Langston on Empire vs Empire

Peter Langston & Thomas Phinney email discussion

Jan 15, 2011

[While Phinney was ask­ing around to learn more about the ori­gins of the board game, he got a quick les­son on the rela­tion­ship with the main­frame game of the same name, from the cre­ator of that game, Peter S. Langston]

PHINNEY: From what I’ve been read­ing online it seems you were the pri­mary author/​converter of the [main­frame] com­puter game “Empire” based on the Reed College home­brew board game. Do you know who cre­ated the orig­i­nal board game, or who might be able to tell me?

I ask because I have occa­sion­ally played a descen­dant of that board game, which I have been revis­ing the rules for, and I was think­ing of mak­ing them avail­able online. But I don’t want to infringe on somebody’s copyright.…

LANGSTON: First a caveat… Even though I bor­rowed the name “Empire” from the game at Reed, I didn’t actu­ally use any of the Reed game in my Empire, since I’ve never played it and have only heard the most gen­eral descrip­tions of the game (mostly parts that would be dif­fi­cult to com­put­er­ize, like the play­ers mak­ing up new rules by consensus).

So, I don’t really have as much con­nec­tion with that game as you might think. Of course I am a Reedie and I had heard of Empire while I was at Reed and I did think it was a cool idea, but that’s about it, so I never wor­ried about whether I was infring­ing on any­thing more than the name.

I’ll bet that there are 100 peo­ple who have had a hand in making/​shaping that game, and there are prob­a­bly 3 or 4 who were prime movers. You might get in touch with the Reed College Alumni Office….

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3 Responses to Langston on Empire vs Empire

  1. Bill Paff says:

    I have been a TREMENDOUS fan of Classic Empire since I played it on a VAX in 1984 and through the 1990’s on a PC. I once had a copy of a PC ver­sion that seemed newer than 1.51 (cor­rect ver?) but no longer have it. I had a team of friends (sev­eral pro­gram­mers) where we tossed around the idea of expand­ing Classic Empire.

    If any­one becomes inter­ested, by all means let me know !! The ideas were quite good but none of us now want or have the time to do it.

    ..William Paff (Can find me on Facebook).

  2. Marc Johnson says:

    I played Empire [the com­puter game — Ed.] avidly while at Harvard and in the few years after­wards when I worked at the University. As I recall, Peter invited peo­ple to write exten­sions to the game (in C, I believe), and I once worked on a cou­ple of these that were never fin­ished. Somewhere in my archives I prob­a­bly have a copy of the code, maybe on paper tape (!) or DECtape, and pos­si­bly printed out. But I’d have to unearth some boxes to find it. I do know that I have a printed copy of the rule­book, which I kept more handy because I enjoyed dis­cussing it with friends. At this point in my life, I can’t imag­ine hav­ing the time to dig in to doing any­thing to update or mod­ern­ize the game, although the college-​​age part of me would love it.

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