Unknown Atari 5200 Game

Company: Atari
Model #:
James Andreasen (Programmer) & Alan Murphy (Graphics)
Year: 1983
May have been called Quagmire


Believe me when I say that this game is a complete mystery.  The existence of the game was completely unknown until footage of it running turned up in the Atari CED In-House 2Q 1983 documentary video in 2014.  In the video the game is only referred to as 'this new game' and is not given a name.  As the game did not match the description of any known unreleased game, its identity, much less the programmer, could not be determined.


The discovery of the possible identity of this game is actually linked to another 5200 mystery title.  In 2003 a prototype menu cartridge for a planned 5200 kiosk was found called 5200 Menu.   On the list of game included in the cart was one no one could identify called Quagmire.  Once again this name did not match any known unreleased 5200 game nor was it a known early title for a released game.  After a chance encounter with graphics artist Alan Murphy on the AtariAge forums in 2013, he mentioned that the name Quagmire sounded familiar to him:

"I think Quagmire is a game that I worked on with Jim Andreasen (5200 Pacman). We worked on something that was shown at a conference."

Unfortunately at that time no more information could be discovered about Quagmire and as Alan was getting ready to move overseas, the investigation was stalled.


In 2022 AtariProtos was able to reconnect with Alan Murphy to ask him more questions about both Quagmire and the mystery 5200 game that had surfaced since the last time we spoke.  Alan immediately recognized the mystery game as the game he and Jim had worked on.  Unfortunately he wasn't sure if this mystery game was indeed the same game as Quagmire:

"Jim Andreasen and I worked on a game together but I don’t think it had a title. It’s the one you referred to in your email.  We might have called it “Quagmire”, it’s been over forty years ago."

When asked about how the game came about, Alan had this to say:

"It started out when I was testing out a new animation system and did some sample artwork on it to find out if it was something I wanted to use, Jim saw the art and said “hey let’s make a game with that"."


The actual gameplay is quite simple which is not surprising given how early along the concept was.  The screen consists of seven rows of which top three and bottom three scroll to the right, while the center row (highlighted in red) scrolls to the left.  Each row scrolls at a different speed giving the screen a somewhat disorientating effect.  Each row has windows (or tiles as Alan Murphy calls them) that appear at even intervals.  Some of these windows will have a monster in them that must be shot using the targeting square and the gun at the bottom of the screen.  When a monster is shot it will cause the tile to shrink to the background and disappear (this graphic was later used for the Mirror enemies in the 5200 version of Xevious which Alan also did the graphics for) and the player will score 100 points.   When all the monsters are shot, the level is cleared and the next level will start.

Each monster has at least two different portraits or animations:

     This monster resembles a Skull that appears to be flashing.  It does not move in the window
     This monster resembles a fanged demon.  He doesn't appear to have a different secondary portrait but will quickly bob up and down once.  It moves up and down in the window
     This monster resembles a horned devil.  It moves up and down in the window
     This monster resembles either a snake or lizard.  After a short time it will turn into a different looking monster with a 'surprised' looking face.  It moves left to right in the window.
     This monster resembles a grasshopper and jumps in to the window from the left side.  It moves from left to right in the window.

In addition to having two portraits, most of the monsters will move in and out of the windows making it tougher to hit them.  The 'Fanged Demon' and 'Horned Devil' move up and down and the 'Snake/Lizard' and 'Grasshopper' move from left to right.  Oddly the 'Skull' doesn't move at all and is always fully in the window but appears to 'flash' (it is unknown if this means anything or is just a graphical effect'.   When asked about the gameplay Alan stated:

"When a tile was hit it would play a unique hit animation for each tile, then the tile would flip end over end and shrink to black. Hitting all the tiles on a screen would progress to the next level with faster scrolling and more tiles which would be harder to hit, rinse and repeat until all the tiles are cleared."

This seems to match up with the video, except that the monsters don't seem to have a unique hit animation.  Perhaps this means that the version shown in the video isn't the latest that was worked on?


So why did this game get cancelled?  According to Alan Murphy:

"Jim and I were working on this game just before they closed the Aptos office.  The game was cancelled when Atari Research was shuttered."

Unfortunately no actual prototype for this game has been found, the footage from the video is the only evidence that the game even existed.  It's hoped that an actual prototype will turn up some day so this unique game can be played.  Until then we'll just have to make due with the brief snippet shown in the video.

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