Some within the Starfield community were surprised to learn that rain will only fall on the player this week after a Reddit post revealing the normally invisible trick received nearly 30,000 upvotes.
“In Starfield, it only rains in a small area around the player,” wrote Redditor thelastfastbender alongside a screenshot showing the effect in photo mode.
The Reddit post then made its way to social media, where the video game community helped explain what was going on. It turns out that pretty much all video games deal with rain this way, although usually in a slightly different way.
Thomas Francis, lead visual effects artist at Darkest Dungeon 2 developer Red Hook Studios, Posted That said, rain is usually related to the camera rather than the player character, which is why the effect is visible in Starfield’s photo mode. This is done “because it is less power intensive than simulating particles everywhere.” Why create particles all over the world when a few hundred particles in front of the camera will do the job just as well,” Francis said.
Players discovered our secret, lol. Could have been avoided if the rain had been limited to Bethesda’s camera pic.twitter.com/U0sTNgGQwH
— Tom Francis (@TomFrancisVFX) September 25, 2023
This technique is used for pretty much everything, Francis added, including snow, dust and even blades of grass. “Anything that flies across your screen as you move around a zone/biome is probably using something like this,” Francis explained. “It is optimized and easy for us developers to control.”
The Starfield Rain Reddit post sparked another fascinating “developer tricks of the trade” moment on social media. Francis explained further that rain in video games doesn’t make anything wet, but triggers a system that tells the environment to “look wet.”
The Starfield Rain has even sparked a debate about whether learning how to make the sausage ruins players’ immersion in the sausage. As Francis put it: “Sometimes it’s better to believe in the magic than to know the trick behind it.”
I realize that people don’t necessarily understand that “falling rain” in games doesn’t “make things wet” and that these are entirely separate system effects. It makes sense that this doesn’t make sense, but it’s fun to realize how “behind the scenes” even simple things lie. https://t.co/oMG3zQNjs9
– Rami Ismail (رامي) (@tha_rami) September 27, 2023
I see there is talk about the Starfield rain box. Here’s a gaming secret:
Every game ever made is held together by duct tape. The only difference between them is the ability to hide them…
Except Rollercoaster Tycoon. That’s perfect.
– Remerai (@Remerai) September 27, 2023
Polygon has a helpful article where developers explain more about what’s going on with Starfield’s rain. 3D environment artist Karl Schecht said: “Whether you’re in first or third person, the rain looks solid. However, switch to photo mode, zoom out, and you’ll see that the rain is actually a small particle system about 3 x 3 meters hanging over your character.”
The Starfield rain discussion brings back memories of Fallout 3’s Metro, which is just an NPC with a train on his head.
I can’t wait for their reaction when they find out Fallout 3 Metro is just an NPC with a train on his mind pic.twitter.com/VSZjkklh4a
– JWulen (@JWulen) September 26, 2023
In 2017, Stray Kite Studios co-founder Paul Hellquist revealed that in BioShock, if the player took their last point of damage, they would instead be invulnerable for a second or two to trigger further “barely survived” moments.
In Bioshock, if you had taken the last point of damage, you would have been wounded for about 1-2 seconds instead, giving you more “barely survived” moments.
— Paul Hellquist (@TheElfquist) September 1, 2017
In other Starfield news, Bethesda development boss Todd Howard recently revealed that planetary exploration was brutal before it was “toned down.” IGN also spoke to the creator of Starfield’s controversial paid DLSS mod, which hit back against pirates.
If you play through the game, be sure to check out IGN’s Starfield walkthrough.
Photo credit: reddit / u/thelastfastbender
Wesley is the UK news editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at firstname.lastname@example.org or confidentially at email@example.com.