Archer Maclean’s Atari concepts

1982-1983 Archer Maclean

Platform: Atari 400/800

In August 2023, Chris Wilkins (Fusion Retro Books) entrusted Games That Weren’t with the task of preserving all of Archer’s development disks. Whilst going through Archer’s 5.25″ work disks, a series of significant discoveries were made which show how Archer was testing out different Arcade concepts as he got to grips with the hardware.

We have created a special video that goes through the findings and talks about them in more detail:

Within the disks we found early graphic tests for Donkey Kong, Tempest and also a Pole Position clone that Archer had named Road Roller, which included what seems to be a series of road routine drawing tests.

There was also a playable (but very incomplete) version of Breakout written in BASIC, with paddle controls and some simple action. No scores and still plenty of work to go, but very interesting none the less.

Most significant of all (and probably later worthy of its own separate archive entry) was findings of a very early and abandoned Robotron conversion, which had long been rumoured to be another development that Archer had done (and was mentioned in a Zzap64! interview).

Within his disks was a simple BASIC demo that draws on enemies into the screen, with a cursor that can be moved and which the robots track. Later assembly language work was done, where Archer got to the stage of mapping out the game screen with some basic objects. He also drew all the objects for the game in a graphic file.

Sadly that seems to be as far as it ever got. No further developments were made, and Archer would focus his efforts on Defender and Stargate (before moving onto Dropzone). It is however a lovely early glimpse at what could have been and an indication of Archer’s early ambitions.


Then there were further experiments seemingly building on the Breakout clone, with a maze generator and replication of the bouncing balls. A possible game idea abandoned early on, or just Archer playing? Sadly we may never know.

Finally, there were little graphic tests and small demos, including colour cycling routines, Atari logo drawing scripts and more. All of these findings you can check out for yourself below. We have also included a disk that has a corrupted DAT file, which we think is a different graphics file. Unfortunately the disk was too heavily corrupted to get the file off – but hopefully someone can save something of it.

With huge thanks to Chris Wilkins (Fusion Retro Books) for the loan of Archer’s disks to preserve and permission to add executables to the site, Alan Hammerton for hardware help, Mat Allen for the flippy PC drive loan and Bertrand / Atari Frog for guidance and help with tools and formats.

In memory of Archer Maclean – 28 January 1962 – 17 December 2022.



3 Responses to Archer Maclean’s Atari concepts

  1. I find eye opening how even one of the most skilled developers of that early videogame age used BASIC for his experiments and prototypes.

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