Modern Makeover
Issue: Volume: 26 Issue: 7 (July 2003)

Modern Makeover

By Phil LoPiccolo

Q: When creating the game TRON 2.0, was it important to remain true to the vision of TRON, the movie?
Bob Picunko is marketing director for Buena Vista Interactive, publisher of the new game TRON 2.0.

A: Yes. We wanted to do something for the fans who have kept the property alive—it's amazing that virtually nothing has been done with the TRON property in the last 20 years, and yet it continues to have a loyal fan base. In the game, fans will get references to the original film, information about what has happened in the TRON world during the interim, as well as the next chapter of the story. Yet we also wanted to introduce TRON to a new generation and give those unfamiliar with the story a completely new world to explore—one that is different from the space-alien hunting, dungeon-demon fighting, and World War II simulations that are in their third, fourth, and fifth incarnations.

Q: What were you trying to accomplish with the visual style of the game?

A: TRON was the first movie to use computer graphic images. Its creators pushed the limits of technology and created a unique visual style that has never really been duplicated. Rather than try to precisely re-create that style, we wanted to produce what filmmakers would have done if they were making TRON today. We worked with our partners Monolith and nVidia to create new technology to design the glow effect, the new lightcycles, and the environments, which are alive with pulsing energy and flowing data streams. From the very beginning, we wanted to blow past the visuals of the original movie.

Q: What was the greatest departure in TRON 2.0?

A: The depiction of viral corruption. In 1982, the concept of a computer virus didn't exist. But a key part of the TRON 2.0 story involves a ferocious computer virus that spreads from program to program, overtakes the system, shuts down servers, and threatens to spread to the entire Internet. Another departure is the new lightcycle. In the film, lightcycle riders were supposed to be visible. But because of the limited processing power available at the time, it was impractical for them to be rendered, so they were enclosed inside the vehicles. For our new lightcycles, the riders are on the outside, as originally intended.

Q: Will TRON 2.0 spark a new interest in creating games based on other properties?

A: There is a whole "graying of gamers" revolution going on. Years ago, gaming was for kids. Today, those kids have grown up and are still playing games, so we will likely see new games based on the movies and TV shows that were popular when adult gamers were younger. Even so, I separate TRON from the renewed interest in classic film and TV properties because TRON was such a natural property from which to create a game. It was about a game programmer who owned an arcade and battled AI on the Game Grid. It spawned several popular games, including two classic arcade titles. We're excited at the prospect of TRON 2.0 helping to inspire a new TRON film and perhaps a series of subsequent games.

Q: What other projects of this sort are in the works?

A: We are working on projects based on a number of properties, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Alias, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Q: How will the union between movie studios and software companies evolve?

A: I have been working in this business for more than 10 years and have never seen the kind of collaboration that is going on between studios and game creators today. The current generation of technology makes it possible to accurately re-create the action of the big screen. More and more actors, directors, writers, filmmakers, and theatrical marketing people are gamers and are comfortable with technology. Models, technology, and AI are being shared between game programmers and special effects houses. Over the next few years, I expect that we are going to see much more collaboration and integration between films and games. ..