NYCC: Disney’s ‘TRON: Evolution’ Panel (Spoilers)

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At New York Comic-Con’s TRON: Evolution panel held yesterday, the standing room only crowd was treated to what has to be some of the most incredible screenshots and video clips to ever grace the video screen. In short, the video game for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 is every bit as beautiful eye candy as the film itself is and there’s small wonder for that as you’ll soon see why.

The panel began by reiterating what was first mentioned at the 2009 Disney D23 Expo TRON panel with creator Steven Lisberger, TRON: Legacy director Joe Kosinksi and producer Sean Bailey, that when the team set out to produce the original film’s ‘sequel’ after more than 20 years, they developed an entire timeline and mythos for the TRON Universe consisting of what occurs between 1982 and 2010. They probably knew it then, but never let on, that a transmedia blast of stories and products would eventually help fill in the gap for the consumer, consisting of not only the graphic novel TRON: Betrayal but multiple platforms of the TRON: Evolution video game. Although the company’s refrain is that you don’t need to read/play/see everything to understand any one particular aspect of the timeline, it certainly helps to understand things better. In other ambiguous words, you aren’t meant to be penalized if you don’t, but you will be rewarded if you do.

And so it begins, somewhere near the beginning. A visual timeline of where each of the transmedia elements falls on the timeline beginning with TRON and ‘ending’ with TRON: Legacy. At the panel it was revealed that when developing the TRON mythos, the timeline actually currently extends further, beyond that of the new film, which of course leaves doors open for sequels in any format.

Shifting focus specifically towards the TRON: Evolution video game (and moreso towards the PlayStation/Xbox version), the panel offered the following featurette (previously released) which explores how tightly integrated the game developers at Propaganda were with the actual film’s production staff:

The teams were so integrated in fact that Propaganda and Walt Disney Studios independently developed certain elements of the TRON Universe and then not only provided the details of the elements with each other, but were actually able to directly share the digital assets between them.

The team then went on to discuss various elements of the TRON Universe beginning with the color palette. In the original film, you were pretty much either blue or red, but by the time TRON: Legacy hits the screens, there’s a rainbow assortment of trim colors as easily spotted in the trailer. As with the original film, each color means something different and they are gradually added into the TRON timeline as events occur. Although they declined to mention specifics at the panel regarding the colors, I dare mention that many of them represent different factions that have built up in the Universe as a result of the ongoings.

The panel then reviewed some of the characters introduced into the game. The player takes on the role of Anon (that’s short for Anomaly), a system admin level program that was created by Flynn to investigate some of the strange going-ons inside the TRON world. With a nod to the metaphysical elements of the original film, Radia comes from the world of the ISOs and can tap into the system. She is the world’s historian, aware of every event that has ever happened, and can even see into the immediate future. Noting that the mainframe in which Kevin Flynn’s TRON Universe exists isn’t attached to the internet, we meet our first virus in the form of Abraxus. The developers noted that because the game is focused on physical strength, their initial design for Abraxus had abnormally large/mutated hands, but they were forced to scale them down. Gibson, who is stronger than Anon, serves as the player’s guiding force throughout the game. For navigational aid (and a bit of familiarity), the developers opted to include the Bit from the original film (Yes (yes yes yes)).

The developers then talked a bit about the construction of the TRON Universe elements and offered up some technical information which is shown below in the gallery. They then showed some imagery of the two other areas of the game to explore beyond that of TRON City: Arjia and Bostrum.

Talking about the vehicles in the game, it was mentioned that TRON: Betrayal has some variations on vehicles that are exclusive to it as Kevin was in ‘blue sky’ mode and tinkering with things. By the time TRON: Legacy occurs, there are some significant changes and additions along this line. For example, the Light Cycles in the game are Generation 4 while the ones from the film are Generation 5. In multi-player mode, up to ten players can compete on teams against each other in the light cycle challenges (same colored teams are able to cross each other’s light walls). Light Cycles (as well as other elements) can also be upgraded throughout the game as the player progresses.

As an anecdote, in the original film, the iconic Light Cycles were only able to make 90 degree turns. That was to change in these generations of Light Cycles, so the developers decided to implement a physics engine for the new vehicles. Ironically enough, once the physics engine was in place, the vehicles were no longer able to make 90 degree turns. Realizing that it would have been sacrilegious to allow that, the physics engine was almost dropped until someone figured out a way to allow both options to co-exist, saving the ability to turn on an analog basis versus the 90 degree digital type maneuvers.

Light Cycles weren’t the only vehicle to get upgrades, however. The program-toting Recognizers are now also used as weapons with the added capability of dropping bombs. The panel also offered a sneak peek at some of the final elements of the game, imagery was shown of a large airship which is tantamount to an aircraft carrier for Recognizers.

Unique to the game is the Light Tank. Tough, but definitely very destructible, the Light Tanks are also available in multi-player mode. In order to demonstrate the versatility of the game’s fighting modes, a gameplay video of the Light Tanks in action included a player on a Light Cycle dismounting and using his identity disc as a weapon before popping back on to the Light Cyle.

The Nintendo Wii version of the game, which is more of a stuck-in-time arena-focused game was briefly touched upon, as were upcoming releases of the game for the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable.

Finally, when asked about the soundtrack, the developers said that although details could not yet be offered, the game’s soundtrack will be a combination of music from the film and original music.

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