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The Electronic Gladiator

December 2, 2013

Tron (1982)

Wednesday, December 4th

Film starts at 8pm

Lady Jay’s, 633 Grand St (bet Leonard & Manhattan), Bklyn, NY 11211

Free popcorn, Juke Box Meccanica, $2 Bingo for Prizes. PRIZES!

tron_1982_movie_poster_01In the future video game battles will be a matter of life or death.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a software engineer formerly employed by ENCOM. He wrote several video games, but another engineer, Ed Dillinger (David Warner) stole them and passed them off as his own, earning himself a series of promotions. Having left the company, Flynn attempts to obtain evidence of Dillinger’s actions by hacking the ENCOM mainframe, but is repeatedly stopped by the Master Control Program (MCP), an artificial intelligence written by Dillinger. When the MCP reveals its plan to take control of outside mainframes including the Pentagon and Kremlin, Dillinger attempts to stop it, only to have the MCP threaten to expose his plagiarism of Flynn’s hugely successful games.

neil+flynn+tron+1982+jeff+bridgesAll right, give me room. Here we go.

Flynn’s ex-girlfriend Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) and fellow ENCOM engineer Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) warn Flynn that Dillinger knows about his hacking attempts and has tightened security. Flynn persuades them to sneak him inside ENCOM, where he forges a higher security clearance for Alan’s security program “Tron”. In response, the MCP uses an experimental laser to digitize Flynn into the ENCOM mainframe, where programs appear in the likeness of the human “users” who created them.

tron-pair1I knew you’d escape! They haven’t built a circuit that could hold you!

Alan Bradley conceived of Tron in order to police all the programs in ENCOM’s system, thus ensuring no programs are performing any untoward tasks. Bradley commented to Dillinger that Tron “can watchdog the MCP as well.” This boast turned out to be wildly prophetic.

tron107Busy dying, you worn-out excuse for an old program.

Flynn quickly learns that the MCP and its second-in-command, Sark (Warner), rule over Programs and coerce them to renounce their belief in the Users. Those that resist are forced to play in martial games in which the losers are destroyed. Flynn is forced to fight other Programs and meets Tron (Boxleitner) and Ram (Dan Shor) between matches. The three escape into the mainframe during a Light Cycle match. When Ram is mortally wounded and dies, Flynn learns that, as a User, he can manipulate the reality of the digital world.

tron_1982-580x279You’re in trouble, program. Why don’t you make it easy on yourself. Who’s your user?

At an input/output junction, Tron communicates with Alan and receives instructions about how to destroy the MCP. Tron, Flynn and Yori (Morgan) board a “solar sailer simulation” to reach the MCP’s core; but Sark’s command ship destroys the sailer, capturing Flynn and Yori. Sark leaves the command ship and orders its destruction, but Flynn keeps it intact while Sark reaches the MCP’s core on a shuttle, carrying captured Programs.

tron_1982_11My friends, my fellow conscripts, we have scored. I feel so much better.

While the MCP attempts to consume the captive Programs, Tron confronts Sark and critically damages him, prompting the MCP to transfer all of its powers to him. Tron attempts to break through the shield protecting the MCP’s core, while Flynn leaps into the MCP, distracting it long enough to reveal a gap in its shield. Tron throws his disc through the gap and destroys the MCP and Sark.

Tron_1982_720p_BrRip_x264_bitloks_YIFY_01_largeThis is the key to a new order. This code disk means freedom.

As Programs all over the system begin to communicate with their users, Flynn is sent back to the real world, quickly reconstructed at his terminal. A nearby printer produces the evidence that Dillinger had plagiarized his creations. The next morning, Dillinger enters his office and finds the MCP deactivated and the proof of his theft displayed on the screen. Later, Flynn takes his rightful place as ENCOM’s CEO and is greeted by Alan and Lora on his first day. – wikipedia


Two lightcycles about to enter the game grid

Tron Light Cycles: because this is Cine Meccanica…and they’re virtual motorbikes, courtesy of Virtual Worldlets

Come on, you scuzzy data, be in there. Come on.

Light cycles are an icon of VR, that crop up again anf again, in all manner of media. Two-wheeled motorcycles that leave a solid wall of light behind them, as a type of exhaust.

The original light cycles are from a Disney VR film. Tron, airing more than 26 years ago, in 1982, first heralded these bikes. They were used in a segment of the game zone of the film, and were used in the great escape from detainment by the MCP. Perhaps that is part of it; vehicles used in elaborate car chases do seem to stay in the public subconscious.

The other part of it, has to be the wall of light itself. Generated as part of the game the light cycles are themselves part of, the wall of light emanating behind the bike, flows in a straight line, and is semi-permanent. Hard light, solid to the touch, that remains in place as the bike speeds off.

The object of the light bike game, is to run the other rider or riders into your light walls. In the original Tron, light cycles was a game for six players: three on the gold team, three on the blue team. Each team launched onto the game grid from opposite ends, their tight formation of bikes leaving trails of their colour behind them. The objective was to kill the other team members off, by manoeuvring your bikes round them, trapping them in your light trails.

When a light bike hits a hard light trail, the bike explodes violently. Stopping is not an option whilst on the grid, so the only way to survive is to ensure you have space ahead to drive in. Hitting your own trail is the same as hitting anyone else’s trail: your bike is destroyed. Thus, strategy is vital.

When a bike is destroyed, its trail is destroyed with it: flowing smoothly into the ground. Once the trail is gone, that space is usable by other bikes.

In this image, an earlier blue light trail blocks off the right. The orange bike’s trail blocks off the left.
The blue driver knows they are dead. There is nowhere to go, they are running out of grid, and stopping is not an option

The way a light cycle is entered, is iconic to say the least. The drivers-to-be stand on a glowing platform, with a glowing yellow bar in front of them, just hovering in space. Without leaving the platform, they reach forwards and grab a hold of the yellow bar. This then sinks down towards the ground, and as it does so, the bike literally unfolds from it, a wireframe of increasing detail that flows around the driver, adding in more and more detail in successive waves, until a perfect, form-fitting motorcycle sits where the person once stood.

All the person has to do, to get out, is not be on the game grid, and let go of the glowing bar – which now serves as the handlebar. If both conditions are met, the bike folds up into the glowing bar once more. It can then be taken in one hand, and placed into a pocket. Grasping it with both hands, unfolds the bike again.

A wireframe light cycle unfolding

The bikes were originally designed by Syd Mead, the same mind as created the vehicles for Blade Runner, so the cyberpunk feel was really pretty much a given. They almost feel like basic primitives in a graphical environment, and their simplicity again, makes them compelling.

The light cycle game itself has been programmed hundreds of times by different people, over the past 20 years. It is one of those classics that never goes away, and is quite probably the inspiration behind the game ‘snake’ as well.

Virtual Worldlets


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