TRON: Evolution - Game Developers Go Hollywood
By John Gaudiosi
It’s been 30 years since writer/director Steven Lisberger first started working on bringing his vision of TRON to the big screen. The film ushered in a new generation of computer animation, which allowed audiences to be transported into cyberspace and experience video game battles within the mainframe. TRON was the first movie to have a hit video game tie-in at the arcade, which seamlessly connected the film universe with the real world’s burgeoning video game industry.
One of the people who were both influenced by TRON and active in cyberspace was architect-turned-commercial director Joe Kosinski, who ended up working with Lisberger to bring TRON: Legacy to the big screen.
“As a kid, I hung out in the arcade like any other kid growing up in the ’80s, and I remember playing TRON at the arcade,” says Kosinski, who helmed the new 3D TRON movie. “Gaming was an important part of my childhood.”
Now Walt Disney Pictures is bringing TRON: Legacy to the big screen, using the latest computer graphics technology to introduce a new wave of video game battles on the Grid. And Disney Interactive Studios has enlisted Propaganda Games to develop the TRON: Evolution game, which tells the story of what’s been going on within the TRON mythology over the past three decades.
A Game That Bridges the Films
“TRON is a large universe and the movie can’t encompass all of it, so we get to go and see other areas, explore other classes of programs, even aspects of the story that were just mentioned in the film. We get to dive right in there and see everything and learn everything,” says Jeremy Miller, character art director on TRON: Evolution at Propaganda Games.
TRON: Evolution bridges the gap between the first film and its sequel. Players take control of a program created by Kevin Flynn , also known as Clu (Jeff Bridges plays the character in the film), to resolve a problem that’s occurring in the system. This program is just under Tron (Bruce Boxleitner). It’s a second version of the system monitor, which was ultimately turned into a Sentry (which is seen in the movie).
“In the game, you’re a Beta program with some system administrative rights, but you’ll be able to expand your code as you play through the game,” says Miller. “As you level up, you get more access to system memory and you get to customize what code is actually being applied to your program. We allow the player to choose which disk to use and what powers they want. There’s a lot to the system.”
Quorra (Olivia Wilde) serves as the player’s mentor in the game, while also providing more backstory to the program that plays a major role in the new movie.
“I liked seeing Quorra at a younger age in the game,” says Wilde. “It was interesting in terms of my performance in the game. I didn’t just try to recreate what I did in the movie. I was trying to figure out who she was at the time when the game is taking place. So it was almost like getting to reimagine her.”
Making Sure the Game Fits Mythology
The game explores what happened within the mainframe that caused Clu to turn against Flynn. Propaganda worked closely with Lisberger and Kosinski to ensure that the game’s storyline fits within the mythology that was developed for the entire multimedia TRON universe.
“We worked very closely with the creators of TRON,” says Miller. “We had scripts that were passed back and forth and they helped us with the story. All of our concept art and our designs were approved by the theatrical people. It was incredibly inspiring to be a part of that.”
PC gamers will get to experience the TRON universe in all of its detail. Miller says his studio worked hard to translate elements like the new glowing outfits the programs wear in the film.
“It was a challenge translating the very black world with very shiny elements into the game,” says Miller. “We really had to get in there and dig to get those real-time reflections going, get that shininess, play a lot with blacks, but still keep it a bright product.”
Everyone has experienced the light-cycle sequences that were in the original film and many have seen the redesigned bikes in the trailers for the new film. Propaganda Games created a light cycle that blends both of these designs, since the action takes place in between those two time periods. In addition to the new bikes, Miller says there is an assortment of vehicles in the game, including some that didn’t make it into the final film.
PC gamers will be able to experience every last detail as they explore every nook and cranny of the game’s sprawling world. The game offers fans a chance to learn more about the mythology - while still having fun on the Grid.
John Gaudiosi has been covering video games for the past 17 years for media outlets such as The Washington Post, CNET, Wired magazine and CBS.com. He is editor in chief of GamerLive.tv and a game columnist for Reuters and RhMinions.com.