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.
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.
Yashiro Oda holds the official record for this game with 1,566,960 points on August 1, 1984.