Geek Trivia

Which Company Had A Training Game Built By SimCity Creators?

What Does FEMA Use As The Basis For An Informal Disaster Severity Scale?
Screenshot of SimRefinery
Maxis/PC Magazine

Answer: Chevron

Imagine this: it’s 1993, and you’re a Chevron executive in search of a computer-based training tool. You’re up late pondering exactly how you’re going to make oil refinement and distribution interesting. Lo and behold, a bolt of inspiration: your kid suggests that you should hire the people behind the super popular game SimCity to make you an oil company simulator. Is that how our story begins? To be fair, no. We couldn’t tell you where Chevron came up with the idea other than a drive to capture some of the magic surrounding the popular game. All we can tell you with certainty is that, in what had the potential to be the most boring game this side of Desert Bus, Chevron commissioned Will Wright and the Maxis Corporation to make a custom version of SimCity for them.

This one-off custom game, titled SimRefinery, was a management simulation game that simulated Chevron’s refinery and distribution operations. The game was created to help introduce new employees and staff not in direct contact with ground-level refinery operations to how the refineries and their distribution networks operated. Will Wright, in a 1994 interview with Wired magazine explained:

In the first couple months after SimCity appeared, we were approached by a number of companies saying, “Hey that’s great! If you can do a city like that, we want you to do “SimPizzaHut,” or “SimWhatever.” We thought these things were so weird that we said no, but they kept coming in. So at some point, as we got big enough, we decided to give it a go. Our first one was a prototype for Chevron. It was SimRefinery – a simulation of their refinery operation, for orienting people in the company as to how a refinery works. It wasn’t so much for the engineers as it was for the accountants and managers who walked through this refinery every day and didn’t know what these pipes were carrying.

If you’re dying to take a crack at managing an oil refinery, you’ll have to do some serious digging. The game was created in 1993 and never seen outside of the Chevron Corporation—finding a copy on a dust-caked floppy disk somewhere is about the only way you can feel the thrill of moving gasoline through highly pixelated pipes. The game is so obscure that despite multiple attempts by retro game enthusiasts to dig it up, it remains a lost game. In fact, the screenshot here attached to this trivia question isn’t even a direct screenshot of the game, but a photo scanned from a single screenshot found in a 1993-era copy of PC Magazine talking about the phenomenon of the SimCity clones. How’s that for obscure?