Helldivers 2 boss apologizes for 'horrible' dev comments, says Arrowhead has 'taken action internally to educate our developers'

 Helldivers 2 balancing.
Helldivers 2 balancing.

The first Helldivers 2 balance patch went live recently, and it hasn't gone over well with some players. Those embers of discontent were fanned by a few members of the Helldivers team: A moderator on the game's Discord server, for instance, said "watching u all cry, amuses me so much," while another said on Reddit that complaints about weapon nerfs were perhaps in reality a question of "skill issue."

In response to complaints these comments, including one developer's self-confessed "trolling," Arrowhead Games CEO Johan Pilestedt, the de facto public face of the studio, has taken to Reddit to tell the community that "this is not a message that the studio stands behind" and that steps are being taken to ensure it doesn't happen again.

To my reading, it comes off as developers trying to have a little fun with the community—just a bit of good-natured ribbing and trash-talking. But a vocal corner of the Helldivers 2 community, Reddit, didn't take it that way, and it led to a blowup on the Helldivers subreddit as players accused Arrowhead of, for instance, "gaslighting and demeaning the playerbase."

Some of the replies from developers did go a little far. "I'm feeding the rage a little for my own entertainment here, just so you know," one wrote, seemingly acknowledging—and dismissing—the upset amongst the community. He then went on to say the balance patch "made two of the most brainless playstyles less viable," which, no surprise here, also didn't go over screamingly well.

The developer in question later apologized, saying he "went a little far with the trolling" and that he wouldn't be engaging with the community any further. "I figured I'd have a little fun with the players, but I realize being a dev I'm in an unfair position," he wrote. "Maybe this isn't going to mend anything with you, but atleast I feel I should own up to it and apologize. I'm sorry."

But that didn't calm the waters: Players on Reddit roundly rejected the apology and continued to complain that Arrowhead simply wasn't taking them seriously. Finally, Pilestedt—a regular presence on social media himself—stepped in.

"Since I am a heavy subscriber of a communicative studio it means that I encourage developers to engage with the community," Pilestedt wrote. "However this also exposes us to risks of miscommunication or heated arguments and it's something that we actively discuss internally at the studio to improve on.

"While I understand that it reflects on the studio as a whole, it is not our intention that this should be the behavior from us. We want to ensure that you all have the best time possible in this game and in this community."

In separate follow-up posts, Pilestedt described some of the developer statements on Reddit and Discord as "horrible" and "inexcusable behavior," and said that Arrowhead has "taken action internally to educate our developers on how to represent the organization."

"This is not a message that the studio stands behind," Pilestedt wrote. "We are always working to make as an enjoyable experience and community that we can."

He also briefly touched on the complaints about the balance patch: "We actively read as much as we possibly can and take what is said into consideration when we discuss things internally. Right now, the hot topic is your guys' feedback and response to the balance adjustments and the feeling of the game experience at large."

One facet fueling these prickly exchanges is Helldivers 2's mixed status: It's not a competitive game like League of Legends or Counter-Strike 2, but a cooperative game where players are being prompted by the studio to wage narrativized battles and complete a number of objectives by a certain date, as PC Gamer editor Morgan Park pointed out in his opinion piece, "Helldivers 2 players are arguing over playing casually or sticking to the 'meta,' and they're both right."

It's a bit surprising to see Pilestedt so quickly and completely throw his developers under the bus, but it seems to have had the desired effect. Some players are now riffing on his "educate our developers" comment in the context of the game's narrative, in which potentially disloyal or subversive citizens are sent to "freedom camps," and others have even defended the position taken by the Helldivers 2 developer at the center of the controversy, although not necessarily the way he expressed it: As one put it, "The unfortunate part is that he was right in what he was saying. He just was a dick about how he was saying it."

Even so, it's interesting to see how quickly some of the sentiment has turned on Arrowhead, which has thus far enjoyed a remarkably durable honeymoon period despite significant problems with Helldivers 2 at launch: Server problems in particular kept large swaths of players from being able to get into the game, but fans stuck with it regardless, to the extent that one industry analyst said the game's trending bucking sales made him "feel like Steve Irwin sighting a rare bird."

Whether this uproar has any lasting impact on that goodwill remains to be seen, but it's definitely a lesson: Communication is great, but sometimes these things are best left to the pros.