This is amazing news. I write business simulations for a company that uses them for training and the original article about Maxis Business Simulations was and is a fascinating read. I look forward to seeing a more in depth write up of SimRefinery now it has been recovered and archived for all to see.
I gave it a try last night in DosBox and was a bit under-whelmed. I don’t know enough about refining to evaluate the quality of the simulation, but here’s my impressions of the interface.
As expected, the UI mimics the original SimCity, with an overhead view of a refinery, a menu bar up top, and a toolbar on the left. There’s an edit view that allows placing buildings, roads, pipelines, railroads and other infrastructure, and a map view. Most of the edit buttons bring up a “Not implemented” dialog, so building a custom refinery doesn’t seem to be possible.
There’s a pre-built refinery displayed, however, and many of the buildings in both views can be clicked on to bring up an informational dialog box. Each dialog shows a flow diagram with inputs on the left, outputs on the right, and diagrams in the middle showing the flow and combination of inputs in that building with gauges/dials/numbers showing the flow. Most dialogs have a help button that pops up a high level overview of what the building is doing. The input and output icons are clickable, and jump to the information dialog for the building that produces that input or the building that consumes the output.
Some of the information dialogs have sliders or edit controls that allow adjusting the relative levels of its different outputs. I don’t know enough about refining to really understand what they’re doing, but they seemed to work, and I didn’t get any “Not implemented” warnings. Some of these were tricky to find because the UI is a little clunky, and some of the controls don’t look anything like modern UI controls.
Finally, there are some dialog boxes accessible from the menu bar, and they can be used to set input/output prices and levels, adjust production levels, switch to different fuel recipes, view budget forecasts, etc. Again, not knowing much about refining, it was hard to tell if changes were actually percolating through to other parts of the system, but I didn’t get any “Not implemented” warnings, so it might be working.
Overall, I think it might be interesting to somebody studying oil refineries or simulations, but I can’t imagine anybody playing it for fun like SimCity.
I’m happy that one copy was able to be preserved, and it’s quite amusing to see how “unfinished” the game is.
Hopefully some clever hacking from a group of fans might turn it into a complete game.
I await the Rock Paper Shotgun review with bated breath.