SimRefinery, a long lost training simuator from Maxis, has been recovered

In what’s being heralded as a big win by video game preservationists, a working copy of SimRefinery — a long lost title created by SimCity developer Maxis back in the ’90s — has been unearthed. 

As reported by ArsTechnica, the niche title was created by Maxis Business Solutions, an offshoot of Maxis that was more business-focused than the main studio, and was envisioned as light work-training simulator for oil refinery workers at Chevron. 

“Oil refineries are really, really complicated. That’s why Chevron wanted Maxis to make them a game like SimCity, to teach the employees at their oil refinery in Richmond, California how it all worked,” explained archivist Phil Salvador in a hugely insightful Obcuritory article, which was highlighted on Ars back in May.

“To be clear, they didn’t want a game that was supposed to accurately train people how to run an oil refinery or replace an education in chemical engineering. That would’ve been incredibly dangerous. What they wanted instead was something that showed you how the dynamics of the refinery worked, how all the different pieces invisibly fit together, like SimCity did for cities.”

More of a curiosity from a bygone era than a full-fledged game, SimRefinery was ultimately lost to the annals of time — until now. After reading that article on Ars, one reader called ‘postbebop’ commented with an image (shown below) of what appeared to be a copy of SimRefinery on a 3.5in floppy disk. 

Postbebop said they acquired the legendary game from a ‘retired chemical engineering friend,’ and in the name of preservation has now uploaded the disk’s contents to the Internet Archive. 

That means it’s currently possible to play a prototype version of the game on the Internet Archive in your web browser, or even download the mythical sim. Of course, being a prototype copy of the game — and one that’s being emulated using DOSBox — there are some functions that don’t work as (presumably) intended, and still plenty of unanswered questions regarding certain design choices. 

Still, it’s fascinating to be able explore and interact with a slice of video game history that many presumed had been lost for good. Thanks again to ArsTechnica and The Obscuritory for leading the charge on this one, and for Postbebop for hunting down and uploading the game itself.