CANDY CRUSH SODA SAGA
Internship 6 months
Engine/Tools Fiction Factory
Role Level Design
- Created levels that players experience at the end of content
- Tweaked existing levels in the game by using player data
- Developed and discussed new features
- Pitched how to enhance an existing feature and worked to improve that mechanic
- Attended meetings to discuss the narrative in King games
- Contributed to narrative development sessions
My main responsibility as a level design intern at King was to create levels for the end of content of Soda that released in weekly episodes. I made use of all the different game modes and blockers to design diverse and fun levels that had a clear goal and a sense of progression and steady pacing while at the same time making sure the level fit the episode as a whole. To make sure the levels held the highest possible quality we would review every new entry, giving and receiving feedback on them.
Besides creating new levels, I tweaked old ones by analyzing player data to make sure they got the best possible experience. This would often mean making levels easier or harder depending on the overall progression and flow of the episode while at the same time keeping the changes to a minimum and as unnoticeable as possible. This helped me to analyze levels and understand what and where the difficulty was.
Since Soda is a live game that constantly receives new content I also worked on new game modes and blockers to keep the game engaging and fun for the end of content players. I, among other things, presented a pitch of how to improve an existing mechanic that would enhance the overall game and lay the groundwork for potential future features and continued to work on these improvements right up to my departure.
I joined weekly meetings where we discussed narrative in mobile games in general and King games in particular; we talked at length about what forms storytelling could take on and where the industry is headed. I also attended workshops about how to bring the narrative of the game into the actual levels and make the story more pervasive in the gameplay through discussions and exercises.
When creating a level I had to be conscious of the levels that appeared before and after mine in the progression, keeping in mind the larger pacing and flow of the episode. No level existed in a vacuum but was dependent on the surrounding levels, and it was, therefore, important to be aware of what blockers already had been used so the players didn’t encounter levels that had too similar progression and sensation. Creating a sense of variety was vital, so being able to adapt was crucial.
In certain ways, making a level for Soda isn’t too dissimilar to making a level in a 3D game; you, as a level designer, have to be mindful of the pacing, the progression, and challenge but also of the playable area and the mechanics. How is the space used and how do you guide the player through the experience? Giving them sub-goals to aim for is one way to guide them; having them “unlock” different areas of the map from where they can continue to progress through the level.
When first encountering a level the player has to understand it with just one look; realizing the goal and how to achieve it. To achieve good pacing and a sense of progression that lasted throughout the game round I spread out blockers and used layers in such a way that it guided the player to where I wanted them to be and could predict the course of the level, and thereby plan the next stage.
THE FUTURE OF NARRATIVE IN LEVELS
An area I was particularly interested in was how to intertwine gameplay with the narrative of the game; how to combine them both and strengthen the overall game experience and drive player engagement (especially in regards to the levels). I had extensive discussions with several narrative designers and attended workshops on how this could be done, what pitfalls to look out for, and possibilities of how to make it work.
This is one of the most interesting areas within mobile games for me personally and where I see a lot of possibilities for future exploration and investment. This segment hasn’t thoroughly been explored yet, I feel, and I see great potential for driving player engagement and retention here – making them care about the narrative and invested in the characters.
While the industry as a whole has been moving towards more narrative-focused experiences, having levels be part of the narrative or tell their own stories is largely still uncharted territory – and something I would love to delve deeper into.