We talk about the Wii and DS version of Tron Evolution with members of n-Space.
This December, the Tron universe is getting revived with Tron Legacy, a new movie, and the Tron Evolution video games for various systems.The Wii and DS versions are both being handled by Nintendo system veterans n-Space, who have worked on the portable Call of Duty games, Geist, and more.
We interviewed Tim Schwalk, producer on the Wii version, and Mike Lee, executive producer on the DS version, about the ins and outs of the upcoming games, how they tie into the Tron universe, and what type of gameplay they feature.
Nintendo World Report (NWR): First off, what modes and gameplay lay under the hood of the Wii and DS versions?
Tim Schwalk (TS): TRON: Evolution – Battle Grids game for Wii offers a tremendous number of gameplay opportunities. At the heart of the title are the actual Grid Games. We offer seven major grid games that provide 15 different gameplay experiences. Each grid game can be played simultaneously for up to four players (human or AI) on the same TV, with each player using only the Wii Remote. In addition to competitive and cooperative grid games, we also offer a full single-player story mode, as well as a Championship "party" mode where players can create and compete in a customized tournament of games.
Mike Lee (ML): In TRON: Evolution for the Nintendo DS, we feature a full adventure mode that is a strong mix of combat, puzzle solving, and exploration inside the TRON universe. Integrated within this story-based mode are four grid games – Tanks, Light Cycles, Disc Combat, and Recognizer Run. These modes can be played outside of the adventure mode against AI or up to four human players. And, just like the Wii, each of these games features a number of modes and customizable options to keep things fresh.
NWR: The Tron franchise has a legacy in both video games and science fiction. Is the task of creating games based on this franchise daunting for the development team?
TS: If any part of the experience was daunting, it was the fact that we were working on a franchise that meant so much to our development team. Many of us grew up with TRON, and the opportunity to make a game in its world was a dream come true.
NWR: With these games being tie-ins to the upcoming feature film, how much input did you receive from the film's creative team?
TS: We were given total freedom to drive the creative vision of the game while working with the film team to ensure we stayed true to the TRON universe. They gave us early access to the film's script, and their scriptwriters gave us regular feedback as we developed our original story. Everything we did had to be completely authentic, because our story and characters would eventually become part of the TRON canon and lore.
NWR: The Wii and DS versions of the Tron game are different from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 counterparts. What decisions inspired the team to go in a different way regarding the Wii and DS version other than the technology behind these consoles?
TS: The audiences for the Wii and DS are looking for different gaming experiences than those who primarily play the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. By creating completely original games for the Wii and DS, not only do we give audiences a game more tailored to their play styles, but TRON fans have more opportunities to play games based on their favorite franchise. It also allowed us to create gameplay that takes full advantage of the unique Wii and DS hardware.
NWR: How much input, if any, did Propaganda Games have on development?
TS: While we worked very closely with Propaganda Games to define the goals for the Wii product, all development was done at n-Space. Throughout production, we maintained a close partnership by staying in communication with key individuals at Propaganda. With the film shooting in Vancouver, Propaganda Games met frequently with the filmmakers and we were able to leverage that communication channel to ensure the Wii version fits perfectly within the TRON canon.
NWR: How much of the Tron storyline can we expect in the video game adaptation? As in, will we be getting a re-telling of the movie or do they tell their own story based on the Tron universe?
TS: The Wii game tells a completely original story that takes place between the first TRON film and the 360/PS3 game. It's exciting because the TRON world changes greatly between our game and the 360/PS3 title. We present a more utopian world, where grid games are still played for competition and fun. This is in stark contrast to the gladiatorial presentation of grid games in the 360/PS3 game and the upcoming Legacy film.
Our story completely stands on its own, but some of its events and characters gain significance when viewed alongside the events of the other games and movies. We introduce characters that are exclusive to the Wii alongside characters that play a big part in the 360/PS3 game and the new film. For example, players will be introduced to Wii specific villains, Blaze and Bosh, while also befriending Quorra, an important character in the upcoming movie.
Our story mode is also unique because you get to visit familiar locales in a totally different timeline. Exploring TRON City on the Wii is very different than visiting it on the 360 or PS3. The look of the game also is a reminder of the original TRON film and the very popular '80s TRON arcade games.
NWR: Why was the decision made to focus on the battle grids aspect in the Wii version? Will there be any other modes included such as disc battles, hacking, etc.?
TS: By focusing on the battle grids we were able to give TRON fans more of what makes the TRON franchise exciting: grid game competition. This competition plays a huge part of our game, as the story centers around the player trying to become the first Game Grids Champion since TRON himself. It's perfect for the Wii because it encourages friends and family to get off the couch, gather around the television, and compete to become the champion. As for other modes, there are most definitely disc battles in the Wii game, along with other franchise favorites like Light Cycles and Tanks. The upcoming "TRON: Legacy" film introduces a completely new vehicle to the franchise that is able to drive off of the grid. These Light Runners are featured heavily in our game along with other Wii-specific grid games, like Hyper Ball. Additionally, every grid game offers at least one other game mode, effectively creating brand new grid game experiences. For example, players can jump from a Tank Skirmish into a King of the Hill game or team-based Tank Capture the Flag match.
NWR: With both racing and battle modes, how much inspiration was taken from the Mario Kart franchise? What is unique about Tron that could be done in a different franchise?
TS: Racing is just a small percentage of what TRON: Evolution – Battle Grids has to offer. For the grid games that do involve racing, we considered other popular Wii racing games to appeal to fans of those types of games. However, even with a proven genre like racing, once we added light trails to the mix the dynamics of the gameplay took on a fresh, new twist. Trails give the leader a way to play offensively, while allowing those behind him to draft off his trail and gain speed. We also added jumping, enhanced speeds, and the ability to ram opponents out of the way to Light Cycle Racing. Light Runner Racing differentiates itself by giving the player weapons and positioning the races on circuit tracks. Battle Grids definitely offers a completely unique racing experience for the Wii, even though racing grid games aren't even one-third of what the title has to offer.
NWR: Racing is a new genre for n-Space. Were there any insights gained during development? Can we expect more games in the genre from the company?
TS: We had a lot of fun creating the racing grid games within Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids. And with so many racing fans here at n-Space, it wouldn't be surprising to see us revisit the genre in the future.
NWR: What features are similar and different between the Wii and DS versions?
ML: TRON: Evolution for DS shares many of the same Grid Games with the Wii, including Light Cycles, Tanks, and Disc Combat – although each mode is treated somewhat differently to take advantage of the unique mechanics for each platform. For example, the Wii uses the accelerometer of the controller to steer the light cycle, while the DS features stylus control for smooth steering.
Probably the biggest difference between the two titles is the overall focus – the Wii is all about the Grid Games, with even the Story mode focused on a grand tournament to determine the overall champion of the grid. The DS is a bit different in this respect, where the player takes on the role of a system monitor working directly for TRON himself.
NWR: In the DS version, can you describe how the hacking minigames work?
ML: We wanted to make a touch-based game that was fun to play and could easily ramp up, becoming more complex as you get deeper in the game. The goal of the hacking game is to connect the colored electrical path of an output piece to its same colored input. Players use the stylus to tap on and rotate each piece, creating valid connections. Accidentally connecting two unlike colored pieces overloads the system and fails the hack.
NWR: In the DS version, how does combat work?
ML: On the DS, the game takes place on the touch screen, so our combat is entirely stylus-based. The player can directly tap on an enemy to throw their disc or perform a series of melee attacks when up close. The player can also use a swiping motion to fling the disc in a specific direction, which is useful for bouncing it off of walls. We also unlock special moves as the game progresses, like a spin attack when the player draws a quick circle, along with special disc power-ups.
Each enemy you encounter has a unique behavior pattern, with some using unique disc types. For example, one enemy uses a shield disc, so the player has to bounce their disc off of nearby walls to hit him from behind – or they can use a tracing mechanic to draw a path that the disc will follow. There's a lot of combat variety and technique throughout the game to really keep the player on their toes.
NWR: Was online multiplayer ever considered?
TS: Online multiplayer was never a focus for the Wii game. We put all of our energy into creating an amazing same console multiplayer experience that we know gamers are going to love. And with many families and Wii fans playing together in the same room on the same console, it was important to create a really fun competitive multiplayer experience for up to four players.
NWR: How familiar were the developers with the original movie? Will there be any elements included specifically for fans of the original?
TS: Nearly every member of the development team was a HUGE lifelong TRON fan, and there are definitely elements that will appeal to other fans of the original film. For example, our "Hyper Ball" grid game is based on the Jai Alai game from the original movie, where Flynn is first introduced to the grid. This was actually one of the first games we prototyped because we were so excited to be the first TRON title to bring this grid game to the fans.
NWR: Did the developers have a chance to influence the new movie?
TS: As much as we would have loved to influence the movie, principal photography for the "TRON: Legacy" film was finished by the time the Wii and DS games started production.
NWR: Tron has always been about games, even if the particular games didn't exist. Now that technology has improved, such games are possible. How did you capture the Tron feeling in the games?
TS: We're tremendous fans of the license, so it wasn't difficult for us to create a look and feel for our game that was uniquely TRON. From the visuals, to the audio, on down to the characters, story and even the controls, everything was carefully tuned to be as authentic as possible to the franchise. When choosing grid games, we were extremely picky. Our selections not only had to represent the TRON universe, we wanted to ensure that each offered a strong gameplay experience and could stand on its own. Each of our grid games is equivalent to a downloadable Xbox Live / PSN game. We also knew that some of the older Wii players would remember the original TRON arcade game so we thought about that game especially when creating the light cycles and tanks games.
NWR: How does working within the constraints of a franchise differ from working on original IP?
TS: Each approach offers unique challenges. When working with an established license, you already have some guidelines in place, so you can focus all of your creative energy into the new content. When working on original IP, you have to create the constraints and guidelines yourself. We're comfortable working both ways, but we feel very fortunate that we were given the opportunity to work with the TRON franchise.