In this era of overstuffed digital shelves, it can be hard to imagine a time when Steam wasn’t crawling with a million anthills’ worth of games. A little more than a decade ago, though, it only carried Valve games. Then came Rag Doll Kung Fu.
People Make Games’ Chris Bratt (who, full disclosure, is a friend of mine) put together a great look back at the physics-based kung-fu fighter, which—through an improbable series of events—ended up becoming the first non-Valve game on Steam way back in 2005.
When Rag Doll Kung Fu first released, I remember being confused. It seemingly came out of nowhere and was linked to Lionhead, a studio known at the time for ambitious Peter Molyneux brainchildren Black & White and Fable—not, er, whatever Rag Doll Kung Fu was. Turns out, that’s because the game really did come out of nowhere, starting with a very bad kung-fu movie spoof filmed in a park by a bunch of Lionhead employees.
In short, then-Lionhead artist (and now Media Molecule creative director) Mark Healey decided to make a small fighting game to scratch his programming itch, and then he realized he could stitch it together with “that stupid film” he made as cut-scenes. The game’s physics-based controls—which came from an out-of-left-field decision to add code for rope physics to characters—caught Valve’s eye at GDC that year. Shortly after GDC, Healey hopped on a plane to Seattle, met Gabe Newell, and unknowingly made history. Also, he lost his wallet and had to borrow money from Valve to make it back home.
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