Interview: Vanesa Tate talks about changing Candy Crush's music after 10 years

Interview: Vanesa Tate talks about changing Candy Crush's music after 10 years

As we mentioned in our interview with Tjodolf Sommestad, Candy Crush Saga is now ten years old. Alongside a bevvy of events, King has also decided it's time to overhaul the music and audio to give the game a more premium feel, which, in my opinion, they've achieved. I recently listened to all the new tracks, and they are fantastic.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Vanesa Tate, King's Audio Director, about the new soundtrack and changes to the audio. Together we discussed the process of creating these new songs, whether we can expect more in the future and how King is informing anyone who plays with the sound off that they should dial it up.

After 10 years of the same music, why did you decide to change it now?

I joined King in 2020, and my mandate was to look at audio holistically because there was a push from King to improve the games and give players the best experience possible. So in my first year, we came up with a strategy. I had to do certain things in certain periods of time.

The first year we did a few things, and, by this point, we should be launching new music and sounds. It was good timing since it was leading to a landmark. I knew it would require a whole year of creation so I didn't want to rush it.

I thought it would be well-received by the players. It's giving them something new. It's a new direction. It's about listening to them. One of the things I've learned in my career is we, as video game makers, will fail when we don't listen to our players. This is the number one problem in video games.

If players want customisation in triple-A games, and if you don't give it to them, there's a backlash. It's terrible. So we listen to our players, how they are playing and how the game helped them to relieve stress. It was my job to help with that. I knew I couldn't rush it.

A lot of mobile gamers tend to play with the sound turned off. Do you have any plans to include messages in Candy Crush Saga to encourage them to turn the volume up when they're playing?

Yes. Our motto is that we want everyone to play with the audio if it helps their gameplay experience. So yes, we will have messages and a commitment to our players. We will keep releasing new music and not leave the game for 10 years unattended again. I think this is something King realised that they had to improve.

Is there a roadmap for when you'll add new songs? Or will they be added when they're ready?

We always release new music for a new season or an event. But this was a huge change. So the first step is to release it and get a lot of feedback from our players. Make sure it's the right thing for them and that they like it.

We tested it before even recording with potential players, and they loved it. Our composer, Sebastian Aav, has been in the USA, and we've had amazing feedback from players. But we want to get everybody in and make sure this is the right direction, and then we will invest more time. I cannot give you a specific time, though. We need to wait and see how it goes.

With the songs that are coming to the game, do you plan on making them available in other places, such as Spotify?

Yes. It was one of my strategies. We have all the approvals and we're working towards doing it. We were waiting for the new music in Candy to be released but yes, we want to have it on streaming platforms.

I'm glad to hear that because it's the kind of music I'd enjoy working to.

Yes! We're shifting a lot with the audio team to analyse how people play games. For example, we tried lo-fi music and experiment a lot with the psychological aspects so we can give a better experience.

How do you remain confident that the music is the right fit for the game after listening to it for hours and hours?

We have player groups that we have been testing these tracks with. Obviously, it went through a lot of testing. Our composer, Sebastian Aav, will develop melodies and play them for myself and our narrative design director, Abigail Rindo, for feedback. So we had a really good creative process and then we tested it with the players. But I think, as a composer, you kind of know when it's good. You have a feeling that it's okay.

Will the songs be chosen based on the level, or will they be randomly selected?

It will be randomly selected, but as I told you, we want to follow the gameplay. At the moment, we're launching it with a basic system.

So there might be plans to allow players to pick the music they hear on each level?

Yes! For me, it's all about the consumer, our players. So we should give them the customisation that they want.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.