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Interview With TRON 2.0 Team Member Kevin Lambert (Lead Programmer) for the 20th Anniversary of TRON 2.0

By TronFAQ on Sunday, September 24, 2023 at 3:30 PM
For the 20th Anniversary of TRON 2.0 (August 26, 2003), I approached Kevin Lambert and asked if he would be willing to do an interview.

He agreed, but suggested we do it as a spoken interview, rather than simply via e-mail correspondence. An opportunity which, of course, I could not pass up.

Kevin has now founded his own game company, Koin Games. But back in 2003, he was the Lead Programmer of TRON 2.0, and Designer of the Light Cycles experience in the game, at Monolith Productions.

Before the interview I asked fans, on various social media sites, to submit questions for Kevin. So, in addition to my own, this interview features questions from those fans. Where the fans asked the same questions that I intended to ask: I combined them with my own, while still trying to keep the nuances of their variations.

Note that this interview contains SPOILERS, if you haven't finished TRON 2.0.

Above is the spoken version of the interview, in video form. With some visuals, to sometimes illustrate the subject we're talking about at that moment.

Below is the written version. This isn't always a word-for-word transcript, but rather it largely summarizes the interview, with responses from Kevin.

You may also want to check out the interview I did several years ago with TRON 2.0 Disc Arena Designer Dan Miller, in written form.

FAQ: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How you became interested in working in the game industry?

Kevin: Yeah, no problem, and it's either a boring story or an exciting story depending on which end of the spectrum you're on, I guess. But I've known I wanted to make video games ever since I was a kid. So my career path was very, very natural and simple for me. I think it all started when I was in a roller skating rink in the seventies and, you know, everybody's going around the roller skating rink, and I'm in the video arcade. Which had pinball machines and Space Invaders at the time.

And I'm just in there — eyes wide open, jaw on the floor — watching. I didn't have any money, so I'm just watching the people play these games. And I'm like, this is awesome, how do I do this. I want to do this. They didn't have schools for game creation or game design, back when I was going through school and college, which was unfortunate. Now they do, they have DigiPen and Full Sail [University], and a few gaming schools: if you want to be an artist, or a game programmer, or game designer.

I just had to immerse myself in the medium, and that meant playing video games every weekend, and getting my parents to take me to the arcades at the mall. And learning how to conserve quarters, eventually saving up my money to buy video game consoles. As long as my grades were good, I was allowed to continue playing them. Thankfully they didn't limit my screen time, that would have been bad. Laughs. Although, they didn't really understand it as a job, because it wasn't very popular — you know, not everyone wanted to be a video game designer [back then].

So my parents were like, why don't you get a skill — a real skill that we understand — just in case this whole games thing doesn't work out, which we totally respect [your decision], but you know, is there any career that you can get into that we understand. And, I'm like, well I love tech. So, maybe "computer programmer" is the way to get into the career world, but really [I'm] just trying to get into game design/game development.

And so, they said that's great. I got my degree in computer science at University of Texas, at UT in Austin, and sent out resumes to try to be a game programmer. And I got hired at Monolith. I was, I think, the sixth employee there. One of the earliest employees there, [and] I think I was their second programmer hire, and I really just wanted to get into game design.

But it's — when you're a programmer with a game designer mind, or DNA — it's really empowering because you wake up in the morning, and you say "hey wouldn't it be cool if the game could do this" — and have sharks with laser beams, or whatever — and then by the afternoon you're putting that stuff in the game, because you can do that as a programmer. It won't be pretty, but you're getting stuff in, and working, and able to test really easily. So that was really powerful, that combination.

And, you know, after about five [to] six years at Monolith, I transitioned: where I did kind of a combination of game design and programming. I transitioned into full-time game design after that, with my first game being Dungeon Siege II at Gas Powered Games, and since then I was full-time game design after that, for the next 20 years, or so.

Between Gas Powered and Microsoft, I did a few other little endeavors. I did a startup that got acquired by Activision and rebranded as Sierra Online, if you're familiar with that name. And I did a little startup of a make your own game kind of product that unfortunately didn't quite get off the ground.

Then I joined Microsoft as the head of design for their casual game studio. So that was remaking all the games like Solitaire, Minesweeper, Jigsaw, Mahjong, and modernizing them. To give them [a] kind of stickiness, and retention features, and find a way to monetize those games. They had always been free, and they still are free, but we added an advertising revenue model so you could play for free and, you know, just watch ads occasionally from time to time. And they did really well.

[Then] I started my own game company [Koin Games], because I got really excited about some new technology that's coming up in the space. It allows for digital property ownership. So when you play your games, and you put them on the shelf: you lose all of that time that you spent, and any money that you've spent [in] that game. It's all just gone.

I saw that as a problem, and I'm excited to be working on games where players get to keep their stuff, and you take it from game to game, and get cool experiential benefits for that. There's some new technology that allows for that, it's very experimental, and there's a lot of people not using it right. Or using it in a crappy way. And I'm really excited to build some games where players get to own their stuff, and participate in the development with the studio as the game's being developed, rather than have to wait till it launches. It's pretty cool.

FAQ: How did you begin your career at Monolith Productions, and what games did you work on before TRON 2.0?

Kevin: I started at Monolith as a programmer. To get my feet wet I worked on some little internal tools. Then the Windows 95 Games Sampler CD was officially my first project there. That was actually a collection of games on this little spaceship that we had. You'd run around on a spaceship, go up to these little kiosks, just click the game, and it would launch.

So you get to try all of these games, and it was to prove that Windows 95 was a gaming platform. Because there were a lot of, um, purists who said you can't make a game if it's not on DOS, the old operating system. "Windows will never take off as a gaming platform." And we're like: "Yes it will, it's awesome, let us show you how this can work." So we partnered with a bunch of gaming studios.

One of them was a little studio that not a lot of people knew, called Blizzard. And they had this little game that no one had heard of called Diablo. I got to play that while it was in development on the Games Sampler CD, and everybody in the office was addicted to it. We're, like, "when's the next build coming in, we gotta play this all day." It was pretty cool.

After Windows 95 Games Sampler CD, I worked on a 2D side-scroller called Captain Claw. That game was so fun, and I designed all of the bosses for that game. [Then] worked on a game called Get Medieval, which was like Gauntlet the old arcade game. We did a top-down four player co-op version of that. [Followed by] No One Lives Forever 2, the sequel. I worked on that. That was fun, and I got to make a [version of the] game for the PlayStation 2. Which I had never made a game for. So I got to flex some programming chops for that, because it was a new device that we had never used.

And, you know, Monolith was kind of known for its first-person shooters, but I was always a fan of . . . kind of the alternate games. If you look at the games that I worked on, they're all the other games that Monolith made. Like the side-scrolling platformer, and the action adventure game, and the Gauntlet style game. I worked on one called Sanity: Aiken's Artifact, that was like an action RPG kind of game, and that was pretty fun.

And a little bit of Aliens versus Predator 2, and I designed and did most of the programming for a puzzle game called Gruntz. That was, I guess you could call it a casual game that was ahead of its time. It was kind of a cross between the old game Lemmings where you had to get all the little guys to the exit, and Warcraft II where you had this top-down kind of click and select, and tell your guys where you want them to move, kind of game. But it was a puzzle game.

I like making games so much that it doesn't feel like work to me. And even when, and if, I have the financial freedom to retire: I'm still gonna be making games. Because I just like doing it so much. Like, what else are you gonna do, right? It's just a lot of fun.

FAQ: As a Programmer and Designer on many of the games using Monolith's Lithtech engine, you were almost certainly asked to work on TRON 2.0 from the start.

Or, did you volunteer when you found out Monolith was making a
TRON game?

Were you a fan of
TRON before working on the game, or did you become one during development?

Kevin: I was there from the very start of that game, when we pitched the idea to Disney, their games division which was called Buena Vista Interactive. I was a huge fan of the original movie TRON, and the arcade game. In fact, I really wanted to make TRON 2.0 into a successor to the original arcade game. With all the mini-games and the Tanks, Recognizer flight, Discs, and I wanted Light Cycles.

I wanted to do that, and when when we pitched that to Buena Vista, they said: "You know, the reason why we're considering Monolith is because we love your first-person shooters. We love No One Lives Forever, we love Shogo. And we want that in the TRON universe."

Which was exciting, that they were talking to us. But disappointing at the same time, because I really wanted to make the more arcade-y kind of game. So, I'm like: "Well, can we at least have next-gen Light Cycles" and they said absolutely. We've got to have Light Cycles.

So, it's like: "Okay, great I'll just channel all of my passion and design energy, and excitement, into the Light Cycles of this." Since first-person shooter design is not my jam. And we had a great game designer at the time, Frank Rooke, who was the Lead Game Designer for TRON 2.0. So that was a good match. Then I just did all of the Light Cycles.

There were two arcade games, there was the original TRON and then Discs of TRON, and the original one had the four mini-games. The Light Cycles, the MCP cone, the spiders [Grid Bugs], and the Tanks, and I wanted to make a spiritual successor to that. With more mini-games and [a] meta game to kind of glue them all together.

I still think that would be an awesome game. Hopefully somebody gets that from Disney, and they they make a new TRON game. [If given the opportunity] I would be totally into that.

FAQ: When did development of TRON 2.0 start at Monolith?

Kevin: Well, I think the game released in August 2003, if I'm not mistaken. So it must have been 2001 sometime, when development began. That was so long ago. It's certainly possible that we did some ideating and brainstorming that, you know, it could have been late 2000.

A post-mortem written by Frank Rooke, the Lead Game Designer of TRON 2.0, stated that development took two years. But while production of the game may have started in earnest in 2001 or early 2002, there is evidence in the game's assets that suggests development may have started as early as November or December 2000 (right after the release of No One Lives Forever). Specifically, a comment in a file that reads "TRON 2000".

FAQ: The original title of the game was going to be TRON: Killer App. (As evidenced in the TRON 20th Anniversary DVD promo for the game.) When did the title change to TRON 2.0?

Do you know what the process was, that led to the decision responsible for changing the name?

Kevin: I'm not sure when it changed, and I want to say the name Killer App was a backup. Because we weren't sure Disney would allow us to use the TRON 2.0 name, which we definitely preferred. This was before the sequel movie was planned, or even had a script.

So I think we had Killer App as a safer name. But if you asked the team, what do you guys want to call it, we would have said TRON 2.0 just makes so much sense. It's geeky, and it's cool.

FAQ: I think it's definitely a better name. It was a better choice, in the end. Although Disney did reuse the the "Killer App" moniker for the later Xbox and Game Boy Advance versions of the game. They added that on to the title, so it became TRON 2.0: Killer App. So they did reuse it, in the end.

Link to Promo video for TRON: Killer App (later to be named TRON 2.0) on the
20th Anniversary TRON DVD

FAQ: In a G4TV special that followed the release TRON 2.0, it was stated by TRON 2.0 Lead Artist Matt Allen that the reason the game's original early 2003 release date was delayed to August, is due to focus group testing showing that players wanted more Single Player Light Cycles gameplay.

But I had heard a rumor that it was also due to disappointment because of no Light Cycles via LAN or Online matches.
TRON 2.0 Lead Designer Frank Rooke stated in a 2002 radio interview that Online play over the internet definitely wasn't planned for the game's release.

Jace Hall, who was CEO of Monolith Productions at the time, though later confirmed in the G4TV special that Multiplayer had in fact eventually been expanded during the delay.

Online Light Cycles did end up being playable in the final game. (But with a warning about potential issues, due to lag. Though after playing countless online Light Cycle matches: I found a ping as high as 80 to be very playable, and even around 100 was still acceptable.)

Can you remember if LAN/Online Light Cycles was added specifically due to focus testing, and was another part of the reason for the game's release delay?

Kevin: If I recall, Online Light Cycles wasn't the reason for the delay. I think Disney wanted a few things. One of which was more Light Cycle goodness. They wanted a handful of things, including some things in the Single Player campaign mode, as well.

But I was stoked, just because they said we also want more Light Cycles, and Online Light Cycles. I mean, I designed and wrote the code for the entire Light Cycles feature. And during play testing, [a] warning was there because we were definitely worried about the online player experience over the internet.

The internet wasn't where it is today, where everybody can expect pings, like you know, [of] 50 to 100 milliseconds. Or, a lot of people can. And we were wondering, how is this going to translate on the internet when you have to make quick turns. So I wrote a client-side prediction algorithm to smooth that scenario out. But if you had a really terrible ping, it's still just not going to be an ideal game experience. So we felt it was appropriate to put that warning on there.

FAQ: I can say from the time that I played it back then: I think I started really playing Multiplayer around 2004, for years. And when we played Light Cycles, the community, we found that it actually worked quite well over the internet as long as the ping was around 100 [ms] or less. So it turned out to work fine.

Kevin: That sounds like the experience we had. I mean, we were playing it on a LAN, internally. So you had really, really small pings in that scenario, and we were having a blast playing it. Which validated the feature. But when we simulated packet loss over the Internet, like playing with someone across the world with a bad ping, it was definitely a choppier kind of [experience].

Frank Rooke states no Online Light Cycle gameplay for the game's release at the 14:03 mark. But Online Light Cycle Multiplayer ended up being supported, after all.

Matt Allen speaks about adding additional Light Cycle gameplay at the 16:19 mark

FAQ, P.Joe, TheWarlordShogun, neo, CMDR_Martin: Can you recall any features, items, or moments earlier in development, that were cut for the final version of TRON 2.0?

Kevin: Well, I'm not sure I'm going to know about them unless they were pretty big, or they involved the Light Cycles. Because most of my work on that game was concentrated in the Light Cycles feature.

I mean, I can tell you about the a secret Light Cycle feature that didn't quite make it in the final game. But I think some of your audience might already know about it, because I tweeted about it a couple years ago, [where you'd] responded to the challenge, and that was pretty awesome.

There's a feature present in TRON 2.0 that the level designers could have utilized, but went unused. It places the player in first-person view while riding a Light Cycle. For the purpose of having the player enter a jetwall trail maze, or a part of the level itself designed as a maze. Just as we saw Kevin Flynn do, in the original TRON film. (I'll also mention this in my question about easter eggs.)

Although I did discover this unused feature fairly early on, I didn't know what it was for. It wasn't until Kevin revealed what it does (first in a comment on Jace Hall's Facebook page, then on Kevin's personal web site), that I understood what I was looking at. And in response, I answered his challenge to create a Light Cycle maze using this. 😁

My response to Kevin's challenge, to find hidden first-person Light Cycle code

[It] was so awesome when you did that. Like, it sent a chill down my spine when I saw that, [and] I thought you — I wasn't sure if you had resurrected that, or did it yourself — but it looked just like the one I had in prototyping. I'm sitting in front of my laptop, and I saw that video you posted, and I yelled out "no freaking way!"

My wife runs in from the other room, and she's like "is everything okay, what's going on" and she thought I was having a heart attack or something. Laughs. It was awesome. That was so cool, that you did that, man.

FAQ: Yeah, I also recreated those "chevron" arrows. That are actually still in the game, but they're not really used for the purpose which you had in mind. They're just there in one level (Outer Grid Escape) to show you that you have to turn. But it's not like they appear to let you know, that you must turn. And it's not like being in a maze.

But I had the feeling that arrow was actually meant for what you were talking about. Putting someone in a maze, and then have the arrow appear — like you said — like in
Dragon's Lair, letting the player know when to turn at a specific moment, so they don't crash, and to navigate through the maze that way. I recreated that arrow, and then you mentioned, you said "that looks just like the arrow that I had in mind for for that feature."

Arrows in the Outer Grid Escape level, originally meant to be used in Light Cycle mazes

Kevin: I want to say that I had an asset that I used — when you went into first-person, by putting the object in the level editor — that kicked it into this mode. I think it used that same asset [the chevron arrow], which is why I thought it was the actual [original asset].

I think [the] game object in our version of the editor, where if you placed this game object and drove into it, it would initiate the first-person mode and the idea was that the little gate would open up at the end of the grid, when you finished the Light Cycles gameplay, and we're ready to transition off the grid.

You would put one of these objects at that doorway, and as soon as you drove through it, it would automatically transition you into the first-person mode and get you [to] watch for the arrows of how to turn. Then there would be an ending object, when you were done with the maze. That was how we were gonna do it, if we had [more] time [to finish TRON 2.0].

FAQ: It's too bad that didn't get in, but then again, maybe because a lot of people complained about the Light Cycles and actually thought it was too hard . . . maybe they would have been complaining about this, too.

Kevin: It would have been pretty hard, yeah. I mean, we would have had to test it, to get the grace period for the turn just right. Because you don't want to have to require pixel perfect turns. You'd know which way to turn because it would flash, you know, left, and then you just have to get the timing right.

But we wouldn't want to make it too hard, that you're just constantly smashing into the wall. That would get frustrating. It might have been difficult to balance that, so it felt right.

I'm personally aware, or lead to believe, of the following cuts or changes. There may still be some that I've missed. (Most are significant, some less so. There are numerous other smaller cuts/changes too, but listing them all would take far too long.)

I discovered most of these on my own, but I'd like to thank Andrew Borman (Digital Games Curator at the National Museum of Play) for making me aware of some of these.

For each cut feature, I've only included a reply from Kevin when he could recall something about it.

  • The Triton upgrade, to the Lithtech Jupiter engine, for TRON 2.0 apparently included an "edge generation" feature, that would procedurally generate lines on the edges of geometry, so many level structures would automatically have glowing edges that recreated the look of the original film. But due to technical reasons this was dropped in favor of manually creating textures, with lines drawn by hand that aligned with geometry edges.

    Link to article about TRON 2.0 at E3 2002, mentioning the "edge generation" feature briefly added to Lithtech Triton (before being removed again)

  • TRON 2.0 Beta testers claimed some cutscenes were trimmed. I've seen early videos, reviewing and promoting the game, that bear this out. And I've witnessed NPCs saying dialogue that wasn't in the final game.
Kevin: I'm sure that that happened, and it was either because the cutscenes were a little too long in some places, or it just or it wasn't working with the story. Or, it added some confusion. Frank Rooke would probably have a better answer on that, because he was overseeing all of the story and the cutscenes.

Kevin: I remember us talking about that in the early design phase of the game, and all saying: "Oh yes, that's awesome, that would be really cool." As for why that didn't manifest in the way that we had it in our heads, I'm not sure why that was. It might have been harder to execute than it was cool on paper, perhaps.

  • There were singing and drunk (on energy) Civilian Programs in the Progress Bar. This may have never been intended to appear in the final game, and was included as an inside joke — likely being a reference to No One Lives Forever — early in development. (Disney almost certainly wouldn't have allowed it in the final game, regardless.)

    Jace demoing early Progress Bar level with singing and drunk Programs
Kevin: I have a vague memory of that, and you know, one of the things we had to be really conscious of, was the rating for the game. Not the review rating, but the age rating. This was a time where you had to submit, to a rigorous review, anything that might be offensive or, you know, use of drugs or alcohol, or any of that stuff.

So we had to be really careful. Because we wanted to be on the right side, and not find ourselves offside on any kind of a rating, to have the widest possible audience. So that might have been a consideration. Like you said, if you weren't the only one who might think that there's a suggestion of alcohol use there . . . we wanted to be careful with our rating.

Kevin: I remember that animation. It was really cool. I don't know why it was cut. It could have been either what you said, a distraction for players, or . . . I can't imagine that it was a disc size concern. This was in the era where we had to be careful about not putting too much stuff [on the disc] or the install size would have would have got too large. But it sounds like– I don't think that animation would have added too much to it. So I'm not sure.

That's awesome [that you restored the spinning Disc animation]. Very cool.

Kevin: Yeah, that would be my assumption as well. I don't know the answer to why, but my game design sensibilities lead me to the same guess as you, for that one.

Kevin: I believe Dan. You know, I think bots in Multiplayer are a mixed bag, if you ask my opinion on them. They're great because they offer "liquidity" or matchmaking fast, but you have to make sure that the game design is good for bots. If it's not fun to play against bots because they're either too good or too bad, then you have a bad time.

There are certain games out there that are excellent for bots. Like chess is a really good one, and playing against bots in chess: they have different personalities, and they're fun to play against, and you can set the difficulty just right. There are examples of games that are that are great, and you can get a game instantly. [Where] if there's no humans around, you can always have a game.

In Discs, bot logic that would have passed muster in the way that I just described, like it's fun to play against these and I'm having a good time . . . I think it would be very difficult at the time when we were making this. So it was probably out of scope to do that.

Kevin: Oh boy, does that ring a bell. But I'm not sure. I remember Mercury, and I remember us talking — as story ideas were being bantered around — about another [female] Light Cyclist. But I think it got cut, I think Frank [Rooke] cut it.

Kevin: The Light Cycle trails were pretty tricky to get right, because you had to be able to spawn them in. There was like, a tile system. They had a front, and then a repeating part to them, and they needed to be able to be any length. So I think, due to the way the code was, certain effects didn't play with them super well. Or, we hadn't figured out how to do that. Or, we ran out of time, to be able to do that.

So when those promotional marketing assets were made, it was like "wouldn't it be cool if we did this." It was like, yeah that would be really cool. But I think we ran out of time, before we were able to try to get those in, and we had some bigger fish to fry. But those are really awesome, I remember seeing the promos for the effects on the trail.

And the ghosted one, for the Super [Light] Cycle, that one I'm not sure about. I remember the gradients and the effects, but that one . . . the ghosting, I'm not sure about it.

I love that [you were able to restore the Classic Light Cycle effects]. That's so awesome that you're able to do that. I can't wait to see it.

Kevin: I want to say that we prototyped that. Put [in] a little minimap, little dots on the map of where the other players were. And that nobody was able to have the bandwidth to look at that, and see where they were. Like, you're too focused on the game, and if you look up you're gonna smash into a wall or something. So it didn't manifest in the way that we thought it would. It was an easy feature, but it just didn't have the desired player experience that we were hoping.

There's also a narrative thing there. Like, you know, are Light Cycles equipped with such a radar on them in this world, or not.

So I don't remember exactly, did it [the radar feature] make it too easy or too hard. If you feel like it made it easier, then maybe it was a decision that we didn't want to do that in the original version.

  • There were a number of Subroutines and Procedurals that didn't make it into the final game. There was also something called Additives: that could have evolved into Subroutines, or perhaps they were something separate. A number of these may have only been part of mockups, or only in an early game prototype.

    For most of these subroutines/procedurals/additives, there are unused UI textures in the game's assets that feature their names.

  • An example of a cut Subroutine is Disguise. Most likely inspired by the scene where Flynn steals the red circuitry color of one of Sark's conscripts in the original TRON film. (LDSO's upcoming User Error 3 Single Player mission mod will have a "User Power" named Shellcode, inspired by the cut Disguise subroutine.)

    Disguise Subroutine

    Early User Error 3 test video showing User Power "Shellcode" concept, based on cut Disguise Subroutine

  • Examples of Subroutines that evolved from earlier concepts are the Fragmented Disc to Cluster Disc, Freestyle Disc and Recursive Disc to Sequencer Disc, and Death Threader to (apparently) Energy Claw.

  • Examples of Procedurals that were cut are Trash and Restore. It was going to be possible to delete unwanted Subroutines with the Trash Procedural, presumably to make room for other Subroutines if your subroutine libraries became full.

    Trash and Restore Procedurals

  • Empty slots can become fragmented in Jet's middle ring on the Subroutine Menu screen, but at one point Procedurals were also planned to be able to become fragmented, earlier in development. This suggests that even Subroutines or Base Code becoming fragmented might have been considered.

Kevin: I remember a lot of those ideas being talked about. In game design a lot of times you have cool ideas, and you try stuff, and then you get into the game and you're like, ah that didn't work. Or, you don't quite finish the idea . . . where you're like, this needs more love, and if you can't give it that love you just take it out.

We had a lot of fun naming [all] those [subroutines].

Nice! Yeah, that's really cool [that you're including a feature inspired by the cut Disguise Subroutine, in User Error 3].

  • There was once a Compile button on Jet's Subroutine Menu (aka System Memory screen), which likely meant that some Subroutines you found would have to be compiled before they could be used. There's still a reference to this button in the game's assets. Compile may have been replaced by the Port Procedural, which ends up providing a similar game mechanic, delaying the time before a subroutine can be used.

  • Instead of just deflecting an enemy disc in a powerful blast: the Power Block subroutine was also going to have the ability to drain energy from an attacking disc, and give it to the player. Or, when the Power Block subroutine is corrupted, the impact could have caused damage to the player instead. There are numerous comments referring to this in the game's assets.

  • Jet was even going to be able to defend against all types of weapon damage attacks, much like disc blocking, which isn't possible in the final game. There are multiple comments in the game's assets that read "arm defense has been cut" or "removed".

  • While probably only meant for use during game testing, there was a "Mithril" subroutine that could replace all the other armor subroutines and was 100% effective (aka it made you almost invulnerable). It's referred to in the game's assets. (I'm going to mention this again in my question about easter eggs in the game.)

  • There was something named the "Datalog" early in development, possibly only part of a game prototype. It seemed to combine Conversations, Objectives/Tasks, E-mails, Help Files, Build Notes, and possibly more, all into a single unified user interface component. Instead of the separate UI elements, for all of these, that ended up in the final game. There are still UI textures and a reference in the game's assets that provide evidence of the Datalog existing.

    This "Datalog", many of the cut subroutines/procedurals/additives, and some mockups/screenshots I've seen for an early TRON 2.0 prototype, all created an atmosphere that would have had the game feel a lot like the original System Shock, in my humble opinion. (I've personally referred to the release version of TRON 2.0 as a "Deus Ex-Lite", as well, because of their similar character upgrade systems: subroutines being an analogue of the augments in Deus Ex.)

    Link to a tweet I quoted from Andrew Borman, showing what the Datalog looked like
    (in the third screenshot of the tweet)

FAQ: Why were there no free-roaming areas in Single Player, involving vehicles? A lot of fans wanted to ride a Tank, Recognizer, Solar Sailer, or Light Cycle across a landscape. No One Lives Forever had free-roaming sections where you could ride a motorcycle: why didn't TRON 2.0?

Kevin: Well, you have to have really specific level design for that. And I think [in] the Single Player areas, that our experience to flex the Light Cycles [was] really best realized on the game grid. A free-roaming Light Cycle section . . . like, yeah we had code to do that from our other games. But you can't just throw it in, and have it give you the desired player experience.

So it was an idea that we had kicked around, and it was pretty low on the priority list relative to some of the other ideas. If we had another year to work on the game, we may have had that. But it didn't quite make it.

FAQ: In a related question, within the version of the DEdit level/map editor released for TRON 2.0, there's a PlayerVehicle object that could have allowed for map creators to add their own free-roaming vehicles. However, this object doesn't work properly, so adding new player controlled vehicles (that don't behave like the Light Cycle) isn't possible.

I know it's been a long time since you've looked at the game's code, but can you recall why the PlayerVehicle DEdit object was left in this state? Did it have to do with the Light Cycles physics model (specifically the 90 degree turns) replacing the physics of the PlayerVehicle object?

Kevin: I'm not 100% sure, but it's very likely that since there was only one vehicle type in the game, there was some custom code for Light Cycles that would not have been compatible with free-roaming vehicles.

FAQ, liquidhot: Although leftover evidence of cut features in the game's assets could all be considered "easter eggs", can you recall any items that were deliberately placed and hidden in the game for fans to find?

I'm personally aware of the following easter eggs. There may still be some that I've missed. I discovered most of these on my own.

Kevin: Laughs. That's funny.

  • During a cutscene featuring Alan on the Progress Bar level, if you look carefully, you'll see a Shogo: Mobile Armor Division arcade cabinet near the top left of the screen. (As far as I know, the notion of Monolith having created an arcade machine based on their game Shogo, is purely fictional and one doesn't actually exist.)

    Better view of Shogo arcade cabinet in cutscene

Kevin: Yeah, there was never a Shogo arcade cabinet.

  • One of the random names assigned to Resource Hogs in the game, that you can see by using the Profiler subroutine, is "NotOneLimpsForall.exe". Which is a tongue-in-cheek reference to another of Monolith's games, No One Lives Forever.

    Resource Hog named NotOneLimpsForall.exe

  • There are numerous pop culture references, as well. The Z-Lots, and of course Thorne himself, say more than one variation of the line "there can only be one Master User". Which is a spoof of the famous line from The Highlander franchise.

    Thorne and transmission saying "there can only be one Master User",
    referencing The Highlander

Kevin: Yeah, we were fans of The Highlander.

  • An E-mail on the Light Cycle Arena and Staging Pit level has the line "can I have my stapler back", which spoofs the film Office Space.

    E-mail with the line "can I have my stapler back", referencing the film Office Space

  • There are "transmissions" that appear on the screen when in the Thorne's Internal Partition level: that again reference The Highlander, but also Bungie's original Marathon games, and Halo games. And the random names assigned to Z-Lots, that can be seen with the Profiler subroutine, also refer to Marathon and Halo. "Durandal",
    "(Ra*mpa^ncy)", and "Fr0g bla#st the v*ent cor^e!"

    "Durandal", "Rampancy", and "Frog blast the vent core" all reference Bungie's Marathon and Halo games

  • The cut "Mithril" armor subroutine is a reference to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings franchise. (Mentioned earlier in the question about content cut from the game.)

  • The fact that the geodesic dome on the Main Power Pipeline level looks a lot like Spaceship Earth from Disney's EPCOT isn't a coincidence. I found out that it's a deliberate reference.

    The geodesic dome on the Main Power Pipeline level was deliberately intended to remind you of Spaceship Earth from EPCOT

  • fCon was originally named "DomiNet", early in development. There's still a "DomiNet_Team" reference in the game's assets.

    fCon was originally named "DomiNet"

  • The DataWraiths were originally referred to as "NetRunners", early in development. This seems like an obvious reference to previous works in the cyberpunk genre: like the collectible card game Netrunner, the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG, and William Gibson's Neuromancer novel. There are plenty of references to this in the filenames of the DataWraith models, textures, and other files in the game's assets.

    DataWraiths were named "NetRunners" early in development

  • While probably unintentional, what could be considered an easter egg can be found on the Primary Docking Port level. There's a Civilian Program NPC that you will find after riding the Data Platform all the way to the end. He'll carry on a conversation with the fCon ICPs present, as long as the ICPs don't spot you and attack.

    The problem is that it's very difficult to get close enough to the Civilian Program, to hear the conversation, without being attacked by ICPs first. Which then prevents the conversation from occurring. I'm almost certain that the majority of players have never heard this conversation, so I consider it an easter egg.

    NPC Conversation on Primary Docking Port level that's easy to miss

  • The unused feature for level designers to place the player in first-person view on the Light Cycle (mentioned earlier in the question about cut game features), could also be considered an easter egg since it was undocumented and waiting for someone to find and use it. 🙂

FAQ, Nacery, OurSponsor: While some of Monolith's titles don't scale that well on modern widescreen displays, many of them do. Despite a number of these games having been released well before widescreen became affordable and mainstream. A number of them also contained high resolution assets for the time (textures, in particular).

Was much of this intentional, as future proofing for when GPUs and displays became more capable? Or were titles specifically designed for the common 4:3 aspect ratio displays at the time, and whether or not many of them scaled well wasn't a consideration during the design process back then?

The current version of LDSO's Killer App Mod improves support for 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratio widescreen displays in TRON 2.0, and the upcoming v1.2 will further improve on these. As well as add support for 21:9, and scale the HUD/interface for ultra-high resolutions like 4K.

Killer App Mod v1.2 WIP in 4K, upscaling only where needed

Kevin: Well, we were always keeping an eye on the tech trends. And we definitely cared deeply about how the game looked, and the player experience. We had a great art team who was very much on top of the tech, and they knew what they were doing. So one of the considerations was disk size, install size . . . texture budget, right? Memory size at the time, making sure we didn't blow our texture budget.

If TRON [2.0] ran well in HD — if you're saying it was one of the future-proof titles — that was probably an attribution to the art team that we had. The tech art team.

FAQ: I definitely noticed the textures, for the time, that they were pretty high resolution compared to many other games. So that definitely seemed like something that they were going for. That in the future, it would hold up pretty well.

And it does. The game still looks very good, even if you increase the resolution to a very high one. It still looks very good.

Kevin: That's awesome.

FAQ, Anxious_Bed998: Outside of the original TRON film and arcade games, is there anywhere else you and the rest of the team drew inspiration for designing all of the levels in TRON 2.0 (both Single Player and Multiplayer) and also the gameplay mechanics?

How much input did you personally have into these, and the game as a whole?

Kevin: Well, we were all "techies", and Buena Vista really mentioned liking our first-person shooter games. So we drew a lot of inspiration from first-person shooter games that we loved, and were in development.

I was left to design and code the entire Light Cycles experience — because I was so passionate about it — and I really wanted to try to capture the magic of the arcade game, and then the movie. Which is why I tried to add that first-person view that didn't quite make it in.

At the time, I had played just about every arcade game in existence, and to this day I still play almost every popular video game out there. Don't ask where I get the time to do that. I might get into arguments with my wife. Laughs.

But I have thousands of games to draw inspiration from. Sometimes there will be a brilliant little feature in some random game, that nobody remembers, or gets forgotten, and I really like to bring those back in modern games.

HatTeamEpic1, supercyberlurker: They often say in software development that "systems tend to resemble the organizations that produce them". Were there any elements specific to yourself, your personal workflow process, or Monolith Productions as an organization, that resembled the world and Grid of TRON, and you decided to implement them in the game?

For example, as a programmer, did you base parts of the game − such as the computer jargon, and humor − on your knowledge of programming logic? (Which of course would be perfectly suited to the world of
TRON.) Was there any additional programmer inspired gameplay or humor you wish had still been added, that didn't make it into the game?

Kevin: Oh, man. We were all super tech-nerds at Monolith. I remember the game credits in some of my early games. We had all sorts of inside jokes and geekery in the credits, if you go see the credits for the games, that just goes on after the names.

And I want to say Frank [Rooke] based a lot of the game's story and activities on computer jargon. I remember when the name "Ma3a" first floated around the office as an idea, and we just instantly were like: "Yes! It's awesome!"

But as far as other programming— yeah, I mean we just . . . there was so much of our personalities that came through in the game, and the story. You can tell.

FAQ, AlexPolefko: Can you tell us a bit about the work that went into creating TRON 2.0 disc combat? Did you find it relatively easy, or difficult, to nail down what you thought the feel of the disc should be (based on the film and arcade games, and Discs of TRON in particular perhaps)? (Alex says he loved the disc combat in Disc Arena Multiplayer, and kept returning to it years after the release of TRON 2.0.)

Were the disc physics largely based on previous work done on the Predator disc from Monolith's prior Aliens versus Predator 2 game, or did you have to almost completely discard that code and start over?

Kevin: That's awesome [that Alex enjoyed the game so much]. And that's a great question. I didn't work on that section of the game. But yes, we did have a disc in Aliens versus Predator [2], and that was another internal Lithtech game. I'm sure we at least used that as a reference for a starting point.

FAQ, Nacery: To what degree were you responsible for the RPG elements in TRON 2.0? It probably goes without saying that you were involved in programming them, but what about in terms of design?

Did implementing them (subroutines in particular) prove to be more difficult or complicated than expected?

Kevin: I was responsible for the Light Cycles programming and design, and I would have loved to work on some more mini-games and some more features inspired by the classic arcade game. But sadly, we didn't have time or scope for that.

But I had a few other engineers working for me, that worked on some of the other areas of the game. The coding for the other areas of the game, like the RPG elements and some other pieces like subroutines. I oversaw a lot of the other engineering. But our team was fairly big. We had, I think, four engineers total including myself, on the game. Maybe five at one point of development. So we all split up the responsibilities.

liquidhot, MAK777: With the neon-like lighting effects of TRON being such a key part of what made the film so memorable, and with a game based on that virtual world needing to provide the same type of lighting effects rendered in real-time on so many surfaces, how much of a technical challenge was lighting in TRON 2.0?

What was the technology and graphical effects Monolith worked on, in partnership with Nvidia, specifically to solve these challenges for TRON 2.0?

Kevin: If I recall, it was a huge challenge to get that right. We knew exactly what we wanted. We wanted something that instantly made you feel like you were in the movie. But it took a long time, and a lot of iterations, to get something that we felt good about. I remember the tech art team just hacking away at that problem every day, while we were working on the other parts of the game.

And one day it was just like "bam!" they figured something out, and we looked at it and we said "holy crap this is amazing!" and they just got it, then it was all forward from there.

FAQ: I can imagine the challenge of getting the lighting to look like the film. But boy, did you deliver. It looks great.

Kevin: Aw, thank you. That's awesome.

Link to an article that discusses the real-time glow effect developed for TRON 2.0

FAQ, Anxious_Bed998: How long was the development process: in terms of coding the game itself, as well as any custom in-house tools built to achieve specific goals?

What software did you use during development of
TRON 2.0, and were there any technical limitations that prevented the game from turning out the way you wanted it?

How much testing did you personally do yourself, and was the final result close to what you had envisioned for the game? Or did you feel the final game still could have used minor, or even major, improvements?

Kevin: I can't remember exactly how long total development time was. I want to say around one-and-a-half, to two years, including the [time] extension [from Buena Vista Interactive]. Don't quote me on exactly that, I mean it sounds like you found something that dated all the way back to 2000. So it might have been a little longer.

But I tested the ever living crap out of the Light Cycle gameplay areas, in the races. And I was definitely happy with it. Although, I wasn't super confident about how that would perform over the internet, in conditions where people had a slow connection.

The only thing I wish had made it in was the transitions, out of the Light Cycle arenas.

Link to a post-mortem written by TRON 2.0 Lead Designer Frank Rooke, that can add some additional insight as to the software used, and total length of development

FAQ, thatdarnowl: Was there ever talk about an expansion pack for TRON 2.0, at Monolith? For Single Player or Multiplayer?

TRON 2.0 on PC had a post-release new Multiplayer mode (Derez, as part of a later game patch). The Xbox version - called TRON 2.0: Killer App - had even more Multiplayer game modes and additional content. But the PC version never got these. A lot of fans were greatly disappointed by this. And since Microsoft shut down Xbox Live for the original Xbox: unless the user has some technical knowledge and runs the game on a modded Xbox with an Xbox Live emulator, or emulates on PC, no one will be playing those new Multiplayer modes any more. A tragic waste. (LDSO's upcoming v1.2 update to the Killer App Mod, will add more content inspired by the Xbox version, including among other things: new powerups in Multiplayer and new weapons in both Multiplayer and Single Player.)

Was any of this Multiplayer content planned for the original game release in August 2003, but was cut either due to not working out or lack of time? If there were plans for more than just an additional Derez mode, was there going to be an expansion for the PC version (that would have become a basis for the Xbox version additions)?

Kevin: Well, the days of games as a service weren't totally upon us at the time of TRON 2.0's development. So I'm not sure if there was talk of a specific expansion, and what features would be in it. Usually, when you're making a game, you have a much bigger backlog than fits into the original launch. And when you're making a game as a service, these features become a "when do we do them," not "if we're going to do them."

But since we weren't necessarily committed to TRON [2.0] as a game as a service, the ball was sort of in Disney's court after TRON [2.0] shipped, to see how the game did. They were going to do a movie sequel, and I think we were going to go from there and see how things were.

FAQ: Movie sequel! That's something I wanted to ask you about later. So there were plans for a movie sequel. At the time, that is.

Kevin: There was talk in Disney, about wanting to do a movie sequel. They didn't have the script for it or anything, and we were actually hop— yeah, I think you have another question coming up about that.

FAQ: And I just wanted to mention that for our Killer App Mod, the upcoming update to it, we did recreate some of the content that was added to the Xbox version. Like the new weapons that they added to it, for example. Except that, for the Xbox version, those new weapons are only available in Multiplayer, and for our mod we're going to make it available in Single Player, too.

We found a way to put it in — hopefully, we think — without ruining the gameplay. You know, like having those weapons available right from the start would totally mess up the gameplay. So we're not going to do that. We're going to find a way to to put it in there so that it gets unlocked late. So that you can't right away blow away the enemies, right from the start.

Killer App Mod v1.2 new weapons recreated from the Xbox version, from top to bottom: Charger Disc, Rod Rifles, Ball Storm, Burst Cannon

Kevin: Very cool!

FAQ: Yeah! Thank you.

The Senior Manager of QA at TRON 2.0 publisher Buena Vista Interactive — who goes by the nickname DaveTRON — did mention that, at least at BVI, at one point there was discussion about the possibility of an expansion for Single Player. That likely would have been planned to take place in the original TRON era, before the events of TRON 2.0. But it never got past the proposal stage.

Forum post by DaveTRON mentioning possible TRON 2.0 expansion

FAQ: DaveTRON wanted me to say "Hi!", by the way.

Kevin: Well, hello! That would have been cool [the proposed TRON 2.0 expansion].

A couple of articles circa 2002, while TRON 2.0 was still early in development, imply that Multiplayer modes other than Disc Arena/Tournament and Light Cycles were in fact considered, such as Capture the Flag (CTF). In particular, one of the articles interviews TRON 2.0 Senior Producer Cliff Kamida, who states that you would be able to "engage in team-based missions within a variety of Game Grid environments".

Link to first article interviewing Cliff Kamida, mentioning "team-based missions"

Link to second article suggesting TRON 2.0 Multiplayer might have "capture the flag" or "objective based missions"

FAQ, Gentleman Cockroach: Did you or anyone at Monolith get a chance to meet or work with any of the cast or crew of the original TRON film? Syd Mead, Richard Taylor, or Steven Lisberger in particular, since they all contributed to the story and/or design of TRON 2.0 in some way? Bruce Boxleitner? Cindy Morgan? Wendy Carlos?

Kevin: We got to meet with Syd Mead, specifically around coming up with the new Super [Light] Cycle design. I think some of the other interviews talked about that. As for the other crew, I didn't have any interaction with them. I'm not sure if any other folks did.

FAQ: Yeah, that was amazing. That Syd Mead came back. Richard Taylor, too. To consult with you guys on designing the game, and the new Super Light Cycle. And apparently even Steven Lisberger was involved, in some capacity. I'm not sure what he did [he may have contributed to the story], but he went uncredited for that.

TRON 2.0 Super Light Cycle designed by Syd Mead

FAQ: Do you know why the character of TRON himself, wasn't in the game? I had heard a rumor that the fate of the lead characters, Flynn and TRON, were declared off-limits by Disney because they wanted to save that for a film sequel. (Though, you could make an argument that TRON was in the game.)

Kevin: Buena Vista did have a few guidelines for the story, but I want to say that it was not hugely restrictive. Normally when you work with IP companies, you're like "man, they won't even let us use the color blue!" You know, like crazy stuff and crazy restrictions you hear about. But Buena Vista and Disney were really good to work with. I remember that, specifically.

As for TRON himself, you'd have to ask Frank [Rooke] about that one. Since he was the lead for the narrative.

FAQ: Can you recall any reason why a TRON 2.0 Soundtrack CD wasn't released?

Did it have to do with the additional cost of licensing Wendy Carlos' soundtrack for another medium, outside the game itself?

Or was there another reason? (I'd heard that a
TRON 2.0 Soundtrack CD was actually produced, but it was kept for internal use only at Monolith.)

Kevin: That is a great question. Jace Hall or Matt Allen would probably know the answer to that.

Although, man it is so awesome when a game you love has a soundtrack that's released. To this day, I still listen to the soundtrack for Ori and the Blind Forest and Chrono Trigger. Which are two of the best game soundtracks, of all time, in my opinion.

FAQ: Yeah, because there was a soundtrack for No One Lives Forever, if I remember right. And I think even Shogo had a soundtrack CD. But for some reason, TRON 2.0 didn't, and I know a lot of people were disappointed with that. But there was never a soundtrack made. Or, released to the public, at least.

Although, I did actually put together an unofficial soundtrack, that people can download, if they want to. It's a bunch of MP3s. I converted the music in the game, to a form that people can actually listen to it.

Yeah, so I took all the music in the game . . . every single piece of music, even including the music that was on the
TRON 2.0 web site. There was a track on there that wasn't in the game. I don't know who composed it. It was a really nice melodic, ambient tune, and I included that as well.

Kevin: That's so cool. You have to send me a link to that, I want to check it out.

FAQ: Okay, I can do that. Yeah, definitely!

Download link to Unofficial TRON 2.0 Soundtrack I put together many years ago

FAQ: Were you made aware of how well TRON 2.0 sold, in terms of number of copies, after release? (To the best of my knowledge, no official statement on the number of copies sold of the PC version of TRON 2.0, was ever released to the public.)

How did you feel about the critical response? (Which was largely very positive.)

Kevin: Well, even though I was a programmer at the time, I've always had designer DNA. So the player perception of the game is hugely important to me.

I don't know sales numbers, or anything like that.

But I remember being overall pleased with the performance, and I remember every review that I read: I always was excited to get to the part where they talked about how they felt about Light Cycles. Do they like them, do they hate them? You know, are they good or bad?

FAQ: It was very positive [the response to TRON 2.0]. It was largely positive. I remember reading the reviews and almost everyone said it was an ideal sequel to the original film, in game form.

And I agree with that, definitely. It's a great game. It's still the best game, the best [modern]
TRON game, in my opinion. In fact, if you go on Steam for example, it's the highest rated of all the TRON games. So it's definitely appreciated.

Kevin: That's so cool. That's awesome.

We were pretty pleased with how the game turned out, all things considered.

FAQ: I actually did do a thread on Twitter, where I estimated the number of copies of TRON 2.0 that were sold. Both physical and digital. That's including the fact that it was released on Steam and on GOG (Good Old Games) in digital form.

I guessed it at around 200,000 by this point [on PC] in its lifetime.

Kevin: I'm sure the sales numbers exist. Just, they're probably not public . . . and I don't have them, even if they were.

FAQ: Yeah, I've tried to find out. I would love to know. But, unfortunately there's just nothing out there talking about it [in detail].

Link to Twitter thread (featuring this meme) where, in detail, I estimated the total number of copies of TRON 2.0 sold on PC as of August 2022, both physical and digital

In summary, approx. ~100,000 physical + ~100,000 digital = ~200,000 TRON 2.0 copies were sold on PC.

Xbox sales are estimated to be less than the number of PC physical copies sold. Game Boy Advance is unknown.

FAQ: In a related question, can you recall the amount that it cost to develop TRON 2.0?

I'm asking because I'd like to highlight just how much of a difference there is in spending on "AAA" game development today, compared to back when TRON 2.0 was developed. I had heard a rumor that it was somewhere around $6 - $7 million dollars [just development, not including other costs like marketing].

Kevin: Man, I don't remember. These were in my earlier days. I was a designer who was not very concerned with the business side of things, in my early years. So paying attention to costs, and things like that, it's just like . . . just make the game good, who cares what it costs, right?

So I've since changed [my] tune a little bit—

FAQ: Since you founded your own company. 🙂

Kevin: But I still fight for quality, of course. But no, I don't think . . . I'm not sure. I couldn't tell you how much it cost at the time.

FAQ: Well, I wanted to bring [this] up because, if it is around $6 or $7 million at the time, it's like . . . wow.

Can you imagine a game like
TRON 2.0, only made for $6 to $7 million dollars? Compared to now, the inflated budgets of AAA games? It's like, the game is amazing for the time, and now something like that . . . I don't even want to know what it costs.

FAQ, coupleofdays, PasseurdeM0ndes, OurSponsor, thatdarnowl, Gentleman Cockroach, MAK777, Ron_Weezer, WendipxStarco:

Was there any sequel planned for TRON 2.0 at the time of its release in 2003, either in game or film form?

Were there ideas for another story, what would happen to the characters, or new gameplay ideas: such as new weapons, levels, or mechanics? Or was it always intended to stand on its own, and not be concerned with what would be released down the line?

What are your thoughts on the possibility of a remaster/remake, and did you ever entertain the idea of adding an option for VR? Even down the line (when VR improved enough), either via an official or unofficial update? (I've lost count of the number of people who say they'd kill for a chance to play
TRON 2.0 with built-in VR support.)

Kevin: I want to say we were hoping that the movie sequel would dovetail from the game, and if that went well, maybe we'd be able to weave another game back into the universe in the future.

But there were no specific plans that I can recall. We kind of . . . we needed to wait and see. It was a wait and see, kind of approach.

FAQ: Well, I know that there was talk about a TRON 3.0 film at the time. But I think you already said that there was no script for it. So it's just something they were tossing around. It wasn't actually in active development.

But I do know that shortly after the release of
TRON 2.0, there was development — at least pre-production work done — on a TRON 3.0 [game]. But that was on the Disney side of things. That had nothing to do with Monolith. Because I actually saw concept art for TRON 3.0, back in 2006. There's someone who showed it to me, and I won't name that person, because I don't want to possibly get them in trouble. If that's still something that they could get in trouble for.

Since then, Andrew Borman — who's the digital curator of games at the
National Museum of Play — he showed me some more stuff relating to TRON 3.0. So it definitely was a thing. But I don't think that Monolith was involved with that.

Kevin: That sounds accurate to me.

Link to first tweet I quoted from Andrew Borman, that proves a TRON 3.0 game was at least in pre-production at one point

Link to second tweet I quoted from Andrew Borman, about the never-produced TRON 3.0

FAQ: And I actually did a review for TRON 2.0, in a book that was published. It's called The CRPG Book, and it's by the author Felipe Pepe. It was published by Bitmap Books in 2019, and there's a free version of it that you can download in .PDF form. I can let fans know about that, I can provide a download link to that.

I wrote a review about
TRON 2.0, [and] I hope I did a good job. I did my best, and in there [the review] I did mention the fact that there was a planned expansion for TRON 2.0, and TRON 3.0 . . . and that they both, unfortunately, weren't released. Instead, we ended up getting the game TRON Evolution to go with the TRON Legacy sequel film.

Kevin: Nice! That's cool.

Download link to my TRON 2.0 review (on page 336), in the free .PDF version of
The CRPG Book by Felipe Pepe

Kevin: [About VR] Man, how cool would a Beat Saber-like TRON arcade experience in VR be? Oh my god.

FAQ: That would be amazing.

Kevin: That would be so awesome. Yeah, I don't think we had any specific plans for that [VR in TRON 2.0]. But, yeah, I have the same passion. Like, man, it would be so cool to work on a VR TRON experience game.

FAQ: Yeah, back then I guess VR was too expensive and not commonplace enough. But it would [be] amazing to have a TRON VR game. That would be incredible.

Kevin: Well, it's funny. People are still saying that they're waiting for the — no pun intended — "killer app" of VR. Where you're just, like . . . this game [is amazing]! If you recall way, way back in the day, there was a game called The 7th Guest.

FAQ: Yes! I remember it.

Kevin: And this game was so good, that you're like . . . it's on CD-ROM, and this is before CD-ROM drives, so like . . . you had to go out and buy a CD-ROM drive for your computer, just so you could play this game. It was that good.

And everybody is now waiting for the VR game [that's] so good, that everybody has to have it, and you have to go get a VR set to go play it. We haven't hit that yet, [but] Beat Saber is probably one of the closest. There's a couple of others that are up there. Half-Life Alyx is pretty good.

FAQ: I was thinking of that one [Half-Life Alyx], yeah.

Kevin: But none of them [have] quite hit that magical "the world needs this game and everybody needs to be playing it," so we all have to go buy VR headsets. Not yet. Don't have it [that game].

FAQ: Unfortunately, I guess we're not there yet. But, man, a TRON VR game. That would be something.

Kevin: Yup, it would be a contender.

FAQ: Yeah! Exactly.

Gentleman Cockroach, One_Relation_6985: How do you, and other TRON 2.0 team members, feel about the entries in the TRON franchise that followed, such as: TRON Legacy (film sequel), TRON Evolution (game), TRON Uprising (animated series), and so on?

Especially as it seems some ideas and concepts from
TRON 2.0 seem to be "lifted" into the new canon. (Such as the fCon Mobile Server looking like an inspiration for CLU's warship, the End of Line Club pretty much being the Progress Bar, virus infected environments and programs like Z-Lots and Rector Scripts being a sickly green and covered in cracks, etc?)

Kevin: I can't speak for the whole team, but I personally enjoyed all the TRON movies a lot. Although, it has been years since I've seen them. My memory is a little hazy, and now this interview makes me want to go back and watch them again.

FAQ: Laughs.

Kevin: But I don't think the ideas were lifted, or stolen. It was our plan, all along, to seed Disney with ideas for the next movie. We were hoping that Disney would use some of the ideas, and it's cool to see some that were inspired by the game.

FAQ: When I played TRON Evolution, you know . . . first of all, the [corrupted] environments looking that way, it's like "this is from TRON 2.0."

Then, also, there's a specific character in the game [Abraxas] that looks just like a Rector Script. It's like, "gee, they really took inspiration from
TRON 2.0 here, didn't they," and I thought that was flattering in a way.

You know, that they looked back at the previous game and thought: "Oh, what can we do to follow that up, and take inspiration from it."

So I actually kind of appreciated that they did that.

Kevin: Me, too. Me, too.

TRON 2.0 Rector Script vs. TRON Evolution Abraxas

FAQ, Blitzen_Benz_Car, FukumuraMachine: If you had the chance to make another TRON game − presumably with the assets of a AAA game, and 3 books of ideas − would you make one in the style of the original TRON film, TRON 2.0, or TRON Legacy?

If you weren't able to obtain a license to make an official
TRON game, would you still be interested in making one that was inspired by TRON or TRON 2.0? (There are certainly quite a number of TRON-like games on the market.)

FAQ: I remember that, a while back, I actually was talking to you about this on Twitter. (And I'm still calling it Twitter, I refuse to call it X, okay?) Laughs.

You were talking about, that you would love to make like a
TRON-like game with the [same] mechanics. And you were [also] talking about that earlier, about how you wanted to make a sequel to the TRON arcade game.

Kevin: This is a really easy question. I'm always going to go back to my passion, making a modern spiritual successor to the original TRON arcade game. But one that has, like, a really slick meta-game to glue the experiences together. A little more tightly, than they were in the original arcade game.

FAQ: Yeah, basically there was just a central screen where you would pick one of the game types, that you wanted to play. And there was nothing to tie them together, like you said. So that would be cool, if there was something in-between. You know, some kind of a more seamless transition.

FAQ, KeithMyers2022, thatdarnowl, Nacery: What are your thoughts about user created content, and efforts by fans to preserve and extend the longevity of game titles, in general? What about fan efforts for TRON 2.0, in particular?

Do you have any ideas that you think would be cool scenarios for fans to create as custom levels? (I think my response to your Light Cycle Maze challenge, mentioned in the question about cut content, would definitely qualify.)

Did anyone at Monolith ever take a look at the maps, mods, and other content that the fan community produced for the game? Were they aware at how disappointed the fans were with Disney's attitude toward modding the game, or even their attitude toward the game as a whole?

The TRON 2.0 editing toolkit was in rough shape, particularly due to the lack of documentation and absence of tutorials. Not to mention the lack of assets in their original, editable form: levels/maps, models, textures, and source to the game's code. Which made it extremely difficult to do anything significant.

Plus, Disney claimed that any maps or mods uploaded to the official TRON 2.0 site would become Disney's property. And pretty much all of the constructive criticism was ignored. This drove everyone away.

Kevin: I am a huge, huge fan of user generated content. Dating all the way back to some games that came out before, from my early career. Like Gruntz, which was that little puzzle game.

I mean, we had a level editor internally for some of these games, and we're like: "You know, why don't we just put this on the disk and let people make their own kind of custom levels." And we put a little custom game mode in the game, where anyone who played . . . it looks on your disk, to see if there's custom game levels there, and it lets you play them if there is.

We shipped that with Gruntz, which released in 1998, I think. This is before TRON [2.0], and to this day people are still making levels for that game. I'm in a Discord with people who are making levels for Gruntz, and people still play [Captain] Claw.

When you release editing tools, and open up the work, open up your tools to the community and say "hey, we're cool with user generated content, have fun" it adds . . . it can make a game almost immortal, and go on for years.

I love that. And in our current company, at Koin Games, we're planning to have a big focus on user generated content as well, there. So, for sure I think it's great.

And for fan efforts for TRON 2.0, I mean, it just makes the game live on, and some of the stuff has gone beyond . . . especially for TRON, some of the stuff you've done, and some of the mods, they go beyond what the game was originally designed or intended to do, and it's just so cool to see that.

FAQ: I'm so glad to hear that, because I feel the same way about every game. I know it's not always possible, depending on the publisher and the goals of the game . . . the design goals. But whenever possible, it should be made so that the community — if they want to — they can add on to the game, in various ways.

Because it just extends the longevity of a game, so much, compared to otherwise. So I definitely agree with that.

Kevin: [For cool scenarios that fans could create] I mean I'm definitely biased to wanting to see Light Cycles off the grid, in some way. That would be amazing.

The other thing that would be really cool, from my perspective, is more hacking and mini-games. That just feels very "on-brand" for TRON.

FAQ: Yeah, I agree. I actually thought about that when I [first] played the game [TRON 2.0], back in the day. It would have been interesting if there was more, like, geeky hacking kind of stuff in the game. It wasn't really like that. In the Firewall level, for example, you had to arrange the rings. And that was a cool idea.

But, man, can you imagine if there was some kind of a command-line interface where you had to type a few commands to get past this [the firewall]. I mean, it would have made the game more difficult. But it would have also been so cool if there was something like that in there.

Kevin: [About fans being disappointed with Disney's attitude toward modding TRON 2.0]

Well, by the time all that was really going on, I had moved on to design other games. But I totally can relate to that. Especially from the fans' side of wanting to mod, make tweaks, and enhance the game. And not being able to do that, that's really frustrating.

The silver lining here, is I think in the future, as we get more games like Roblox, and Minecraft, and Unreal Engine editor . . . I think user generated content is becoming like table steaks for a lot of games in the future.

So, I think the games that are coming out in the next few years, a lot of them are going to have either planned, or at least open arms, to the creator communities.

I personally contacted the Senior Producer of TRON 2.0, Cliff Kamida, at Buena Vista Interactive and spoke to him on the phone, trying to convince him to help out those fans interested in modding the game. But while initially receptive, he eventually did an about-face and told me that no further assets or support for modding would be provided.

Shortly thereafter, BVI/Disney abandoned the game altogether. It wasn't until 2014 on Steam, and 2016 on GOG, that Disney showed any further interest in TRON 2.0.

FAQ: Yeah, I hope that becomes a trend. Because I've found that over the years, the idea of modding games has kind of slowly fallen off the radar.

A lot of publishers, they don't want you to modify their games. They want [total] control over it, and I find that a shame. I hope that more games in the future will consider bringing that back, to some degree. So I hope that's a trend.

Kevin: Absolutely. Yeah, our first game that we're planning on releasing, is going to go beyond letting people mod it. We're going to release editing tools.

FAQ: That's great, because without things like the assets in their original form: like the levels and maps, models, textures, even source code — if anybody still puts out source code — without that, it makes it more difficult. So if you put out a level editor, that's the first step to allowing people to modify a game.

TBGNP_Admin, TehErk, NeoK182, Nar!: These fans don't have any questions for you Kevin, but wanted me to say thank you on their behalf for TRON 2.0.
  • TBGNP_Admin said they love it.

  • TehErk says you have their undying admiration. The level design is a true masterpiece, and each one was better than before it, which was no small feat. The City Hub that had "pop-up ads" and the Progress Bar are still some of their favorite moments in any game. And adds they would have loved a sequel to TRON 2.0.

  • NeoK182 said thank you for making an amazing game, that still has fans that play and promote it to friends, all these years later.

  • Nar! said big thanks for programming such a fantastic TRON game. He still has the game in its original box, and also wishes there was a sequel to TRON 2.0 by the same team from Monolith.
FAQ: And I think it goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: I want to thank you for your work on the game, and also thank you for graciously agreeing to do this interview about TRON 2.0 on its 20th Anniversary.

I've spent a good part of those past 20 years trying to preserve everything I could get my hands on, relating to the game, as well as extend the longevity of the game through our mod projects at LDSO, most notably the
Killer App Mod (TRON 2.0 enhancement mod) and User Error (Single Player missions for TRON 2.0).

Link to news about the Killer App Mod (part of a longer news update) for the
20th Anniversary of TRON 2.0, posted on Twitter and Mastodon

Kevin: That's awesome. Thank you so much for sharing the kind words, and even critical words. It doesn't bother me to get critical feedback. But especially the praise, and just hearing stories like that. Like "I love that game, and I still play it," or "I promote it to my friends," or "we're modding it," and "years later there's still people talking about it."

I mean, that is really the fuel that gets me up in the morning. That's why I love doing this. That's what I feel like I was put on this Earth to do. Is just make games. Try to make great experiences for people, and feedback like that is really what makes it all worthwhile. That means so much. Thank you to all you guys, who had kind words.

FAQ: Last question. Do you happen to know what the initials "J.D." stand for, in Thorne's name? The Thorne character never had his full name revealed.

Kevin: Man, I don't. Frank [Rooke] would know the answer to that, if anyone.

FAQ: Yeah, I had a [text] chat with Matt Allen, and he said to ask Frank Rooke. But I thought I would try asking you, as well.

Kevin: You have to check with Frank, and it's funny . . . because it's either gonna be like "yeah, that stands for something." It's going to be super satisfying. Or, it's gonna be: "I don't know, I just thought J.D. was cool." Laughs.

I don't know, I wish I could tell you.

FAQ: Yeah, it's like, well . . . it might be that "J.D." actually is just "J.D." There is no meaning to it. But I'm going to try to find out, eventually.

Okay, then, that was all of the questions, and that's the end of the interview. So I want to thank you again, very much, for taking the time to do this. I know you're busy and you could be doing other things, with your free time.

But as it's the 20th Anniversary of
TRON 2.0, I thought about approaching you to do an interview, and thank you very much for taking the time to do it.

Kevin: You bet. I had a great time, and feel free to reach out any time.

FAQ: I'll definitely do that. Thank you, very much. So that's the end of it. I'll say End of Line, and I hope everybody enjoyed this interview.

To conclude, I'd just like to thank Kevin, once again, for graciously agreeing to do this interview and taking the time to answer the many questions that fans, and myself, had.

I also know that everyone on the LDSO team, feels very fortunate and flattered to hear praise from a team member who worked on TRON 2.0.