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Saturday, 2 November, 2002, 08:36 GMT
Everquest fantasy offers real rewards
Screengrab from UK version of Everquest
Prepare to fight with real people in an unreal world
Multiplayer online role-playing games have taken the US by storm and they are about to hit Europe. BBC World ClickOnline's Kate Russell takes a trip into the virtual world of the popular online game, EverQuest.
They look like ordinary people. By day they are citizens of the world - office workers, school teachers, bricklayers and doctors.

But at night they transform into heroes, battling the scourge of the universe to bring peace and tranquillity to the magical lands of Norrath.

They are game players, playing EverQuest, the biggest online role-playing adventure game known to mankind.

Nearly 500,000 people log on to play each week. They are mostly in the US at the moment but, with the European servers due to go online on 21 November, the craze is bound to continue spreading like wildfire.

With some people spending as much time playing this game as they do going to work, just what is it about EverQuest that has made it such a hit?

"EverQuest has managed to capture people's imaginations very strongly with a massively multiplayer environment," said Neil Turner, an EverQuest game moderator.

"So you're speaking, adventuring and fighting with real people all over the world at any time."

Real but make-believe

If the rest of world has gone online looking for adventure, I decided it was about time I followed them to see what is going on.

Screengrab from UK version of Everquest
Characters care for each other
The first step was to load up the software, no mean feat in itself as it comes on six disks and there is still a massive download to get all the game files up-to-date.

Having registered my account it was time to create my character, which is a fairly complex procedure that will determine what skills, inclinations and alliances you will make once you arrive in Norrath.

The monsters and the battles you will fight are make-believe, as with any game.

But the warriors you fight beside are real people, with real personalities, and by all accounts real friendships with each other despite the fact they are forged in an unreal world.

Virtual family

When I joined the game it was not long before I got to grips with walking, talking and trading in this strange new world.

The next step was to be invited to join a group, then set out on one of the many game quests with my new found Guild Family.

I was still unskilled as a warrior so Azeroth, the Guild Master, turned to me and cast a spell of wooden skin to protect me from the swords and claws of our enemies while we were questing.

I felt touched by his caring concern, and decided always to stand behind him during a fight.

As we wandered out into the massive expanse of this online world in search of adventure we chatted amiably.

I felt myself being drawn inexplicably into my character, so much so that when one of our number was attacked by an Orc, my heart nearly jumped clean up into my mouth.

It was incredibly exhilarating and much more rewarding than just fighting a computer-generated character on my own.

This time I died a hero's death alongside my comrades, but luckily I will be reborn about half a mile away from all the action to try again.

ClickOnline is broadcast on BBC World at various times across the globe.
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