Quarantine .SPR graphics file format

Published: 2019-03-02

In the wake of id Software's DOOM (1993), a large number of imitators released titles to capitalize on the sharply increasing popularity of first-person-shooter games. One of these contenders was Quarantine, which was developed by Imagexcel and published by GameTek in 1994 for the MS-DOS platform. A Rock Paper Shotgun article about Quarantine accurately describes the game environment as being a "hyperviolent dystopian futurecity" and mentions some of the curious details in the game. One such oddity is a drive-in movie theater screen that is showing a cartoon of a circus scene in which an anthropomorphic hot dog bun is cracking a whip at a sausage link. A basic three-frame animation shows the sausage dancing on the cirus pedestal.

Like so many other DOS games of the 1990s, Quarantine did not use any particular standard format for storing game resources such as sprites and textures. I used the information from a thread on a game research forum to implement an extractor/decoder for the .SPR files packaged with the game. The source is available on GitHub. Now, for no reason other than to celebrate its weirdness and obscurity, here is the original sausage link circus texture (magnified to 300%):

Quarantine drive-in movie

At the time of this writing, I think I can be pretty certain that this does not appear anywhere else on the Internet. Update: OK, I was definitely out of the loop on this one. I received an email pointing out that a very similar animation appears in the background during the drive-in movie scene in the 1978 film Grease. A little research showed that it's a well-known intermission snipe that was produced around 1957 by Irving Mack, the founder of Filmack Studios. The clip is officially known as "Variety Show", and I think it's pretty clearly the inspiration for the Quarantine animation.