Empire is Written for the PLATO System
In reviewing how other early game designers describe their firsts, the innovations they initiated, I felt it important to keep my descriptions accurate and written with humility.
First of all, I did not have a view of the efforts of others developing elsewhere on other systems. Innovation seems to fall from the skys, landing on fertile grounds, and multiplying in many places in parallel; I feel that the case in game design as much as any where else. Who innovated some feature first will need to be left to historians (not publicists) and that can only be accurately done if the reports are honest and as accurate as possible about the events and the timing.
The first version, Empire I, was written by John Daleske as project coursework for an education class in the Spring of 1973. Silas Warner helped out by providing Daleske with disk space (known as "lesson space" in the PLATO environment). The first version of the game was a strategic turn-based game for eight players. Each had ships, industry, and budgets. Players had to keep the budget up to build more ships, maintain industry to help pay for it, provide raw materials to turn into goods, and trade. This was likely the earliest example of an online, multi-player, interterminal computer game. Games prior to this were two player or one player against a computer.