If there was ever a video game that has had the largest impact on my life it was the original arcade version of TRON.

Simon Nicol speaks about the early days of the video games industry, the original arcade game of TRON and the influence it had on his life.

Everything about the video game had me hooked, said Simon (now 43 and living in ‘sunny’ Croydon) from the design of the cabinet to the in game character set they used. I remember the font was called “Data 70” (having done some research) the look of which I committed to memory and  would later replicate on my Commodore 64 at home. The TRON arcade game simply oozed attraction and playability. Before my epiphany one night of how to program in Machine Code, I only really had one computer programming language skill, the one everyone was using at the time called – BASIC (Beginners. All purpose. Symbolic. Instruction Code.)

It was in BASIC that I attempted to write my first program and I was trying to replicate the ‘Light Cycle’ sequence of TRON.

The arcade machine of TRON I would play almost every day and I would happily spend all the money I had on it. Was I an arcade vagrant? Yes, I suppose I was, (in fact one day I saw a short squat Japanese looking man running off having stopped briefly outside the front of the video arcade to take a photo. It was the next day that I saw a picture of myself in the local paper with my back to the camera under the shocking headline ARCADE VAGRANCY!)

The thing with me though was I wasn’t just playing the game, I was studying it – I was absolutely fascinated. I would watch the screen and absorb everything I could. There were 4 distinct elements to the game play, the light-cycles, a section with tanks that fired shots that would ricochet of the walls of a maze like structure, the MCP cone and a level with spiders – lots and lots of spiders! I was dissecting the bits of the program and trying to fathom out how it all worked.

There probably aren’t too many people in the world that this game has had such an impact on in the same way it had affected me. Although the special effects were simple (advanced for those days) – they were very well done. The game play was straight forward – but extremely well programmed. I played this game so often that I became one of only three ‘people’ (read vagrants)  in the arcade who could get past every level – to reach the ultimate level sequence called ‘USER’. The USER level would be a repeat of slightly earlier levels – but a lot faster. Ignoring the hand cramp and the ridiculous pace of the action, anyone who got to this stage of the game was sure to draw a crowd – and the three of us often did.

Being too young to sign a contract I had the fortune of meeting Mr. Tony Allard who I was introduced to as an agent after I was seen demonstrating one of my programs in a local computer shop. It was through Tony Allard I won my first video games contract – it was for Ocean Software in Manchester and I was to convert the game TLL from the Sinclair Spectrum to the Commodore 64… and the rest, as they say, is history.

I think there were a number of influences that affected me, that inspired me, and made me want to become a video games programmer and TRON was definitely one of them.

So what do you think of TRON Legacy from what we’ve seen so far?

Well, like anyone else who has seen the trailer, Tron Legacy looks incredibly slick. Anyone who’s in to motor bikes will utterly love the new design of these light-cycles, personally they’re not my thing but the standard of the design is undeniable. When it comes out later this year it’ll be in IMAX format and I must say I’m looking forward to that – and I mean the full IMAX not the slightly crappy IMAX ‘Experience’, when I go to see TRON. And I’m definitely going to see TRON – I’m going to the West End in London to watch it on the full 5 story high, 70′ wide screen – I’m sure it will be quite spectacular. In the mean time could you put a link to the trailer from youtube for people to see?



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