Helldivers 2 has a Game Master Altering the Game in Real Time

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Helldivers 2 has taken the gaming industry by storm with thrilling combat, co-op camaraderie, and witty satire. You can either play alone or with up to three other players to take down the Terminids and the Automatons (nicknamed bugs and bots to many.) You’ll fight with not only a myriad of guns and grenades but also Stratagems, which are either ordnance or war materiel that Helldivers can call down from their Super Destroyers during missions. Helldivers 2 suffered from success at the beginning of its launch as great reviews and social media filled with clips of the game enticed gamers to join the fight only to get stuck behind a screen that notified them that the servers were full. After much refreshing transparency from Arrowhead Studios and employees working around the clock, the servers are now open to more players and the studio can once again direct its marketing attention to the community.

In a recent interview by PC Mag the CEO of Arrowhead Games, Johan Pilestedt, divulged to us that there was a single person with the title of “Game Master” at the company, and he is effectively a DM for the whole game. 

"We have an actual person with the job title of Game Master," Pilestedt told PC Gamer in an interview today. His name is Joel, and he takes his job very seriously.”

Pilestedt says that D&D was a big inspiration for the game and that they aimed to recreate that same kind of reactive and collaborative storytelling within their game. This means that not everything that happens within the game has been planned for the players and that their collective actions have influenced what happens next. The way the game reacts to players can manifest in both large and small influences. It might be something as small as a certain stratagem becoming temporarily available to a single player during a mission, to altering the galaxy. Players who joined the first week saw a glimpse of this when the Automatons invasions drew players’ attention away from the Terminid campaign. 

"There have been some sudden moments where maybe one planet was too easy or one was too hard and [Joel] had to get up in the middle of the night to give the Automatons a bit of reinforcement so the players don't take [the planet] too quickly," said Pilestedt.  

It’s no mystery that videos of gameplay have infiltrated social media channels, influencing or “recruiting” additional players to join with epic battles or hilarious antics. Some of these videos have been highlighting certain planets, like Melvelon Creek. Players have seen the absolute bot chaos ensuing as soon as you drop in, and they want a part of it. Social media videos about Malevelon Creek have evolved from just showcasing the battle to creating skits with player-created lore. Arrowhead, and in turn, Joel, have reportedly taken notice of this. PC Mag reports that “Pilestedt says the team is also paying attention to the unexpected attachments players have developed with individual planets.” What exactly does this mean to the players? Well, Pilestedt says that we won't all know until it happens, as they want to “surprise and delight” as the game and the war evolves.  

The article goes on to cover how much the studio values player feedback and how important that is to the CEO.

"But that continuous improvement, that continuous development, and just being able to surprise people and get that immediate feedback from them, appreciating the content we're putting up has been such a staple to me in how I view games as something that should be developed together with the community."

Not only is the player feedback heard, but it’s valued by the studio, and that might just be one of their secrets to success. 

The future of Helldivers 2 will never be 100% planned as both key features (mechs? A third faction of enemies??) player behavior, and Joel all work together to balance the push and pull of war. What are you waiting for?! Get out there and spread Democracy, soldier!


Replies • 20


ahhh that's why we lost malevelon creek and erata prime


It's so weird to see people being mad about this.  Or maybe not, since we live in the Age of Outrage, where everything, no matter how trivial, is a pressure point of rancorous indignation.  But I think it's cool that the developers are actually trying to shape a narrative in a way that isn't just "buy the new DLC to continue the story" that one might expect for this sort of game.  Sure, it's somewhat manipulative and I get that it takes some degree of agency away from players, but seeing them dynamically react to what players are doing/saying is a much more interesting approach and it allows them to (hopefully) do fun, interesting things with the larger narrative.  What's the alternative?  Players capture all the worlds before the devs have new content, new environments and mission types, ready to go so they just hit reset and players start back at zero and it's like all their progress never happened?  That doesn't sound fun.

I'll probably never play the game, because it doesn't seem designed for solo play and I'll never play with randoms, but I love the concept of what they're doing here.


Strange. They could balance out things automatically instead of using an actual human.


One of most memorable moments in WoW were with GM's. I didn't hear about Game Masters since forever and implementing them is some of best choices in my opinion, a guy between company and community as well, doing sometimes goofy stuff. Game is so popular and fun and everyone loves it, didn't play it myself but i hear so many positive stuff about it!

oguz_sert said: 23h

Strange. They could balance out things automatically instead of using an actual human.

Balancing out isn't the primary intention. Using a person can basically give you a nemesis with a controlled army. It would make things more realistic/exciting since you never know what could happen next. Though in this case it doesn't seem to be as extensive or controllable.