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"EverQuest II" to debut in 2003

Sony Online Entertainment says the next version of the popular computer game will feature a new 3D engine and a tradesman class for "nonconfrontational" character advancement.

A new version of the popular computer game "EverQuest" will make its debut late next year, Sony Online Entertainment said Thursday.

Why Sony's EverQuest sells
J.C. Herz, president, Joystick Nation

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"EverQuest II," which is slated to arrive in December 2003, will feature a new 3D engine and will allow gamers to own real estate, ride horses, command ships, and use new, enhanced spells, quests and events.

The game centers on an online fantasy world called Norrath, where players create characters, engage in online activities and gather elements such as armor and weapons. Through the Internet, players can interact with each other, fighting, talking and trading, and building up more power.

"EverQuest"'s phenomenal popularity has also earned it some critics; some mental-health professionals have warned that players may become obsessed with the game. Other studies have focused on the "EverQuest" economy, concluding that if Norrath were a country, its per-capita gross national product would be $2,266--comparable to the 77th-richest country on Earth.

More than 400,000 subscribers pay a subscription fee of $12.95 a month for access to the huge virtual world where the game takes place.

The new version will be able to host hundreds of thousands of simultaneous users from throughout the world, thanks to real-time translation in English, French, German, Japanese and Korean, as well as localized servers in select countries, Sony said.

Other new features will include a new "tradesman" character class that allows "nonconfrontational means of character advancement."