Candy Crush Saga.
Retrofitting a story for the massively successful mobile game franchise.
CONTEXTOriginally released by King Games in 2012, Candy Crush Saga is a free-to-play, match-three puzzle game, and is one of the most popular and successful mobile titles of all time.
WORKAs the Lead Narrative Designer of the franchise, I was tasked with working with the Narrative Director and the game teams to add consistent story elements and experiment with narrative drivers to engage players in new ways. We wanted to explore how story and characters could attract new players and keep longtime players interested in the company’s longest-running and most profitable title to-date.
The challenge with adding narrative elements was that the team was trying to pare down from the UI: There were existing user interface issues, where players complained of too many pop-up modals, too many things on the progression map, and too many buttons and sub-menus. At the same time, the game team was also trying to create new features to entice players to keep playing.
Another challenge was coordinating with 100+ people working on the game, comprised of producers, designers, artists, and developers based in Stockholm and Berlin. It would take a lot of coordination, effort, and compromise to devise story solutions that not only worked with their ideas, but were also feasible from a development standpoint, with simple, solid narrative design.
In order to add narrative elements, I had to find opportunities where we could fit story and characters in the most meaningful and unobtrusive ways possible for both the players and the game makers, leveraging familiar, existing features scheduled in the production pipeline. To do this, I advocated for story elements to be considered at the conception of features, as well as educated team members about how seamlessly integrated stories can engage players and make for a more cohesive gameplay experience. I joined teams for brainstorm sessions, helped with creative and copy execution, gave presentations on narrative design and the Candy Crush story bible, and led narrative workshops where team members worked together to come up with ideas.
What resulted was a shared understanding of the narrative design guidelines and the Candy Crush story bible, which allowed for the team to come up with creative ideas while also working towards a more cohesive, unified game. Both longtime players and new players will notice new narrative-driven features and gameplay mechanics that have been contextualized within the game world. This not only had an impact on players, but a huge impact on the team, who were revitalized by the ability to add new story ideas to the then 7-year-old game.