Former Helldivers 2 lead writer "burned out hard" while updating the near flawless live service game: "I absolutely destroyed myself"

Helldivers 2 Democratic Detonation Warbond diving
(Image credit: Sony)

Arrowhead Studios' former lead writer Russ Nickel felt burned out after continually updating a live service game as flexible and unpredictable as Helldivers 2

Helldivers 2 has been able to do the impossible for a live service game (stick around for longer than two hours) because the team actively reacts to everything the players do, in and outside the game itself. Helldivers 2's most contested planet got commemorated with an in-game Memorial Day, while the recent review-bombing fiasco might also be immortalized with a free cape.

But constantly building a narrative to evolve alongside community discourse can be more than tiring, according to Nickel, who spoke about the issue in an interview with Inverse

"I burned out hard, but it was my own fault," he explained. "I wanted Helldivers 2 to be so perfect that I absolutely destroyed myself. I abandoned my friendships, I pulled all-nighters. The company wasn't asking me to do that, it was just I cared so much about making a good that totally consumed me."

The grind of building a near-flawless live service has inspired the Helldivers 2 veteran to create a horny version of Fire Emblem - a currently untitled strategy RPG with a lot of romance. Despite missing his time contextualizing bug squashing, Nickel thinks his "upcoming game is actually a response to Helldivers and what I learned there" and his burnout is "part of why I'm making this current game."

Elsewhere, the former lead delved into how the game’s ambitious D&D-inspired campaign came about, the improv that fuelled players' fixation with Malevelon Creek, and how the game "trained" players to fight together against the PSN mandate

Helldivers 2 CEO teased an exiled “Predator-like alien species” that’s “planning vengeance” against Super Earth forces. 

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.