Helldivers 2 director explains the limits of Joel the Game Master's power: "The war fought and liberation of planets — that's all you"

Helldivers 2
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Recently, it was revealed in an interview that Helldivers 2 has a dedicated Game Master called Joel who controls several elements of the game's Galactic War metagame.
  • Exactly what Joel can and can't do wasn't made clear in the interview, so early on Thursday morning, Helldivers 2 creative director Johan Pilestedt clarified things in a post on X (Twitter).
  • Joel controls which orders (major and personal) are active, and chooses where Terminid bugs and Automaton bots attack. He can also "reinforce planets" and give players bonus stratagems to use for temporary amounts of time. The outcomes of campaigns for a planet's freedom, however, are determined by the community's performance in battle.
  • Pilestedt says Joel also has jurisdiction over "other stuff we haven't revealed yet," and hasn't detailed these things so developer Arrowhead Game Studios can "surprise and delight" in the future.

In case you hadn't heard, Helldivers 2 developer Arrowhead Game Studios spilled the beans about how the PvE co-op shooter's Galactic War planet liberation metagame works in an interview yesterday. It was previously a bit of a mystery in the weeks that followed the game's February 8 launch, but now, we know that there's an all-powerful Game Master at the studio called Joel.

Joel, Arrowhead CEO and Helldivers 2 creative director Johan Pilestedt told PC Gamer, "has a lot of control over the play experience." Inspired by the exciting twists good Dungeon Masters introduce to tabletop stories in Dungeons and Dragons, Arrowhead aims to bring something similar to its game, albeit on a colossal, community-wide scale.

The full interview is fantastic, and I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. Pilestedt didn't exactly make what Joel can and can't do clear in it, though, which is why he followed it up with a post this morning that clarifies things.

"As a follow up on Game Master abilities, the majority of the role is to choose which major order takes place, what daily [order] is active and decide where the enemies attack," he wrote on X (Twitter). "The war fought and liberation of planets — that's all you! We can also reinforce planets if needed and give temporary equipment to the entire community! ...and other stuff we haven't revealed yet. ❤️"

The Helldivers 2 community recently failed to defend enough planets from Automaton invasion, resulting in an incomplete Major Order. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

So, there you have it. While Joel and his string-pulling dictates where major conflicts take place and who we'll be fighting in our efforts to win them, the community's victories and defeats are what will ultimately determine if we're able to liberate enemy-controlled worlds or defend our own from invasion. The latest order from Joel is a call-to-action to liberate Veld by Monday morning, which is in danger of being overrun by a surprise bug infestation.

If Joel is feeling merciful, gods be good, he can choose to give everyone a temporary bonus stratagem like he did with Incendiary Mines after we freed Turing and Fenrir III from Terminid control. Apparently, he can also "reinforce planets," which I take to mean he can influence a planet's liberation percentage in either our or the enemy's favor if things are starting to go in a direction Arrowhead, for whatever reason, doesn't want.

Amusingly, many are already using that last bit as ammunition to blame Joel for the recent loss of Malevelon Creek, a fan-favorite Automaton planet famous for how tough it is to fight on. Players have been fighting hard to free Malevelon Creek for weeks — notably, a new counter-offensive to take it began yesterday morning — but the highest its liberation percentage has ever gotten is 25%. It is deep in bot-controlled space, though, so maybe that's why it's proven to be so hard to liberate.

Get ready to fight plenty of these guys on Veld this weekend. (Image credit: Windows Central)

You, like myself, are probably wondering what that "stuff we haven't revealed yet" bit is about, but we probably won't find out for a while. In the aforementioned interview, Pilestedt noted that Arrowhead wants to keep some of Joel's capabilities hidden for now so it can "surprise and delight" fans later.

"It's [Game Master systems] something that we're continuously evolving based on what's happening in the game," he said. "And as part of the roadmap, there are things that we want to keep secret because we want to surprise and delight."

Speaking of Helldivers 2's roadmap, it hasn't been released publicly yet, though now that the game's server capacity issues are over, I suspect we'll be getting it soon. We currently don't know much about what Arrowhead has planned for the future, although the studio did tease massive armored mechs "coming soon after launch" in the "Report for Duty" trailer. Gameplay of these mechs leaked on Reddit yesterday, and they look like they'll be as powerful as everyone's hoping they'll be.

Helldivers 2 is available now for $39.99 on both PS5 and PC, and so far, it's one of the best PC games of the year. Notably, the game also supports cross-platform play between PS5 and PC.

Helldivers 2 — $39.99 at GMG (Steam)

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Battle aliens, robots, and other beasts in humanity's quest to spread democracy through an unforgiving galaxy. It's 4-player co-op at its absolute best, and its most refined.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.