A companion to the TRON 2.0 Unofficial FAQ that provides up-to-date
news about the TRON 2.0 gaming community and TRON in general.





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TRON 2.0 - The Past

By TronFAQ on Tuesday, June 27, 2006 at 2:30 PM
This is the first of three articles I was hinting at, back in the conclusion of my BVG And Monolith Future Game Titles post. The third and final piece, will closely relate to what was said in that previous article.

But right now, I'm going to present an essay (manifesto, open letter, whatever) that I wrote last year and was part of my FAQ. This was shortly after BVG slammed the door in the fans' faces by withdrawing an offer to release more editing materials for TRON 2.0 (which would have meant better custom maps and mods), plus removing the original TRON 2.0 site and substituting it with a nearly useless replacement.

I'm curious to hear if any of you think my comments were justified, or was I just ranting and off my rocker? You decide . . .


Why Buena Vista Games Sucks

A frank essay on Buena Vista Games by the FAQ Author
July 18, 2005 by TronFAQ


The following, is the story of my involvement in the TRON 2.0 game community from its earliest days until the present (as of the date of this essay). It's also the story of my dealings with Buena Vista Games. Certain people's identities are protected out of common courtesy and respect, though I have very little of the latter remaining for the corporate entity known as Buena Vista Games (henceforth referred to as BVG).

The opinions expressed in this essay are my own, while all facts stated are truthful to the best of my knowledge.



It all started in late 2002, when TRON 2.0 was being widely publicized as coming soon to the PC. I couldn't believe it! Finally a commercially-made TRON game, for the PC. A dream come true, for just about any TRON fan. It didn't matter that the game's setting took place at a later point in time, with a new and updated look. The screenshots and videos still screamed TRON. It looked very faithful to the spirit of the film. When I learned Monolith Productions was developing the game, I then realized why it looked so promising. The No One Lives Forever games they developed, were some of the most original and entertaining titles released, in recent memory.

I remember when the first teaser videos were released, and how I couldn't stop watching them. I upgraded my PC around that time, to be sure that it could handle the requirements of the game. That way I'd have it running nice and smooth with the best visual quality, that I could afford. March of 2003, couldn't come fast enough!

By the promised release date, BVG announced that the game was being delayed until August of that year. No real explanation was given, and many were disappointed with the delay. (I know I was.) But everyone eventually decided that the delay probably meant TRON 2.0 would end up being an even better game, because of it. A rumor suggests that BVG did a focus group study: which revealed the Multiplayer component of the game to be much more important, than they anticipated. For example . . . the Light Cycle mode of the game had not originally been intended as a Multiplayer feature, at all. This forced Monolith to go back to the drawing board, and make certain that Light Cycles was at least playable in Multiplayer on a LAN setup. (Indeed, that game mode still warns you that Light Cycles is intended as LAN Only when you want to play online over the Internet. Though it might surprise you to learn that Light Cycles actually works pretty well online. Funny though, how BVG had some Light Cycle servers running for a short time. Oops! Can't endorse online play, when that part of the game is not officially supposed to be used for online play!)

Around that time, I decided to create a web site that would speculate on what TRON 2.0 would be like. It reported any rumors I'd heard about the game. It also featured pre-production artwork I'd found publicly available (remember this point) on certain game sites. I announced my creation on the popular TRON web site, TRON-Sector. Shortly after, I was contacted by an employee of BVG. The employee stated that I would be required to remove the artwork, or possibly face the wrath of Disney lawyers. This employee also wanted to know where I had gotten the artwork. I was told the art was too much of a spoiler for the game . . . and I came to realize that I agreed with that point. There would be the possibility later, that I could post the artwork again.

So out of respect, I removed the site. I also mentioned where I had gotten the art, and was told that the game sites would have to comply and remove the artwork too. Funny then, that those sites never did. (Yes, I kept an eye on that.) In the end, my guess is that I'd "scooped" BVG, who intended to put that art on their own TRON 2.0 web site. And sure enough they did, not too long afterward. So it was okay for everyone else to show off the artwork, but not me. Ah well, water under the bridge.

Shortly before the release of the game, I got the idea of writing an FAQ for it. Which you see before you. When I was looking for a host . . . at one point Auric at TRON-Sector approached me about it. He seemed interested in hosting it. But alas, that never happened. Undaunted, I went ahead with my plans to create an HTML FAQ web site for TRON 2.0. (Which will be completed some day, even if it kills me. )


Then the day came, when TRON 2.0 was released. What a wonderful time that was. Meanwhile, the previously released demos had attracted hundreds of players online. You'd have absolutely no problem finding people to play against, back then. (I'd chosen not to actually participate in Multiplayer online gameplay before that point . . . which I've come to regret now.) So many people were excited about this game, at the time of its release. I finally got my hands on a copy a bit later than I'd hoped, and in the meantime many others had been raving about TRON 2.0, and spoiling Single Player game details online! But, life was good. It was a great time to be a fan of TRON. Finally, there was a TRON game on the market!

Only a few days after the official release date, TRON 2.0 had its first patch available for download. The official message boards for the TRON 2.0 site were bursting with activity. All seemed well. But it was already around this time, that BVG and TRON 2.0 slowly started down their slippery slope into the abyss. Sad that BVG had to drag such a wonderful game down with them.

The first patch (labelled v1.020) had obviously been poorly tested. It seemed to create more problems, than it solved. Players cried foul when after the new Light Cycle skip race feature was used, they would eventually become stuck on the Main Power Pipeline level, and could no longer finish the game without potentially having to restart from scratch. The official message boards were then flooded with complaints. After being continually asked, no one from BVG would give an ETA on when another patch would be released to fix this new bug.

Here's an amusing side-story. Did you know that there was a contest by BVG to have someone's likeness placed in one of the demos, or even the TRON 2.0 game itself? And did you know that no winner was ever announced, nor was anyone's likeness used anywhere in the demos or full game? Then a short time later, another contest from BVG appeared. Send in a photo of your Halloween TRON costume, and the best one will win a prize. Can you guess what happened? That's right, no winner was announced this time either. I wonder . . . is it legal to announce a contest: and then never reveal a winner, nor award a prize? Hmm.

Right after the second contest announcement, it was in October of 2003 that the second patch (v1.030) was released. This patch finally addressed the nasty bug introduced in the previous one, and fixed a lot of other things as well. There were still some problems remaining in the game (that haven't been fixed to this day): but at least this patch was well done, and kudos goes out to Monolith for getting it right. It would have been nice though, if a BVG employee could have told us when to expect the patch. As you'll come to see, the lack of communication from BVG about an issue like this was not an unusual event . . . it was standard practice.

Next came the TRON 2.0 Editing Tools. Actually, there came two versions of the editing tools. Once again, BVG message board moderators failed to announce this fact to their customers. It was left up to them, to discover the newer release and download it. According to the press release that accompanied the arrival of the tools, players would be able to create "new TRON 2.0 levels, maps, skins, weapons and voice packs". Let's address those items, point by point.

Levels and Maps. Aren't they essentially the same thing? Why this double-talk? Moving on. Skins. Yes, it's possible to make new skins without too much difficulty. But I don't really see how the editing tools help with that, very much. There's nothing included, to specifically assist with creating new skins. So that claim is a bit misleading. But I'll let it pass. Voice packs. Yes, I suppose the WaveEdit tool included, can help somewhat with that. But realistically, you'll need a third-party waveform sound editor to do your own voices for TRON 2.0.

Weapons. Well, I have to call a spade a spade. That's a lie. There are not enough resources included with the editing tools, to create a totally new weapon for TRON 2.0. In fact, you would need the game's source code to do that. So much for new weapons, then. Oh, and at one point a number of us could've sworn the press release mentioned you could create new Models too, but I won't ramble on about it. (Suffice it to say that making new models with what we were given, is next to impossible for the average enthusiast. It was wise to remove that reference, if indeed it had been present.)

About a month later in November, another patch (v1.040) was released. Oh, actually, make that two versions of the patch. (Sound familiar?) BVG had heard — but once again not acknowledged — our cries that Multiplayer was lacking a Deathmatch mode (now called Derez in TRON 2.0). So this patch was released, to address that complaint. Um, again . . . make that two patches. You see, the first version was released on File Planet. You can call this one v1.040a. Then a few days later, a slightly different patch was released on the TRON 2.0 site. You can call that one v1.040b. The two slightly different, conflicting, versions lead to some amount of chaos. To try and cover for this blunder, BVG set up servers with names like BVG 1a and BVG 1b. People who had the a patch could only connect to the a servers, and b to b.

But wait! This story gets even better!

When people who used Windows 98, Me, or 2000, tried to install either patch . . . it didn't work. What was going on? Well, in a brilliant public relations move, BVG failed to tell anyone in the download descriptions or the patch itself that Windows XP was a requirement. (At least, not until it was too late.)

Say what? You needed XP to play the new Deathmatch (Derez) mode?!

Yes, that's right. Your operating system version was a requirement, in order to play a new game mode. That's a new one, isn't it? The reason for this, is because the new Deathmatch feature of the update was sponsored by Microsoft. It became part of their Windows XP Extras promotion. Anything sponsored by this program, had to run on XP only. In retrospect, I suppose this move was better than no Deathmatch update at all. But BVG clearly could have handled this debacle, much better than it did. Fortunately, an unofficial patch was quickly created to remove the XP requirement. (And eventually, months later, BVG released their own official patch that removed the XP requirement. But by then, the damage was done.)

It was around this time that you could notice the number of TRON 2.0 players online, starting to drop off in numbers. The way BVG had been handling the game's promotion and support, was taking a heavy toll on its popularity. Word through the grapevine said that BVG wasn't happy with the game's sales numbers by this point, so that is why they didn't really care too much any more about supporting the game. (There were claims of prevalent piracy of the title, that were responsible for the "poor sales".)

Meanwhile, the remaining players were discovering that the v1.040b patch had severe bugs. This update again clearly suffered from lack of time, to polish and test it. The number of annoying bugs are too numerous to mention, so I won't bother repeating them. (They are listed elsewhere in this FAQ.) Once more, the official TRON 2.0 message boards were flooded with requests for an ETA on the next patch. And as usual, no answer was given.

Then myself and a few others, had — by now — repeatedly mentioned a problem, that we'd discovered with the Single Player portion of the game. The official walkthrough guide book for TRON 2.0, stated that you could reach or even pass a score of v10.0.0. The game's Producer said the same thing, on various TRON web sites. Yet, no one had ever managed to do it. Even if you followed the walkthrough guide, the maximum score you could achieve was v9.8.3. After constantly pointing it out, the Producer finally came to realize there was actually a mistake in the game, preventing you from reaching v10.0.0. As a result, this would now also be fixed in the next patch. Of course, far be it from anyone at BVG to ever state an ETA time-frame for a patch! So we waited once again, patiently.

The patch labelled v1.042 came just before Christmas Eve, of 2003. I guess you could call it a Christmas present from BVG? Too bad it would be the last one. This update removed most of the remaining bugs in the game, but certainly not all of them. Of course, this patch also still required Windows XP. It wouldn't be until months later that BVG released the v1.042 patch in a form that didn't require XP. (No other changes, though.) Regardless, you might call this final patch a successful one. No real "showstopper" bugs remained in TRON 2.0 with this update in place.


Now let's fast forward to November, 2004. During this period of time, a version of TRON 2.0 had been announced for the Xbox, entitled TRON 2.0: Killer App. It would have all the features of the PC version, plus more. There would be new player characters, weapons, maps, and even new game modes. While the Deathmatch update from TRON 2.0 had been a good start, fans still wanted more: including a Capture the Flag mode, and the ability to switch between Light Cycles and moving on foot. But only the Xbox version, got what they had been asking for. Even as PC owners clamored for an expansion or update that would add the new features to the PC version, it became apparent that no such thing would occur.

That's right. The PC version had essentially been abandoned, by this point.

Sure, BVG was still paying lip service to its PC customers by taking technical support calls, keeping the message boards running, keeping the site up . . . but in reality, the game was a dead issue in their eyes. They'd rather spend their time on a console version, that they thought would sell better. Screw the PC customers.

But due to several inept moves on their part (poor marketing, released at the same time as Halo 2, poor Quality Assurance that left nasty bugs in the game and resulted in many defective discs), Killer App for the Xbox was a dismal failure that did far worse than the PC version. The price was slashed in half, only a month after its release. When a game drops in price that fast, you know it bombed. And the numerous complaints on the official Killer App message boards, only cemented the evidence that the game was a disaster for BVG.


Around January of 2005, some of the remaining members in the PC community who developed maps and other add-ons for TRON 2.0, decided to try and contact BVG. This group, is known as the TRON Community Developer Group (or TCDG for short): who make their home on the Boxhat web site. I am a member of this group, along with several others: including members of the LDSO clan; and Xistence (or ldso.X³), whom you may know for his spectacular custom Disc Arena maps. Xistence had already been trying — for a long time — to get BVG to work with the community and help them out, by releasing additional editing materials, and even the source code for the game itself. This would have allowed for the possibility of some incredible mods for TRON 2.0, that simply cannot be accomplished any other way.

We decided together as a group, to try contacting BVG again about these issues. Initially, the company was receptive. Things were starting to look better again, for owners of TRON 2.0 for the PC. Finally, there might be the possibility of additional features, bug fixes, and more professional-looking maps. Everyone in the group was excited, with this new line of communication that had been opened. As it turned out, I was chosen to become the representative in direct contact with BVG, during any discussions between our group and the company.

Now . . . how can I write the words that follow, in a civil manner? Well, I'll try. To make a long story short: after initially being receptive, BVG stalled for more than four months, and then finally broke off communications with us. I'd received, in polite terms, the brush-off in my final conversation. I was told that circumstances at the company had changed, since the initial discussion back in January.

Excuses, excuses.


So here we are, in the present. It's July 2005, as of this writing.

To further demonstrate that BVG no longer gives a damn about its TRON 2.0 PC customers — even though they still continue to sell the game to this day — the company has just recently changed the TRON 2.0 web site. It now lacks any links to the game's editing tools and patches. I would imagine that at least referring its customers to the latest v1.042 patch is an important thing, don't you think?

Especially considering that without the latest patch, you are missing out on an entirely new game mode? And additionally, you cannot play online with Multiplayer until you patch the game?

Did you know that the screenshots featured on the new PC TRON 2.0 site, are exactly the same ones as the Xbox version? And that items featured in these screenshots, are only available on the Xbox? Wouldn't that be considered false advertising?

Finally . . . in a not very smart move: BVG essentially took down the official TRON 2.0 message boards, after less than two years since the game's release, and removed the link to them from the new site. So now, customers using the Internet who are looking for technical support or to find out about fan sites in the TRON 2.0 community, are out of luck. Meanwhile, the Monolith game No One Lives Forever — which was released approximately five years ago — still has message boards for its customers. In fact . . . many games older than TRON 2.0 still have official company run message boards! Why were ours taken down so soon? Surely the cost of maintaining and moderating them, wasn't so prohibitive? I mean, come on!

No, fellow TRON fans. This is clearly a company, that just simply doesn't give a damn about its customers. If after reading this entire essay, you are not convinced of that . . . then you must not give a damn about TRON 2.0, either. The signs were there right from the beginning, but many of us tried to look past them. However, in the end: the true nature of BVG's attitude toward its customers, finally hit home.

Just to be clear . . . I know there are good people working at BVG, like at any company. I am not targeting them. Instead, I'm taking aim at the people in charge who make the decisions. People who do not seem to know the first thing about treating their customers with respect.


By now you must be asking — and I thank you for your patience, for reading through all of this — what is the point of this essay? Why did I write it?

Because together with me, and all the other owners of the PC version of TRON 2.0, I want to take a stand against BVG. One final effort, to make them see that — as long as they still sell this game — they can't shirk their duties to their paying customers. Bring back the message boards. Put links on the main site to the editing tools, patches, and even fan sites. That is the least, that they should do.

But more than that . . . would you still like to see an expansion pack, that fixes the remaining bugs in TRON 2.0, and at a minimum adds the new features from the Xbox version of the game? Yes? Then sign my petition. Click on the link below, and read it. Then add your name to the list.

Mac owners of TRON 2.0 from MacPlay will want to sign this petition, too. Because if the PC version doesn't get an expansion, then neither will the Mac version!

What chance is there, of this petition working? Well, to be honest: unless the petition receives a lot, and I mean a lot of signatures . . . we're talking thousands of names . . . then probably, nothing. But what is there to lose? Nothing, unless you don't try! That is my motto here. Dammit, I'm going to try! Instead of sitting on my ass, and doing zilch!

If you wish to remain anonymous, that's fine. Go ahead and sign with your screen name. But still sign, just the same! I'd prefer you use your real name, but it's up to you.


Thank you,

TronFAQ

Click here to read and sign the Petition!
 
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