Arrowhead Games is feeling the pressure from Helldivers 2's successes—and its blunders, community manager reveals: 'many of us at AH more or less lost a week' due to the PSN controversy

An image of a citizen of Super Earth giving a PSA, holding his hands out in a calming manner while the word: INVASION is stamped in block-type over a screaming man crying for sweet liberty.
(Image credit: Arrowhead Games)

Helldivers 2 is going through some growing pains—its runaway success is a blessing for any developer, but it's also thrust the game into a burning spotlight. With a massive playerbase comes scrutiny, review bombing, and community drama in heaps. 

As part of said growing pains, CEO Johan Pilestedt recently admitted he believes the game's balancing patches have "gone too far". Recent replies from community manager Twinbeard on the game's Discord have subsequently confirmed that there's a ton of balancing talks going on at Arrowhead HQ right now—and that the pressure's been building.

In a series of 10 questions offered to Discord-goers, Twinbeard noted that the team was "aware there's a lot of concern regarding warbond cadence and us possibly over-balancing and/or nerfing too much," and that the team has been "discussing it a lot internally ATM!"

Twinbeard states that, while he doesn't want to "speak on other people's behalf," he believes that Arrowhead Games is listening. "I really do hope it's not a matter of us not listening or dying on a hill, rather than admitting if [something] is off. We're nothing without the players."

(Image credit: Helldivers 2 Discord)

The devs of Helldivers 2 have expressed a pretty concrete set of design goals for weapon balance in the past, namely that the "don't buff, only nerf" philosophy shouldn't always be adhered to. But while it's clear that something's off (and there's certainly plenty of reasonable points happening) I'm not sure Twinbeard's further note that "we should always adhere to player sentiment" pans out.

Considering the sheer amount of unadulterated noise the Helldivers 2 playerbase makes—sheerly by virtue of how big it is—it's already a mammoth task just to tune in and filter. Generally speaking, player bases are very good at identifying genuine problems, but not so great at offering solutions—or even understanding why said problems are happening. 

As an example, ricochet changes had a swarm of players decrying them, but it turned out it was an issue with the shrapnel of a specific gun, and that rockets being reflected was a myth. The rumour mill churns out lies faster than truths. 

What interests me more is Twinbeard's confirmation that: "the cadence and initial months since launch have been high and hectic respectively. We're still playing catch-up, and there are undoubtedly elements in the game process that have suffered from that." I never had much doubt this was the case, but to hear the studio's been wrestling with success for certain is perhaps reassuring for the game's future—if they can catch up, at least.

According to Twinbeard, the PSN controversy was also a huge tax on resources. "When [something] like the PSN-gate (™) happens, a lot of things come to a halt. Many of us at AH more or less 'lost' a week due to this, and only now are slowly getting back to what we were doing before all of this.

"If you ask me personally," Twinbeard adds in a later message. "I think the biggest issue so far has been that we were overwhelmed already by launch. It takes time—a lot of time—to bounce back and get ahead with such massive pressure, and what can easily be perceived as us being slow or not listening is more (IMHO anyway) the fact that we're still not up to speed … we're hiring and learning, though!"

(Image credit: Helldivers 2 Discord)

I don't envy Arrowhead Games' position one bit—well, maybe I envy the money, money's always nice. 

Still, being under intense scrutiny from thousands upon thousands of internet strangers is never pleasant, especially when you're tasked with picking out good ideas from the onslaught of noise. A lot of Twinbeard's comments here, however, speak to a vibe I've gotten from Arrowhead for a while—that everyone involved might benefit from slowing down just a little

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.