Mark Healey decided to develop Rag Doll Kung Fu as a side project while working at Lionhead Studios. However, it turned into a cult hit when it was picked up by Valve's Steam online distribution service as its first third-party product.
Healey talked to visitors at Nottingham's GameCity event last week about the creative process behind the cult hit game, which started life as "wanting to make a silly kung-fu film with some of my mates."
The budget kung-fu film was made in Healey's back garden, and then he used selected parts of the project as cutscenes in the game. "There was no script; we were just filming and mucking around," joked Healey. "The movie was the real kick-start for the game. We had about £50 [around $95] to buy some props--I wore a bald cap, we bought some ninja hats, some plastic swords, nunchuks, and a blow-up doll who was our stunt man. I think 20 mates were meant to come and make this thing--four turned up. We totally made it up as we went along and had a great laugh."
RDKF's original design concept was to make a fighting game that used the mouse as a controller. The idea evolved into a rag-doll character game while Healey was working on a physics problem using some ropes and made the decision to make the game characters out of the ropes.
Healey kept a variety of notebooks in which he worked through ideas, bugs, and processes during development of the game, and he said: "The team size was always, well, me. And it grew to a massive three people by the end of it, which was because I roped in a few friends to help... You don't need 300 people to make a game. You can have a small team with a lot of passion... Basically, a lot of the time in RDKF it was just me sitting at my kitchen table in my underwear."
As to whether or not there will be a sequel, Healey admitted to not being excited by the idea. He said: "I don't like sequels... It's not that I'm turning my back on it--I just want to take it to the next level. I'm really proud of RDKF, but it's a simple, basic game, and the ideas we have are much more ambitious."
After the success of RDKF, Healey left Lionhead to cofound Media Molecule and is now working on a top-secret, big-budget PlayStation 3 game project for Sony. He admits that it was a big jump to move from a one-person project to a "triple-A monster." "Oh, yeah. It's a completely different kettle of fish," said Healy. "I'm very used to working with huge teams, but it's been the first time to deal directly with a publisher. It's kind of scary but exciting at the same time."
As to details of the game, Healey was cagey, but he did throw one interesting snippet out there. "It's quite a novel control mechanism, not a mouse but..." he said, implying the game would use the PS3's motion-sensing Sixaxis controller.