Candy Crush Saga is one of the biggest hits in mobile gaming history. Since its release in 2012, the game has generated $7.7 billion in revenue, making it the fifth highest-grossing mobile game of all time.
This success isn’t simply due to the combination of gameplay mechanics and addictive gameplay. Many aspects of game design come into play, from visuals to sound design.
We spoke to King’s narrative design director Abigail Rindo about her role, the importance of narrative design to Candy Crush Saga, and what’s next for the beloved game.
Can you please introduce yourself, Candy Crush Saga, and your role as Narrative Design Director?
My name is Abigail Rindo and I’m a Narrative Design Director at King. In my role, I am responsible for inspiring Kingsters to create amazing stories and memories for our players. I primarily work with Candy Crush Saga, and it is an exciting challenge to work on a game that has delivered bitesize fun to millions of people for almost ten years.
You studied art history at University – how did you move from there to the narrative design director of one of the biggest mobile titles in history?
Technically I studied both Illustration and Art History. I wanted to be a comic and children’s book illustrator, and did so as a freelance artist and painter for a period of time. Understanding visual language and emotion is crucial to good storytelling in games, especially when dealing with shorter sessions like the ones you often have with mobile. When you combine that with the power of interaction, something really special happens. I use my art background and love of learning every day in my job!
How do you approach the challenges of offering new experiences in such an established game?
Oh wow, that’s a big question! When I first started working at King I tried to get a deeper understanding of the experience we had been offering our players. I wanted to make sure we were honouring that experience while also bringing novelty and an emotional connection to the game. Coming up with new ideas is relatively easy - the challenge comes from making sure that those ideas fit the gameplay experience and the established world and brand.
What is the process that goes into creating new ways for players to enjoy the story and characters in Candy Crush Saga?
For me, working on such a big game with so many talented people, the key foundational work comes from getting the other teams working on our games as excited about the story as I am. The best game narrative is more of a tapestry than a book, with every thread leading players to a deeper emotional connection. By getting the rest of the team engaged with the worlds and characters in Candy Crush Saga, we are able to ensure that those threads build a coherent experience. Research is also a key component of the process. Applying research principles to the development of story and characters has allowed us to discover better ways to tell those stories to our players.
How do your experiences crafting a narrative for Candy Crush Saga differ from other games you’ve worked on?
Well, every game is a different problem to solve narratively and creatively. That is one of the many reasons I love working in this industry. While I’ve worked on existing IP before, the Candy Crush franchise is unique because the narrative and world have been a shifting landscape as the game has evolved.
As I mentioned before, one of the first things I set out to do when working on the game was to find out what story the players had actually absorbed and retained during their play sessions. From there, we’ve been able to lay a foundation that we’ve built our story on top of. It’s an interesting problem to solve, taking a game that didn’t have a lot of narrative in it but has been a part of peoples’ lives for many years, and creating a story that will hopefully keep them coming back for years to come.
Where do you plan to take Candy Crush Saga in the future?
Well, we’ve got some exciting things coming up in the near future to celebrate our 10th anniversary! We’ll be holding a Candy Cup tournament that will reward our 10,000 best players across the world, and I’ve been working closely with our amazing audio team to bring brand new music into the game. We've also got some sweet surprises and special guests on the horizon that I think our players will really enjoy.
Edited by Lewis Rees