As Helldivers 2 players died millions of times on planet Mort, D&D-style war master Joel was "watching it all go down" and called it a "thing of beauty"

Helldivers 2 progression system
(Image credit: Sony)

Helldivers 2 players died over 10 million times taking one planet, Mort, from the Automatons last week, and you'd better believe that galactic D&D game master Joel was watching the whole thing from the front row with a bucket of popcorn in one hand and a waving lighter in the other.

Community manager Baskinator of developer Arrowhead Game Studios shared some fresh Joel lore with the Helldivers 2 Discord last week. One player understandably asked why she was posting on what was apparently her day off, arguing that it "can't be healthy" to work so much. 

"Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't," Baskinator responded. "One of the reasons I love to talk about Game Master Joel with everyone in here is that he's as dedicated to the community as I am. We love this place and the players who spend their time here. Actually, I'll share with you this little tidbit... When MORT HAPPENED, Joel sent me a message about watching it all go down and he called it a 'thing of beauty.' I know people are struggling to get on board with the idea that a human is on the campaign instead of an unfeeling computer, but I'll take a human any day." (I'd like to point out that this message got a bunch of emoji reactions spelling out "M O R T J O E L" with a thumbs up, because it's very important.) 

In a separate comment, Baskinator weighed in on Joel's growing reputation as the man ostensibly behind literal inside jobs like the fall of Malevelon Creek. "I think it's unfair of some of the journalist pieces about the GM to say that he's working against players," she said. "That's not really the best way to think about it. It's more like he's trying to respond to the natural push/pull of players in certain areas and either raise the challenge or lower the challenge, depending on how he reads the data." In other words, not unlike a good author challenging their beloved protagonist, Joel only asks this of us because he cares and wants us to have fun. 

Helldivers 2 is only a few weeks old, and already this system has developed into a fascinating dialogue between GM and player. As it happens, players are battling that push and pull right now, with Super Earth losing ground to the Automatons as the community tries to strategize on a galactic scale. Players have also perceived some direct orders as generous concessions from Joel, with some relatively easy directives carrying sizable rewards like 45 medals. It'll be interesting to see how all of this progresses as the game's active population inevitably levels out post-launch, and as players and devs alike get accustomed to how the game operates. 

Helldivers 2 got so big that its virtual D&D master Joel needed "emergency" assistance: "He's only one guy, and he was just not sleeping ... sending me messages at 4am." 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.