The Sims, like most transcendent games, feels natural, like it always existed. It's almost hard to wrap your mind around the idea that very complex and very painstaking design had to go into making something that is so elegant and so parsimonious, but of course, it did. Don Hopkins, a progammer instrumental to the creation of the game, has posted the original design documents on Scribd, and they are fascinating. Here's an early description of the game from 1997, when it went by the internal name "Jefferson":
Jefferson is a "family simulator" in which you arein charge of the creation, maintenance, andhappiness of one to six people in your own,specially designed household. You can livevicariously through a dream family in your dreamhouse, or simulate your own family in a model of your own house, and see what excitement your fantasy life holds in store.