Tron: Evolution Interview (PC)

Movie tie-in games always have a bit of stigma associated with them. It's hard to see them as anything more than a piece of mass-produced consumer ware that's just trying to cash in on the success of the film it's tied too, and few such games have done well. Tron: Evolution however looks like it's going to break that stereotype. We sat down with Game Director Darren Hodges and asked him a few questions about the game.

Strategy Informer: Being a movie tie-in game, how did you find coping with the pressure of having to be ready fairly near to the release of the film?

Darren Hodges: We were actually quite lucky with Tron because we really started about 2008 around ComicCon just after Joe Kezsinki had done his test piece. So we started the project then and had a lot more time than your average movie-based game. Most movie-based games start when principle photography because that's when they know the film is definitely going to get made. So we were very fortunate to know that Disney, after having seen the reaction at ComicCon, were like "Ok! Full Steam Ahead!". We were talking to some of the guys shortly after that about what we could do within the universe.

Time pressure wise? Yeah, there's always Time Pressure. Even when you're not a movie based game there's a window of opportunity that you just have to hit. We're not unlike any other game for that matter. Having worked previously on FIFA where it's pretty much an annual cycle, it's not something that's unfamiliar to me.

Strategy Informer: How receptive were the cast to lending their voice talent? If you take Bruce Boxleitner for example, back during the original Tron movie it would never have come up for him to lend his talent to the games of old.

Darren Hodges: They were really receptive. It helped that when we started the process with Sean and Joe, they wanted to make this a truly 'Trans-Media' event, so it wasn't just the movie - it was the Game, the comic books, the TV series and everything. Once we'd started fleshing out what the game was going to be, we started approaching the talent of the movie. You already know about Olivia Wilde and Bruce who are in the game, we'll announce our full cast list later on this month.

They were extremely receptive to doing it, and working close to them was a dream. They're both consummate professionals, they both wanted to try and add to the universe. Their characters are much younger in this game so it's actually really fun trying to figure out, with Olivia for example, what her character would have sounded like, how she would have acted etc... 200 Tron years earlier. What kind of character was she? How does she get from the more young, spunky warrior that she is in our game to the grown-up, mature confident of Kevin Flynn in Tron: Legacy?

Strategy Informer: The original Tron film was a bit of a cult classic, but nothing was really 'done' with the universe apart from that and a few retro games. Now, 28 years later you've got the new film, the game etc... What was it like trying to fill the gaps in the lore for something from nearly three decades ago?

Darren Hodges: It was very exciting actually. All of a sudden you're given this opportunity where you know there are two points of history - Tron and Tron: Legacy. And since Steven Lisberger (the director for the original film) was involved in Legacy as well it made things easy, but it was also really exciting and hard work. You talk it through with Steven and Joe about how the universe came to be - what Flynn did after the film. It was like a big nerdgasm because I'm a massive Tron geek as well, and listening to those two talk was fantastic. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and we started asking ourselves where was the edges of the paper, how far could we go, where can we take this - how deep is that rabbit hole?

So you start looking at the ISO's in Tron: Evolution - where did they come from, what is there purpose, what happened to them? If you take the individual ISO's - what part did they play in the downfall of the universe? How did they react to it? All of those questions we got to answer ourselves as we created the world and the characters. Then looking at it from the broad spectrum we looked at how it fitted into the narrative with these two points in time, and working with the guys on the mythology document was really exciting. It's like this enormous Tron bible, everything that happened from 1982 through to 2010. It answers all of the little questions that may not mean anything to anybody else, but means a lot to them. As I said, it was a bit of nergasm.

Strategy Informer: Does the game finish where the film starts off more or less?

Darren Hodges: There's a small gap between the game and the film. Part of the reasoning for that is to do with all of the other things we're doing with the franchise, but also the other part is that we need time for one of our characters to develop into the what they become in the movie.

Strategy Informer: Does this mean that there's going to be another game then?

Darren Hodges: I'd love there to be another game, but I'm not working on one right now.

Strategy Informer: You've said that game actually takes place in 1989/1990, eight years after the original film, however the visual style of the game looks almost exactly like the new film, even though it's still 20 odd year earlier - was that a deliberate choice?

Darren Hodges: Aesthetically we chose to keep Tron City close to how you see it in the movie - there are some differences but ultimately we decided to keep things simple for the consumer. We wanted to keep a sense of familiarity so that you could come straight of Legacy, go to your local GAME and buy Evolution, and instantly recognise where you are, and vice versa. The other cities you see in Tron Evolution however are totally different. The Survivalist City, The Spiritualist City, the main bad-guy's warship that you see, the outlands... they all look different. But Tron City we wanted to keep familiar.
A short but sweet interview with one of the guys behind the magic. You can read more about our thoughts in our preview, but we don't mind saying that this is one of the more exciting movie tie-in games we've seen in a long time. Keep an eye on it, and bring on the film!