Other Tron-related media

written by David Steffen

Even after watching the original Tron movie, and playing the Tron 2.0 game, you’re still not satisfied and you just want more and more?

Tron (Arcade Game)

The same year the original Tron movie was released, a coin operated arcade game was released with the same title. It consisted of 4 mini-games based on the film:

Light Cycles: A top-down view of the famous light cycle game, where the player drives a motorcycle-like vehicle that leaves a solid wall behind it. The object is to make all of your opponents crash into walls.
MCP Cone: A simulation of the final battle of the movie against the MCP, trying to get past its protective plates to the MCP core.
Battle Tanks: Driving a tank, and destroying enemy tanks in a maze level.
I/O Tower: A simulation of the scene in the movie, trying to get into the I/O Tower.

I was too young to play this when it first came out, but I did play it in an arcade in the late 80s, and I thought it was fun. If you want to play it and you happen to have an Xbox 360, then you’re in luck, as you can download a demo for free or buy a full version at Xbox Marketplace.

Discs of Tron

The Tron arcade game was originally supposed to include 5 mini-games, but the fifth wasn’t included in time for the game’s release. The fifth game was released separately in 1983, titled “Discs of Tron”. In the game you face off against Sark playing a game shown in the movie, where two opponents on platforms made of concentric rings and throw energy pellets at each other, trying to destroy your opponent’s platform.

Again, I was too young to play this when it came out, and I didn’t see this in an arcade later. If you want to play this one, it is also available for download on Xbox Marketplace.

Tron:Â Ghost in the Machine

Tron also inspired a 6 part comic book series, released between 2006 and 2008. It is a direct sequel to the Tron 2.0 game. It takes place 6 months after the events of the game, following the same protagonist, Jet Bradley, who is still trying to get over the trauma he experience, after having been zapped into the game world.

I was unaware of this comic until I was looking up material for this article, but now I am looking forward to picking up a copy for myself. You can buy individual issues at Amazon or you can order the collection that combines the 6 issues into one volume.

Tron:Â Evolution

And with the release of the Tron Legacy movie next month, there’s a cross-console game tie-in. The game is released on December 7th, the movie on December 17th, so you can sort of get a sneak peak. It occurs before the events of the movie and provides some of the basis for the events of the movie. I have mixed feelings about this–the same thing was tried for the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movie. On the one hand, it was kind of neat to see some characters and hints of events before they’re revealed in the movie, but it came off as more of a marketing gimmick than actual value added.

You can’t get the game quite yet, but you can check out the official site. Once the game’s available, you should have no trouble whatsoever finding it.

Kingdom Hearts 2 level:Â Space Paranoids

You may have seen my review of Kingdom Hearts back in January. The second game was pretty much more of the same, but with more worlds to explore. One of the worlds was “Space Paranoids”, a Tron world. This was probably my favorite world of the game, especially since Sora and his friends Donald Duck and Goofy get dressed up in Tron fashion, which was pretty neat. Tron the character was available as a temporary companion to join the group as a fighter, and it was also fun to see the incarnations of the Heartless enemies.

You should be able to find the game used in a variety of places, and you can check out the game’s official website.

Southpark episode:Â You Have 0 Friends

This is one of my favorite episodes of Southpark, released earlier this year as part of season 14. Stan’s friends start a Facebook account for Stan as a surprise. Stan doesn’t want an account, because he doesn’t want to get “sucked in”, but one by one, his friends and relatives guilt trip him into adding them, as they take his lack of Facebook interaction as a sign that he isn’t a good friend. Before he knows it, he has a million friends, and the demands just get more and more. Finally he decides to just delete his account, but Facebook won’t let him do it, zapping him into the system Tron-style. Inside the system, he’s captured by guards similar to those in the movie, and everyone’s facebook account is dressed in Tron fashion. This episode was just awesome.

You can watch the whole episode for free on the Southpark Studios.

Tron 2.0 (Bygone Game Review)

written by David Steffen

And now for a Bygone Game Review, a new label I made up to avoid getting complaints about the age of the review material. Yes, I know this isn’t a new game, but it has aged well, and is still well worth playing.

In 2003, twenty-one years after the release of the Tron movie, Buena Vista Entertainment released a sequel. It’s not a movie–it’s a game, a first person shooter (FPS) to be exact). The game somehow seems to have slipped under many gamers’ radars. I hadn’t come across it until five years after its release. Fans of the original movie will enjoy the digital world setting, reminiscent of the original in many ways yet also new and shiny, like 20 years of system upgrades in one fell swoop, and there are plenty of nods to the original for the dedicated fan to catch. But playing the game does not require familiarity with the original movie, so it could draw in new fans of the Tron universe, just in time for the long-awaited of the Tron movie sequel due out next month: Tron Legacy.


In the game setting, just like in real life, twenty-one years have passed since the events of the Tron movie. ENCOM has since been taken over by Future Control Industries (fCon). Alan Bradley (still voiced by Bruce Boxleitner) still works for the company. After the events of the original story, he married his then-girlfriend Lora, and together they had a son named Jet. Lora has died by the time of this game, and Alan has talked Jet into hiring on to fCon as a video game developer. Even though Lora is dead, actress Cindy Morgan still has a voice acting part, lending her voice to the program Ma3a.

The game starts off when Jet gets digitized by the same invention that had digitized Flynn in the movie. Really, guys, don’t you think it’s time to create some safety features for that thing? But then, I suppose, we wouldn’t have any more Tron stories, and that would be sad, so never mind. At this point in the game, Jet is unaware of the laser or any of the events of the movie, so this is all new to him. He is greeted by the program Ma3a , Alan’s computer system’s AI, who has chosen to digitize him to fight the corruption caused by Thorne, a virus that is running rampant in the company network. She refers to Jet as Alan 2, not understanding the difference between program versions and human generations, which is a cute touch.

Meanwhile, the Kernel, the leader of the ICP security programs, detects Jet’s intrusion into the system and incorrectly determines him to be the source of the corruption. So Jet is opposed by not only the virus-corrupted programs he comes across, but also by the ICP’s as he tries to make his way across the virtual world to stop the corruption. As he goes, a larger and more sinister plot reveals itself which I will leave for you to discover. It’s a good story to accompany a great game, well worth the time.

The Visuals

Wow is this game pretty! They perfected a really neat glowing light effect for this game so all the lighting has a bit of aura to give it a very neon look. The upgraded ICPs look awesome. The settings are very simplistically designed and are often just black with neon highlights, but the effect is very neat looking and otherworldly. At one point in the game you venture out into the Internet, and that was the coolest of all, it looks like a digital Las Vegas it was so lit up!


The controls are pretty much standard FPS controls, or can at least be configured that way. My preferred control system has mouse look on and uses the left and right arrows on the keyboard to strafe. This is how I play most any FPS, as it allows you to easily look in any direction, a necessary attribute in multi-elevation levels or with flying enemies.

You have two main attributes: health and energy. If your health runs out, you die. Your energy is an expendable and replenishable resource used for a variety of functions, including weapon ammunition, and downloading of new subroutines (I’ll explain that more later).

The weapon you start the game with, the base weapon, is the Disc Primitive, the Frisbee-like blue disc from the movie. It is the only weapon that takes zero energy to use, but it has a relatively slow rate of fire because you have to wait for the disc to return to you before you can throw it again. It’s surprisingly useful because it is fairly powerful, and the ICP’s armor does not protect very well against it. Not only that, but it doubles as a defense that is very effective against the ICP’s similar disc weapons. You can hold the disc in front of you to deflect an ICP-thrown disc. This will leave the ICP defenseless for a few moments while their disc bounces around, before they can retrieve it, so you can use the opportunity to get a couple blows in with your own disc. It’s not very useful, though, if faced with a crowd of enemies, because you can’t block everyone’s attacks, and the blocking only works against disc attacks, not the ball-based attacks of the viruses.

Most of the other weapons in the game behave in similar fashion to real-life weapons, so they should already be pretty familiar to FPS players. The Rod Primitive is like a stun prod. The Ball Primitive is like a grenade. Upgrades can be acquired for each of the primitives as well, such as the Suffuser, which makes the Rod behave like a shotgun, the LOL which makes the Rod behave like a sniper rifle, and the Ball Launcher, which makes the Ball behave like a rocket launcher.

Besides this, Jet has certain attributes that can be upgraded by increasing his version number, which he does by collecting a certain number of build points. The attributes you can enhance are things like your maximum health and maximum energy, which both start at 100, as well as your weapon efficiency for energy use. Build points can be acquired in two ways. First, you get build points automatically as you complete mission objectives, such as gaining access to a new area. Second, there are a limited number of collectible build points scattered here and there throughout each level, so it is worth your time to search thoroughly to find them all.

Instead of collecting keys to unlock doors, like you might do in a real world setting, you collect permission bits, each filling in one of 8 positions on your permission ring. Permissions are required for a variety of things, the most obvious being the opening of doors. Also, with certain permissions, you can deactivate security rezzing stations, which are alarm buttons that ICPs can press to call in reinforcements.

Okay, so that’s all pretty straightforward stuff, sort of cookie cutter FPS elements. Now this is where it gets really interesting, especially with archive bins and subroutines.

Archive bins appear as clear cubes in the world, with moving lights inside them, and if you can access one, you can download its contents. Its contents may include emails among people in the company, which help give background to the story, or other things like subroutines (which I will get into later). Once you have the permissions, you can see what is inside the archive bin at no cost, but downloading costs energy, the same energy that powers your weapons so you have to careful about what you download unless you have a handy energy source, or you could be backing yourself into a corner with no ammunition. The download costs varies from object to object, and is generally higher the more useful the object. Emails are usually a cheap 5 energy units, because they are really only for backstory, not helpful to the gameplay itself. Subroutines are generally more expensive, some significantly more expensive. Which brings us to subroutines.

Subroutines are the most unique part of Tron 2.0 gameplay. Each of them performs a particular function. For instance, the Fuzzy Signature subroutine makes your footsteps make less noise, which is important for sneaking up on guards. Any weapons besides the primitives (such as the Suffuser and the Ball Launcher) are subroutines. There are subroutines for a wide variety of uses, like protection from virus corruption, armor upgrades, and adding corrosive damage to your weapons. You gather subroutines as the game goes on by downloading from archive bins or from enemy core dumps (the remains after they die, er, de-rez). Once you collect a subroutine, then you can always equip it, but you can’t equip everything at once. As the game goes on, you travel from one computer to another, to a PDA, to the internet, and so on. Each system has different subroutine space configurations–some have ample memory so that you can trick yourself out with a bunch of subroutines, and others have only small amounts, so you have to be very careful what you choose. Is it more important to have that body armor, or the shotgun-like Suffuser weapon? You have to make that choice.

Here and there you will find an optimizer that you can use to upgrade just one of your subroutines. You’ll acquire most subroutines in an Alpha version, and they can be upgraded to Beta, then to Gold. The more upgraded a version, the less space it will take up in the system memory, and the more effective it will be. An Alpha routine requires three adjacent slots, while a Gold routine only requires one, and the gold version is also much better in some way or another (for instance, weapons will cause more damage, or virus protection will be more effective).

This may sound complicated, but it’s really not. The in-game tutorials are very well done, helping you learn how to play AS you play. Some of the subroutines are much more useful than others, and some are more useful against certain enemies than others. You can pause and swap in different subroutines at any time, so you can always try to pick the best ones for the current situation.

The Difficulty

I’m playing through the game again now, to get in the mood for the upcoming movie, and I’m having more trouble with it than I remember having the first time. Maybe I played the first time on Easy difficulty, this time I’m on Medium. Most of the time I can progress fine, and I try not to overuse the QuickSave function, but there are a few times when I was having difficulty and then QuickSaved in a bad place, where I was backed into a corner with low energy, surrounded by ICPs and no recent saves to fall back on. I saved in a momentarily safe place, but it was in a dead end surrounded by ICPs and I had to try to go through it a dozen times before I powered my way through using the disk weapon as efficiently as I could and zigzagging all over to make myself a hard target, and I just barely limped to the next energy source with only 3% health. After that point I tried to more meticulously make save files in a rotating fashion rather than relying on QuickSave as the primary restore method–since each QuickSave overwrites the previous QuickSave. I’m less than halfway through the game now, so we shall see how well I do when I run up against the big bad boss characters later in the game.

Light Cycles

And the light cycles are back from the first game, upgraded just like everything else. In case you’re not familiar with them, they look like motorcycles, but they are incapable of stopping and they leave a solid wall wherever they pass. The objective is to be the last one standing, and you do so by outmaneuvering your opponents, placing a wall in front of them and forcing them to run into it. This upgraded version adds powerups to the mix, such as a speed boost, and a one-shot missile which can destroy enemy bikes, or punch holes through a bike-wall to allow you to pass safely through, giving it both defensive and offensive uses.

The main FPS game has some light cycle segment as part of the progression, but there’s also a light cycle tournament accessible through the main menu, with escalating difficulty levels, novelty arenas, making that a worthwhile game in itself. I hear you can also play this online, though the game is so fast-paced that the slightest lag will doom you, so it would probably be better served over a LAN.


I highly recommend this game for everyone who likes FPS, whether they are fans of Tron or not. And if you are a fan, find the game and play it to get in the mood for the upcoming movie!

Classic Movie Spotlight: Tron

written by David Steffen

Okay, so most of you who follow Diabolical Plots have probably seen Tron, or at least are aware of it. But I wanted to do a quick overview in preparation for the Tron sequel movie coming out next month. Yes, after many years of rumors of a Tron sequel, it looks like it’s actually going to happen this time, with the name Tron Legacy. There have been full fledged previews, larger scale movie promos and the like. It really appears to be happening. I believe the release date planned is just before Christmas 2010. I’m excited to see Tron with modern special effects, and original cast members Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner are even in the sequel, which is amazing to get them involved in a sequel to a movie 28 years old.

The original movie was released in July 1982. Honestly, I didn’t have much interest in it at the time. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was 6 months old. My brother, however, took it upon himself to ensure that, when I was old enough to appreciate them, I would be well-versed in 80s SF/fantasy movies, including Tron, The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, and Labyrinth.

Tron was written and directed by Steven Lisberger and was one of the first major studio movies to make extensive use of computer graphics. The graphics are quite dated by now, of course, but when you watch it just keep in mind that these special effects were amazing in 1982. The previews for Tron Legacy, of course, have updated computer graphics, loads of shiny goodness.


Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is an ex-employee of software corporation ENCOM. Outside of work hours, he was spending his free time developing innovative video games. His fellow developer Ed Dillinger (David Warner) stole his programs and presented them to ENCOM as his own work. ENCOM released the games which rocketed into popularity, especially Flynn’s pride and joy, “Space Paranoids”, earning Dillinger promotion after promotion, all the way up to the head of the company. And eventually Dillinger fired Flynn.

Now Flynn is on the outside, trying to hack into ENCOM’s network to find evidence of Dillinger’s wrongdoing so that Flynn can prove he’s the real author. But ENCOM’s new super-program, the Master Control Program (MCP) finds the intrusion, and cuts off Flynn’s security clearance. In the process, it also temporarily cuts off clearance to a current employee, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), who finds out from Dillinger about the Flynn intrusion. Alan and his girlfriend Lora (Cindy Morgan) go to Flynn and hear his story, and together they decide to sneak into the ENCOM building at night and try to find evidence of the theft.

Once inside, Lora logs into her workstation for Flynn to use, and this is where the main plot really takes off. Her workstation is placed right next to the testing station of her current research project: a new technology that, with a laser and liberal amounts of handwavium, can transport physical objects into a datastream and back out again. While Flynn is doing his thing at the keyboard, the MCP seizes control of the laser and zaps him into ENCOM’s digital universe.

In the digital space, all of the programs wear the faces of the users who wrote them, but they all wear uniforms that cover their hair and look sort of like body armor. The special effects of this are very interesting. The uniforms and even the faces of the programs are all grayscale, no flesh tones, but the uniforms have neon lines tracing over their contours. The environment is a very simple digitial enviro, much of it being wireframes or simple polygon.

Flynn is captured and, along with a group of rebel programs, asked to renounce their belief in the users, who the programs tend to think of as gods. Those who refuse are forced into a gaming arena to fight each other to the death in a variety of games. During a round of the now iconic light cycle game (where the players drive motorcycles that leave solid walls behind them, the objective is to force your opponent to crash into a wall before you do), Flynn escapes the arena along with two other programs. One of those programs is the title character Tron, a security program written by Alan Bradley (and thus also played by Bruce Boxleitner). They team together to try to take down the tyrant that is the MCP.

My Views

This movie deserves credit for being one of a number of successful science fiction movies of the 1980s that helped define science fiction movie fandom. It’s fun, it has Jeff Bridges (who I’ve always liked), and it had a lot of cool ideas. Some of the effects are still pretty cool, like the spinning splendor of the MCP, and much of the work here laid the groundwork for modern special effects. Modern special effects can be a blessing or a curse, as they look very shiny, but are too oftenÂused to replace plot instead of enhance it. But special effects can be a great thing.

That doesn’t meanÂthat Tron isÂwithout its faults. Mostly, the middle of the film just gets a little long, and seems to serve as a showcase for the graphics, but doesn’t provide much in the way of plot. Especially the long, drawn-out chase scene with the MCP’s tanks chasing after our heroes’ light cycles in a long canyon. And in scenes like that, what I really want to know is what part of the computer network that represents. They are supposed to exist inside of the network after all. When one of the tanks falls off a cliff, what does that mean in the structure of a computer: nothing, really. I wish a little more thought had been given to the settings so that they each corresponded to something meaningful in the hardware or software of a computer.

Similarly, even though the characters in the story are supposed to be programs, they’re never particularly convincing as programs. Keep in mind that I may only have this nitpick because I write programs for a living, but programs don’t work that way. These programs look like people, but more than that, they really are little people, only with a different world to live in. This doesn’t really make all that much sense with this world supposedly being a manifestation of a computer network’s interior. In reality, an accounting program can only do accounting, not work together with security programs to infiltrate the MCP. And some of the actions of the programs also don’t really make sense. At one point in the movie Flynn (in the computer) kisses a program written by Lora. His motivations in this are clear, as his love for her is forbidden in the real world because she is with Alan, but what does the exchange mean from her point of view? I could make an obvious joke here about “interfacing”, but I really am curious what a kiss would accomplish/represent/imply to a program’s thinking.

If you’re interested in the development of special effects, see this movie. If you are a hardcore geek, see this movie. It may not be something for everyone, and again, the special effects are very dated, but if you can look past that, you might enjoy this. And I hope that the new movie makes good use of modern special effects without using them as a crutch. I can hope!