Here’s a tiny window into what it’s like for a smaller developer to have a game they’re working on blow up. Arrowhead Game Studios’ bug-squashing third-person shooter Helldivers 2 launched simultaneously on PC and PlayStation 5 on Thursday, and it’s a hit, breaking into the top 10 most played games on Steam and becoming PlayStation’s biggest Steam launch to date.
But this wave of popularity has brought with it some problems for the online co-op game. Helldivers 2’s servers are struggling, with players reporting login issues, and rewards and progression not being properly recorded.
Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt took to X (formerly Twitter) and Steam late on Sunday to apologize and explain. His post is unusual in its candor and detail — not just in how it explains the exact technical nature of the problem, but the personal challenge it represents for the developers.
“I know the progression issue is frustrating, especially for newer divers that want to unlock sweet gear,” Pilestedt posted. “For now, please once again accept our sincere apologies for the issues you’re facing and rest assured, we’re doing our utmost to make it right. In order to do so, right now it is crucial that our team gets some sleep and we will be back at this again in a few hours.”
Without making a meal of it or angling for sympathy, Pilestedt painted a clear picture of a smaller development team racing to keep up with a game snowballing in popularity over its launch weekend. He implied the team didn’t get a lot of sleep, so they were sent home to get some rest and continue work on the fix the next day, refreshed. Hopefully, frustrated Helldivers 2 players can relate.
As for the nature of the issue, Pilestedt revealed it’s not as simple as “just add more servers” (if you can even do this on a Sunday evening from Stockholm, Sweden). Both Arrowhead servers and its partner services have a rate limiter that prevents the servers from being overwhelmed by denying a certain number of connections per second. Helldivers 2 kept hitting this failsafe switch, meaning some players’ connections to the login servers failed.
Arrowhead doubled the rate limit over the weekend and increased capacity for concurrent players by 100,000, but players blew through those limits in a matter of minutes, Pilestedt said, “We managed to increase the rate limit from 10,000/min to 20,000/min and the total capacity of concurrent players was increased from 250,000 total to 360,000 total. This was however still not enough as the player count jumped to 360k after 5 1⁄2 minutes.”
(Incidentally, this gives us a sense of the size of Helldivers 2’s audience on PlayStation. The game has topped out at around 150,000 concurrent players on Steam, meaning even more — around 200,000 — are playing simultaneously on PS5.)
Pilestedt said the increased rate limits should at least mean the waits to connect to Helldivers 2 have been shortened, and that the hotfixes Arrowhead deployed had “mitigated but not resolved” the progression issue. “Without additional server maintenance this will still not work as intended,” he admitted. “If you get the issue you can try rebooting the game to increase the chances of it being reset. This is due to the high traffic on the servers leading to rewards not being tracked correctly by our servers.”
In a previous post, Pilestedt offered some encouragement and praise for Arrowhead’s developers as they battle server issues and other feedback. “The team at Arrowhead are true champs in their desire to make Helldivers 2 as good to play as possible for you guys,” he posted. Here’s hoping they all got a good night’s rest.