Electronic Arts has announced The Sims 2, the next iteration of its top-selling life-simulation game.

The Sims 2 is already in development at the Maxis studio. It will be unveiled at giant US games industry trade show the Electronic Entertainment Exposition in Los Angeles on May 13. It ships - for PC initially - in 2004.

The game offers players control over their Sims for an entire lifetime, in which each choice taken affects that Sim's life. The new version will offer more lifelike Sims, new game-play options and introduces genetics, with Sim DNA being passed down through generations. The company promises the action will take place in an "amazingly life-like" 3D world, built on a new 3D engine.

Chief game designer at Maxis Will Wright said: "The Sims have always been the most interesting part of the game experience for me. Giving them DNA makes them more life-like and increases the personal connection between players and their Sims. Playing Sims across a lifetime and experiencing their emergent traits and behaviours will give players a deeper and more realistic experience."

The new-generation Sims are more mood-aware and responsive to other Sims and their surroundings. They express emotion using more realistic body and facial animations, form complex relationships and pass physical characteristics to their offspring. Appearance also changes over time - your Sims will grow old.

In three years since its appearance, The Sims games became the bestselling PC game in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The original title has also spawned six well-received expansion packs: Livin' Large, House Party, Hot Date, Vacation, Unleashed and (available for PC May 13) Superstar. The original title and its expansion packs have sold a combined 24 million copies so far.

In related news, Aspyr - which publishes the Mac version of Electronic Arts' The Sims titles, announced last week that SimCity 4 for the Mac is already at beta and is expected to ship later this month.