Empire I: World Builders - 1981 game for the Apple II

Last week I was at the Albuquerque Academy and I spent some time with the smart and friendly high school members of the rocketry club there. They had a lot of great stuff in their on-campus hackerspace, including an Apple ][ and a bunch of software for it. One of the games they had was called Empire 1: World Builders, by Edu-Ware. It's from 1981. I thought the box cover was funny, and the box contained a couple of manuals and the disk to play the game. I didn't play it, but I found the above video on YouTube.

Here's a description of the role-playing game from the Internet Movie Database:

The gateway to the New York Rocket Field is your first step of a space voyage in which you may choose one of three career paths to follow, here at the dawn of the Interstellar Empire. Homesteaders must find a hospitable planet on which to farm, raise a family and conquer the environment. Miners must find a high-density planet in a search for material wealth. Missionaries seek out populated planets to preach to the masses. Each path into the space frontier has its dangers, and a misstep may have bloody consequences.

Empire I: World Builders has one of these clunkiest user interfaces imaginable, much worse than the clunky interface for my favorite Apple II game, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. It looks as though direct channel commands must be typed in in their entirety: "ENTER LEFT DOOR," "GO STRAIGHT AHEAD," "PREPARE FOR LAUNCH," etc.

According to the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities, "the Empire series sold in the low thousands."

Download the 58 kB disk image here!

Anita Buyrite is a name waiting to be adopted by a singer or band!


  1. I suspect Anita Buyrite is a thinly-veiled reference to Anita Bryant, homophobic crooner of the late 1970’s.

      1. She’s the mother of the modern gay pride movement. We went from 200 marchers in Boston in 1976 to 6,000 in 1977.

  2. I didn’t buy a computer until 1983 . . . and when I did it was an IBM PC, which was really behind the curve as far as game availability.

    I remember looking through adverts in CREATIVE COMPUTING at advertisements for games like World Builder, and feeling so envious of computer owners and so horribly out of it. I played plenty of SF boardgames, and a play-by-mail SF empire game called STAR MASTER, but surely a sophisticated computer game would blow those away!

    I take some comfort, however belated, in seeing how lame this particular game appears to be.

    So, Mark, are you going to write up your visit to this rocket club?

    1. “So, Mark, are you going to write up your visit to this rocket club?” Yes! I’m writing it for the Make website but will cross-post it here.

    1. 32? Hah. Try 8. And 2 of those were black, and another two were white. And you couldn’t have certain colors next to each other or they’d bleed.
      And we liked it that way!

      1. White?  Hah!  We used to dream of white, w/ our black and green screens.  Why, it took a gang of two brawny men to wrestle the 8-inch floppy into the drive, and half-an-hour to load 100K.  That was real computing back in them days, it was.

  3. We had that game. I played it a lot, although I remember always being extraordinarily frustrated with it. Of course, I was probably only about 7 or 8 at the time. 

  4. You know, I think the person playing the demo would have done better if they had typed “LAND” or “LAND ON PLANET”.  Just sayin’ ^^’…

  5. I love the ending. “Hey! You died in space after you jumped out of your ship in frustration. Be sure to buy the next game in the series!”

    A LOT of the games from this period were like this, sadly. A friend of mine played some adventure game whose name I am blocking. He reached the end, where I believe he had to light a fuse or a signal fire or something. And he had a lighter in his inventory. All means of trying to actually light the damn thing failed.. “light fuse” “light lighter” “light fuse with lighter” “ignite fuse” “use lighter” etc. All failed. And he died and had to start over. Again and again.

    As it turned out, the *only* way to light the item and finish the game was the command “flick bic”

    Apparently, game designers of the time thought good puzzle design involved guessing a magic phrase.

    1. The only difference between many commercial games of that era and the games you could find published in various books and magazines was the packaging.  Terse descriptions and limited command sets were the norm.  The easiest way to make a game last more than 10 minutes, or to get multiple plays, was to create frustrating, frequently game-ending puzzles.

      The documentation was often far more interesting than the game itself.

      My friends and I were blown away when we first encountered Zork, because it was so much bigger and better and more immersive than any previous adventure game.  I have no idea how many after-school hours I spent on the original Zork trilogy.

  6. We had M.U.L.E. on the Atari 800 and we loved it. Those crystite auctions were a blast. 

    R.I.P. Dani Bunten.

  7. Try typing ENT LEF DOO instead.  No guarantees that it would work here – I’ve never met this specific program – but back in the day, many of these “type a command phrase” programs and games were actually reading only the first few letters of each token in the command. 

  8. Why is the tank track cargo truck shooting a warning laser blast over the dome of Hagia Sophia?

    Some thinly veiled anti-Turkish sentiment, eh?

    (And quite possibly deflected off one of the Space-Goddesses boobs…what an awesome game!)

  9. Bozobub and Ken.C is right. The correct command is LAND. Only GO OUT *after* landing.

    Thanks to Doppel Frog for the link. I tried it, and that works. But this does not change the fact that this game trully sucks.

    I like Montezuma’s Revenge much better.

  10. Seriously, that guy playing the demo is stupid. Single word commands work just fine, although I gotta say, Doppel Frog’s link goes to a game with some seriously ill equipped characters. The first one has a pistol, but no bullets. Whoops! In any case, thanks for the trip down memory lane. 

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