Megawars.Net is the latest chapter in a decades-long story that began in the mid 1970’s with a game simply called WAR.
Created at the University of Texas at Austin on the CDC-6600, WAR was a single-terminal, two-player game based on the original online, text-only space strategy game called Star Trek.
WAR was essentially a single terminal, two player game version of Star Trek where each player took turns at the teletype keyboard in an effort to hunt the other player down. The primary addition to the game was a strategic portion where you took over planets, and then turned then into starbases. This planetary element would become a key ingredient in later versions of the game.
During a port to a DEC-10 machine, a huge number of features were added to the game and the number of simultaneous players was increased to ten. Thanks to an innovative memory sharing strategy, players could run copies of the game on their local machines, but play against others on a shared star map, allowing players to join or leave a game in progress without disrupting the experience for others. When there were too few human players in a battle to keep it interesting, the game would automatically spawn computer-controlled enemy opponents until such time they were no longer needed to provide a challenge to the player. Repackaged under the name DECWAR, this feature-packed upgrade was released sometime in late 1978.
The Big Move
— Bill Louden
CompuServe released this “re-imagined” version of the game in 1983 under a new name — MegaWars.
“S” Marks The Spot
“S” had another advanced feature, one that would sweep across the game world of the time: it was the first game designed to be viewed and played via CRT, as opposed to teletype.
Even though it had never been released, MegaWars II laid claim to that name so Louden christened the new version MegaWars III. Released on CompuServe in 1984, Megawars III remained in continuous service for the next fifteen years and enjoyed many Kesmai upgrades, including M-class planets and graphic interfaces. One especially important aspect to Megawars III was limiting game duration to only six weeks. According to Louden, this leveled the playing field, especially for new players. “Every six weeks an emperor would be crowned and the universe would reset for a new game. This kept newbies from feeling like they had no way to catch up and were just ‘meat for the slaughter.’”