Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Look at the Season Finales

Not too exciting I know but it's that time of year. All the local and regional series are closing in on their own season ending events as well. In my backyard the CFPS has their event #5 coming up this weekend and the MiLP will be closing out their season the following weekend. In the CXBL the Richmond Cup is right around the corner. On the international stage the Millennium is returning to Chantilly, a lovely but somewhat isolated venue north of Paris. Their event is scheduled for the weekend of September 26-28. World Cup comes a bit early this year over the long weekend of October 9-12.
In Euroland the Millennium has seen attendance decline slowly from the season opener Med Cup in the south of France. While the locked divisions are stable the two open divisions peaked at Puget sur Argens with modest drops at Bitburg and Basildon. To date the Chantilly numbers are off by a substantial 20 teams. Still nearly a month away that leaves time for late arrivals but normally the majority have at least registered by now which makes the Chantilly deficit one that probably won't be overcome.
World Cup registration is at 243 teams (or was when I posted this.) With the first deadline still a couple weeks out registration will continue to build. (Whatever the number is around the first deadline is a decent indicator of likely event participation, give or take a few.) And with the later first deadline I expect a significant number of teams to get their entries in by that deadline if not sooner. PSP began the season very strong with higher than expected turnout at the first two events while Chicago was basically flat in the year-to-year and Riverside was down from last year. Last year, counting UWL participation, Cup was right around 400 teams.
Are teams running out of steam (and money) towards the end of the season? What's happening in the series you compete in? Are you seeing similar results at the local and regional level? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Next time (unless something else grabs my attention) VFTD will take a quick look at the CXBL's Richmond Cup layout and the Mills Chantilly layout.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Say Hello To My Little Friend

My little 50 cal friend (both paintball and marker) that is. If you thought 50 cal was a flop a few years ago and nearly forgotten, think again. While you've been running around on airball fields ignoring the rest of the paintball community 50 cal has been making a big difference on the rental front. Oh I know, nobody cares what the newbies are doing. You know, if it keeps them playing it's fine but it's never gonna have an impact on competitive paintball. (Real ballers play 68.) If that's your take you best reconsider. Sure, 50 cal is largely confined to the rental market but like Splatmaster that is the gateway for the majority of new players entering the game. (Yes, in some places speedball and competition style fields are more accessible and some new players jump in the deep end quickly but that's more the exception than the rule.) 50 cal is proving to be very popular too with both customers and local field operators. Promoted as low impact, "less sting" it's bringing in new, younger and previously untapped portions of the market. And for the field operator it takes up less space and is easier to clean up after. And with the "normal" attrition among players 50 cal will, in a few short years, become the first paintball experience for the majority of players. That means for those who want to take the next step and buy their own gear and play regularly 50 cal won't have the negatives the 68 crowd associate with it today.
Stepping away from competitive paintball for a moment consider what 50 cal could do for the growing mag-fed crowd. With a smaller paintball greater realism in marker design is possible. Less obtrusive air systems are needed to power the markers and the assorted magazines will hold more paintballs than with 68 cal. Suddenly the trade-offs don't look so bad. (Who knows, the big money in markers may be in replicas in the not-too-distant-future.)
And if VFTD is correct about the extent of industry struggle in the current environment 50 cal just may be a big part of the solution. Shifting a growing percentage of their paint manufacturing to 50 cal from 68 would reduce costs at the manufacturing end and would ultimately limit the production of 68. Yes, the Chinese and anyone else could make all the 68 they like but it wouldn't be in anyone's interest to glut the market particularly if, over time, 50 cal begins to dominate the marketplace. (Take a moment to think about what happens to older unsupported products these days and there's no reason the same couldn't happen to 68 cal guns.) Which would eventually lead to either conversion kit sales for old 68 shooters or brand new shiny 50 cal gats. (That would be one way to recreate a marketplace demand for guns.)
And if you still think competitive paintball would be immune I have one word for you; sponsorship. To the extent it serves industry purposes they can influence the marketplace in the same ways they always have. And if that were to mean only 50 cal (paint and guns and assorted related gear) qualified for sponsorship what do you suppose the likely outcome would be?
Will the change if it comes happen over night? Of course not. It will likely take years but if you pay attention and see that 50 cal is continuing to grow and spread that may be your answer.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Guns Guns Guns

Regulars here know VFTD doesn't talk about paintball gear because it only leads to pointless (and endless) arguments ("Is so." "Is not.") and I've no desire to expand this audience with "those people." And I don't do equipment reviews because they are tedious (been there, done that a hundred times over) and nobody wants to hear the truth, certainly not the industry producers. So any post that includes the hardware of paintball is just looking for trouble. Except I'm really not. It's just that I can't talk about the relationship between technology and the play of the game without, in this case, discussing guns, or markers if you prefer. And what the future might hold in a changing competitive environment.
Historically technology advancements have driven the game in significant ways. (Which is an interesting conversation all on its own. Who still remembers actual gravity-feed hoppers?) Another is how marketing created an artificial buying cycle which in turn contributed to the glut of used guns and helped destroy the secondary value of those guns. (But you can see where that conversation might cause some agitation.) So we're not going there. Instead this post will speculate in more detail on how trends in the play of the game might impact future guns. (Or loaders for that matter.)
In my last post, Restricted Paint FTW, I asked a few rhetorical questions about the impact of restricted paint on gun utility and where it might lead. The two most influential tournament series in the world have reduced ROF to 10 bps. (In the PSP it's only for the pro teams but remember the league tried to introduce 10 bps to divisional a few years ago.) At 10 bps performance is hovering on the blurry line that separates modern electro-pneumatic guns from the best of the Old Skool mechanical markers. More to the point it is also a range well within the performance envelope of even the low end electros to say nothing of mid-price markers. A number of pro teams shoot mid-price markers without handicap. The fact is almost anyone can afford a perfectly functional tournament capable gun today. (And we've haven't even mentioned the huge resale market of formerly top end guns available on the cheap.) If the ROF were to drop any further top mechanical guns would be competitive too. Toss in restricted paint usage and it's a whole new game for guns. A reduced ROF and rules mandated scarcity of available paint will reorder gun performance priorities. Ramping becomes largely counterproductive. Air efficiency is nearly irrelevant. (More so even than today.) Improved ergonomics and accuracy become leading trends and differentiators. As the priorities and defining characteristics of 'performance' are altered manufacturers are pushed to produce specialty guns that are actually specialty guns. (Or not.)
Now all of this begs another question--or two. If competitive paintball is merely a tiny corner of the paintball marketplace can it drive manufacturers' decision-making? The seemingly sensible answer would be no. But history suggests technology advancements and innovations have been driven by the competitive game. Or at least largely focused on the competitive game. And that the competitive market informs the rest of the paintball marketplace. Recreational players with their own equipment don't buy $1000 guns because they need them to play. Would that pattern continue or would the scenario & rec crowd continue to want their machine guns and paint sprayers?
Could a changing competitive game create a new divide separating competitive paintball from the other forms of paintball? Would that ultimately be a good thing?

More speculation next time as VFTD ponders another possibility.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Bizzaro Earth: Restricted Paint FTW

What would a restricted paint game look like? How could it (or should it) be constructed? On Bizarro Earth restricted paint is the norm. (Not to be confused with Htrae, the cubic bizarro world of DC comics. Bizarro Earth exists at LaGrange point 2 opposite Earth in an identical orbit.) All things on Bizarro Earth are the opposite of the way they are here so it follows competitive paintball developed around restricted (low volume) paint usage. (And as fans of the original Star Trek know goodness here is evil there--and usually wears a sinister goatee.) But anyway ...
Unfortunately their game also is played with 12 players per side on one acre fields covered in pallets and tiny log cabins made out of giant Lincoln logs. Which leaves us on our own to evaluate the impact of restricted paint. Let's begin by imagining some hypothetical scenarios and considering the ramifications in those scenarios of restricted paint. (Hey, it could work.) First we need to decide what constitutes restricted paint. What are our self-imposed restrictions? Or limitations? Does full loaders plus 15 pods distributed amongst your 5 players anyway you want sound about right? That's a case and a half of paint. To keep our calculations simple let's say on average the team shoots a case per point. And averages 5 points per match at RaceTo-4. That's only 20 cases for the prelims--approximately. At $45 a case that's $900 bucks. Not exactly a bargain but seems pretty good so far, right? And it would probably trickle down to scrimmages too, right? Which, at a minimum, would be more points played for a given allotment of paint. Of course I've no idea how much paint the average RaceTo-4 team shoots now in the prelims. Let's reduce the paint usage a little more. Full loaders and 12 pods per point. Now we're down to 16 cases for the prelims.
But even the seemingly simple decision to restrict paint usage doesn't occur in a vacuum. There are consequences. Let's see if we can figure out what some of them might be. Assuming everything else remains the same our first choice is how much paint do we commit off the break. Our skill or the layout may influence that choice--as will our success or failure rate. But that's okay. Of course the more paint we commit early the less we have to shoot later on. How effectively will we be able to contest movement? On the current playing field many of the props are relatively close together--certainly compared to back in the day--and if shooters wait for movement to react they will fail more often than not. Which is okay as we want movement. Except--except if it becomes too easy. Part of the pleasure of both watching and playing is accomplishing the various tasks within the game when they are hard to do. If it becomes too easy it's no longer exciting and if everyone can do it there's no accomplishment.
Then there's the issue of what happens as players realize they're running out of paint. They conserve. Which mostly means they stop shooting their guns. Which needn't be but is usually accompanied by sitting in their bunkers. And with every discharge of a paintball the tendency to conserve grows stronger. Even when a team needs to score a lack of paintballs frequently stops players dead in their tracks. And that's not a good thing.
On the plus side accuracy gains (or regains) some primacy amongst the skills of the game. And if less paint increases movement it should create more instances of opponent proximity which in turn will generate more rundowns and run-thrus. Maybe. There's still the concern about how conservation of paint will impact play based on what we currently see in such situations. But even so, it could work out. Might restricted paint encourage players to want more control over their guns again? Could that lead to capped semi and no ramping? Or even a return in utility of the top mechanical markers of old?
The biggest question is how much restriction makes competitive paintball economically viable to a larger pool of potential players? And will anyone want to play the game severe restrictions will create?

Or, who knows, one change could cascade into other changes and before you know we're hiding behind giant Lincoln logs playing 12-on-12. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Faster

Faster is the mantra of the league and more to the point, PBA. It seems the conventional wisdom has settled on the notion that faster points are the only thing our ADD culture will find entertaining. And I confess I fell for it too but I'm reconsidering my position. Sure faster is better when compared to watching soccer or grass grow but those are polar extremes and it needn't be an either or proposition. Nobody very badly wants to watch a 2-1 match no matter what's at stake but it doesn't follow that 30 second points are essential to make competitive paintball entertaining. For example, imagine a maximum point match of all 30 second points. the final score is a seemingly exciting 7-6 yet that match would be 6:30 minutes of game time with 24 minutes of down town assuming neither team called a time out. Is 30 seconds of action followed by 2 minutes of dead air (or talking heads or advertising filling that dead air) really the best competitive paintball can do?
What is essential is that the audience (any audience) is provided a story to follow and that they understand that story. That story is told in words and pictures and any failure to communicate the story disconnects the match from the audience. And every story has context, a back story, a history that puts every match in relation to every other match. Who are the players? How often have these teams played each other? What are their histories? Is there any bad blood between them? Where do they come from? How long have they been around?
If paintball can tell its stories it will find an audience but in order for those stories to be compelling the audience needs to also understand how the game is played. And the truth is even some percentage of tournament players are relatively ignorant when it comes to fully understanding the game they are playing. Which means that the average paintball player who might be interested also needs to be educated to say nothing of the extended potential audience of family and friends and others who get an introduction to competitive paintball.
Unlike the field of dreams simply building it doesn't mean they will come. And focusing on one dimension to the exclusion of all else isn't a recipe for success either. The fan base for competitive paintball will only grow when we stay focused on telling the stories of our sport while continuing to educate those who show any interest. Everything else is fiddling at the margins.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Changing of the Guard?

While PSP Riverside came and went without any *real* earthquakes the ground under the pro establishment appears to be fracturing. Only 6 Champions level teams haven't been relegated this season and that's 6 of 13 teams but 2 of them started the season in Challengers; 187 Crew & Russian Legion. Over the course of the season Heat, Art Chaos, Infamous, Aftershock, X-Factor and Dynasty have been relegated. Only Impact, Ironmen, Damage and Vicious haven't spent any time in the Challengers bracket. Granted, the system puts 40% of the bracket at risk every event but there has been more turnover this year compared to last year. As recently as two seasons ago a changing of the guard seemed improbable at best impossible at worst. And yet here we are.
The question remains: Is that what's really happening? I remain unconvinced. However there are clearly forces at work in the pro division. The upstarts are acting--and playing--like they belong in the elite company of the Champions while time-tested true Champions continue to falter. And by all appearances the gap between the pros and the top divisional teams is shrinking. (Whether that means the divisionals are improving or the pros declining is also open to debate.)
To my eye it is the later. From Dallas this year I've thought the pro ranks have struggled as a group to reach the levels of play that were routine a year, two years and three years ago. I chalked it up in large part to all the roster changes. And I'm sure it has had an impact. (No pun intended.) Even so by this point in the season teams should either be getting their act together or making it apparent it ain't gonna happen. It may seem unfair or even hubris to pass judgment on team(s) but results are results. Not winning versus winning is a pretty simple metric. What is less easy is deciphering why. We talk about the struggle first timers have in Champions but surprisingly the reverse is also true. Relegated Champions haven't done a good job of adjusting to Challengers. Too often they tend to play down--which is symptomatic of a lack of focus and tight mental game. The trend amongst pro teams is to practice less. Both long time and/or successful teams (and players) tend to lose their drive and hunger. Then there's the pro ROF. As regulars here know I have long correlated ROF versus the ability to move as a defining characteristic of the game. If correct a lower ROF dumbs down the game and makes it easier for a larger pool of players to be competitive. At the lower divisional level that's a very good thing. At the pro level not so much. Even field design may play a part. Data is being collected that will (hopefully) ultimately yield a better understanding of the influences on the game. Whatever is going on the winds of change are blowing through competitive paintball.
The other big question is: If in fact the guard is changing is it a good thing for pro paintball? Clearly the league hoped Challengers would help elevate the up-and-comers but if the perceived distance shrinks too much doesn't that also marginalize the pro game? Time will tell.

Monday, August 11, 2014

PSP Riverside Review

The first thing you see exiting the elevator is a sign that reads: Places of refuge available in both stairwells. Only in Cali I think to myself. Only in Cali. Refuge, eh? Worn out tourist refuge? Snail darter habitat perhaps? What sort of refuge does California think exists in the fourth floor stairwell of a Hyatt hotel? From a tsunami maybe but that's not where I'd want to be when the San Andreas decided to fault once and for all. Viva la revolucion? Not so much. Tornado? No thanks. Terrorist attack? Hmm, no. Nor was there any refuge for the unprepared on the unforgiving fields of PSP Riverside.
Speaking of the fields whatever sort of soil and seed begat that grass in drought ridden California we need more of it. Looking yellow by Sunday that was the result of paint, not wear and tear as the surface held up remarkably well. The venue itself accommodated the six fields easily but if there had been a need for much more than that it might have been a very tight squeeze and the available space also largely separated the vendors who were there from the fields and players. Parking for most was along the street or in a dirt lot across the street and I heard something about a daily parking fee being charged. If true I imagine it wasn't well received. With the exception of the parking situation and the ability to avoid the vendors if so desired it was an ideal place to play paintball. Even the boneyard was paved and nary a hint of rain or puddle of mud anywhere in sight to mar the proceedings. The weather as well was superb with temps only reaching slightly uncomfortable levels a couple of days but even the heat was mitigated by a constant cooling breeze. Lastly, downtown Riverside and a nearly endless supply of hotel and restaurant choices was less than 10 minutes away. The only real downside to Riverside is the distance to LAX and even then (for the smart traveler) Ontario International airport is about twenty minutes away.
The setting was one of the best in recent years. The stories to be told some of the most dramatic in recent memory. The results more than measured up to the hype. Art Chaos finally fulfilled expectations by beating Impact in the Champions final after dispatching Russian Legion in the semifinal. For RL it was a return to past glory as the team has shown consistent improvement over the course of the season. In the other semi Impact stopped Damage once again leaving the prelim powerhouse short of the ultimate PSP prize. In one relegation match 187 sent VCK back to Challengers but I expect VCK to profit from the experience and to come back more determined than ever. In the other relegation match Dynasty lost to Heat which sent the most storied team in competitive paintball down to Challengers for World Cup. And from Challengers only X-Factor made it back up to Champions as both Aftershock and Infamous failed to regain a Champions spot. Instead newcomer Revo will make their first Champions appearance at World Cup. Most of the matches were fairly decisive although there was some controversy in both the Infamous and Dynasty losses. In any case neither team played particularly well and in fact I say that was mostly true across the board as even the successful teams fell well short of their potential. Chaos, for example, was more aggressive in Riverside but also somewhat disconnected which resulted in some excellent positive points--enough obviously to win--but also more than a few blow outs too. Even Impact, despite their continuing success looked less efficient and unified than have at times this season. Otherwise only Revo, RL and at times, X-Factor delivered a standard of play that measured up to their potential. I don't know what it is but it's been a season long trend so far.
Divisional play proved as hard fought as the pro matches with some new names appearing at the top of the standing which should only see the season ranking tighten further as the league enters the stretch run to World Cup.
There is more to say but as I'm sitting in the airport trying not to fall asleep that's gonna be all for now. I'll catch y'all later.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

PSP Riverside Prelims

Did I call it or what? For the record I called it. For much of Friday Champs and Challengers matches were high scoring wars. Some matches featured points going back and forth with winners being the last to score. And there were matches that began like blowouts only to see their opponents come roaring back to close the gap. In the end, and despite a few late day lopsided scores the pros averaged around 9 points a match. The results produced a few surprises too. And Saturday only doubled down on the Friday madness. If you didn't spend the day spellbound watching the world's finest hammering away at each other on pristine (and remarkably sturdy) grass under crystalline blue skies you should slap yourself.
Both Russian teams made the top four. 187 Crew beat both Art Chaos and Dynasty today and are still in a relegation match. Dynasty will be fighting for a shot at the World Cup in their first relegation match Sunday morning against Houston Heat. VCK learned a hard lesson or two in their first Champions experience and also moving on to the Sunday morning semis were Damage and Impact.
Making the cut in Challengers was the surprisingly tough Revo along with the former Champions trio of Shock, X-Factor and Infamous with Shock and X-Factor competing in one semi. So Sunday will deliver not only who gets promoted just in time for Cup but also who, among the Champs, will go down and miss a shot at a professional World Cup title. 187 or VCK? Heat or Dynasty? Who will it be? Tune in and find out whose in and whose out. Will the match trends carry over to Sunday play with high-scoring seesaw affairs?
A more complete review will be coming your way on Monday or Tuesday and sometime next week we'll take a look at the layout.
Be there (or watching the webcast) or be square.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Winds of Change

I'm feeling vaguely philosophic. Tomorrow is set-up for Riverside--at least our small portion of the set-up. Burt and the boys have been here for days already. And I'm genuinely looking forward to this event as it should prove to be an all day every day war across the divisions. At the same time I've been wondering lately where competitive paintball is headed. And what, if anything can be done about it or are we all simply along for the ride?
10 years ago the world was paintball's future oyster and all was going according to plan--or so it seemed to many. Competitive paintball was becoming a sport. For my part it was a change I fully supported. Much of the change was driven by innovations, advancing technology and yes, the mainstream promises TV seemed to offer. Today we play a game focused on a demographic that can't afford it in an ever worsening economic environment. Now there's no point in making pronouncements with the advantage of twenty-twenty hindsight or even wishing some things were different. Looking back does however offer us an opportunity to consider the future in light of the past.
Look, everything's fine. There are always a few bumps in any road. That certainly sounds good to me--and may even be true. But even if it is the game will continue to evolve; to change. There have been big changes and a little tinkering around the margins. The agents of change have been many. There are almost as many reasons given as there have been changes made. What if a time of austerity is coming for competitive paintball? None of the players in our game are too big to fail and the would-be international federation isn't going to step in an bail us out. And such difficult circumstances would almost certainly precipitate new changes, wouldn't they? Or should the plan be to ride out any tough times and wait to grow again when good times return? Or should the game be changed now to deflect an expected future reality? Or is that simply foolishness masquerading as planning ahead?
But before answering any of those questions best decide what kind of future you envision for the sport. Is it destined to remain on the fringes? Or is there a way to make it more accessible to a larger audience? (With or without losing what we already have achieved?) Does that even matter? Is it more important to preserve the existing game in some fashion--or preserve a game that can carry the sport forward? And how does anyone know?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

PSP Riverside

PSP's second summer event is coming up this weekend at Rancho Jarupa Sports Park in Riverside (or thereabouts) Cali. Anybody taking bets on days above 100 degrees? I haven't checked--mostly 'cus I'm not sure I want to know. While total team numbers are down some the majority of the teams competing are still in the hunt and looking to set themselves up for a killer Cup. Which should make for some hard charging competition all weekend long. Toss into that mix three perennial Champions sitting in Challengers with no more than two of them able to make the move back to Champions in time for Cup and every match from the first prelims on Friday takes on added significance. Will we finally see the *real* Art Chaos? Can VCK hang with the big boys? Have you seen the Champions prelim schedule yet? Who will escape the bracket of doom. It's gonna be a weekend of hot action. And between you and me I'd as soon be relaxing in my recliner and watching the webcast on the flatscreen. Follow the stories and catch all the action on PBA's webcast starting Friday.
Meanwhile, since I'm outta here at first light tomorrow don't expect much for a day or two but I will try to post daily updates from the event. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Gunfighting Objectives

If you missed it (or skipped it) take a quick look at 'Gunfighting: Positions of Advantage/Disadvantage' as a primer for this post. Whereas last time the focus was on drilling to improve your gunfighting this post will explore different aspects of gunfighting in order to more fully understand how to incorporate effective gunfighting into your arsenal. (A blog search using "gunfighting" will also turn up some past posts on the subject for those who are interested in learning more.) And if you missed those posts the first time around--given that some are a few years old--I probably ought to review terminology briefly too. For now I'll limit the definitions to 'edge control', 'contain', 'vision', 'suppress' and 'support'. Edge Control refers to any situation where a player is able to maintain gun up vision over a portion of the playing field. Sometimes this goes uncontested by an opponent but mostly it is contested--which either requires gunfighting to maintain or giving up the edge. The edge is the portion of any prop being played at any given time. Contain is the active effort to deny an opponent's movement. In most situations that means getting wide, moving from the interior of the field toward a wire. Vision in this application is simply that, being able to visually survey a portion of the field. (Vision is also a subset of communication.) Suppress is the active effort to keep an opponent from bringing their gun--and paint--to bear. And Support  is the directed effort of an insert or push (back player) to advance their lead (front) and keep them alive.
Gunfighting objectives. Edge control is critical because it is a position of advantage and allows the player to act instead of react. Having and maintaining edge control allows a player to perform the contain, suppress and support functions. (Think for a moment how a player's role [job] directs the player's decisions and actions and the puzzle pieces should begin to fall into place. More about roles another time.)
It should be readily apparent why contain is worthwhile but let's review some reasons anyway. Effective containment not only fixes one opponent's position but frequently also denies other opponents an opportunity to move too. And a a fixed opponent has limited options while allowing you or a teammate to work for a killing angle. Contain also, in many situations, frees up the lead to more aggressively press for a field position advantage because they aren't being directly countered.
Suppress, like contain, describes both the approximate action and the circumstance or the objective. In both cases it's some volume of paint that performs the function so in order to distinguish the differences it is important to recognize the purpose. With contain it is to deny an opponent the ability to move. With suppress it is the act of denying an opponent the ability to shoot his/her gun. Suppress maintains edge control and more importantly helps free up the lead to move and acquire kills.
Support is unlike the others in that it encompasses all the actions taken by the insert (support) or back (push) in helping the lead move around the field and work for eliminations while staying alive. Effective support begins with edge control--which in turn allows the insert to freely (relatively of course) perform the assorted support functions. The difficulties arise in that most opponents are attempting to do much the same thing and the support player is often bombarded with choices about how best to do the job over the course of a single point.
Which brings us back to knowing your role.

If you have any questions related to gunfighting etc. (or the terminology) post them up in comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Cost of Taking Care of Bidness

Last week's The Monday Poll results suggest the majority of tourney players pay somewhere between $1000 and $5000 for their annual paintball fix. At the high end something close to 20% pay as much as $10,000. (Ouch!) In continuing the discussion of the cost of competition VFTD is gonna take a look at how those costs break down over a season--which may give some a truer idea of what they're really spending.
I'ma break spending down into three basic categories; gear, practice and events. Gear is probably the one that has the most variation. The player who has been at this awhile isn't going to need as much stuff as the new kid getting started. Still, lots of factors play into the cost of gear. If your team has a new sponsor that likely means everyone has to buy that sponsor's package for the upcoming season and if it includes a gun we're already in the neighborhood of a $1000. (I am purposefully keeping costs both general and tending toward the frugal because the totals are going to add up quickly regardless.) New unis, packs and accessories--depending on the accessories--might only hit you up for between $300-$500. Even the long time players have regular miscellaneous expenses for new lenses, cleats, gloves, pads, pods and the occasional hopper, etc. If you're new and need a tourney quality gun (or don't like what you've got now) you could go used and get a solid capable gun for let's say $300. Or you could grab a top-of-the-line, new-in-its -case-killer for $1400. If you're a penny pincher you might manage to cover your annual gear costs for $400 to $500 bucks. If you're not it ain't that hard to spend between $1000-$2000 on gear alone.
Okay, practice is up next. While plenty of players are on field teams and get discounts or work for their local field in order to get reduced costs or freebies to play I'm assuming most players have to deal with the basic costs to practice. Field fee, paint, maybe air and the miscellaneous associated costs of gas for travel and a meal afterwards hanging out with teammates. And that's keeping it simple. If your travel requirements go beyond your local area the additional costs will add up quickly. For our purposes let's assume practice entails a single day with a doable drive to practice and back home. Under those conditions you might manage on around $75 but odds are the daily practice bill will be closer to the $100-$125 range so let's call it $100 bucks a day to practice.
Finally it's time for the events. Here's the payoff for the time and money already spent. At the local level the costs to compete fit the same basic categories as the more prominent events but almost certainly at a much lower price point with the possible exception of paint. For now we'll ignore that possibility. Otherwise there's entry fees, possible player registration fees, paint and travel costs similar to those of practice unless the event was far enough away that it was worthwhile to spend the night before the event in a local hotel. Depending on the format and division one is competing in it's possible to spend as little as $200 or as much as $500 to compete.
A national event has similar categories (and everyone is playing paintball) but that's where the similarity ends. Entry fees are considerably higher. Player registration is a given. Paint. Travel can vary as some hearty souls will road trip to distant events but most fly. So there's a plane ticket. Rental vehicles and hotel rooms plus the miscellaneous expenses for food, nights out, possible tolls, gas, parking at the airport and on and on. If you are one of ten players on a RaceTo-4 squad and all those costs apply odds are the total will be in the neighborhood of $1000--and could easily go higher--and probably will.
The other element that comes into play at events is that the paint tab is flexible. How much your team shoots will depend on a lot of different factors so you go into an event not knowing just what you will spend for paint. Which is another cost related consideration.
Now it's time for you to do the math. Where does your gear cost come in on the range discussed? How many days of practice will you have? And how many events will you play? Pick a number and multiple by the one time cost to see what your season long bill will be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gunfighting: Positions of Advantage/Disadvantage

Despite the importance of gunfighting in the modern competitive game it's an easy skill to practice. (Assuming of course one has some paint, a place to shoot it and someone to shoot it at.) It is an individual skill that easily integrates into the team conception of the game as long as the player understands his (her) role in a given point or play.
Rudimentary practice only requires some number of different inflatable props arrayed on a field and the previously mentioned somebody to shoot at (who will always be shooting back at you.) I recommend playing only one side of the prop at a time and shifting positions as needed in order to practice with both your right and left hand in the dominant position. The reason for this is that seldom in a game situation are you able to play both sides of a prop at will when gunfighting. I also recommend mixing up the props so that you are constantly challenging yourself to play both difficult to master props and positions but also to be comfortable and confident routinely gunfighting from positions of disadvantage relative to your opponent. As much as we would like to control when, where and how we engage an opponent the game frequently doesn't work out that way so it's important to practice for as many eventualities as possible.
For most practice situations the distance between the props being used should reflect the distances that occur most commonly in game situations. (Remembering that as the distances shrink is when we switch to a more traditional snapshot because as the distances close the confrontation takes precedence over other game elements like edge control and contain. Although if we have a teammate positioned to control our opponent direct confrontation may be delayed.)
Another related opportunity presents itself in this practice scenario; one of gauging effective distances. The contain aspect of gunfighting requires first edge control and then vision. Next comes the decision of where to focus attention. Normally this is a space between props, a distance that must be covered in order to get wide or shift sides, etc. Often unconsidered is just how effectively can the contain player get paint into the space being covered (and where to shoot to have the best chance of eliminating any player attempting to break contain.) As might be expected the reverse also applies. What is the likelihood of clearing this gap given where the contain shooter is positioned? A simple and practical way to get a good idea is to set up those situations and find out. It will turn out that if the distances are long (given the playing field parameters) if the contain shooter doesn't have paint in the air typical gaps can be crossed more often than not. Of course all that depends on the quickness of the player moving and the response and accuracy of the contain shooter but running this simple experiment will more often than not give less experienced players more confidence in their ability to move.

Next time, Gunfighting Objectives.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Monday Poll in Review

Last week The Monday Poll wanted to get some sense of the player demographic and, more importantly, compare that to how much the responding players pay to play over the course of a season. While we can only draw limited conclusions I think the results won't be too surprising to those who compete unless its at the high end and how demanding of both time and money the game has become.
Part One asked responders to self-identify their current ranking from Pro to D5. Part Two asked responders to choose the highest level of competition they have competed in this season and Part Three asked that they pick an approx. expenditure to indicate how much they well spend this season to compete.
Put them altogether and the results look like this: 30% compete in divisions typically only available at the national and international level of competition. The other 70% have access to competition from the local and regional level all the way up to the international level.
In the second category nearly 60% compete locally or regionally as their highest level of competition leaving around 40% competing at the national and international level. (I'm not using hard numbers because the number of respondents is low enough that the percentage values assigned are soft with a likely 2% or 3% margin of error.)
In the third category over 40% spend something less than $3000 a year which leaves well over 50% paying more than $3000 a year. (And of those spending less than $3000 only 6% are spending less than $1000 a season.) And that doesn't begin to give a real sense of the costs involved as nearly 20% pay over $7500 to sums exceeding $10,000 a year. (And something close to 30% are spending more than $5000 a year to compete.) When you consider that only 8% of respondents identified as pro players and only some percentage of them pay little or nothing to play the top 20% in costs must include a significant number of D1 and D2 players.
Not only do serious players have to commit a lot of time and effort to compete but the costs are fairly staggering particularly when one considers the age group range the majority fit within. Toss into the equation the fact that buying power (what your dollars will purchase) is down as much as 35% in the last decade according to some calculations and it's hard not to conclude that it's only going to get tougher to replenish the pool of competitive players going into the near future.

Next time, Breaking Down the Costs.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

O/T Sports

I'ma try something new. When I feel like it I'm gonna post on other sports in the news. Straight up, some non-paintball posts. A couple years ago in a The Monday Poll I asked your opinion of this and some other subjects for VFTD and the majority wanted to stick with paintball. Fair enough. This time I'm not asking, I'm just going ahead and doing what I want. Read or not as you choose. Don't tell me you don't like it, I don't care. But as always if you want to comment I encourage you to do so. It won't affect the number of paintball posts and all non-paintball posts will include the "O/T" indicator in the title.
Before I get started however here's a suggestion for the PBA. If interest in fantasy paintball is flagging start a regular fantasy feature on your website and start generating some comparative player stats and content about winning strategies and other ways to be successful. A big part of the fantasy sports experience is talking about it. You need to keep potential and regular players involved between events too.
Okay, finally to today's subject. The topic is pro football (of the pigskin variety.) And more specifically the NFL's announcement of a two game suspension for Raven's RB Ray Rice. Ray, as you may recall, played the knockout game with his then fiancee in a public place and has the grainy black and white video on YouTube to help keep the memory alive. Since they subsequently married he dodged most of the potential legal consequences. Only the action of the commissioner's office remained in doubt until today. While I'm a fence sitter on the issue of any league involvement--as opposed say to the team he plays for--it's clear that the league's interest in these matters is how they might affect the league's image and not really about what Rice did at all. Otherwise how do you explain indefinite or season long suspensions for knuckleheads who mostly failed league mandated drug testing? So far in 2014 14 players have been suspended by the NFL before Rice; 12 for drugs and/or alcohol and 2 for PEDs (performance enhancing drugs.) All received longer suspensions than Rice. Not only is the league more concerned with its image, it apparently isn't concerned with collateral violence.