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2001: A "Star Wars" online gaming odyssey

LucasArts and two other interactive entertainment companies plan to develop, distribute and host an online multiplayer "Star Wars" game.

LucasArts Entertainment today announced a partnership with two other interactive entertainment companies to develop, distribute and host an online multiplayer "Star Wars" game.

Sony Online Entertainment and Verant Interactive will team with LucasArts to produce a role-playing game in which participants create their own characters and goals, LucasArts spokesman Tom Sarris said.

The game, which is being developed under the working title "Star Wars Online," is expected to be released in late 2001 and will involve "literally thousands of players competing against each other at the same time," Sarris said.

Game play will feature scenarios based on a combination of combat, missions and quests in the "Star Wars" universe.

"The persistent game universe allows players to create characters in an environment and to live out that role, whether it's as a bounty hunter or a courtesan," Sarris said.

The game will be developed by Verant Interactive, the San Diego, Calif.-based game developer that created "EverQuest," an online game with 120,000 daily players, the company said.

LucasArts, the entertainment software arm of the San Rafael, Calif.-based Lucas group, will distribute the game at retail outlets, said Sarris, adding that a price tag hasn't been determined. Players also will pay an as yet undermined monthly fee to play the game online at The, Sarris said.