MegaWars III was a massively multiplayer empire building game written by Kesmai and run continuously on CompuServe between 1984 and 1999. It was one of CompuServe's most popular games throughout its lifetime, and was only shut down because they switched to their web-based "CompuServe 2000" interface that would not cleanly support it. A modified version, Stellar Emperor ran for much of the same time period on GEnie, also ending in 1999 when that service shut down by General Electric. A new version of Stellar Emperor, sporting a new client-server GUI, was run for a short period on GameStorm.
In 1979 University of Virginia 4th year students Kelton Flinn and John Taylor started work on a game for the Hewlett-Packard HP 2000F time sharing minicomputer. Known simply as "S", the game supported up to eight players on directly connected 2400 baud terminals. Much of what would become MegaWars III was present in S, but greatly simplified. This included ship-to-ship combat, the galaxy layout and creation engine, and a simple planetary economics system. The game was much "smaller" however, supporting fewer players and a smaller 255-system "galaxy".
Bill Louden was in charge of games at CompuServe. In 1982 he purchased a version of DECWAR and turned it over to the programmers at Kesmai, who wrote many of CompuServe's games. While completing their doctorates, Flinn and Taylor started Kesmai, a reference to their first commercial product, Islands of Kesmai. They found that the copyright said nothing about commercial uses, and quickly produced a new version that removed any potentially lawsuit-friendly names from the Star Trek universe with more generic versions.
The new version, MegaWars, went live on CompuServe in 1983 and ran continuously until 1998, although there were a few times where they closed it down during that period only to revive it after receiving complaints from the players. Numerous additions were made during its run, notably different classes of ships, and later versions looked little like the original DECWAR.
In 1985 Louden left CompuServe to form GEnie at General Electric. Kesmai re-scrubbed the system for use on GEnie, producing Stellar Warrior. Like MegaWars, Stellar Warrior ran for years, and was finally killed when GEnie was shut down in 1999.
Returning to S, CompuServe asked the game to be tied to MegaWars, which was a big hit, and the new version emerged as MegaWars III, II being a client-server version of the original MegaWars which was not released.
During the conversion, the game was greatly expanded. The maximum number of players was increased from eight to 100, and the galaxy contained 1000 systems. However, another feature was lost; in S the player could close with an enemy ship in space and attempt to take it over, taking that ship's cargo if they were successful.
MegaWars III, The Rebirth
MegaWars III, The Rebirth is a browser based reincarnation of MegaWars III played on CompuServe and Stellar Emperor played on GEnie in the 1980s. Rebirth was created by David Baity, a well-known player of the original MegaWars III. While following the same gameplay mechanics, the entire game was recoded from scratch with modern programming standards. Greatly enhanced performance eliminated all limitations to the number of players. Additionally, third party applications could easily be integrated into the game and several have been written. The initial release of Rebirth took place in 2010.
- Maury Markowitz. "MegaWars III - The first multi-player strategic empire building space game.". Retrieved 2009-07-31.
- Maury Markowitz, "WAR, DECWAR, MegaWars", 1 September 2000