Leaked draft of ESL’s CSGO LANXESS agreement, new version in the works - Dexerto
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Leaked draft of ESL’s CSGO LANXESS agreement, new version in the works

Published: 20/Jan/2020 20:03 Updated: 21/Jan/2020 18:49

by Richard Lewis

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Dexerto has obtained a copy of an early draft of the ESL Pro League agreement that was sent to Counter-Strike teams in 2019. The agreement is the one that caused a stir with Valve due to its “exclusivity” clause, prompting a blog post entitled “Keeping It Competitive” where they openly stated their distaste for exclusivity.

“In addition to preventing other operators from competing, exclusivity prevents other events from keeping the CSGO ecosystem functioning if an individual event fails,” the developer said before adding, “At this time we are not interested in providing licenses for events that restrict participating teams from attending other events.”

Since then ESL have been making changes to their ESL Pro League agreement to bring it into line with Valve’s expectations. Notably they are making a clear distinction between the member league, a newly structured version of the ESL Pro League, and the ESL Tour, which is the global circuit featuring ESL, DreamHack and Intel Extreme Masters events. With a meeting due to take place in a matter of days about a new version of the contract, that is currently with potential members, it seems worth looking at the contents of the draft that caused so much consternation within the scene.

Award nominated journalist Jarek “Dekay” Lewis has done the bulk of the reporting in regards to the agreement. Earlier this month he reported that ESL was holding a meeting with potential members of the league in order to convince them to sign up.

The meeting will include discussion about the new version of the contract that includes many notable changes implemented after Valve’s statement about exclusivity. Lewis also reported that while there will be significant changes around exclusivity to ensure that ESL will be issued with a license, many of the terms in the draft included here will remain the same, including the length of the agreement and proposed revenue shares.

Sources familiar with the discussions surrounding this new ESL league, FACEIT’s project “B site,” and The Blast’s Premier circuit have stated that agreements across these leagues pushed for exclusivity in a bid to maximize revenue. However, in light of Valve’s statement these leagues are now instead offering incentives for commitment. The same sources have also intimated that it is likely there will be clashing dates at various points of the season to ensure commitment.

ESL Pro League
Helena Kristiansson/ESL
ESL is supposedly meeting with teams to convince them to sign up.

Some notable sections of this draft, all of which may be subject to change:

–    The voting panel for league decisions will comprise of 17 members, 16 teams and ESL, with ESL having veto rights on matters “materially impacting finances.”

–    A candidate for league commissioner will be scouted by ESL and these members and then voted upon

–    ESL have a veto right when it comes to “exclusivity terms,” agreeing participation in other leagues and making changes to the league to ensure co-operation from Valve

–    Teams are to share 21.25% of gross revenue and 60% of profits in the first year. The share is selected by a “distribution matrix” so not all teams will receive an equal share.

–    Receiving this revenue share is contingent on member teams fielding a roster of three players deemed to be in the top 500 of the ESL world ranking

–    Failure to field such a team will see the team lose 50% of its share, to be distributed evenly among other member teams

–    ESL will assign invites to circuit events based on tour rankings. Teams are allowed to decline a maximum of three events per sixteen but no more than two in a calendar year.

–    Any member team that declines more than this for any reason will forfeit its entire revenue share for the year

–    ESL will also operate in the capacity of an agency for the member teams

–    Agency revenue, such as sales of collective sponsorships, will see 85% of it shared among member teams with the agency part of the ESL business retaining 15%

The key stumbling block that triggered the Valve statement is still contained in this draft agreement and reads: 

“Beginning January 1st 2020 all member teams of the Pro League shall not  play in other Counter-Strike leagues, this means non Valve sponsored competitions where the first day of competition (excluding qualifiers) and the grand final day are more than fourteen (14) days apart, besides Pro League.

All member teams of Pro League shall limit their tournament participation days, meaning active competition days of a tournament they participate in regardless of if they play on that day or not, to not more than 60 days per calendar year…

During the League Season (per jointly aligned schedule), teams shall not play in any other tournaments/leagues.”

All sources contacted in regards to the details of this contract have stated that this clause will not be featured in future agreements.

A list of member teams is also included in the draft. It divides teams into two sections, the “suggested” teams, which are ones who are desired to be in the league and likely to join and “application” teams, meaning teams that the inclusion of which will be assessed should they wish to join. The teams are as follows:

Suggested:

 FaZe, Na’Vi, fnatic, NiP, Liquid, NRG, Vitality, mousesports, G2, compLexity, MiBR, ENCE, Astralis, Cloud9

 Application:

 Envy, VP, BiG, North, Renegades, Furia

Some of these teams have already been confirmed as participating in the “B-site” project, which raises questions about whether they will feature in the ESL Pro League, have chosen to be exclusive to the “B-site” league project while participating in components of the ESL Tour rather than the newly structured league.

Lanxess Agreement by Richard on Scribd

The Counter-Strike Professional Players Association (CSPPA) has also held talks with ESL ahead of this newly announced Pro League structure and seems to have had a positive reaction to the contents of those talks. A statement released by the CSPPA’s CEO Mads Øland said:

“The life of a professional CS:GO player revolves around tournament participation all over the world. This makes the working conditions of players in connection with tournaments a key priority of the CSPPA. In the current tournament landscape, ESL sets the industry standard for such working conditions and with this partnership ESL has committed to maintain and develop such standards in close cooperation with the CSPPA. The agreement solidifies the working partnership between CSPPA, ESL and DreamHack and establishes the best possible basis for us to work together on elevating professional CS:GO to the benefit of all stakeholders involved and for the players to deliver a performance which meets the highest standards demanded by the global CS:GO community and the game and its 20 year legacy.”

ESL provided Dexerto with the following statement:

“As an important part of driving the CS:GO ecosystem forward, we have been working with multiple teams to improve and further establish a joint approach to funding the activities in the space. That process started years ago and has been continuing ever since, being adjusted multiple times along the way. In line with the spirit of the Valve blog post, any team playing in our tournaments will remain free to participate in any other tournaments they want. Regarding the ESL Ranking, we have developed it in the past years as a key tool for event invites and seeding and will continue to do so without preventing any team from referring to any other ranking. Overall, ESL Pro Tour events will remain open for everyone to play in regardless of if they want to engage in closer business relationships with us beyond their tournament participation.”

While we acknowledge that this agreement will contain content that is to be changed we felt it was in the community interest and the interests of transparency to publish it in its entirety. We ask that readers be mindful of this fact while discussing its contents.

CS:GO

BLAST’s director of operations on maintaining integrity with online CSGO

Published: 24/Nov/2020 15:23 Updated: 24/Nov/2020 15:33

by Adam Fitch

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“This time last year our rulebook and our whole setup were based on LAN events,” BLAST’s director of operations and production Andrew Haworth told Dexerto. “We hadn’t really done a huge amount of work on how that would be replicated in an online world.”

Earlier this year, with the global health situation emerging, governments all around the world were forced to reduce the feasibility of hosting events, and thus, they were moved online — halfway through a tournament, in some cases.

Prior to the restrictions, tournament organizer BLAST managed to host their first big competition of the year in February, impressing many and unknowingly hosting what would be one of the only prominent offline events in the 2020 Counter-Strike calendar. They didn’t have the same privilege later in the year, however, as limitations had yet to be permanently relaxed in many locations. Nonetheless, they went on with their plans to host the BLAST Premier Fall Series, albeit online.

Another layer of absurdity was added as a factor of hosting an event, and that was the revelation of a spectating bug that spanned multiple years. With the Esports Integrity Commission — a body devised to maintain the integrity of competitive gaming — issuing bans to dozens of coaches, integrity questions were more prominent than ever during an online era, no less, where it’s harder to monitor the activity of teams and their coaches.

BLAST Premier Fall Series 1
BLAST
Commentators Scrawny and launders arrived at the production location early to accommodate local restrictions.

Haworth’s background working on major music festivals and the Olympics Games means he’s no stranger to crafting contingency plans to put in place in case of a problem arising. Prior to hosting the Fall Series, they went through sessions of scenario testing with key department leads to devise numerous methods of still getting the job done.

Considering BLAST have deployed everything at their disposal to maintain competitive integrity within their events, Dexerto spoke with Haworth to see how they adapted their processes to move to a remote production while monitoring the gameplay itself both in and out of the server.

Going back to esports’ roots

“We were fairly lucky in the timing of the outbreak, we just finished our Spring Series in February and didn’t have another live event till the end of May,” he said. “Other tournament organizers didn’t and were thrown into that halfway through a show. We had a bit of time, purely by luck, to have a look at what we need to do for our Spring Showdown and our Spring Final.”

While esports, like most other sports, is fundamentally an entertainment product, the need for competitive integrity is essential. Fans tune in to watch the best players in the world face off against each other, and that’s no different during an era of online competition.

“If the fans don’t have faith in what we’re putting on if our broadcasters and sponsors don’t have faith in what we’re putting on, and the teams ultimately lose faith in it, then none of us can stand behind it proudly,” Haworth said. “So competitive integrity is in integral to what we do, none of us are arrogant enough to think that we’re perfect in that.

“There may be things that we’re doing now that we’ll review and determine haven’t worked quite as well or are not effective. Some of the things that we have done we want to ensure, while maintaining competitive integrity at all times, doesn’t affect the performance of play. We don’t want to be taking up computer performance for the matches because that isn’t going to gain the right tone with anybody.”

BLAST Premier Fall Series 2
BLAST
The venue had no players in sight, with only production staff and broadcast talent being present.

With a change in circumstance comes a need to change the parameters in which events are run, and that filters all the way down to the gameplay itself. BLAST saw the need to adapt their guidelines early in the year, when LAN events no longer seemed possible, so all of the teams were on the same page.

“The rulebook gets issued at the start of every season, we generally review it and update it after every event,” Haworth said. “We did less of that last year — I think we only made one or two slight revisions from Spring Series into Spring Showdown because the former was very much for a LAN. We also have our competitive integrity policy, which is broadly drawn out of the rulebook and is a short, sharp summary to articulate to what we do. That’s on our website. We’ve worked with experienced tournament officials that have worked with other tournament organizers and in other settings, it’s important to us that they can see elsewhere what has worked, and equally what hasn’t worked, so we can pick up best practices.”

From bad to worse

All partners of ESIC — including the likes of ESL and DreamHack — vow to enforce rulings decided upon by the commission, and that was no different for BLAST. The spectating exploit utilized by at least 37 coaches rocked the CS:GO community and certainly begged the question as to what tournament organizers are doing to ensure fair play is had at all times.

Moving online adds another layer of difficulty to constantly and accurately monitoring the matches played, especially considering tournament officials can’t be present to see how teams are operating with their own two eyes. BLAST believes they’ve reached the pinnacle of monitoring at this precise moment.

“Some of the measures we put in place aren’t perfect but they’re the best available solution we’ve found so far,” Haworth told Dexerto. “There are methods that we’re developing and evolving. We are confident that the measures we have in place currently are giving the desired result in not allowing anybody to manipulate the system or take advantage of it.

“From a coaching bug point of view, the player cams that we’ve put in place have been a really useful feature. That’s something that we looked at, to start with, as a broadcast feature that had some great context and depth. It grew into something that we now utilize to ensure we can see what players are doing.

“We’ve worked with players on camera angles, we have down-the-line shots, coaches have cameras on them and we listen to TeamSpeak for both a broadcast feature and in terms of integrity,” he continued. “The MOss system is far from perfect but it allows us to know what’s open on someone’s computer, there’s a report sent to us post-match with that information.

Moving forward in the face of adversity

Despite having what they believe is a solid solution to both playing online and safeguarding the integrity of the tournament, it would be understandable if a tournament organizer decided to postpone an event due to the recent exploit revelation and subsequent disciplinary rulings. Haworth ensured Dexerto, however, that that wasn’t an eventuality BLAST considered.

BLAST Spike Nations
BLAST
BLAST have undergone plenty of growth in 2020 so far despite the difficulties, expanding into new titles like Valorant and Dota 2.

“We’ve never really moved our date around. We put our 21 days in the international calendar [that’s shared by all CS:GO tournament organizers] in April this year to try and provide full transparency,” he said. “We worked on this straight after the Spring Final, there were a couple of bits that we thought we could include like the coach cams but there were also a couple of things that weren’t ready for the Fall Series. We played around with them but wasn’t sure if it would cause performance issues on players’ PCs so we didn’t want to risk it.”

There’s not the only difficulty in providing a fair and stable environment for the players, BLAST have plenty of staff that are needed to execute a full production. Having staff at home using personal internet lines isn’t the most confidence-inducing prospect, but the company has managed to execute a means of working that allows for maximum efficiency given the circumstances.

While online play, and the copious amount of events that are taking place, may not be ideal, esports has proven to be resilient in the face of extreme and unpredictable challenge. The Fall Series was revered by industry professionals and Counter-Strike fans alike, but it’s clear that BLAST are not resting on their laurels leading up to the next phase of the competition.