Atari is striking back.
The video games giant has entered into a joint venture with Lucasfilm--producer of "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark"--to "create a new level of video games."
Details of the venture are unclear, but it seems certain that Lucasfilm and Atari will pool their technical resources to try to bring the cost of movie-quality special effects down so that they can be played on arcade and home video screens.
Although Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic division has done special effects for such films as "Poltergeist" and "E.T.," they've primarily been optical effects. Lucasfilms also has a computer science group doing research in computer graphics and display techniques for special effects. This group did some of the effects for "Star Trek II."
When properly programmed, computers can generate images of cinematic quality. Advanced computer graphics techniques would allow games that are far more detailed in both image and motion that today's. However, such techniques are usually expensive, and the question is whether they can be mass-produced cheaply for arcades or cartridges.
Atari also is investing in enhanced video games and computer technology research. Sources within the company estimate Atari's corporate research budget to be in excess of $20 million. "The problem isn't money," says Kassar.
The style and type of games hasn't been established, but Kassar expects the joint ventures' first games to be revealed by June 1983.
"The two names together is just terrific," says the game's designer for an Atari competitor. "But you can't really say anything until you see what they're going to be doing."