Helldivers 2 director calls out "really s****y" players who issued a "horrifying" number of threats to staff

A screenshot from the Helldivers 2 opening, showing the Super Earth Spokesperson shouting.
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Helldivers 2 has been one of the standout hits of the year, convincing over 12 million people to roleplay as soldiers in a fictional war that poses the 'Are we the baddies?' question at multiple turns. The lofty player count makes a few bad eggs a given, though frustrations over weapon balance and battle passes have only made things worse. Or, as creative director Johan Pilestedt puts it, some "really shitty" players have issued a "horrifying" number of threats to staff. 

Reflecting on the game's success with GamesIndustry.biz, Pilestedt says the Helldivers 2 whirlwind has been "extremely enjoyable and a little bit daunting." Look past the Star Troopers-inspired war parody, and what you've got is a player-affected, evolving narrative that takes notes from Dragons & Demons – think Dungeons & Dragons, but Swedish. 

The result is something that's landed better than anything developer Arrowhead Game Studios has done before, and that's meant coming to grips with handling a larger community – especially the bad side of it.

"The big difference now, which is horrifying, is the amount of threats and rude behavior that people in the studio are getting from some really shitty individuals within the community," Pilestedt says. "That's something new we have to deal with."

Helldivers 2

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

For Pilestedt, "If you don't have those lows, you can't get those highs." Digging into the matter further, incoming CEO Shams Jorjani admits the studio's approach to game design likely contributes to the friction – a philosophy that's not afraid to prioritize niche games for a smaller group of people over something with broader appeal. Naturally, then, you run into challenges when something like Helldivers 2 launches to broad appeal through word of mouth.

"Arrowhead’s philosophy has always been 'a game for everyone is a game for no one'," Jorjani says. "That is the company slogan. It’s how our games are designed. You can feel it in every feature. I think it’s one of the big reasons that Helldivers 2 has been so successful. It feels fresh because it does a lot of unpopular stuff.

"When you hit this big, much bigger than anyone thought – Sony, us, everyone – what happens is the game finds an audience outside of that niche fan group. So you get this amplification of different voices. Almost all games have a bit of toxicity in the community, but with these big numbers you just get so many, so we need to work with the community to get them to self-moderate, give people the tools to speak with each other in a positive fashion, so we can keep talking to the players openly. The more voices being added to the choir does add complexity."

Helldivers 2

(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

The other half of dealing with bad actors among your group of fascist soldiers comes down to simple experience, something Arrowhead is racking up. As Jorjani puts it, just look at Valve.

"Valve is supposedly launching a new PVP game, and I am sure they’ve put in hundreds, if not thousands of hours into how to handle toxic players, because they have that experience from DOTA and Counter-Strike," he says. "It’s ingrained into their product development and they can just lift those systems. All of that investment and process we’re learning painfully now will carry through to the next thing, whatever that may be."

The pause for Helldivers 2 reflection comes alongside the news that Pilestedt is stepping back from his CEO duties into that of CCO so that he may focus on the creative side of things rather than the business admin. Pilestedt also agrees guns are too weak, armor is too boring, and planets are too repetitive, and – in unison with Jorjani – the pursuit of endless growth isn't the way forward.

Helldivers 2 is slowing down the release of new patches "to maintain the quality standard we want and you deserve."

Deputy News Editor

Iain joins the GamesRadar team as Deputy News Editor following stints at PCGamesN and PocketGamer.Biz, with some freelance for Kotaku UK, RockPaperShotgun, and VG24/7 thrown in for good measure. When not helping Ali run the news team, he can be found digging into communities for stories – the sillier the better. When he isn’t pillaging the depths of Final Fantasy 14 for a swanky new hat, you’ll find him amassing an army of Pokemon plushies.