Stuart Denman’s grandfather was a metallurgist for the Manhattan Project. While looking at molten metals under a microscope, he noticed their structure was similar to soap bubble foams. He became fascinated with the strange properties of soap bubbles, which he shared with Denman.
Years later Denman founded his latest independent game studio—Seattle-based Pine Street Codeworks—and came back to his grandfather’s soap bubbles for inspiration. The result is Tiny Bubbles, a unique, clever, and challenging puzzle game coming soon for iOS, Android, PC and Mac.
As he was searching for inspiration to create his own independent game, Denman thought about his grandfather’s obsession and realized that the “strange physics” of soap bubbles could be the basis for a unique puzzle game mechanic.
“I discovered this new mechanic, now let’s explore where it can go,” said Denman, an experienced game designer who has worked at WB Games, and Strange Loop Games. “Find the branches of the tree of exploration that are fun, and the ones that are not fun, and keep everything that’s fun.”
To build the first prototype of Tiny Bubbles, Denman dug into serious academic research on soap bubbles, and eventually he “ended up having to implement this guy’s PhD thesis.” Unfortunately that version occasionally failed spectacularly, and he had to go back to the drawing board. “I figured out how to simulate the actual molecules—what they were doing, how the pressure was working, pushing out… the surface tension.”
Of course, a bubble simulator isn’t an interesting game by itself. The big breakthrough for Tiny Bubbles came when he added color matching and mixing to the bubble physics. “I had this irrational ‘holy grail’ of game design,” explained Denman. “I wanted to come up with a game that was totally unique. A new mechanic.”
Having played through most of the beta build, my personal assessment is that Denman has largely succeeded on that front. Tiny Bubbles plays like no other puzzle game I’ve previously encountered. The puzzles are clever, the physics engine is nearly flawless, and the bubbles move exactly like I would expect them to in real life (if real life were two-dimensional, of course).
Tiny Bubbles won a coveted spot in the PAX 10 showcase at PAX West 2017 and was in GeekWire’s “most exciting and surprising indie games” roundup. Having played the game on both a PC at PAX and on my Android phone, I can attest that the experience works well across both form factors.
Tiny Bubbles It will be released soon for iOS, Android, PC, and Mac. It was nominated for Best Mobile Game at SXSW Gaming Expo 2017, and is also up for the Gamer’s Voice Award at the upcoming 2018 SXSW Gaming Expo. You can see a brief demonstration of a level (sans sound effects) below.
If you’re interested in getting a jump start on Tiny Bubbles and providing feedback to the developer, a limited beta test on PC and Mac is starting soon. Players who are interested in testing the game on Steam and providing feedback can sign up on the Pine Street Codeworks website. Click the “SIGN UP” tab, enter your email in the form, and select Windows or Mac.