I love these sorts of simulation games. It’s too bad that they’re so time-consuming to design. At their heart, they are fairly simple branching simulations, not so diffierent from the original text-based branching adventure games. (Anybody remember “xyzzy”?) Some, like this one, are a bit more sophisticated because they include numerical computations. But they are really only a bit more sophisticated from a programming perspective. For example, this particular game was written in Flash, but you could probably do most of it in a simple tool like HalfBaked Software’s Quandary.
No, the hard part about these games is the branching. Unless you’re incredibly clever about designing loops, the game either explodes into an exponentially growing tangle of story lines, each of which needs to be explicitly authored, or remains boring and obvious with mostly Pavlovian clicking.
There is a craft to writing these branching simulations efficiently and well. Somebody should write a book about it. In fact, maybe somebody already has. If anybody knows of such a resource, please let me know.
(Found via e-clippings.)