Discs of Tron
Retro Coin Op Synopsis
"Bring in the logic probe..."
Anybody who saw Tron back in 1982 immediately wanted to play the video games the film so prominently displayed. The original Tron arcade game gave them the chance to sample the light cycles, tanks, grid bugs and MCP cone, but one of the most important games in the film was still missing—that deadly cyber-jai-alai competition that Flynn (the Jeff Bridges character) refused to finish. Bally Midway finally gave the fans what they wanted a year later, combining the precarious platform throwing match with those cool glowing discs seen throughout the film.
Discs of Tron was actually part of the original Tron game, but a lack of time and technology forced Bally Midway to shelf the project temporarily. When it returned in 1983, it did so with a vengeance, offering graphics and gameplay that wouldn’t have been possible a year earlier.
The game featured a face-off between the movie’s title hero and his nemesis, Sark. Standing on a round platform in the foreground, Tron hurled each of his three discs on your command, while Sark fired back from his opposing platform with discs and other weapons of his own—chasers, super-chasers and energy pellets. The background was filled with cityscapes from the film, presented with reflective mirrors and backlighting to give the illusion of a 3-D playing field.
The premise was a simple “kill or be killed” face-off, but the design and controls turned Discs of Tron into a thrilling gaming experience. In addition to the background design, Discs of Tron’s look was enhanced by well-placed blacklights and a glowing blue joystick. The game was also available in a “Total Environment Cabinet,” providing special visual and sound effects and improved acoustics to draw the player into the Tron world.
As impressive as the game’s look was, Discs of Tron really came alive in its subtly brilliant gameplay. The blue joystick moved Tron around on his platform (careful – you really can fall off those edges), its trigger fired off the discs, and a small button on the front of the joystick allowed you to deflect Sark’s discs (only 7 deflects per life or level).
But the act of firing back wasn’t as simple as “move and shoot.” To the left of the joystick was a round spinner control, which aimed Tron’s throwing arm. A sensor on the back and side walls indicated where the disc would hit initially, but after that, Newtonian physics (a.k.a. - Pool hall physics) came into play. As in the movie, the disc kept going until it returned back to you, so if you hit the side wall on the way out, chances are your disc would hit the back wall and maybe the other side on its way back to your hand. This kind of rebounding and caroming was necessary, because the longer you played, the smarter Sark got. He had his share of deflects, too, so trick shots were sometimes the only way to catch him.
It took two hits on Sark to complete a level (or, if you were very skilled or lucky, you could try forcing him off the edge of his platform), and as the levels progressed, the game got more complex. One platform became two, then three, then barriers popped up, and finally, the platforms themselves started moving up and down. Your spinner knob could also be lifted up and down, allowing you to aim your discs high or low, depending on which platform Sark currently resided on.
What looked at first like a simple game became a frantic challenge as you progressed through twelve levels of play. It was a prime example of the equation all programmers hope for: simple to learn, nearly impossible to master. As it turned out, it was to everyone’s benefit that Discs of Tron didn’t make the original cut for the first Tron game. Bally Midway got another arcade hit, Disney Studios had another way to make up for the film’s financial disappointment, and arcade goers everywhere were finally able to live out their movie fantasy.
"I don't know how you survived, slave..."
Arcade Machine Release History1982 - Tron
1983 - Discs of Tron