are screenshots of the game Elden Ring developed by FromSoftware published by Bandai Namco Entertainment (2022). Find more about Elden Ring on Bandai Namco's website.

Usability vs. Experience

A lot of websites, apps, and games leverage UX for usability. 

Or, they use UX to help users accomplish tasks and goals effectively. 

Elden Ring, in my opinion, leverages UX for player experience.

Or, it uses UX as a tool to enhance immersion and feel.

A common misconception in game UX is that our job as UX designers is to reduce friction and help players navigate through the game's systems efficiently. However, I like to think more about game UX as a supplement to gameplay, meaning that sometimes, finding the most user-friendly or efficient UX does not benefit the gameplay experience.

This is why Elden Ring is such an interesting case for me, as the UX, while possessing elements of good usability, also intentionally produces friction for the sake of the gameplay experience.

Game Pillar Overview

My Process

Based on my approximately 200 hours of gameplay, these are the core game pillars which I believe make the foundation for Starfield


Vastness of Space & "The Great Unknown"

Space & Planetary Combat


Personal Narrative, and Mastery of Your Own Fate

From here, I'm going to go through each of the pillars and certain game elements presented in each of them.

Vastness of Space & "The Great Unknown"

I had a difficult time naming this pillar, and almost called it “Space Exploration”. This is because I believe exploration is a key element of Starfield, but, to me, exploration is driven by the idea of “The Vastness of Space & The Great Unknown”. Infinite possibilities, alien environments, and the potential of finding weird and interesting stuff is what drives players to explore this universe, which is why I opted to name this pillar this way.


  • Players navigate space in their ship, using the Starmap to find locations and jump to distant solar systems

  • A dedicated planet data section in the Starmap gives the player an overview of the planet's environment, with additional information being added once a planet is scanned.

  • Planetary points of interest (POI) hint at interesting places to explore

  • Once visited, POI's become points the player can fast travel to for more efficient planet-level navigation

  • Exploring distant systems or obscure planets can lead to unique encounters or interesting planetary biomes

  • Procedurally generated areas, random encounters, and randomized loot constantly work to pull the player in with the promise of something new, while also setting expectations of mundanity and emptiness

Space Navigation & The Starmap

Opening the Starmap for the first time in Starfield is somewhat intimidating, but various cues are used to guide the player to relevant solar systems and planets containing points of interest. If a solar system has been visited before, clicking on that system in the Starmap will open the map of that solar system. If a system has not been visited, the player is prompted to jump to that system.  

Exploring space involves multiple levels of navigation- the galaxy level, the solar system level, and the planetary level. 

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