Rags to Riches

Conceptually, ragdoll physics might have fluttered around since the days of polygon bird droppings, but it wasn't until 2000 that gaming's favourite thumb-in-a-suit, Hitman, made ragdolls cool and neat-o. Thomas Jakobsen, head of R&D at Io Interactive, introduced a form of ragdoll physics known as Verlet Integration, which connected thigh bones to knee bones, and so forth. Bingo! You could drag around dead people just like Jeffrey Dahmer.

When Havok showed its first demos at GDC 2002, the games industry was on the brink of ragdoll frenzy. At the time, movies were using similar effects and technology - The Matrix being a prime example. "Painkiller had some great effects, like the ragdolls that you could pin to the geometry with special guns and stakes," says Dave Gargan.

Steve Collins's fave is Remedy's detective noir. "Max Payne 2 is still a fantastic example of what you can do cinematically," he says. "I think that game more than any other made ragdoll technology a required feature for many genres. I also think that Midway's Psi-Ops was technically very clever - it demonstrated some fantastic character interactions with the environment. Anyone for some crate surfing?"

So why are ragdolls still prone to causing unintentional hilarity? "In most games, ragdolls are like scarecrows made from sandbags - their limbs are tied together with pieces of string. It looks extremely unnatural," says Gargan. "It's like these characters have had their spinal cords severed."