Audio plays a massive part in the games we play. Sound effects make our experiences feel more immersive and music can alter our mood or transport us to a new world. For a video game these aspects are crucial to the game and a great soundtrack can live in the memory and stir up emotions just as effectively as the game itself.
At our Mobile Game Awards, Candy Crush creators King walked away with two big wins on the night. We recently covered King’s win for best marketing by catching up with Luken Aragon to discuss what keeps Candy Crush on top.
And the game also picked up our Best Audio/Visual Accomplishment award for the brave soundtrack revamp to celebrate its 10 year anniversary. We spoke with King's director of product and production catalog games, Vanesa Tate to discuss the new soundtrack and the risks and rewards in tinkering with a legend…
Pocketgamer.biz: What do you think put King at the top of the pile and winners in the Best Audio/Video Achievement category?
Vanesa Tate: I think it has to do with commitment. Myself and my wonderful audio team worked on the audio revamp for Candy Crush for around a year and went above and beyond to give the players the best possible experience. We took a real quality approach to this process and produced many demos. It was a lengthy process, but it was so worth it, and we are incredibly grateful for the recognition.
The audio of Candy Crush Saga hadn’t been updated in 10 years, so we knew it was time for a much needed revamp!Vanesa Tate
Tell us about the Candy Crush project. What was the brief and how did you accomplish it?
The audio of Candy Crush Saga hadn’t been updated in 10 years, so we knew it was time for a much needed revamp! Candy Crush is a game loved by so many people, so when revamping the audio, we wanted to consider our players' memories and overall experience of the game. We recorded 30 minutes of new audio, working to define the new soundscape of the game. We took the finalised demos and recorded them in Abbey Road Angel Studios, which was an amazing experience for the whole team. This resulted in a totally authentic orchestral sound creating ease for the listener and less auditory fatigue.
What's it like working on such a household name?
Candy Crush Saga is a wonderful game that holds a special place in our players' hearts. It’s also a fun game with sweet visuals and iconic audio. During the pandemic, we heard from Candy Crush’s players how much the game was helping them get through. This was a catalyst for me, as Head of Audio, to revamp the music and sounds of the game to be more in line with the emotional arc of the game.
Since releasing the new soundscape, we have received a lot of comments from our players, telling us how much Candy and its music means to them, for example, helping them through a tough day, through health and family issues and all kinds of hardship. It's been a privilege to have been able to update and improve the overall aural experience and be more attuned to how people use this game in their daily lives.
We want the audio to provide the players with a unique in-game experience by being more aligned with how they play and providing a relaxing space; this is extremely important to King because we want our brand to be recognisable and individual.
What kind of approval do you need to make changes to such a game? Is it a huge team effort, or were you allowed to fly solo and get creative?
I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to work with such talented people. It takes a strong team to come together and work collaboratively on such big projects that are sensitive to the company. The team and I consistently strive for high-quality results. I like to ensure everyone is engaged with their project and clearly understands what they’re working towards.
Any ideas you'd like to implement but didn't?
There is always room to implement new and exciting features as well as innovative solutions. Technology keeps evolving and the aim is to be a disruptor in that front in combination with outstanding audio.
We are working on a dynamic aural experience, both musically and sonically, according to how the player plays the game.
As Candy Crush Saga is a live game, we want to release new and exciting content beyond the 10th Anniversary. Therefore we recorded all the music in stems to generate a dynamic music experience according to how the player is playing the game. For example, faster pace music when a player is on a winning streak and calmer music when the gameplay requires it.
What does great game audio do? What role should it play and what tricks do the majority of devs miss?
Game audio enhances the overall experience of gaming. Music, in particular, can influence your mood and transports you to a time, a place, in this case, the world of Candy Crush. The playful audio successfully triggers players' sweetest memories and transcends their in-game experience into a realm of rewarding escapism. Whilst I can’t speak to what other games are missing, I’d always recommend understanding what it means to have a unique player experience.
Is there any tech for audio/visual you'd love to see invented or rising to prominence in the coming years?
I'm also passionate about accessibility and I'm excited about the potential of audio technologies to improve the lives of people with disabilities.Vanesa Tate
Yes! We are at an amazing point in time with technology and video games, and I'm always excited to see how technology can help give players a better experience. Smartphones and spatial audio keep evolving, allowing us to create a more immersive listening experience with more advanced loudspeakers in phones.
Another area is the ability to provide players generative music, which is ultimately giving them a total customisable experience. As well as voice recognition creating personalised experiences and tools for composers which will define the next trends in music.
I'm also passionate about accessibility and I'm excited about the potential of audio technologies to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Innovations in areas like text-to-speech, speech-to-text and the possibility of providing different mixes for people with various disabilities in order to create accessible and inclusive games is exciting to see how it will evolve.
What's next for you? What would the dream audio gig be?
I always enjoy working with creative and technical people in various entertainment mediums to enrich people’s lives meaningfully. When it comes to audio, I love combining organic elements and recording real instruments to create unique soundscapes. Pushing innovation forward in tech in order to deliver even better experiences to the audience or players is my passion.