1994-1996 Microprose Software
Also known as: Little People
Inspired by Activision’s Little Computer People, Citizens: Backwater Affairs originally started out as a game called Little People, before it was renamed due to the name being taken already by Fisher Price.
Everything starts with the tragic event of you dying in a road accident, where you then enter the afterlife and taken on the job as a caretaker for a small world under a dome called Backwater.
According to lead artist Terry Greer, the idea was that you would be given tasks to do, such as helping a character get a new job. You would do this by changing that character’s statistics to have an affect on the final outcome. Terry gives a detailed account on his own page about the game here.
The game was felt to be ahead of its time, and as a result – management within Microprose didn’t fully understand the game or its appeal. Eventually it was cancelled, and a few years later The Sims appeared which did very similar things, much to the frustration of the original team.
At the time of cancellation, there was still plenty of work to go, but it was playable and showed a lot of potential and promise overall. Had Microprose kept faith, then this could have been a very special release indeed, and one which could have been talked about for years in various retrospectives today.
Thankfully bits of the development have managed to sneak out in the form of a magazine covermount demo, and Terry recovered an unfinished intro sequence too, but hopefully in time more of the development may surface over time.
Simon Butler (who suggested us covering the title) also worked on the game during the early days as a sprite artist whilst it was under the name of Little People. It is hoped that Simon will some day find some of his artwork that was produced.
The covermount demo can be downloaded from below, though you will need to use DOSBox to get it running on modern platforms. Alternatively, CuteFloor produced a video back in 2012 which gives a good demonstration:
If you know anything more about the development or have any assets that you can share, then please do get in touch.
With thanks to Simon Butler for flagging up to cover.