Comic-Con Recap: ComiTRON

In 2008, Disney came to Comic-Con with some early conceptual footage for a movie that, at that time, was called TR2N. It received such strong support and generated so much excitement from the Comic-Con crowd, Disney greenlighted the project. Flash forward to the 2009 Comic-Con, where Disney presented additional footage for the now-titled TRON: Legacy. Fans were also led on a merry chase through San Diego leading to a recreation of Flynn’s Arcade, where further information about the disappearance of Kevin Flynn was revealed.

Flash forward again to 2010, where the Flynn Lives alternate reality game ramped up through the release of online mini-games leading to live drops, movie screenings, digital badges, and real-life TRON artifacts. Meanwhile, buzz for the movie increased as Comic-Con approached and TRON banners and signs appeared around San Diego. The news media started referring to Comic-Con as ComiTRON, which generated even more excitement and anticipation from the ARG community following the Flynn Lives campaign as they started to wonder: would Flynn’s Arcade return?

About three weeks before Comic-Con, players started receiving post cards from the Flynn Lives organization with pictures of Encom games made during Kevin Flynn’s tenure as Encom CEO, and a mysterious black bar. Players quickly noticed that a series of black dots appeared on the black bar when it was exposed to a black light. Six different cards were mailed, and when the dots were overlaid, the words “ENCOMGAMESDOTJP” appeared, leading to a Japanese Encom game site. The site revealed a new game, Circuit Cycles, a lightcycle puzzle game where players had to move 2-5 lightcycles through the grid, connecting similar-colored dots while neither blocking other cycles from connecting their dots or walling them in. As players completed levels, they were awarded digital badges. Once they completed all 32 levels, they were awarded a final digital badge and soon afterwards received a full set of the game postcards.

Players soon discovered the final Circuit Cycles digital badge contained a series of flashing dots that spelled out “SLASHIDENTITYRAID”, leading to a new page on the main Flynn Lives site: a countdown set to expire on Thursday July 22rd at 11:30AM: the date and time of the Comic-Con TRON panel, and Encom’s 38th anniversary.

As the Comic-Con panel started in Hall H in San Diego on the 22nd, the Identity Raid counter expired to reveal a combination lock puzzle. As Comic-Con attendees watched the new 3D TRON: Legacy trailer, players solved a puzzle to unlock a special clip from the movie, which was also shown to the panel attendees.

Players had also been following the OperationTron twitter account, and shortly after the TRON panel ended, a set of instructions were sent: locations pairs were to be tweeted, and players were to proceed to the first location and take a photograph of themselves with the TRON artifact found there. They were then instructed to proceed to the second location given, and the first 32 players who arrived with their picture with the artifact and a valid ID were given access to an exclusive event – a special 10PM opening night event at Flynn’s Arcade. In addition to receiving two wristbands to the event, players received a small identity disk containing a USB flash drive with a copy of the new trailer unlocked and shown in the panel earlier. Throughout the day, a total of seven location pairs were given leading to approximately 450 invitations for that night’s special event.

At 10PM, the doors to Flynn’s Arcade opened, and as the lucky wristband recipients entered, we were presented with a coin purse containing seven Flynn’s Arcade tokens, one for each of the Kevin Flynn-designed Encom games displayed on the postcards received earlier. Inside, everything looked pretty much the same as it did at the Arcade’s premiere last year except the machines were all covered with plastic sheets, just as they were in the TRON: Legacy trailer released at the panel that morning. Suddenly, the lights on the machines and neon signs started to flicker on and off, and at the back of the room the House of Tron light flashed on. As before, the wall behind the Tron game swung open to reveal a chamber behind it. Entering the chamber and turning a corner, another sight out of the trailer appeared, with Kevin Flynn’s workstation on the left, and the digitizer on the right. At the far end of the room, an eerie blue glow emanated along with the faint sound of techno music. Following the light and sound, the end of the hallway opened into a futuristic club filled with LED screens and techno music: the End Of Line Club.

At the door we were greeted by white-clad “programs” offering metal bottles of Coke Zero, while scattered around the room were other “programs”, adding to the ambiance. A DJ spun tunes in front of a giant screen which was in constant motion. People lounged on couches, or perused the many TRON movie artifacts and tie-in products around the room. But there were a smaller group of people who knew there was more to this room than the amazing sound and light show being presented. Our first clue were the coasters being handed out with the Coke Zero – pentagon shaped with an arrow-like cutout in the middle, and odd lines on the edges – three on one side, and three more on the other. In various places around the room were similar shaped placards with a matching arrow design in the center. It was quickly discovered the lines on the edges of the coasters matched up to similar lines on the placards. When the arrow design was matched up with the arrow cutout on the coaster, it revealed six codes which, when relayed to the waiting players online, unlocked additional game content and earned players another digital badge. A separate code on the wristbands awarded yet another digital badge.

While players were dashing around the room deciphering the codes and relaying information to the online players, the room suddenly went dark, the music stopped. The screen behind the DJ started to display a selection of scenes from the movie, including a new scene with Sam after his entrance into the world of the Programs, where he meets his father’s program, Clu. This repeated every twenty minutes or so, and was just as exciting to watch the fifth time as it was the first.

All too soon, it was time to leave. On our way out, we were given an exclusive hand-numbered poster from the End Of Line Club, dated 07-22-10. Looking back at Flynn’s Arcade and the End of Line Club was tinged with a bit of sadness knowing this is probably the last time the Arcade would be reborn, but also left us flush with the feeling of accomplishment for completing another successful Flynn Lives mission.

While the Flynn’s Arcade chapter of the game was a huge undertaking, there is still four months to the opening of the movie and it’s highly unlikely the good folks at 42 Entertainment are through with us yet.

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