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The Slacker's Guide - Something Cool For the Nerds: GLTron

by Chris Barylick
September 11th, 2006

Getting down to business, this week's choice has earned a place in my Dock despite my initial hesitancy. Yes, Tron was amazing, but I only wanted to take the dork thing so far. Still, a reader recommended it and like the ugly duckling turned prom queen in various 80's movies, it got my attention.

Based around the light cycle races of the movie, GLTron puts players in the driver's seat, or make that the rider's seat. Staged in an enclosed arena, the goal is to ride the light cycle, creating an impenetrable wall behind the player that can be used to destroy other opponents. Simple enough premise, but the reality proves to be that much more fun. Complete with all the bells, whistles and cool techno surroundings of the movie, GLTron gives the players everything they could ask for; a Tron light cycle environment wherein the player plays a 400 mile per hour game of chicken with the other players while trying to create a wall for the other to run into before they hit the arena wall or a wall that's already been created and die.

Head to head action in Andreas Umbach's GLTron freeware game for Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

Pull this off and you'll feel cooler than you ever have in your entire life. Misjudge the distance and the explosion speaks for itself.

Zigging when you should zag, GLTron style.

GLTron is Andreas Umbach's open source labor of love. Free to anyone who wants to download it for a variety of platforms (including an unsupported Mac OS 9 version), the game is continuously updated by anyone wishing to contribute to the project.

The effort, which began in Umbach's college days, has gained polish over the years. The graphics and sound are top notch for the shareware and freeware market and extras like wide support for different monitor settings, resolutions and joystick support make for a top-notch game. Little things like a cycle booster option allow the player to play a meaner game of high speed chicken with their opponent while the ability to glance left or right helps inform the player as to what's immediately around them.

This in addition to an overhead map that tracks the movements of your opponents and the walls being created help keep the player aware of what they're up against and what they'll have to do to head off the competition.

GLTron requires Mac OS X 10.0 or later to run and is available as a 3.7 megabyte download through The game expands to occupy 5.6 megabytes of disk space when installed. An open source project gone right, interested contributors can leave comments, feedback and ideas at the project's official site as well as check out the other versions available for download.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,


Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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