At Ars Technica, when we see some silent staff at the same time to read other site articles as a whole, it reverses a rare turn: time to tell our readers to click somewhere besides Ars (perish the thought) and give others some very decent clicks.
Today jaw-dropping, candidate must-read-it stems from a scarcity in the world of modern publishing: a self-published, year-in-making report about the history of a large game studio, long closed from the heyday of the early 90’s computer games. In other words, it’s our jam.
Specifically, this feature – written and researched by reporters, game historians, and librarian Phil “Shadsy” Salvador based in Washington, DC – includes life and death Maxis Business Simulation (MBS), which began life in 1992 as the official division of the game studio behind SimCity. After four years of reporting, Salvador has emerged with insights and quotes from each major player (meaning, yes, SimCity the creator of Will Wright is here). Most importantly, the article contains many stories and insights gathered from MBS founder John Hiles, who died in 2016.
The story of MBS begins with an extraordinary coincidence. Hiles struggles to make a legitimate computer-based business agent based modeling since the mid-80s, but his dense thinking and contagious enthusiasm kept him looking for the ideal partner. He found one at Maxis, whose PC game debut exploded so fast that its staff struggled with the demand from big business: they wanted it themselves SimCity-like games to be used for training and data analysis, and they are willing to pay.
With a handshake, Maxis issued a shaky business proposal – as Wright once said, “I know how sad it is[[[[SimCitythis
simulation, in fact, compared to reality “- while Hiles finally got something that his company, Delta Logic, really lacked: with one word,” have fun. “
Thus, Maxis acquired and renamed Delta Logic to Maxis Business Simulation, which operated for two years before turning to its own company (renamed Thinking Tools Inc.). And Salvador does a brilliant job of connecting the outlines of everything that is relevant here: increased hunger for PC video games, a mixture of curiosity and skepticism that is applied to computer industry “simulation” games, and marches driven by industry. venture capital to profit which ultimately destroys the company that eventually becomes MBS.
Sadly, this also confirms why we see very few SBM / Thinking results: because the remaining staff, who have been alienated from things like a neat transition to a new company or severance package, marked the end of Thinking Tools’ existence in late 1998 with big bonfire. Every design document, every floppy disk, and every proof of its output is smoldering in Monterey, California. (Our game-archiving brain goes into convulsions when we see these details, but then our bureaucratic hatred hearts figuratively pour gas into the fire in solidarity.)
Although the gallery above includes examples of how the Thinking Tools software that dries in the desert turns out, long and feature-rich stories are much drier than you might believe. Carve the time to check out Incredible Salvador report, then jumps from there to read the history content of other deep-dive software that he posts on his personal site, Obscuritory.
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