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Helldivers 2 Was Almost Unrecognizable

"Helldivers 2" has kept players enraptured for months largely because it's a game with a crystal clear vision. From small gameplay details like friendly-fire being permanently enabled, all the way to the marriage of live service gameplay and a game master straight out of a tabletop role-playing game, "Helldivers 2" is a carefully crafted experience. You can feel the passion that the devs had for this one, which is why it's surprising to learn that it was almost very different from the game we have now.

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If you're new to the franchise, you might assume that Arrowhead Game Studios just made small improvements to its original game and then released a sequel that coincidentally became a massive hit. However, that's not exactly the case, and anyone who played 2015's "Helldivers" can tell you that the sequel reimagines its predecessor in some pretty major ways — like the fact that the original wasn't really a live service title.

"Helldivers 2" is far from the first game to build its success on the live service model, but it does feel like the first time live service has been a natural part of a game's DNA. The new weapons and stratagems provided by Warbonds feel like real special shipments from High Command, while the time-gated challenges feel like a natural part of the ever-shifting Galactic War. Surprisingly, Arrowhead hadn't settled on the live service approach until about halfway through the game's development cycle, according to one of the game's writers.

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Helldivers 2 grew into live service

In an interview with Inverse, "Helldivers 2" writer Russ Nickel said that Arrowhead wasn't initially sold on live service: "But as we talked about it more, it was clear that this would make for such a cool live service experience, one where the story can change constantly so it really does feel alive." Nickel said he joined the team well after the game was playable, but before the narrative and larger structure had been settled on. Live service is often a controversial approach, but Nickel seems to think Arrowhead made the right call. "This feels like what live service was born to do."

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Live service is such an integral part of how "Helldivers 2" functions and what makes the game genuinely engaging that it's hard to imagine how Arrowhead made it so far into the development process without that model in mind. In an interview with CG Magazine back in February, Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt said that the dev's first focus was settling on the third-person perspective and finding a natural path to comedy in the gameplay. "We wanted something where you get to laugh a lot and be surprised and have, you know, those crazy moments," he said. The live service idea came much later, but it really tied everything together into the ever-evolving experience that players know and love. 

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