Tron is a coin-operated arcade video game manufactured and distributed by Bally Midway in 1982. It is based on the Walt Disney Productions motion picture Tron released in the same year. The game consists of four subgames inspired by the events of the science fiction film. It features some characters and equipment seen in the film, e.g. the Light Cycles, battle tanks, the Input/Output Tower. The game earned more than the film's initial release.
In 1983, Midway released the sequel arcade game Discs of Tron, which was inspired by the disc throwing combat sequence of the film. Another sequel followed in 2003 with the computer game Tron 2.0. On January 10, 2008, the game was released for Xbox Live Arcade ported from Digital Eclipse and branded by Disney Interactive Studios.
In the 2010 film Tron: Legacy, the arcade game makes a brief appearance, but is displayed as being manufactured and distributed by the in-universe company ENCOM International instead of Bally Midway. It is also displayed as such on the "ENCOM International" promotional website for the film.
Tron was distributed in three types of cabinets: the standard upright, the mini upright and the cocktail (table) version. There was also a different game called Discs of Tron, which features a cabinet you step into and play standing up. The upright cabinet is designed as film tie-in. It has, as a special feature, two blacklights and fluorescent lines painted on, resembling the blue, red etc. circuit lines from the film Tron. In a darkened room or arcade the lines glow. The stand in Discs of Tron enclosed cabinet is the rarest of all the cabinet types. Both the original Tron and the stand-in Discs of Tron play a part in the 2010 Tron: Legacy movie. Walt Disney Pictures searched for 3 years with no luck until they found a video game collector in Slayton, Minnesota who rented his stand up Discs of Tron game to Walt Disney Pictures.
All cabinets feature an 8-way joystick for moving, with one button for firing or speed control, and a rotary dial for controlling the direction of the fire (a setup also used in Kozmik Krooz'r, another Midway game). Discs of Tron also has a thumb button on the top-rear of the controller and the rotory knob also has a push/pull function as well. Both games can be played by one player or by two alternating players as the controls are made for only one player at a time.
The player in the role of Tron has to beat four subgames, each at 12 increasingly difficult levels, with each level named after a computer programming language, such as "BASIC", "RPG", "COBOL", "FORTRAN", "SNOBOL", "PL1", "PASCAL", "ALGOL", "ASSEMBLY", "OS", "USER", and "JCL". All four segments of one level must be completed before continuing on to the next level.
This segment of the game mimics Tron's quest to enter the Input/Output tower from the motion picture. In the arcade game, the player must destroy large numbers of Grid Bugs with Tron's disc and clear a path to the flashing circle, which must be entered before a timer runs out to complete the section.
This area imitates Tron's final battle against the MCP. The game's interpretation has the player destroying a multicolored wall in front of the MCP cone and getting by the wall, into the cone. A 1000 point bonus is awarded for completing the level, and an additional 1000 points is given for destroying all blocks of the wall.
The Battle Tanks subgame is not strictly based on film events, but the tanks are taken from there. The player must guide Tron's red tank through a maze and destroy several blue tanks or red recognizers controlled by the computer. This must be done without taking any hits from enemies. If the player drives into the purple diamond in the center of the maze, the tank is warped to a random area of the maze. A bug in the game results in a cheat option. When the player's tank is not touching the white line in the corridors, it can not be hit by the enemy's fire, but it can still be rammed by enemy tanks.
This game is well known and associated with the Tron franchise. The player must guide a blue Light Cycle in an arena against an opponent, while avoiding the walls and trails (walls of light) left behind by both Light Cycles. The player must maneuver quickly and precisely in order to force opponents to run into walls. The enemy cycles have a fixed behavior pattern for each level: if the player can find it, the opponent can be defeated every time on this level.
These floating vehicles, colloquially referred to by the public as "stompers" for quite some time, take the place of the tanks at higher levels in the tanks game. The designation "recognizers" was used very sparingly in the film and many viewers might have therefore been unaware of the proper name. In the film, the Recognizers were the vehicles that attempted to stop the light cycles from escaping the game grid by "stomping" on them, and one of these vehicles was also the type of machine that Flynn "resurrected" with his user powers.
Recognizers do not fire at the player's tank at all but move at high speed, relentlessly converging on the player's location, and each still requires three shots to be destroyed.
Each of the 12 difficulty levels has a different keyword. They all relate in some way to computing, and most of them are programming languages. The keywords are, from lowest difficulty to highest: RPG, COBOL, BASIC, FORTRAN, SNOBOL, PL1, PASCAL, ALGOL, ASSEMBLY, OS, JCL, USER.
The lead programmer was Bill Adams. The original high score in all of the games was programmed with his initials "BA". He also included his children's initials.
The video game's story was based on an early draft of the script for Tron. In the game, the light cycle the player controls is blue and the enemy light cycles are yellow whereas in the film the colors of the opposing players are reversed. The Grid Bugs played a major part as an enemy Tron has to fight whereas in the film they are briefly mentioned and run away. The MCP cone was rewritten as the MCP's tower in the film but remained in the game with the same premise for the player to breach it. The tank level is based on the tanks in the film. During the fifth stage the enemy tanks are replaced by faster, non-shooting recognizers.
Reception and criticism
Tron was awarded "Coin-Operated Game of the Year" by Electronic Games magazine.