A forgotten game from the SimCity studio is now playable in your browser, but you might need a background in the petroleum business to get much out of it.
SimRefinery is a game about running an oil refinery, created as a partnership between Maxis (best known these days for The Sims series) and the Chevron oil corporation back in 1992. It was meant to be an occupational education tool by Maxis Business Solutions, rather than a consumer product, and it never made it past the prototype stage - two factors that have made it nearly impossible to find in 2020.
Thanks to an in-depth feature written by game historian Phil Salvador, and following coverage by Ars Technica, a copy of the game finally emerged on a floppy disc from the collection of a retired chemical engineer. The contents were uploaded to the Internet Archive, and thanks to its built-in DOSBox emulator - which still feels like magic to me - you can play this once-lost prototype right from your browser.
I wasn't kidding about needing a background in business to appreciate SimRefinery. Beyond the nostalgic pixel art refinery facilities and tanker ships, it's almost all tweaking values in menus. An occasional pop-up informs you that there was a fire your crews had to put out, or that there was a gas leak that left a non-toxic (but abrasive) residue on everything downwind of the facility. Again, this wasn't ever meant to be a game for general audiences.
Fun factor aside, it's a fascinating look back into a very different era of video games and the business around them.
These days, Maxis is mostly busy putting out fires started by urinating Sims.