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Not every live-service game has a proper game master orchestrating action behind the scenes.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

February 29, 2024

2 Min Read
Space marines at war in key art for Helldivers 2.
Image via Arrowhead Game Studios/PlayStation

At a Glance

  • Helldivers 2's real-world GM adds an extra tug-of-war layer relationship between Arrowhead and its players.

The galactic war within Arrowhead's Helldivers 2 is one giant game with one person at the helm of it all: a guy named Joel.

Talking to PCGamer, CEO Johann Pilestedt revealed the shooter borrows from Dungeons & Dragons, and is run by a game master. Joel's entire job at the studio is having "a lot of control over the play experience" of Helldivers 2.

TTRPGs like Dungeons & Dragons have Game Masters who semi-orchestrate their events. That authorship can't be fully replicated in an online shooter, but Joel's still managed to provide some "twist and turns" for the interstellar conflict.

So many live-service games already have gameplay modifiers or events built in for significant milestones. Having an actual person behind these choices gives Helldivers 2 an extra edge, and gives a different relationship between game and player.

Whenever a world has been "too easy or too hard," Pilestedt says Joel stepped in. He added numbers to the Automatons, for example, to prevent players from "taking [the planet] too quickly."

In a separate instance, Joel chose to have a winning faction give players free in-game mines for a full 24-hour period.

Helldivers 2 hopes to evolve its galaxy

Helldivers 2's systems are "continuously evolving based on what's happening in the game," said Pilestedt. Beyond looking at player feedback, the developer will observe how players react to events in and out of their control.

Players have grown attached to the game's planets, he continued, and Arrowhead is examining those relationships. The studio made "so many of them," and may have underestimated how players would react to their changing state.

"We look at the individual planets as, 'There was a planet that we made, that was good fun," Pilestedt recalled. "[Something]

we're looking at internally is how can we reconsider these planets to become more of a character going forward?"

Arrowhead already has future updates in store for Helldivers 2, and it'll be intersting to see how its world changes over time. Pilestedt's full PCGamer interview, which also touches on how feedback can shape development, can be read here.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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