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What Helldivers 2 Looks Like Without Special Effects

Behind every game, there's a bigger story. Getting a game in front of players can take thousands of hours of effort, from lengthy brainstorming sessions to late night coding sprees. Some studios have hundreds of people working together to make their dream game a reality. Arrowhead Game Studios is small by comparison to some of the major AAA studios, which is why it's previously asked fans for help with the game. The studio has just over a hundred employees, and every single one of them contributed to making "Helldivers 2" what it is today. Studios don't often give fans an in-depth look behind the scenes, but that's less because of secrecy concerns and more because game development isn't exactly thrilling to watch. If there was a documentary about the making of "Helldivers 2," a majority of the runtime would probably feature people clicking and typing in front of computers. However, there is some behind the scenes footage that's absolutely worth watching.

Arrowhead is taking a break from releasing controversial new items in the game. Instead, the dev and Goodbye Kansas Studios have released a video showing off the motion capture sessions that were used to create the intro cinematic that was used as a trailer for "Helldivers 2." The video lets us get up close and personal with the process Goodbye Kansas Studios used to entice everyone to enlist in the Helldivers, and it's honestly a deeply charming look at the creative processes that helped make the game what it is today. Oh, and there's a freestyle rap.

Playing in the studio

The new video from Goodbye Kansas Studios gives us just a glimpse of what the motion capture sessions for "Helldivers 2" were like, and it's an absolute blast. Actor Craig Lee Thomas got to portray the Helldivers recruiter in the video, and you can see that Thomas leaned into the role with his whole heart. The ridiculous scream and twisted expression of dismay when the Terminids land on Super Earth and destroy the recruiter's family weren't entirely computer generated — Thomas really got worked up in the session. Meanwhile, the scenes of Helldivers fighting Terminids in the intro cinematic also used motion capture. Actors got to run around the studio with makeshift guns that look like the kind of toys you and your friends used to play with in the backyard. The aliens themselves were entirely computer generated, so sadly we don't have any footage of actors ambling around a studio on stilts or wearing paper mache alien heads with white dots on them.

For the technically minded, Goodbye Kansas Studios included a little extra info in the video's description on YouTube: "Leveraging the power of #UnrealEngine became an integral part of our pre-production process and workflow. Its robust features allowed us to establish tangible layouts while working with storyboards. The real-time rendering capabilities seamlessly brought scenes to life during the motion capture shoot." We're already dreaming of Goodbye Kansas Studios bringing these tools back to created some kind of animated "Helldivers" feature. 

Helldivers in verse

Goodbye Kansas Studios decided to hold back the best part of the shoot for the very end. In the final seconds of the video, we get to watch a Helldiver voiced by Craig Lee Thomas throw out a freestyle verse about himself and his fellow soldiers. It's delightfully cheesy and feels right in line with the overall goofy tone of the game. You could almost imagine the rap being played for young kids on Super Earth to instill in them a proper sense of patriotism at a young age. According to an interview with PC Gamer, Craig Lee Thomas was asked to improvise this rap "with no warning, in the middle of a take." The result is comedy gold.

Fans are thrilled to get a look at this footage, and the whole package has them going crazy for more. "I know it takes a lot of work, but man I would love more of these mocapped propaganda pieces. Even if they're little like 30 second clips or something," wrote one fan on Reddit. We don't have any official word about more propaganda videos being in the pipeline, but the collaboration between Arrowhead and Goodbye Kansas Studios was so successful it's hard to imagine the two won't get together again sometime in the future. Maybe we'll get a promo video addressing some of the truly bleak aspects of life on Super Earth.