The Intel Extreme Masters 2017 is currently taking place in Katowice, Poland, and as it is one of the annual calendar's best showpieces for cutting edge computing tech and big-money eSport showdowns, T3 just had to attend. It's been a crazy first day already and, looking at the expo's lineup over the next two days it is going to get even crazier, with anybody who is anybody stacking the Spodek convention hall with mega booths stuffed with tech, games and... a GIANT FREAKING PENGUIN?!
So, for T3's Day 1 take on what's hot at the Intel Extreme Masters 2017 then read on. Before we get to that, however, why not take a tour around the IEM 2017 convention hall with us by watching this short walk around video:
Cutting edge VR is everywhere
Intel, Oculus, HTC Vive, Virtuix and more are all in residence here at the Intel Extreme Masters, with dominant VR-focused mega booths really adding a wow-factor to the show floor. Literally everywhere you look there is some sort of VR simulator - such as a neat VR windsurfing simulator - or state-of-the-art VR headset hooked up to some seriously impressive hardware. As IEM is heavily linked with eSports (more on that soon), there's even 360-degree VR coverage of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, meaning that attendees can even watch some of the world's best pro gamers with a new dimension.
In terms of line-ups, the big two PC gaming VR giants of the moment, HTC Vive and Oculus VR are both showing off some hot new titles, with performance literally taken to another level thanks to Intel's 7th generation processors. Notable examples of games include Arizona Sunshine - a post-apocalyptic first person shooter/slasher where the player has to take out loads of zombies; you get more zombies now thanks to extra grunt delivered by the CPUs - and Robo Recall, a futuristic FPS where the player gets to take on and take down (with big guns of course) hordes of rogue robots.
These titles look really impressive from what we've seen, no doubt helped by the fact they are running on gaming desktops with 7th generation Intel Core processors and monstrous GPUs that can push the VR experiences out at a 4K resolution. And, talking of resolution...
Curved monitors are definitely on-trend
Seriously, the age of the curved PC monitor is definitely here, as all the major players are showing off ultra-wide, 4K and 1080p curved monitors. From huge, multi-tasking monsters, with the real estate for not just two windows open next to each other but three or even four, to wide-angle pwnge-enhancing, 1ms response time gaming monitors for desktop, and onto crazy-expensive, experimental gaming laptops with curved monitors (step forward Acer's Predator 21 X), flat is out and curve is most definitely in.
Prices seem to be slowly becoming more reasonable as well with curved monitors, and - if we are being honest - this is probably the prime reason why many manufactures such as Acer, LG, Samsung and more are suddenly now pushing the tech. Obviously, it is an added sell and not essential, however it is hard to argue with the enhanced viewing angles when other aspects like refresh rate are no longer compromised at all but at the most extreme price points.
Elite-level PCs and gamers
And talking of extreme, what is also immediately evident on Day 1 of IEM 2017 is just why it has become so big in the eSports community. The central auditorium, which is separate from the convention hall, can seat 11,500 people and typically used to host massive concerts. What it has also done for the past 4 years is act as the venue for the Intel Extreme Masters, with the world's best gamers duking it out to win hundreds of thousands of pounds.
And, walking into the Spodek's cavernous auditorium today, banks of Intel-powered gaming rigs on stage in preparation of the combat to come, it was equally evident that eSports are now definitely a mainstream form of entertainment, as the auditorium was completely packed. Thousand upon thousands of people have come to today to watch teams compete in the IEM Cup's quarter finals (tomorrow is the semi-finals and then the finals take place on Sunday), as well as play competitively themselves on the expo's massive banks of suped up, Intel-powered gaming rigs.
Along with Intel, Alienware, Razor, Acer, MSI, SteelSeries, ATI, Corsair, HyperX and more all have both the latest AAA titles running for gamers to play, as well as setups for gamers to emulate the pros on games like Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends.
Throw is some crazy one-off tech showcases, such as a neat booth that allowed people to take 360-degree pictures of themselves, with the resultant image delivering Matrix-style coolness upon rotation, a dump truck load of retailers selling everything from mechanical keyboards to liquid-cooled, art-house gaming PCs, and one really, really big penguin (no we haven't forgotten to include him - check the image below), and it's already easy to see how IEM has really gained traction over the past decade.
However, that was all just the start of what IEM 2017 has to offer. Tomorrow in T3's Day 2 show report we'll move onto some cool 3D printing tech, get up close and personal with even more awesome VR gadgetry including Intel's own Project Alloy, report live on the results of the IEM semi-finals, deliver an in-depth interview with Intel's Steve Shakespeare on the future of VR and, yes, we'll also try to hug Kinguin.