Before you take up a fight in a way you've never experienced before in Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic, enjoy a behind the scenes look with its producer Mattias Nygren.
Can you give us a basic introduction to Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic and what it's about?
Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic is a fast and frantic party-fighting game created exclusively for PlayStation Network. It's about pick-up-and-play multiplayer action with up to four players, featuring plastic, shiny and stretchy puppet-like characters that will make you smile.
There are single player challenges where you can hone your skills, and multiplayer game modes including Deathmatch, Capture the Fish and King of the Hill.
It's a physical game that is lots of fun with friends. You build up your Chi Power in melee combat and by performing kung fu swings, backflips and somersaults – then you unleash the power of Chi on your opponents by using the Wireless Controller to execute motion based Special Attacks.
What makes the game different to other fighting games is the amount of control you have over your character, you really do feel like a puppeteer! You can punch, kick and throw in any direction, with the 360° fighting system. It's really easy to pick-up-and-play, but also has lots of depth in the extended controls and fighting mechanics to keep players coming back for more.
What were the origins of Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic as an idea and how did it come to PSN?
The original Rag Doll Kung Fu was created by Mark Healey in 2005, one of the creators of LittleBigPlanet. We had approached Sony Computer Entertainment Europe with a different concept that built heavily on physics controlled characters on a 2D playfield, but SCEE already had its own ideas of producing a similar game. As it turned out the idea was a new version of Mark's Rag Doll Kung Fu and it wasn't long before we were asked if we would like to do it. We jumped at the chance, and Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic is a result of all our collective efforts, to stay true to the essence of the original while adding our new ideas and making it more accessible to the PSN audience.
What made you choose the particular visual style of the game?
The nature of the Rag Doll characters came from the original game – stretchy, joints that turn any which way without limitation etc. We wanted a more High Definition polished look and shiny plastic action figures with their different body parts; connected by ball joints and rubber bands, was the perfect visual representation for us. The whole idea of playing with your action figures also fits the game very well as you feel very much like you are pulling the strings of a puppet.
The environments are inspired by the original game and made to feel like kung fu themed stages. This is where your characters can come to life and act like the cool heroes and villains they all believe themselves to be.
What are the most important ideals and concepts of the game?
At its core, Rag Doll Kung Fu is a party brawler which is most fun when played by you and your friends together at home, preferably not all on one sofa though to avoid injuries when pulling off a perfect Firefly! The physics rich nature of the game sets it apart from other fighting titles and where those are very exact in movement and timing to allow players to always get the same result from an attack, Rag Doll Kung Fu is built on the very fact that anything can happen. Hit reactions are seldom the same, a jump after a swing is dependent on your momentum and your trajectory etc. This keeps players on their toes, having to think quickly to improvise and get out of unforeseen situations.
Although the game is designed to be accessible by all when you first pick it up, button mashing will only get you so far – you need to master the different techniques. For example, how to build your Chi and execute the Special Attacks. The flexible combat and controls system gives you a wealth of marionette-like moves, which you can choose to chain together anyway you wish. Everyone plays the game differently, and that's what makes it so unique.
What sort of classic martial arts movies influenced Rag Doll Kung Fu, in terms of level and character design?
Among other things, inspiration has of course come from martial arts movies from the 60s and later, not so much the classics but rather the silly cheesy ones. This has not especially influenced the level design but for the character design we felt it was important to have a wide variety in the character cast consisting of archetypes that people could relate to – the old master, the evil villain, the cool young hero, and so on.
What sort of motion control moves have you included in the game?
We decided very early on to look into what kind of interactivity we could use motion control for, so Fists of Plastic has been built from the ground up with that in mind. The original game had a physical element in building up your Chi power, and we felt that physical immersion was important to get right in the PlayStation 3 version.
It was also important to keep the game accessible to all, so we decided to keep the basic controls on the buttons and sticks. This means that all players can quickly get to grips with the controls, move around and pull off some basic attacks. We reserve motion control for the more elaborate moves and Special Attacks but kept them intuitive. For example, there is a move called the Slam – you jolt the Wireless Controller upwards to raise your fists and then jolt it down to Slam them into the ground. Just like real kung fu, you have to master these moves – practice makes perfect! We're really happy with the result and it makes a multiplayer game hilarious to watch as people Shake, Yank and Slam the Wireless Controller around. Apart from being a physics game it can actually get quite physical in a real sense when playing.
What is it like working on PSN?
It's really challenging, because even though it's a smaller game you end up implementing all the stuff that you need in a bigger game, Artificial Intelligence, physics, 3D engine and tools. But it's great fun and we really strived to make a high quality PSN game, and with the end result we think this will raise the bar for downloadable party games.
Do you think PSN allows developers to have more artistic freedom on a whole?
I really think that Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. has given PSN a quality stamp when it comes to great gameplay in combination with innovative concepts and great art style. SCEE gave us a lot of artistic freedom for Rag Doll Kung Fu, which made us push ourselves to earn that stamp as well.
Will there be downloadable content for Rag Doll Kung Fu in the future?
The game has been built with this in mind. We have lots of ideas for how to take the game further; game modes, levels, weapons and characters... this is a perfect PSN game in that sense.
Who would you recommend Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic to?
Anyone who would like a fast paced hilarious party brawler to play with their friends! It's easy to get the basic moves but mastering the game takes practice and adds depth to this otherwise light fighting experience. To get the highest medal/rank of Plastic on Challenges is something that testers have referred to as frustratingly addictive and our goal has been to make the game appealing to casual players but at the same time challenging to the more core audience.
What tips would you offer for beginners of Rag Doll Kung Fu?
Play through the tutorial and practice your moves in the challenges. Practice launching the Chi Powered special attacks, they often need a smaller motion than you initially think. And most importantly, figure out when to be offensive and when to be defensive, mashing buttons will only get you so far, items and weapons can be extremely useful when used correctly.