When he isn’t acting as Chief Development Officer at the King office or trying to beat level 1,307 of Candy Crush, Tjodolf Sommestad finds himself exercising and trying to get into golf. “I’m getting old,” he said, “I thought now might be the time as the kids are getting older.” The Candy Crush veteran first started working for King back in 2011. As he moved up the company ladder, Sommestad was able to see the development of the game from many angles which is why The Knockturnal had to sit with the Chief himself to get a view of the 5,000th level celebration from where he’s standing.
The Knockturnal: Can you explain your role in King games? Where’d you start and how has your journey been within the company?
Tjodolf Sommestad: I joined before Candy Crush was launched on Facebook so we were a bit more than 100 people in Stockholm and a few people in London when I joined. Now we’re close to 2,000 people across the company so it’s been a ride. We launched Candy which is, of course, what we’re mostly known for. I started leading up our web business and joined the Candy franchise just before the launch of Candy Crush Soda. That was a very nervous period to join the team because it was a big change for us; we were going to launch the first sister title and it was a defining moment in King’s history. I worked with the Candy franchise ever since but now I moved into the role of Chief Development Officer which means I’m overseeing all of our game development studios and our technology teams that are creating all technology serving our players.
The Knockturnal: You have your eyes on a lot! So what is daily life in the office for you?
Tjodolf Sommestad: Fortunately we have a lot of great people here at King so I try to coordinate a lot and make sure that we’re all heading in the same direction.
The Knockturnal: So you’re always having different meetings with different people?
Tjodolf Sommestad: Absolutely! We have a lot of team meetings here at King, we’re very collaborative and want to learn from each other all the time. I think that’s part of Swedish culture, quite consensus driven. My job is to set direction but I also listen a lot to my team. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time in meeting rooms and since we’re spread out across multiple offices we spend a lot of time on video talking to our colleagues in London and other places as well. And then, of course, I travel a lot, because you need to meet people that you’re working with so you can do really deep discussions and solve the hard problems.
The Knockturnal: What department would you say you work closest to?
Tjodolf Sommestad: I spend a lot of time around the Candy franchise. That’s where I spent the last five years and that’s where we have most of our players.
The Knockturnal: And in your position, what is your top priority at all times?
Tjodolf Sommestad: We have a saying, “Keep live, live.” We are running games as a service. There are hundreds of millions of players out there who at any moment in time, anywhere across the world might pick up their phone and want to play one of our games. We want to make sure that’s a great experience for players.
The Knockturnal: What has been the best part of the game in your experience playing? You see all the behind the scenes so when you sit down to finally play, what is your favorite part of the game?
Tjodolf Sommestad: There are things that I love and things that I like less of course. I think the team has done a great job recently with introducing more variety in terms of different boosters and blockers that get in your way. I think the team has also done a great job in making it even more vibrant over the last couple of years. I also love the UFO, I like to trigger them.
The Knockturnal: What are the parts you’re not a big fan of?
Tjodolf Sommestad: In Candy Crush, there’s a lot of candy moving around on what we call conveyor belts. I find it hard to strategize around them sometimes when there’s a bit too much for me. But I know others are probably much better than me at that. Those levels are very popular in general.
The Knockturnal: What is next for Candy Crush? Or what is your next mission specifically?
Tjodolf Sommestad: We have a lot of interesting plans for Candy Crush. I think we’ll describe it as we need to keep doing what we’re doing so well. Now we’re launching level 5,000 and celebrating in a way we never have done before with this garden party that Tiffi is hosting. The bubblegum troll, of course, shows up and messes it all up. It gives players a chance to play levels they might not have access to. Continuing to deliver these handcrafted levels to our players is something we’re very committed to doing and hopefully, we’ll launch level 6,000 soon.
The Knockturnal: And before you know it you’ll be on level 10,000!
Tjodolf Sommestad: Anytime soon I think! Players are so interested in all these levels. But we’re also thinking a lot about how to bring even more variety into our games so there are a lot of things we’re planning for the game. We’re innovating more now than ever before.