After twiddling a few days with the animated ragdoll / biped I decided the whole thing simply is not worth it. I managed to create a controller which is able to stay pretty stable, walk on even terrain, turn around and recover from falls from low heights. But that’s possible only when it’s run on a decent computer. As soon as the fps drops below say 20 it falls on it’s nose. The approach I used was very similar to Simbicon. There clearly would have been some aesthetical benefits from the system and it would have made the gameplay feel more dynamic. If it had worked. There are way too many problems that would take too much time to solve. It would be totally game-breaking if the player had to all the time focus on keeping the characters from falling.
I’m still considering using the ragdoll system only for animation and making the actual movements based on simplified but still physically simulated objects. That would allow for seamless and dynamic animations. The player would still be able to physically interact with the world and it’s objects. The main disadvantage would be that the animations weren’t as dynamic as they could be but it’s hard to say if that really is an actual disadvantage. What matters more is that the player can focus on the game instead of being constantly disturbed by unresponsive characters falling over. If even that wouldn’t work I’d stay with the old pre-rendered graphics and just polish them. Apart from character animations there are things much more important that also need to be done.