Helldivers 2’s Galactic War Is Orchestrated By Just One Guy

Helldivers 2’s Galactic War Is Orchestrated By Just One Guy

When Helldivers 2 players first jumped into the frenetic third-person co-op shooter, they believed they were cleansing the galaxy of the Terminids, a bug species with a fierce hold on a number of systems. Soon after though, the robot automatons entered the fray, splitting the helldivers’ forces across a war on two fronts. When one of the most prominent battlegrounds in this war, Malevelon Creek, fell to the automatons earlier this week, legions of players weren’t entirely sure why. Despite weeks of successful campaigns there, the planet had barely inched towards liberation, and ultimately fell. Those looking for something or someone to blame may have found a reason: a guy named Joel.

Who the hell is Joel? Joel is a developer at Arrowhead Game Studio, the developers behind Helldivers 2, which has swept the world up in its ongoing galactic war against monstrous bugs and killer robots. The galactic war is a narrative framework for the structure and routine of playing Helldivers 2. Players accept missions that take them to a number of planets on which to wage this war, and the successful completion of objectives on said planet will gradually liberate it. Malevelon Creek was just one front, but there are a number of other planets, like Mort, which are constantly at play, too. Major orders come down in the form of daily challenges which direct players to certain goals, and as it turns out, this is all the doing of Joel. Joel is responsible, as the lone Game Master at Arrowhead, for the ebb and flow of the galactic war, what directives come down from Super Earth, and seemingly which planets rise and fall. No one man should have all that power.

Johan Pilestedt, the CEO of Arrowhead, revealed Joel’s role in Helldivers 2’s evolving narrative in an interview with PC Gamer this week, saying,

“We have an actual person [Joel] with the job title of Game Master. We have a lot of systems built into the game where the Game Master has a lot of control over the play experience. It’s something that we’re continuously evolving based on what’s happening in the game.”

As part of his responsibilities, Joel has often dictated the difficulty of taking a planet, sometimes even waking up “in the middle of the night to give the Automatons a bit of reinforcements so the players don’t take [the planet] too quickly.”

In case you too are making the unspoken connection, yes Joel is effectively running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign on an infinitely larger scale than usual. Pilestedt acknowledges the influence D&D has had on the team’s approach to Helldivers 2’s galactic war narrative, admitting that the “studio aims to replicate collaborative, reactive storytelling in tabletop gaming” in their own game. While it certainly seems intentional to have built out Helldivers 2 as a sort of D&D analog, I think it’s surprising Arrowhead how readily players have taken to it. Citing the connection many made to the now-fallen Malevelon Creek, Pilestedt claimed that the team is now shifting to turn more planets into a “character” moving forward, increasing the likelihood of narrative beats like what we saw play out this week.

It’s remarkably fitting that Helldivers 2 would have a Game Master when so many of its players have committed to the bit and roleplay as characters in an ongoing campaign. Most everywhere I look, I see Helldivers 2 fans parroting lines from the game and acting out missions as real-life military operations. It’s undeniably part of the fun and charm of the game to take it so seriously that it borders on parody, and that spark has turned it into a bonafide hit. Whether you’re coming for the laughs or the drama, Helldivers 2 is wealthy in them both—and there’s more on the way. Pilestedt confirmed as much, sharing that, “as part of the roadmap, there are things that we want to keep secret because we want to surprise and delight.”.

Despite these plans, Pilestedt and his team only have “predictions” of how the war will play out, ultimately leaving the conclusion up to the interplay between Helldivers 2’s players and Joel. I don’t know about you all, but learning how flexible the game’s story is has made me infinitely more interested in diving in and seeing it play out before my own eyes. Above all though, shoutout to Joel for helping deliver one of the year’s most engaging stories yet.

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