Tiny bubbles just might turn into big cash for Stuart Denman and his indie game studio Pine Street Codeworks. The company won $2,500 on Thursday night at the Intel Buzz Workshop game event in Bellevue, Washington.

I was one of the judges of the competition, which the Power of Play 2017 game conference co-sponsored, and I thought the soap-bubble matching game was wonderfully creative.

Tiny Bubbles focuses on the physics of soap bubbles, which are mathematically hard to create because they are squishy and organic, said Denman, a 25-year Seattle area game veteran, in an interview with GamesBeat. You try to match four same-color bubbles in a row, like other games in the match-3 genre. But it is different because the gameplay takes the nature of bubbles into account.

It has 160 levels. The Unity-based, free-to-play game is coming this year to iOS, Google Play, the Windows PC, and Mac.

“You remember when you played Tetris for the first time,” Denman said. “It was really important to come up with a game that gave me the same sense.”

You can, for instance, snip the edge of a bubble, pop it, and connect other bubbles together as a result. The gameplay is dynamic and real time, and it starts with a tutorial that takes you through more than a dozen different types of moves you can make. You can fill in a bubble and mix colors so they can match.

Later, you run into a fish that creates bubbles, and you have to deflate them quickly before they expand outside of a boundary. The puzzles weren’t easy, and I had to try a few of them more than once in the first dozen levels. Denman hopes it will have universal appeal.

“Players have the most fun when they are being challenged, and new mechanics are important to that,” Denman said. “It was really important that I came up with a game that gave you that same sense.

“There are so many bubble games on the market. They are reskinned bubbles. I noticed that so many games are being cloned on the app stores with weeks. But if you went out on the web and tried to learn how to simulate bubbles, you would quickly run into a pretty intimidating math wall. I have so many ideas where I can take this and keep players engaged for a long time.”

Denman, who cofounded Surreal Software and has made numerous games for big game studios like Midway Games, said he was inspired by his grandfather, Cyril Sterling Smith, who was a physicist and wrote research papers on the nature of soap bubbles. Denman recalls reading those papers about 25 years ago, and he buried them in the back of his mind.

Pine Street Codeworks’ team also includes Paulette Denman, who is married to Stuart; James Hutt, and Kristopher Larson.

Disclosure: Power of Play paid my way to Bellevue. Our coverage remains objective.

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