Imperial Conflict, commonly referred to as IC, is a free online browser-based massively multiplayer online strategy game set in space. Players interact in cooperation and against other players in a quest to “Rule The Galaxy”.
IC was created by Stefan and MasterMike and owned and operated by Collective Minds Interactive, and is now owned and operated by I_like_pie through Foohon Pie LLC. It is 1 of 3 games created by Collective Minds Interactive, the other two being Dragon Lords and Final Conquest.
IC has twice won a Game of the Month awards from MPOGD, once in November 2000, and again in November 2003.
Imperial Conflict’s Golden Age is usually defined as 1 of 3 things:
- The Beta Rounds
- Round 1-6
- Both #1 and #2 together
Creation, Alphas, and Betas
Imperial Conflict was created in mid 2000 by 2 Swedish programmers, Stefan and MasterMike. The story goes that they set out to create the game because were both tired of the Utopia gaming community, citing dull gameplay and inactive admins.
There isn’t much information available about the alphas, but the betas are widely recognized as the first “era” of Imperial Conflict. This is the period when most formulas and strategies had not yet been figured out, and much of the game play was as much about discovery as it was about competition, true to the nature of beta software.
Multiple galaxies had not yet become common enough to warrant naming conventions, which is why beta rounds, and early post-beta rounds, are sometimes also referred to as early rounds of Milky Way.
The common strategies that would later dominate gameplay had not yet become the norm, and for the most part most players played their own way. This was also an era heavy with role-play in the forums, a practice that grew thanks to Altruist’s family and their allies.
Several dynasties within Imperial Conflict saw their formation in the betas, and it wasn’t uncommon for massive alliances to form across several families.
It was also during this time that an unofficial “Code of Honor” took form and was enforced by the players themselves without oversight from the staff, something that would later qualify as an Illegal Alliance.
The accounts from this time were unfortunately lost to an irrecoverable server crash.
Early post-beta rounds built upon the momentum of the betas with a still-increasing player base and notable events like The Donut Rumble in Round 1 and the reshuffle after Round 2.
By Round 4, gameplay had started to become standardized, with things like TNT Nap, Flint Jumps, and increased illegal drafting. It also saw the emergence of The Munchers as a dominant force that would leave its mark on the “modern” era for its time.
Early controversies included accusations of Mod cheating, and Lizzy deleting many players from the top-half of families from Round 6 for being illegally drafted, which led to legalized VIP drafting in Round 7.
The start of Round 7 is what many consider to be the end of Imperial Conflict’s Golden Age, and the beginning of its Silver Age.
Imperial Conflict’s Silver Age is recognized as the period after Round 7, but there is no clear marker for when it ended, although it may be represented by IC’s player base peak in 2005, which was contrasted by the decline in activity and presence from Imperial Conflict’s admins.
The end of this era was foreshadowed in a 2004 interview with Stefan, who had since noticeably distanced himself from the community.
This era is noteworthy for several changes in both the game and the community.
Teamwork and Core Strategies
After Round 7, it was becoming increasingly common to rely more on teamwork than individual skill. By round 14, most players knew how to play to a winning formula, and the game saw an increased emphasis on defining core systems.
It was by this time that Imperial Conflict saw a reduction of actual conflict, with it being better strategy to optimize economy and keep enemies out of your core systems as soon as possible. Mass-adoption of this play style would remove possibility of large-scale wars from earlier rounds.
It had also started to become bad-form to play SS-style, with some families even killing off players who tried. Hyper-specialization of roles would go on to become an unofficial requirement, and IC further shifted away from individual players proving their skill and more towards groups of players proving their ability to be highly active and well coordinated.
Farming has always been present in the game, but previously had been counter-balanced by 2 things:
Player-enforced norms of acceptable behavior (aka Code of Honor)
- Groups of players would coordinate to attack farmers, vultures, etc.
The game had not yet become so focused on team optimization.
- In earlier rounds, individual players had more power, which meant smaller families could better fight back against larger families if they had a skilled enough player in their ranks.
By now, neither of these things were true. The rule against Illegal Alliances forbade those would enforce player-defined norms, and the shift to optimize team play meant that few SS-style players even existed, and those who did could not compete against groups who were more active, even if they were less skilled.
In absence of these counter-balances, farming became more of a problem than it ever was, with its effects being felt for years to come.
Imperial Conflict saw a dramatic drop in players in 2006.
It was during the time that the original forums were hacked (in 2008), which lead to a switch away from IC’s hand-coded forums to PunBB, a effort that Smartys was involved with.
This was an era when the moderators saw a increased sense of ownership and responsibility. As a proxy for Stefan, and in the absence of improvements to the game’s design, the moderators would test new galaxy setups, modify gameplay rules, and continue to bear the burden of angry and dissatisfied players.
Although Stefan was still around, his activity did not increase, and the moderator team continued to shoulder the weight of running the game. For his part, behind the scenes Stefan was working on tools to make the moderators’ jobs easier.
Dark Age: 2011-2016
By 2011, Imperial Conflict’s player base was half of what it was in 2010, continuing to decrease year after year.
Stefan had since opened the code to volunteer developers, including Ps, Torqez, Elrohir, and I_like_pie. The volunteer dev team joined the moderators in moving the game forward, and the community felt renewed sense of progress.
This new dev team, however, was limited in its effectiveness due to their own time constraints but also in some cases being denied by Stefan to work on larger improvements. The volunteer devs rotated amongst themselves, retiring at different points due to either lack of time or disagreements with Stefan.
The moderators by this time were seen as owners of non-technical decisions, with occasional clashes with the dev team. For the most part, however, the 2 groups worked in harmony.
On the community side, activity had significantly stagnated such that 2016 saw a low point in which IC’s active player base was less than 5% of what it was during its 2005 peak. However, the remaining players were as active and loyal as ever, with many of them helping to figure out how to turn the game around.
In 2015, an attempt to combat the game’s core imbalance was had in the form of a rewrite to the morale formula that was ultimately controversial and very poorly received. This would be the last significant change that would happen during this era.
Revival: 2016 - Current
In 2016, Stefan accepted an offer from I_like_pie to purchase Imperial Conflict. This saw the beginning of a revival as the game had an active admin and developer for the first time in over a decade.
In 2016, Zarf_beeblebrix informed I_like_pie that Stefan was entertaining an offer to sell the game to an unknown buyer. I_like_pie had previously offered to purchase IC from Stefan but was repeatedly rejected.
I_like_pie contacted Stefan on August 03, 2016 with an offer to purchase Imperial Conflict for $1,000. After some discussion of detail and plans, Stefan accepted the offer. The next day, Stefan announced the ownership change.
Significant changes happened very quickly, including a restructuring of communication channels:
- The #mod IRC channel was replaced with a support email.
- With the help of Vegnarok, IRC was replaced with Discord.
- The PunBB forums were replaced with Discourse.
The game itself saw a rewrite of its interface to consolidate the underlying code, and a refactoring of its backend code to make larger changes more practical. This made it possible for, amongst other things, the 2015 morale rewrite to be reversed.
Community-focused initiative were also prioritized, including a revival of IC Radio, and later, IC Wiki, as well as an email campaign to reach out to older players to announce the changes and new direction.
Changes to the moderation team
Behind the scenes, the moderators saw several of their responsibilities removed and were directed to change focus and priorities, something that they did not receive particularly well.
Though mostly an amicable relationship, it was acknowledged on all sides that the moderators were used to leading themselves and the game in absence of an active admin, and having a new admin conflicted with many of their long-established processes that helped keep the game alive. They continued to aid with the transition but within a year the 3 mods present during the ownership transfer — KT, Undeath, and Zarf_Beeblebrix — had all quit.
This left Vegnarok as the sole remaining moderator who would be the first of a new group of moderators. This new group focused more on community growth and game design, though they still retained their responsibilities to enforce moderation until it was deemed no longer necessary in January 2019.
On January 21, 2019, the moderator team was dissolved and replaced with a community-lead Think Tank focused on game design. Although reaction amongst the players was positive, within the team reactions were mixed.
By 2017, player activity had started to regrow, surpassing levels from 2011 when Imperial Conflict saw its first 50% drop. This reversed the declining trend that lead to the lowest player activity on record in 2016.
Changes continue to be made, and the players have a new sense of responsibility to take over the moderators’ previous role as a hand to guide game design decisions.