Citizens: Backwater Affairs

Citizens: Backwater Affairs is an unreleased simulation game developed by Microprose. This project originally started as “Little People” in 1994, influenced by Activision’s “Little Computer People”. However, the title had to be changed after a while since it was already used by Fisher Price for a range of toys. It was too close to Activision’s title as well.

The development of the game went nicely and even made it into a playable demo version that has been provided to PC magazines at the time. It comprises a tutorial plot which introduces you to some basic elements of the game. The demo describes the story as follows:

Following a fatal car crash you get a second chance in the afterlife as guardian of the town Backwater. Backwater was set up by Celestial Development Inc. – creators of realities for the material age, as a model development to demonstrate the effect that good acts could have on a modern society. Unfortunately, evil influences have introduced dark experiments of their own. Projects that deal with the darker side of life, such as losing jobs, getting hit by cars, cheating on partners, or generally having fun at the expense of everyone else. Your job is to carry out head office instructions while ensuring the cosmic balance does not swing too far towards good or evil. The only problem is that judgement day is fast approaching for Backwater. The Boss will be down soon to see how the experiment turned out. You must ensure that CDI’s experiments in Backwater are successful.

Citizens was ahead of time and had many ideas that was later found in “The Sims”, a popular game where you control the lives of people. However, not many in the US upper management could see the potential. Being dismissive about the idea of indirectly controlling characters, Citizens ended up to be canned.

The intro of the game was never finished. Terry Greer, senior artist at Microprose at the time, created it using the original DOS version of 3D Studio. After many years, he published it on YouTube: