I like Helldivers. It's one of my favourite PS4 games. But I had 11 questions about it. I posed them to one of the game's designers. He had answers. Thank goodness.
The following Q&A was conducted over email. Answering my questions is Patrick Lasota, a designer at Helldivers dev studio Arrowhead Game Studios.
Oh, and for those of you unfamiliar with Helldivers, 1) It's amazing you're still reading this and 2) It's a one-to-four-player co-op strategic PS3/PS4/Vita shooter played from an overhead view and set amid a metagame that has every single person playing the game collectively claiming intergalactic territory in order to either attack three enemy factions' home planets or — stay with me! — if things go badly, to fall back and defend Super Earth. Just read this, OK?
Stephen Totilo, Kotaku guy: What are the parameters that dictate what objectives get put on a certain map and where they go? It's procedurally generated, right?
Patrik Lasota, Hell-designer: The levels are procedurally generated. This, as opposed to randomly generated, suggests a certain design and underlying ruleset for how the levels are built. The objectives all have different settings, Some are specific to an enemy race (such as the bug nests). Some will not appear on lower difficulties, and they each have a difficulty cost weighed against the difficulty of the mission.
Totilo: We're worried we're going to miss out on the cool stuff in the big metagame wars. If Super Earth is attacked, how will we know? Can we be alerted if we're not playing? How long will the attack last?
Lasota: The major events (Super Earth defence, enemy home planet invasion) are all 48h so that everyone can have a chance to participate. The Defend events, where you defend a region capital, are always four hours. There is currently no messaging system for when events happen, but we are looking at the possibility of implementing one in the future.
In the meantime, some of our fans have put together a messaging system and help each other to monitor the events. Go to our subreddit /r/Helldivers, if you want to know more.
Totilo: Similarly, how often do we really need to check in to influence the battle on any region? How fast are you seeing regions get cleared? Have you considered changing the timetable for events based on how quickly or slowly things are progressing?
Lasota: We are continuously balancing the campaign to give the community a fair chance at winning if they fight hard. We are starting to reach a level where the community is catching on to what the galactic campaign is and how it works, and we are seeing a lot of people fighting hard for Democracy!
Totilo: On the galactic campaign map, are the counters of helldivers lost/playing/number of kills accurate to the moment? The counter seems to climb at a consistent rate, it never speeds up or slows down.
Lasota: The counter is counting up to the latest updated number. The numbers themselves are updated every minute and are real numbers fetched from our statistics backend.
Totilo: Why not have all characters on a ship be able to see the galactic campaign map?
Lasota: This is really due to both time constraints and technical challenges. In the end we opted for an easier to implement suggestion menu so that you can suggest what race/planet/mission you would like to play.
Totilo: Do turrets really ever avoid making friendly fire? We think we need to duck every time!
Well, they are not really aware of the players at all, they are just there to kill the enemies of mankind :)
Totilo: Do you think mech suits are overpowered?
Lasota: The Mechsuits are designed to be really, really, powerful. The thinking is that they give you an edge but only for a very limited time, as you can't rearm them. It's not dissimilar to the star in a Mario game. That said, they might have a bit too much ammo currently, but time will tell if we need to adjust it.
Totilo: Do you have any tips about which are the best, but perhaps most overlooked, strategems?
Lasota: I really think the stun mines are overlooked a lot. They are excellent for holding positions and slowing down enemies, and the fact that they are non-lethal results in a lot less friendly fire. Worst case they stun both you and the enemy.
Totilo: We can't stand escorting people. Any tips for getting those fools to not die?
Lasota: Move fast, don't stop for anything, not even those delicious samples! Speed really is key, keep moving constantly and delay enemies following you with Stratagems.
Totilo: Is there a trick to getting the game to show more of what's north of your character? The game's camera seems to favour showing what's south of the character.
Lasota: With how the cameras are set up, we actually do tilt them ever so slightly in order to show you more of what is north of the character. We have an aim bias in the game, meaning that if the entire group aims the same way, the camera will move quite a bit in that direction.
Totilo: Is it us or do the changes we make in our characters' gear not show that clearly on the battlefield. Any tips for making characters stand out from each other more? Or is that something you'll be tweaking?
Lasota: The different options are still all uniforms, and we really didn't want to break the feeling of you being a military unit. That said, if we see that a lot of players are experiencing issues with identification, then that is something we will have to take a look at improving :)
That's it! Thanks to Lasota for answering my questions and for making a pretty cool video game.