IEM Cologne Special - Part 1

Every year the Cologne tournament is a flagship ESL Pro Tour event. It is an improvement on the events we have run before. An event where we do new things.

IEM Cologne will be our first LAN EPT Masters tournament in 491 days. Let that sink in a little.

What can you expect from us this tournament

Competition & Safety

For the first time in 491 days (!!!) we will have in person competition at a Masters level ESL Pro Tour event. The difficulty level of going from online tournaments to twenty-four teams on the ground is very high, but we were only interested in running the complete format of an EPT Championship (you can get an IEM Cologne format refresher at the bottom of this update.)

Originally, the event was planned to take place in a studio setting in Malta which was being built out. Four weeks ago, however, we took the decision to move the tournament setting to a hotel in Cologne due to Malta’s quarantine and travel regulations affecting some of the world’s best teams.

The necessary equipment was shipped to Germany and the ESL projects team had to make new tech plans, new layouts and adjusted Covid protocols just over four weeks until the first match. Every single day is interesting when you work in esports.

Here are some details of what to expect of the tournament and how we run it:

The absolute priority was “Competition & Safety”. This means the highest quality LAN experience and a healthy environment for staff and players. Our tournament is taking place inside a hotel in a setup that is as close to a bubble as possible.

The players will be tested upon arrival (and also further down the line) quarantined for three days and will be allowed to only move within certain designated areas throughout the entire event. The same will apply to ESL staff. We will have a post outlining our Covid Protocol in detail in the coming days so fans are able to understand what the event will be like for players.

Improvement

Contact between players from different teams is not allowed. We would like to allow more contact and also give ourselves more access to players, but the safety of the entire group is our top priority.

When fans hear LAN, they may think of a beautiful studio and unfettered access to players. The focus for our first live event experience within the given time frame (we had to switch the country for the event on four weeks’ notice, remember) was delivering raw competition on LAN in a safe and healthy environment.

There are 120 players here from 20 different countries and the risk of someone testing positive is real. If this were an 8 team LAN, perhaps we would have done it a little differently.

This is a $1,000,000 tournament in Cologne, though, and it will be better than the other ones this year in several areas:

New CS:GO HUD

Our Broadcast Design and Development team with Tall Vlad at the helm is preparing a new version of our CS:GO HUD, which will feature the most significant layout redesign since its introduction back in Katowice 2018 as well as a few things already added based on community feedback. Internally we think it is a big improvement and we will provide a separate update about it in the days to come, which will outline the thoughts of the design team, as well as a sneak peek of what you can expect.

New trophy

We cannot wait to show you “The Chalice” in its new form. We wanted it to encapsulate everything the old trophy was about but come in a form built out of super high quality materials with the highest level of craftsmanship. We have asked the same artisans that build the IEM Katowice trophy to do it for us and the effect is… You have to wait and see.

New VR studio

The online broadcast studio you have been looking at since December in several iterations will have a new and different shape, updated for IEM Cologne. It was designed to remind you of the great feats by the players over the last seven years of competition at the Cathedral of Counter-Strike. Tom-Eric, the lead producer along with our 3D artists are working on the final touches as you’re reading this.

POV streams are back

We are going to be bringing POV streams back for you to enjoy for the IEM Cologne playoffs. Starting with the first games of the tournament we expect to have the Twitch Command Center available for your viewing pleasure allowing you to neatly set up as many as four PiP in one browser window. So no more messing about with tabs and window sizes.

We will provide an update on the final features and improvements for the POV streams on the @IEM Twitter account.

Cameras on players

Our Covid Protocol is restrictive and we know it. It is the cost of running a tournament at this scale. With that in mind, rest assured that while Competition & Safety are our top priority, we want to get the most we can out of the fact that players are in the flesh with us. We haven’t so much as taken photos of players in 491 days. There wasn’t a way. Our crew will do as much as is possible within the confines of what is safe and allowed to deliver good content around the players.
Why is this event exciting?

Finally, a word from us. We are chomping at the bit for the tournament to begin. It’s a local environment with everything that comes with it. The absolute perfect conditions of LAN, the yelling, the team spirit, the pressure, the gut wrenching feeling of I-don’t-want-to-be-here after losing. The titans of the pre-pandemic era will be tested against the online kings and the debate of whether any of the previous 18 months were real will be settled.

This language might not be appropriate, but HOLY SHIT.

See you soon!