By 1983 it seemed every possible idea had been used in a video game except the kitchen sink. Then came Bubbles.

  What I was trying to do with Bubbles was come up with a non-violent, clean game (no pun intended) says John Kotlarik. The game was intended to be a Pac-Man inspired take-off with a free form play field instead of walls. Kotlarik came up with the initial concept and Python Anghelo created all the artwork and wrote the game scenario.

  Python had previously worked on many other Williams games, including much of the art for Joust. Kotlarik had helped out on the sounds for Joust and Defender, as well as creating the voice for Williams' first voice synthesized pinball game, Gorgar. Together they brought the kitchen sink to life.

  The early '80s were an era populated with off the wall video game characters like Q-Bert, Dig Dug and Mr. Do. Even then, the cast of Bubbles stood out from the crowd. The game had crumbs, ants, greasies, sponges, brushes and the Cleaning Lady. It was certainly the only game ever to create a character out of something as sinister and bizarre as a razor blade. Piloting your scrubbing bubble, the goal was to scour sink after sink of scurrying scum.

  A little known strategy of the game is available once your bubble becomes large enough to have a face. The sponges and brush can no longer destroy it. Working from the right angle, a player can rack up extra points by shoving the sponges and brushes down the drain. The only drawback is that every time you throw your weight around in this manner you lose a little in size, until eventually you become vulnerable again.

  The big challenge of programming the game was creating the drift movement of the free floating player bubble, which was a lot more complex than meets the eye. They wanted to program the bubble to move like it was on ice, or water, and not a hard surface track. To do this, Kotlarik had to do what he calls the damping of the velocity profile. The longer you held the joystick down, the faster you would go and experience a slight decrease in velocity once you started to coast. It was an attempt to make an analog control out of an eight way digital joystick. The game had different movement than any other immediate response game of its kind.

  Bubbles also had innovative cabinet design. The wood cabinet graphics, created by Anghelo, were some of the best of all the Williams classic games. Anghelo also came up with the concept for a unique all plastic cabinet for Bubbles. Mechanical engineer Gary Berge developed it by using a special rotational molding process. The shape was cylindrical with a domed top. The Bubbles cabinets were in blue plastic. Black plastic ones were created for Blaster and a handful of Sinistar test machines. The plastic cabinets were almost indestructible. When crushed, they would spring back to shape like an accordion. When blemished, they could easily be fixed by heating and smoothing the plastic. "If we'd made kits for those things we could have easily sold a couple hundred thousand," says Tom Cahill of the Williams service department.

  Bubbles created a play environment like no other game of its time. The humorous animated action was a nice complement to Williams' cadre of famous sci-fi pulse racers.

I had the honour of speaking with artist and Bubbles co-designer Python Anghelo. I had an almost hour long phone conversation with Python late one November night. Many thanks to Pfutz for putting me in touch with someone I have long admired. He discussed the process of game design and the small teams of 2 or so that worked on games back in the early days. Typically a game designer and the programmer(s). He thankfully still works in interactive entertainment field. He sounded only too happy to reminisce about a time during which he feels were the pioneering days in gaming history. He was especially happy to know someone could have such fond memories of his work.

  I spoke to him only briefly about Bubbles. I told him about my website and he tried his best to understand since he isn't very web sauve. I intended on making a follow up call to get into more detail but I got side-tracked and unfortunately lost contact with him...My Bad. Python seemed most pleased with the unique character animation and very proud of the advanced physics and control movement in Bubbles. They worked very hard to recreate the "soapy" friction-less feel of a sink. It was most interesting to hear Python mention how Williams' made a hasty decision to rush Bubbles to the arcades. Python still laments the premature release since he feels Bubbles didn't reach it's full potential. Python still has alot unrealized ideas,artwork and designs for Bubbles in storage. If Williams allowed the team to develop Bubbles further they were ready to take the game from the sink and into bathtubs and beyond.

Too Bad...A Great game could have been Greater


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