One of the strangest things about TRON is that, despite being set in the world of video games, there’s never really been a great video adaptation of the series. The first game in the franchise came hot on the light trail of the original film; a coin-operated cabinet that dramatised scenes in simple fashion. Then, after a gap of almost two decades, in 2003 came Tron 2.0, at the time the closest thing to an official sequel, which functioned as a nicely designed (if standard to play) FPS. And, of course, to tie into TRON: Legacy‘s release there was TRON: Evolution, a game that wound up being an acceptable experience (but far from a standout).
The TRON situation is almost the reverse of the classic video game movie problem. It’s particularly strange because so many elements of TRON lend themselves to being made interactive – obviously there are the light cycles, but disc battles and going off-grid feel tailor-made for great gameplay – and the prospect of something that explores the alternate reality experience is incredibly exciting. Yet while there’s plenty of stellar indie games that took inspiration from the series, pickings are very slim when it comes to officially endorsed output.
DidYouKnowGaming? has set its sights on TRON for the latest in its Unseen64 series, which looks at the fascinating world of cancelled licensed games. The video hones in on Day 1 Studios, the company behind the console ports of F.E.A.R. and full development of F.E.A.R. 3. Back in 2008, with TRON: Legacy on the horizon, Disney looked to commission a linked game (which eventually became Evolution), approaching several potential developers. Going off the Comic-Con footage for the sequel, Day 1 worked on a prototype that fit Legacy‘s developed visual style and boasted very free, fluid gameplay, but things never advanced into proper development, presumed to be due to the time and budget constraints. The video goes into the hows and whys in real detail.
Probably the most interesting thing in the video is the highlighting of Disney’s approach to the ideas stage, getting multiple developers to work on detailed pitches with very little stated requirements. This led to Day 1 pushing off in rather interesting directions – based on the footage shown, it looks to be that light cycle game that fans have always wanted, with massive arenas and some degree of real freedom in the battles. Of course, it is just a prototype and there’s no guarantee the finished product would have been as good as it looks here.
The game was just one part of a massive multi-media TRON reboot Disney had been planning to kick off with the release of Legacy. However, due to the movie not quite connecting with audiences as expected (it turned a profit, but didn’t leave much of an impact) that petered out rather quickly, with the proposed third movie cancelled in 2015 after years of stalling. Seeing as Disney are now behind Marvel and Star Wars, the two biggest multi-media franchises in town, TRON not going anywhere likely doesn’t bother the Mouse House too much though.