Catalogue of Arcade Emulation Software - the Absolute Reference

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Tron (6/25)

Tron (c) 05/1982 Bally Midway.

Tron is a two-dimensional, shooter style game. Your job is to make it through the various areas and levels as you infiltrate the computer system. With many levels of play, you will be challenged by the I/O Tower, MCP Cone, Light Cycles, and Tank areas. Each area is unique in the challenges it offers the player and there always seems to be another level to overcome. Sometimes pushing paper instead of using the computer seems like a better idea.


Bally Midway MCR 2 hardware

Main CPU : Z80 (@ 2.496 Mhz)

Sound CPU : Z80 (@ 2 Mhz)

Sound Chips : (2x) AY8910 (@ 2 Mhz)

Screen orientation : Vertical

Video resolution : 480 x 512 pixels

Screen refresh : 30.00 Hz

Palette colors : 64

Players : 2

Control : 8-way joystick with a trigger, spinner knob


When Bally/Midway signed a deal to create a Tron video game, they were very pressed for time and needed a game quickly. They decided to let all three of their design teams (their in-house team, Dave Nutting Associates, and Arcade Engineering) take a crack at a prototype. The Dave Nutting Associates team (led by Dave Armstrong) proposed a 3-D color vector game that was deemed too complex and expensive, thought it was later developed into a prototype called "Earth, Friend, Misison". The internal team eventually won the right to produce the game. The initial design document called for six different mini-games :

1) Rings (a light-disk duel between Tron and Sark).

2) Paranoia (in which the player builds a bridge of spiders to reach an island).

3) Tank Pursuit

4) Space Spores

5) I/O Tower (the player tries to reach an energy socket while avoiding electrifying blue warriors)

6) Light Cycles.

Fearing that they would never get the game out in time, the Rings game was made into a separate game and the Paranoia and I/O Tower game was dropped (though the MCP Cone sequence was later added). At one point the film included deadly spores that were included in the game's Grid-Spider sequence, but when they were removed from the movie, they had to be removed from the game as well.

To promote the game, Bally/Midway and Alladin's Castle sponsored a seven-week-long tournament at over 400 locations throughout the coutnry, as well as a celebrity tournament.

Most of the levels correspond to a computer language. Of course, some literary license was used for the level names and a couple of them don't really make sense. Anyway, here are the 11 level names and what they are :

ALGOL : Algorithmic Language. Influenced the development of more modern language (along with FORTRAN and LISP). Used for number crunching.

ASSEMBLY : Machine language. Used to write code directly to the computer without having to compile or interpret it.

BASIC : Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Used primarily for teaching rudimentary programming.

COBOL : Common Business Oriented Language. Used primarily for accounting. Very old language.

FORTRAN : Formula Translator. Used for processing numbers and/or formulas.

JCL : Job Control Language. Used on IBM mainframes to execute specific jobs and scripts on the Job Entry Subsystem.

OS : Precursor language to OS2.

PASCAL : Teaching language for compiled languages. Not very powerful.

PL1 : A play on the actual language called PLI. Language used for solving mathematical problems.

RPG : Report Program Generator. Use for generating reports. Usually used with COBOL.

SNOBOL : Used for character string manipulation.

Walt Disney Productions sued Williams Electronics for copyright and patent infringement over Williams' use of the name 'tron' in their arcade legend, "Robotron - 2084". Common sense prevailed, however, and Williams won the suit.

The game's sequel, "Discs of Tron" was originally intended to be a part of the original game but tight time constraints meant that the mini-game was not completed in time.

A Tron unit appears in the 1983 movie, 'War Games', in the 1986 movie 'The Color of Money' and in the 1987 movie, 'Death Wish 4 - The Crackdown'.

Two Tron machines were shown at the 2003 classic arcade games show 'California Extreme' in San Jose, California.


OLDER VERSION (set 4 in Mame) :

* Level 1 (RPG) gives you 1,000 on the timer instead of 500 in the I/O Tower game, making it easier to get the 1,000 point bonus for killing all grid bugs in level 1.

* The series of sounds that play when blocks are destroyed in the MCP Cone game are higher in pitch than in the other revisions of Tron.

* Each level features different pattern schemes from the other revisions - Play level 2 (COBOL) in Set 1, 2, or 3 and then play level 2 in Set 4, keeping the Game Difficulty setting at the default (5) each time, and you'll see what we mean.


Scoring in this game is relatively easy since there aren't a lot of enemies to keep track of.

Grid Bugs : 50 points

Bit : 5000 points

Blocks : 25 points

Light Cycles : 500 points


1st Hit : 100 points

2nd Hit : 300 points

3rd Hit : 500 points

You get a 1,000 point bonus for destroying all the Grid Bugs.

You get the remaining time added to your score when you enter the I/O Tower.

NOTE : On Level 1 (RPG), you only get 500 on the timer. On all other levels, you get 1000 on the timer. EXCEPTION : In older version of Tron (set 4 in Mame), you always get 1000 on the timer, even on Level 1.

You get a 1,000 point bonus for destroying all the Blocks.


When you start the game, you will have a cursor in the middle of a computer-looking grid. You have eight seconds to go one of four directions on that grid. If you don't, you will be randomly sent in a direction. Once you have completed an area, you can no longer go to that area until you get to the next level. The areas are randomized on this computer grid so you won't know what you will get next. Below are the four areas and strategies to get through them.

* I/O TOWER : This is one of the easier areas to get through. It just involves a lot of shooting.

- Quickly establish where the Grid Bugs are. That way you can quickly aim to clear out a path if necessary.

- The game simulation sailer comes out at random times and drops the Bit off. Do everything you can to get to it for a free 5,000 points.

- Work your way to one of the exits and 'camp out'. Just use the spinner to aim high and low to take care of the Grid Bugs. Once the timer hits 100, go ahead and exit the screen.

- It is possible to get over 10,000 points in this area alone (5,000 for the Bit and over 5,000 for Grid Bugs killed).

- On the earlier levels, try to take out all of the Grid Bugs for the 1,000 point bonus.

* LIGHT CYCLES : This is one of the harder areas until you learn the patterns. Then it will become a breeze.

- The arena for this game is a 9 x 9 grid. Use the grid lines to gauge distances and to also know where the turns are.

- Hitting the wall, your light trail, or an enemy light trail will end your cycling career very quickly.

- Depending on the machine set up, you will need to identify different patterns and make the appropriate adjustments to your strategy. Make sure you are staying at full speed until the enemy light cycles are trapped.

- Usually you can adjust when you see enemy cycles coming after you. A lot of times they will follow another cycle into the wall or a light trail. The enemy cycles become much quicker after level 10.

- If the three light cycles are coming straight down, go right and up around them. Then do a rectangle pattern leaving an opening to the right side to allow the enemy cycles to crash against the wall.

- Use the above pattern if the middle or right cycles go straight (the other ones will veer around before they head down).

- For any other occasion, it's best to go left and make a box that way. Again, the enemy cycles will destroy themselves before you get into trouble.

* MCP CONE : Another easier area. Even if you mess up a little, you can still recover from your mistake.

- First, determine the cone's speed and direction of travel. You can accomplish the second thing by shooting at it to determine which way the hole travels.

- Next, determine your speed. This will determine how much time you have to blow through the cone to get to the exit.

- Once you have determined the above, go over to the side that the cone is entering from. For example, if the cone is moving from left to right, the go over to the left side and start shooting.

- The four block cones are pretty easy. Just rapidly blast a path and go up.

- The six block cones are a little trickier. You will need to open up the bottom part of the cone. Enter this new opening and start to chew at the top. You will end up having blocks rotate below you as you head up. Be careful and watch around you since you will end up surrounded by blocks before you enter the exit.

- The hardest cone to get through is when Tron is traveling fast and the cone is moving slow. You have to quickly blast a path any way you can or you will collide with the cone.

- For extra points, you can position yourself half-way out of the exit and blast at the top blocks. On the earlier levels, try to get the 1,000 point bonus.

* TANKS : Probably the hardest area of the game. You have to learn how to move and shoot (in different directions) at the same time.

- It takes three hits to destroy an enemy tank. You have the advantage, though, by being able to use rapid fire and bouncing your shots off the walls. Enemy tanks can only have one shot out a time.

- This rebounding of shots can be a very effective offensive measure. You may be able to hit tanks from afar or hit them around corners just by rebounding your shots just right. Prevent them from getting close.

- The pink teleporter area is the key to surviving many of the tank patterns. Just don't go too far in or you may end up teleporting to a hostile environment very quickly.

- If you stay off the tank trails, enemy tanks will not fire on you. They can, however, ram your tank (this is especially true if you are hanging out in the teleportation area).

- Like other parts of Tron, there are patterns you can use on the specific tank patterns to ensure your survival.

* This is an interesting bug. On the MCP Cone levels, if you go all the way to the right or the left and keep moving, you can move the whole playfield to the side. This doesn't seem to have any other affect.

* Here's an odd Tron bug : On the Recognizer Tank levels, make your way to one of the little alcoves in either the top right, or bottom left corners. The tanks cannot shoot, and will not go down an alcove, so therefore cannot kill you. Then, wait approximately 9 to 10 minutes without moving your tank. You can fire, but do not kill all the recognizers. After the time (9-10 mins), the sound system will go berzerk, starting with a very high pitch tone, which falls to a low tone that vibrates the cabinet. The sound also goes berzerk if you enter the tower at 0099 units on the bug screen.


1. Tron (1982)

2. Discs of Tron (1983)


VP Engineering : John Pasierb (JP)

Software : Bill Adams (BA)

Hardware : Atish Ghosh (AG)

Art / Cabinet designer : George Gomez (CG)

With support from : Tom Leon (TL)


* Consoles :

Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2004, "Tron 2.0 - Killer App")

* Computers :

Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Kron")

Oric I (1984, "Light Cycle")

Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1984, "Light Cycle")

* Others :

LCD handheld game (1982) released by Tomy : cool game, the entire case is made of a smoked clear plastic so you can see the inside of the game (and it has some large, simulated circuitry in the back, to make it look even cooler...)


All In color For a Quarter - Keith Smith.

F.A.Q. by Kevin Butler AKA War Doc.