'Sims 2' makes emotional debut

New version of hit game gives characters a purpose in life and a chance to pass on their DNA.

Electronic Arts on Friday began shipping the long-awaited sequel to its hit PC game "The Sims."

The new version, "The Sims 2," builds on the theme of letting people play out simulated life stories of its characters by allowing players to control their Sims from cradle to grave. It also adds a genetics aspect, with the "DNA" of its more lifelike characters passing from generation to generation, the company said.

The game maker said Sims now have a purpose in life, aspiring for popularity, fortune, family, knowledge and romance, depending on the kind of life players want them to lead. The new game package features movie-making option with which players can capture the travails of their Sims.

"Basically, we made it so that the Sims feel in your mind to be much more like real people," Sims creator Will Wright told CNET News.com in a recent interview. "You really establish a much deeper emotional connection with them."

The original game was an unlikely hit in a product category dominated by shoot-'em-up software and other action games.

Combined sales for the Sims franchise have topped 41 million units, Electronic Arts said. "The Sims 2" is priced at $49.95.

The company is now working on expansions for the sequel and mulling the possibility of a third version of the game, Wright said. "We've made this game even more expandable than the first. But I'm sure there'll be another generation."