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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
UK gamers aim for cash prizes
Screenshot from Fifa 2002, Electronic Arts
Fifa 2002 will feature in the online tournament
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By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent
Britain's keenest computer gamers are getting the chance to turn their hours of practice into cold, hard cash.

UK-based online gaming site Games Domain is running a tournament that will hand out 20,000 in prize money to the top players of four games.

Qualifying rounds for the tournament will be held online over the next few weeks. The final will take place in July at a central London location.

The closing date for the tournament is 3 May.

Broad reach

Already more than 2,000 people had signed up to take part in the competition, said Geraint Bungay, head of games strategy at BT Openworld, the owner of Games Domain.

Screenshot from Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Activision
Castle Wolfenstein pits you against Nazi soldiers
The four games featuring in the tournament are the first-person shooters Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Counterstrike, as well as football game Fifa 2002 and speed Chess.

Mr Bungay said the games were chosen to reach the broadest population of online gamers.

He said the majority of existing online tournaments were for dedicated players of games such as Quake and Unreal Tournament.

"We're trying to open it out to a much wider base than is traditionally seen as online game players," he said.

Up to 20% of the UK's online population had played games via the net said Mr Bungay, and many opted for the more sedate challenges of chess and bridge rather than the blistering pace of shoot-em-ups such as Quake.

Cheaters chopped

Overseeing the online qualifying rounds is Alien Pants, a company that specialises in running game websites and competitions.

Mike Large, community co-ordinator at Alien Pants, said all the online games would be supervised by an administrator to ensure there was no cheating and the competition was fair.

Many online games are ruined because one of the players is using software that helps them spot enemies and gives them a huge advantage over other human players.

"To administrators watching the game, its glaringly obvious if a player is cheating," said Mr Large.

Chess pieces, Corbis
If you are fast on the pawn, try your hand online
Games Domain is using custom-created maps for the Counter-Strike and Castle Wolfenstein tournaments. Keen players can download the maps before playing to familiarise themselves with the territory.

Mr Large said those who wanted to watch rather than take part would be able to tune in to live commentaries of some of the games.

But James McCarthy, aka Anarchy of Quake clan Iron Fist, said many people were surprised that the Games Domain championship did not feature more first-person-shooting games.

He said Iron First was concentrating its efforts on other Quake tournaments such as the European Cyberathlete tournament being held in Koln in May.

By far the most prestigious Quake tournament is the Eurocup team deathmatch run by the Clanbase website that offers no cash prizes at all.

"For us, money is a nice reward but it's never been the main driving force," he said. "The friendship and fun of playing is more important."

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