Published on SK Gaming in May of 2010.

Taking what works

There are seemingly as many different opinions on every aspect of hosting an esports event as there are organisers out there. The last few years have seen some interesting and original ideas implemented which have each had their own distinct effects. This article will highlight some of the best things the different tournament organisers have done with their events. Different organisers have their own directions plotted out but there are a number of features from their competitors they could consider introducing which might improve their events.

Intel Extreme Masters

Spacing of matches

Some of the players may not like this approach but ESL’s decision to space out the matches at their tournament is an excellent one for viewers. This means not only that they get to see more matches but more importantly that they get to see more of the important matches. So many times in standard tournament setups there will be more than one high profile match taking place at the same time as another. Not only does this force the viewer to choose but it also means he will miss out on the experience of viewing a significant moment of the tournament live. Even if he should go back after the event and watch the demo he will likely already know the result and much of the meaning behind the match may have evaporated.

Likewise this system is excellent for the press as there is spacing between rounds also which allows posts to be made and writeups to be written. Sometimes in a tournament, especially one using a single elimination bracket, the biggest match of the event may well be a quarter-final or semi-final. The winner of this matchup may end up going on to decide which of the two strongest teams will head onwards and win the event. With most other tournament setups the time between this match ending and the next round of matches beginning can be as little as 10-30 minutes.

The argument could be made by players that this kind of spacing takes them out of their game and allows them to cool off too much if they have to wait half a day or a day to play their next bracket match. They could also claim it means the team coming from the relegation match will be more warmed up and in battle mode. There is certainly some merit to these arguments but it is also a scenario where it is better for the players to learn to adapt than give up the benefits such a situation provides for everyone else involved. In the long run it is perhaps better that teams learn how to peak at the right time in tournaments as opposed to hoping they get hot at the right time and can run through bracket play in a single day.

Open entry

The structure of the IEM as a whole can be confusing early on but it in theory allows for open entry to the top tiers of competition for teams who are good enough to make it. Many events stack their participants lists with direct invitations, which is a method which posseses its own merits, but in theory the teams who qualify for the continental finals for CS in the IEM could be relative unknowns. If they can beat their national cups and get entry to the main qualification rounds and then defeat bigger names there then they can win a spot, no questions asked. While in general I think it’s better to have the biggest teams, who typically speaking are the biggest by virtue of being the best, making up the finals list it’s also key that there be avenues by which lesser well known but equally talented players and teams can make names for themselves.


Cash prizes

At an Arbalet tournament once you finish the event if you’ve managed to reach a position which pays prize money they do exactly that after the tournament: pay you the prize money. The structure of the Arbalet organization and its unique financial backing situation, with a sole wealthy benefactor, means there is no concern over sponsor payout delays and the like. At the end of the event the teams can be paid in cash and move on to the rest of their careers without concerns over whether they will ever be paid or when. This might seem like a small thing but there have been a number of famous cases of teams’ careers being disrupted or negatively affected by waiting for prize money that is delayed or never comes.

All maps played

This is unique to the ‘Best of Four’ structure but having teams play out all of the maps against each other is an excellent idea. Due to time contraints it is unlikely it will be feasible in standard bracket play of other events any time soon. However, having teams play all of the maps certainly adds a new twist to competition between elite level teams. In past there was no such option so the viewer simply had to assume whoever won their two maps was the better team or wonder for himself what may have happened on other map choices. Now he gets his chance to see how the teams would perform across the spectrum of CS environments.

What’s interesting about this setup is that it could and arguably should be implemented into normal CS tournaments. The logical place for it would be in the final. Have the two teams who reach the final play best of five across the standard map pool. This is something ESL have implemented for QuakeLive in bracket play, which admittedly takes less time per map. Even if the rest of CS bracket play must remain Bo3 it would be a nice touch and not too much more of a burden for organisers to consider implemented best of five for their finals. Let’s see just how great these teams are, how they match-up across the board and who has the stamina to be a champion!


Travel and accomodations provided

For the bigger organisations travel and accomodation expenses are part and parcel of competing in the international Counter-Strike scene. Even so it is important that this organisation looks to cover that aspect for their tournaments since they take place across the other side of the world. It is no exaggeration to say that there are a number of teams who have the skill and depth in their lineups to compete at a high level but whose sponsorship will not cover them attending events outside of Europe. One need only look at some of the events over the last year or so which have seen teams and players drop out in the last week or two before the event was set to be played due to inability to secure funds for travel and accomodations. That leaves teams who are good enough to qualify sitting at home because the financial aspect of their organisation couldn’t come up with a solution to get them to the event.

Press conferences (with interpreters)

One of the most impressive aspects of the WEM and e-Stars events is having mandatory press conferences after matches. Not only does this mean a more professional setting akin to real world sports where the players sit at a desk and face questions from different members of the press but it also means access at times it otherwise wouldn’t be available. When a team loses an important match they are unlikely to want to give an interview despite the fact there may be a number of interesting points which could be made about the way the game went or what they did wrong. When press access is outlined within the structure of the event then teams accept that it is a part of being a professionl and fans get the opportunity to hear their thoughts.

It’s also unique that these events provide translators. Admittedly these are to translate from English into Chinese or Korean, which doesn’t really do much for Western fans, but all the same it is a key step forwards in press coverage for esports events. There will also be rare cases where it means an Asian player who otherwise couldn’t have an interview conducted with them will be able to communicate his thoughts to Western fans via an interpreter. If esports is to continue growing globally this is something which could become an important aspect to international coverage.