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….

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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