In the early 90s, the Chevron Corporation commissioned Maxis’ business simulations division to create a refinery simulator for its employees. The idea wasn’t so much to teach employees how to do their job, per se, but to provide an overview of how all of the pieces fit together and illustrate how an issue in one part of a plant can impact other areas.
SimCity was never meant to be a serious city simulator. As designer Will Wright recounts, the game “was always meant to be a caricature of the way a city works, not a realistic model of the way a city works.”
That realization didn’t stop companies from thinking otherwise and Maxis from gladly taking their money.
The title, fittingly dubbed SimRefinery, did become a reality but as a business tool, it was never made available to the public. After nearly three decades, it was believed that the game had been lost to Father Time. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.
After reading a story on the matter from Ars Technica last month, a user commented with a photo of a 3.5-inch floppy disk labeled SimRefinery. This week, the user delivered in a big way, uploading the contents of the disk to the Internet Archive for everyone to enjoy. Best yet, it’s playable right in your browser simply by visiting the aforementioned link.
As a prototype, the game remains rough around the edges – for example, many of the buttons haven’t been mapped. Plus, there’s the technical aspect of the core material. Unless you have a background in chemical engineering, odds are, you aren’t going to know what the heck to do but it’s neat nevertheless.