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A group of bug-like aliens
Image via Arrowhead Game Studios

How Helldivers 2 Incorporates TTRPG-Inspired Game Masters to Enhance Gameplay

Helldivers 2 has human Game Masters observe your gameplay and actively enhance your experience in real-time.

Helldivers 2 has implemented a Game Master feature where human admins can modify your gameplay experience. We’ve seen this before in games like Left 4 Dead or World War Z but it’s usually AI-operated. So how does the Game Master feature work in Helldivers 2?

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How Does Helldivers 2 Incorporate Game Masters?

In a few pre-launch interviews, Arrowhead Studios revealed the Game Master feature. This is a major tool pulling inspiration from table-top roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons or war games like Warhammer 40K, where a human Game Master can alter the course of the story or scenario based on how the players perform, enhancing gameplay to make it more exciting.

Helldivers 2 Game Masters: The D&D Effect

For example, in D&D, the Dungeon Master creates unique scenarios based on the story the player characters want to pursue. They also modify social and combat encounters based on how the players are doing, making monsters tougher or certain objectives more difficult or exciting to complete. In my D&D games, I often add a few extra Goblins to an encounter or make one a Goblin Shaman that can cast spells if I notice my players aren’t being challenged enough.

Arrowhead aims to create a similar experience in Helldivers 2. Of course, the platform can’t support D&D level Game Mastering that modifies every game on a personal micro level, but they can modify groups of games on a macro level based on global player data. Arrowhead employs actual humans to track how players are doing in missions, and they can then introduce modifiers, more enemies, or active abilities for the players so that the missions become more challenging in a fun way.

In Helldivers 2, this is a significant feature, where a designated team monitors global gameplay statistics and receives data on how people are tackling certain missions. They then alter the game world of the mission with various modifiers appearing in real-time like:

  • Increasing or reducing enemy damage.
  • Increasing or reducing enemy HP.
  • Increasing or decreasing timers for defending zones.
  • Spawning more enemies.
  • Introducing elite versions of regular enemies.
  • Introducing mini encounters like an extra “capture the point”.

Furthermore, Game Masters can also drop in active tools for the players to use like unique stratagems.

Helldivers 2 Game Master Stratagems

A great example of this was when I was on a mission with my team fighting Bugs. One of the Game Masters dropped a 500-kilogram bomb for us to deploy. When I talked to my friends who played that mission earlier, they said that the bomb wasn’t present for them and that they struggled against a specific encounter of bugs my group nuked.

This is a level of live service interaction between the devs and the players that we haven’t seen as much before. We’ve seen AI scripts do this in the past in games like World War Z and Left 4 Dead, but the human element can go a long way in enhancing the gameplay experience.

Players running across a battlefield
Image via Arrowhead Game Studios

Can Game Masters Alter the Story of Helldivers 2?

In addition to tinkering with missions and battles with modifiers and active tools, Game Masters are also planning to guide the narrative of Helldivers 2. This is a game about galactic dominance in a universe teeming with alien species. Game Masters can introduce global story scenarios for all players based on how the community progresses through the story.

Arrowhead Studios talks about player progress versus enemy progress. Game Masters will control various hostile factions in the story and make them react to player progression with their own plans. While players are taking over the galaxy on certain planets they may be pushing the alien factions back or even faltering against them and losing planets. Game Masters will then introduce new special events scenarios unique to the story’s progress. This meta-narrative will play out in real time on a galactic scale based on player progression.

They’ll play over a longer scale, drastically increasing replayability as both the community and the devs work toward a long shelf life for the game. This game has incredible end-game potential but we’ll have to wait and see how it actually plays out.

soldiers in tactical futuristic armor and shoot their guns toward oncoming bug-like aliens
Image via Arrowhead Game Studios

How to Stay Up to Date With Game Master Announcements

Since major story developments affect all players, you can always stay up to date with Game Master decisions and announcements on the official Helldivers 2 Discord. Join the server and click on the Game Master announcements channel. This is where you can also interact with the community, and keep track of all the new updates and even ask the devs whatever questions you may have.

Having a live service interaction feature in an online co-op game sounds incredibly exciting. I can’t wait to see how Arrowhead tackles the hype and the promises they’ve made but I’m hoping for the best. Until then, check out our Helldivers 2 library for useful guides or news, like on the game’s roadmap or if HD2 is pay-to-win.

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Gordan Perisic
From playing RPGs and dungeon mastering for his D&D group to reading novels and scribbling about his fantasy setting, Gordan is a full-time nerd and devoted writer for GameSkinny. He loves to overshare and discuss literature, music, animation, and trees with fellow geeks. Also, he may or may not cook too much food for his friends. Cholesterol is one hell of a drug.