Introduction : An Overview of Empire


What is Empire?

Empire is an military/economic simulation of make-believe countries in a make-believe world. The military part is emphasized. The economic part is still there, but as a prerequisite to a working military.

What part do I play?

Each player is the ruler of a country. As leader of your country, you give commands that affect your country (e.g., move people around, re-designate sectors, etc). You also handle all of your country's foreign policy.

Empire lets you get reports on the status of your country (``info census'' and others), find out what's going on in other parts of the world (``info news''), and communicate with other countries (``info telegram'').

Although no goal is explicitly stated, most players rapidly derive their own, ranging from the mundane desire to be the biggest, strongest country in the game, to the more refined goals of having the most efficient land use possible, or having the lowest ratio of military to civilians while still surviving.

The World of Empire

Empire is played on a hexagonal map partitioned into a rectangular grid of M x N sectors (where M and N are typically, but not necessarily, powers of two, usually 64, 128, or 256). The world could be made up of approximately 50% sea, 45% habitable land and 5% mountains.

Sectors can be assigned a specific sector type. These types range from banks to nuclear fuel processing plants. See ``info Sector-types'' for more detail.

Your personal coordinate system is initially centered on your capital.

The Empire Time Scale

The Empire world both does and does not match the real-time world. To better explain this, let us examine the concept of an update.

At regular intervals (usually once per day), the entire Empire world is updated. When the world updates, new population is added, ores are dug up and added to stockpiles, food and other commodities are distributed to sectors, the educational and technological levels are updated, and so on. It can be thought of as the minimum quantum for growth.

On this time scale, an update could be considered to be approximately one generation. Thus the difference from the time scale of the real world.

However, certain commands are issued in real-time, such as attacks. These commands have instantaneous effects on the state of your country. Dedicated (or merely experienced) Empire players will often log on to monitor their country. And most attackers will wait until the small hours of the morning to carry out their attacks, for obvious reasons.

If you do not log in to Empire, any automatic policies you have set up will be carried out. However, Empire will not try to fix any mistakes you have made; unless you are very careful, it's probably not a good idea to rely on these automatics.

Bureaucratic Time Units (BTUs)

To prevent the more fanatical Empire players from staying logged on all the time, Empire places a limit on the amount of time you may be logged in per day. This limit is settable by the deity, usually 1000 minutes. If you run out of time, too bad! You can't log in again until the counter resets itself (usually at midnight).

The other control on the number of commands that you may issue are called ``Bureaucratic Time Units'' or BTUs. A BTU is an arbitrary amount of bureaucratic bookkeeping that your government must spend to perform a certain function. Most commands that are not merely informative cost BTUs.

BTUs are generated by your country's capital. The more efficient your capital, the more BTUs that are generated. The number of BTUs also depend on the game's settings.. See the output of the 'version' command for an estimate of BTU generation speeds. However, you may have a maximum of 512 BTUs at any one time. And once your BTUs reach zero, you may not issue any commands that use BTUs.

Three things to note about BTUs:


Since commands use up BTUs, this limits the number of commands that a player may issue over a particular time period. This has the effect of preventing the Empire fanatic from overruning other players with less free time to log on.


The build-up of BTUs is constant and does not depend on being logged in. This allows players to participate when it is convenient rather than at some fixed time (such as most board games, or the stock market).


The BTU concept helps compensate for the fact that, in concept, the governments of each country are always ``playing'' although the player representing that country may only log in periodically.

How long will a game take?

Probably from one to four months. You should expect to spend one to four hours a day playing. Also expect that if you do spend this amount of time playing, your grades or work will suffer. You just can't spend that much time playing and either study or be productive.

What should I do now?

When a new country enters the game, it starts out with an amount of money and two sectors. These sectors are sanctuaries and have an initial amount of people and commodities. Until you break sanctuary, your country is effectively in stasis. Nothing will change until you actually log in and force a change (such as designating a capital to begin accumulating BTUs).

The absolutely minimal set of information pages you should read are: break, map, ann, wire, tel, read, expl, move, res, cen, dist, thresh, lev, com, prod, budget, Sector-types.

A Comment from Peter S. Langston (the author of the original Empire game)

It should be remembered that Empire is merely an interesting pastime; in the vernacular, it's just a game. There are many amusing stories of people that took the game too seriously; one tells of a corporate Vice President who walked into the computer room and flipped the main circuit breaker in order to stop an attack on his country; another tells of the Harvard student that refused to go to bed until everyone logged out of Empire and of the other players who took turns staying up late....

While many players take Empire very seriously, an equal number of players use it as a safe environment in which they can act out their fantasies. On occasion the fantasies involved are remarkably aggressive or hostile. It has been my experience that the people with the most belligerent countries are often the people with the kindest hearts; anti-social game play doesn't necessarily reflect the true being underneath (or else I have some VERY weird friends).

A Brief History

The game Empire is the most recent in a series of territorial conquest, political/economic simulation games initially inspired by a board game of the same name played at Reed College (Portland, Oregon). Earlier versions were written at Reed by Peter Langston and at The Evergreen State College (Olympia, Washington) by Chas Douglas, Peter Langston, Ben Norton, Mike Rainwater and others; of particular note are the games Galaxy (Langston) and Civil (Norton). The previous version was written in 1985 partly on the HRSTS Unix system at the Harvard Science Center, (Cambridge, Mass.), partly on the Unix system at Commercial Union Leasing Corporation, (New York, N. Y.) and partly on the Unix system at Davis Polk & Wardwell, (New York, N. Y.) by Peter Langston with invaluable goading from Joe Stetson, Robert Bradbury, Nat Howard, Brian Redman, Adam Buchsbaum, and a myriad of others.

Since Langston never released source code for his version, Dave Pare and friends de-compiled it in that same year and have created this version which is very different. Since then many re-writes and fixes have been put in and none of the original code exists anymore. Many people have enhanced the code, most notably, Dave Pare added plane units in 1986, Jeff Bailey added many configurable options in the KSU distribution, Thomas Ruschak added land units and missions in 1992-1993 and released the "Chainsaw" server, and Ken Stevens rewrote much of the server code in 1995 and released the "Empire 2" server. Steve McClure and the Wolfpack made lots of other changes and released "Empire 4" in August of 1996. The game is still maintained by the Wolfpack team. Markus Armbruster serves as technical lead since 2004.

See also : Novice , Expert , Introduction