Tuesday, December 30, 2008


7-man is dead. Long live 7-man. In a move that shouldn't really surprise anyone another effort is being made to revive the format on a national scale. At this rate I'm gonna run out of fingers to keep count. The GPL jumped in looking to fill the void with a plan to promote (and encourage) a unified series of competing regionals under their banner. Then the WCPPL (That's right, isn't it? I'm too lazy to check.) leaped into the breach in order to save 7-man for the left coasters and incidentally help support the two pro teams behind the effort; Aftermath (Hinman) & XSV (Telford.) Almost from the moment of Pacific's bankruptcy announcement there's been what governmental press liaisons like to call chatter flying around paintball's back channels. The latest from PBReserve puts Tom Fore (Arsenal) and Chuck Hendsch (Spyder) behind this move. They aren't alone but it's far from a done deal.
Don't let the post title give you the wrong impression. Or the music video. I'm not opposed to a new national 7-man league. I'm part of a team that is officially accounted among the "interested" if uncommitted. (Not unlike most everybody else who wants to sit on the fence for a while until they see how things are likely to shake out. Which, among other things, leads to a protracted shaking out period.) I liked having two leagues before and thought the competition was a good thing. (I didn't account however for nobody actually learning much of anything in the process. Oops.) I just don't think it's gonna happen. Or if it does I don't think it's gonna last. I don't think that at the moment it is being looked at with real hard-headed objectivity. In fact I'm very nearly positive it isn't. Pure Promotions lost its shirt. Pacific filed for bankruptcy but never fear, the new guys will avoid the pitfalls of the past.
[For the future NPL partners: Gentlemen, in the line item tentatively filled in to six places projecting industry support/sponsorship how 'bout you put together a worst case scenario that leaves that out of the computation altogether and see where it leaves you. I'm not saying you won't get anything but given your past experiences as team captains and owners you should have learned a little something about promises and reality much less wishful thinking. Just saying.]
What you've got is a number of former NPPL pro teams suddenly being pulled between 7-man pro and PSP semi-pro xball. (Because a goodly number, perhaps even most, will have to pick one or the other unable to commit to both.) I understand the appeal of their preferred format and applaud the conception behind it but can it get off the ground, much less last? And in the meantime it puts the PSP in a straight jacket with regards to filling out the semi-pro division and confidently moving forward based on their plans for '09. Can their restructuring withstand a depleted semi-pro? (It will alter the economies of the pro field and refs, etc. for a start given what was in the works.) Are we going to try and divide industry (again) and will industry be divided (again)? In what bizzaro universe does that make any sense after all the whimpering and hand-wringing from industry over the last couple of years? And what about Mary? (Okay, that's got nothing to do with anything. I just got carried away.)
What you've also got is what I assume to be some cross purposes particularly with the WCPPL. Will the west coast support a regional 7-man league and 2 major 7-man events? Aren't Hinman and Telford counting on the WCPPL to support their teams? Maybe they aren't or maybe everybody thinks starting two new 7-man leagues is no big deal and if you build it they will come. It's always worked before, right?

But enough will all the negativity. I think I can help. Why compete against each other when there's a possibility of working together? Check out the Pro Circuit. (Yes, I'm flogging this idea again.) Got that? Good.
What some of the pro teams want is the format. What all of them are interested in is greater say in the process and having some control over their own destiny. (Remember the old dream of the original NPPL?) Here's how it might work. The WCPPL continues to lay the groundwork for their regional league. The principles behind the putative NPL start talking to the GPL towards the end of seeing if an agreement can be reached that serves the primary interests of both sides. Let the GPL be the umbrella organization that oversees and helps build the regional series and incorporate the WCPPL into their structure. And if the NPL can work a deal with the GPL along the lines of running a pro circuit tied to GPL sanctioned regional events (and series) the GPL now has a big carrot to dangle in front of possible regional operators. Call me crazy, call me an optimistic fool but if it's possible for the various 7-man factions to work together I can't help but think there would be a much better chance for success. Of course it would probably shelve the Return of HB but we can't have everything we want, can we?

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Conventional Wisdom

This isn't the first draft of this post. Or the second. In fact this post isn't anything like what I thought I wanted to say. The easy part was starting. It's been a lot tougher finding my way through to any sort of conclusion but the mighty maw of the blogosphere doesn't long tolerate deliberation. (Much like my absurdly low threshold for boredom.) Truth is I've left out most of my conclusions, mostly so you can draw your own. I don't know if there's a meal here or only table scraps. You decide.
One long-standing, grey-bearded item of conventional wisdom in paintball states: Tourney ballers (and tournament paintball) are in the minority and it's not even close. No doubt you've heard that one. May even have repeated it yourself. Me too. If it's true (and it has to be, doesn't it?) then tournament paintball has been the tail that wags the dog. How did that come about? The industry has for a long time (in paintball years) marketed paintball via the tourney game and players. The media (when it existed) focused on tournament paintball. Tourney ball drove the tech developments and the notion of paintball as sport motivated many and inspired the push for mainstream acceptance and TV. I know how this looks but don't be too hasty about drawing any conclusions just yet. Is there a danger of the pendulum swinging too far the other way? What doesn't the conventional wisdom tell us that we need to know?
Here's some Old Skool conventional wisdom: Moving paintball out of the woods was a, and perhaps even the, critical step in the development of competitive paintball. (Ever notice how certain bits of conventional wisdom don't seem to fit with other bits of conventional wisdom and yet it doesn't seem to matter. I wonder why that is? /end Andy Rooney riff) Who can argue with that? But tell me how much impact moving out of the woods had, if any, on the player explosion of a few years ago. Are they related? If they are related is there any disconnect between the notion that the vast majority of players are rec/woods/scenario players? I'm just asking but with what little hard data there seems to be it looks like a case could be made that moving out of the woods also broadened paintball's appeal across the board. I realize that in some quarters that's sacrilege and I also think that some measure of paintballers preferences are regional but does the idea put a different face on the "typical" rec player? What else could have moved the majority of local fields to invest in some brand of airball or other? You know, given the conventional wisdom about the limited number of tourney ballers and all. I'm beginning to wonder about the utility of conventional wisdom in general.
How about another piece of classic conventional wisdom? The transition to xball happened because 10-man was dying out. Is that really what happened? Not according to the numbers. The last year that 10-man was the featured event ('02) was also the largest WC 10-man turn out ever and the Chicago event that year featured more 10-man teams than the WC of only two years earlier. In terms of numbers of teams xball has yet to match the 10-man numbers of WC '01. So what precipitated the sharp rise in 10-man participation? And what was the cause of the switch to xball? And if you really want to make yourself crazy figure out which years were the fat years for industry and try and relate those to event turnout. And if you can't does that make our first item of conventional wisdom seem all the more correct? Or are things becoming so complicated it's hard to know what to think?
Here's another bit of more current conventional wisdom: irresponsible punks and their high ROF guns are destroying paintball. Hard to argue with this one, right? I mean the signs are everywhere. PBIndustry is reputed to be in serious trouble. Sponsorships are definitely shrinking. The number of peeps playing paintball is on the decline, or so it's said. The NPPL is gone and if folks are to be believed some of the paint giants are struggling to survive. Nobody seems to know how tourney participation will shake out this coming season but plenty of peeps are worried. Local fields and stores are struggling too and some are closing. All true as far as it goes.
Except there's a problem. One problem with conventional wisdom is that it's not always true. Another problem is it can be an easy shortcut that appeals to Paintball's herd mentality. (You know, the one where everybody agrees instead of thinking.) In this case the problem is the disconnect between the legitimate trials facing Paintball and the purported cause. Irresponsible punks and their high ROF guns. How did the industry get into trouble? Are there more or less people playing paintball today than 10 years ago? If the answer is more, and it certainly appears to be, then were the paint companies even worse off 10 years ago? How did industry survive at all? On the local level is it numbers of players or gross sales that are the real issue? How does the current economy figure into the equations?
How many irresponsible punks with high ROF guns does it take to collapse an industry?
And if they all disappeared overnight would all of Paintball's problems go with them?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dropping Faster Than The ROF

I am of course referring to the I.Q. of those foolish enough to be reading and/or participating in the various threads over at PBN regarding the future ROF in the PSP. If paintball forums are any indication literacy is at greater risk than the future of competitive paintball. It's one thing to not be the sharpest tool in the drawer and another altogether to proudly, loudly and repeatedly proclaim how dull you are.
Even so, there are a couple of interesting aspects of this whole ROF brouhaha that weren't addressed in the previous posts on the topic. Will the lower division teams that could benefit actually benefit from a lowered ROF? It seems to me (with no supporting evidence or any attempt at real analysis) that the better lower division teams are those that already play the game the "right way." That is, they know and understand the fundamentals and do their best to implement them. The lower ROF should unleash those teams. As for some percentage of the rest they have been competing on the basis of their firepower and less on their knowledge and skill and this change will be a serious wake-up call for them. The question is: How will they respond? Short term within the divisions I think we will see a suddenly wider gap between the good teams and the not-so-good teams. Hopefully it will prove to be more instructive than it is demoralizing. Longer term, assuming some degree of continuity, it will make more players better players. (By my definition of better, anyway.) [And a related question: How do players and teams actually learn and improve? The lower ROF will provide a more conducive environment but ... ]
Another marginally interesting item is how graduated rates of fire might impact practices. There is apparently some concern from the Big Love families of teams because they have teams operating across multiple divisions and some lesser measure of concern from lower division teams perhaps wondering what happens when practicing higher division teams. My experience with this situation is limited to pro team(s) practicing with D1 sister team(s) so I won't speak to how it might affect the lower divisions & mixed ROF, which is a looming complication. Beyond that, as a general rule I do not approve of scheduled practice time being used scrimmaging (or even running interactive drills) against lower division opponents. As a rule it is insufficiently productive given the limited amount of practice time available and it is important to actively limit the deleterious effects. But in the case where it's a necessity (my experience) the greater risk is to the higher level team. The lower level team risks mental fatigue and discouragement but is pushed to build a competitive skill level. The higher level teams risks losing precision and focus. Every team's personality is different and so poses different challenges but my point, such as it is, is that there are perhaps bigger issues to mixed division practice than ROF and maybe this will push those who need to, to reconsider how they prepare. (Or not.)
Lastly, there is the curious position this puts some of the aftermarket manufacturers in. What purpose does a sophisticated software package serve when nearly any level marker can perform to international tourney standards? I mention it because if I don't somebody will. Of course the same could be said of high end guns, too. I'm not suggesting a particular nook in the industry deserves to survive simply because it exists--only that the measures taken that may harm it are being taken by folks with so many diverse (and possibly conflicting) interests that that narrative will resonate in some quarters. Just saying.

UPDATE: Special instant VFTD translation: When a league, predominantly owned by big hitters in PBIndustry, makes decisions that could hammer smaller members of the industry it doesn't look good and could be seen as an abuse of power. (Particularly if the PSTA turns out to be an exclusive club.) Just saying.

For future reference VFTD will be welcoming new enlistments to the Deadbox Puppet Army on Fridays only. With the numbers changing almost daily lately I am concerned about publishing too many posts that are not necessarily of general interest and I don't want the blog to become cluttered. Fortuitously today is Friday so I'm allowed to offer a greeting to sf5c (Bilgisayar) who joins the DPA from Ankara, Turkey. (hmm, turkey)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Return of Mr. Curious

Having spoken recently with VFTD's eastern European correspondent I find myself in the awkward position of not having a definite opinion. While our correspondent defaults to the rational explanation--"that doesn't make sense because ..."--I tend to default in the direction of pride, avarice and the irrational when trying to understand what's going on. Ask yourself how many decisions you are aware of in paintball's history that have been made on a purely rational basis? I rest my case.
The bone of contention has to do with the intentions of the new European Paintball Championship (formerly the Centurio & European Central Series). I suggested the new series presented a challenge to the MS and our correspondent didn't think so. (I didn't say it presented a threat but who knows?) His reasons are as follows: travel distances are too far for most western Eurokids. The potential for visa and border issues in some places is a negative. Costs other than entries unlikely to be much different. Scale, professionalism and support of events not on a par with MS. The principle agents behind much of the ECS in the past were/are regional reps for one of the big PBIndustry players. And lastly our correspondent says that Eurorefs is the group the MS uses under the leadership of Ulrich Stahr (one of the only men in Europe with a worse reputation than George W. Bush--or so it's said.)
It's hard not to take his point of view seriously and I do but that's not nearly as much fun as fomenting some chaos or watching a clash of would-be titans. Oh, well.
The alternative theory then becomes that the EPC is positioning itself to control Eastern Europe, cooperate in some respects and align its format, etc. in such a way as to be a viable future party to this mythical New World Odor, er, Order. Which makes perfectly good sense. But doesn't mean it's correct.
So what is the real deal? Mr. Curious needs to know. Will the EPC draw off MS teams even if it isn't trying to? Where will they come from? Does the EPC have any behind the scenes industry sanction? To do what? How will their events turn out?
Help Mr. Curious out. Drop me a line or post a comment.

For all the American readers who feel cheated: I know, you've just wasted a minute of your life--or in some cases 5 or 10 minutes. (Yeah, I saw your lips moving.) Stay in school, kids. And try to remember there's a big wide world out there full of paintball that doesn't revolve around your whining about the uncertain future ROF for a league you've never played before. Or something like that.

About the whole New World Odor thing, it was just a childish joke. It had absolutely nothing to do with my aversion to centralized authority or my mistrust of those in power. Honest. Just a joke.

Mr. Miller, is that you?

VFTD would like to give a Christmas eve shout out to the latest recruit, Renick. If this is indeed Mr. Renick Miller, paintball legend, it is an honor to count you among the DPA. And if it isn't VFTD is pleased to welcome 'another' Renick. After all, we's all brothers behind the goggles, right?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Something Paintball This Way Comes

The PSP's Top 12 have received official notification of what to expect by way of basic changes for the coming season. The bulk of the notice relates to entry fees and payment schedules. Do you recall that PSP Phoenix last year was a race to 7 in the NXL (changed thereafter to 9)? [Here's where I toss you a tiny piece of raw meat.] The formerly NXL, now PSP Pro (or whatever) will be racing once again to 7. I suspect the rest of this info will be out very soon so you won't have long to wait for the rest. And the majority of new info as it relates to divisional play will probably be released soon. (I know, I know, I keep saying that but it'll be true one of these times.) One curiosity is that Commish Tony M. was the principle source of league info and communication with the pro teams before but this came straight from Lane. Is it meaningful?

UPDATE: Tony will continue his role as Commish and chief whipping boy (a role he handles with dignity, a lot of jaw-clenching and this odd tic at the corner of his left eye)--for which I am personally grateful this holiday season as giving Tony grief is one of life's small pleasures.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Hit the cyberstands today. If you haven't subscribed there is no time like right NOW to hit the title link and get it done. The price is right for the average baller too--it's FREE! So give yourself a gift this holiday season, one that will keep on giving throughout the year. And check out my modest contribution and let me know what you think. Am I a hater, or what?

New Recruits

Joining the ranks are Chris Remuzzi, longtime pro baller who keeps some Bad Company. Check out Chris's blog, Chronicles of Muzz, in the paintblogs list. And, Leon, our latest French recruit. At this rate VFTD will soon have to open a branch of the Foreign Legion. Welcome.

UPDATE: Bronc decided to make the leap today, too. Greetings from VFTD. Bronc is also launching an aptly named blog. It's in the list. And he's working in the industry.

The numbers suggest there are lots of new visitors to our happy little blog so I thought I'd take a moment to explain the Deadbox Puppet Army for the uninitiated. The DPA is intended--given my warped sense of humor--to be an ironic poke at paintball's penchant for generating lookalike armies and the impulse for everybody to be individuals in large groups. (Can you say, agg?) If you were hoping to park your brain at the door and march in lockstep with your fellow puppets I'm afraid you will be disappointed. There won't be any of that here. We are all just simple victims of paintball, friends with a shared insanity--no strings attached.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Robots versus Ninjas, Part 2

Given that the most recent related post, Robots vs. Ninjas (Part 1) is a month old already here's a linked list of the related posts in chronological order; Saving Xball, Defining the Game, An Informal Survey, Robots vs. Ninjas, Part 1 if you'd like to catch up or refresh your memory. If not I'll be happy, no thrilled, to summarize the previous posts for all you lazy slackers. Like hell I will. Exercise your finger and click your mouse.

Robots vs. Ninjas, Part 1 puts the differences between the two dominant formats into perspective–though with the bankruptcy of Pacific Paintball the differences, both real and apparent, are rather a moot point. Xball, of one sort or another, is the competitive paintball format for the foreseeable future. The issue now becomes if Xball promotes a certain kind of player–and, broadly defined, I think it does–is it the kind of player we want? And if it isn't what can be done about it? In one sense the robots vs. ninjas debate is resistance from the traditionalists to what they perceive as a diminished game or a less desirable game than the one they played. Without arguing the merits it is important in moving forward to define what the game should be and then what are the skills and abilities required to compete effectively. Or perhaps vice versa. Start with the play of the game as players and go from there in building the game around the desired skills and abilities.
Let's take a brief look at the Russian Legion as their example is instructive. The Legion burst onto the international pro scene on the basis of a new-to-paintball method of training players. It inspired imitation (to varying degrees) and has had a significant impact on competitive paintball. Their methodology also is (was) clearly better suited to the Xball format than to 7-man. The abbreviated reason for this is in Xball it is possible to prepare for, and exert some influence over, more aspects of the actual play of the game than in 7-man. (It is the element of relative unpredictability (more or less) in 7-man that is the missing element for many of the traditionalists because within the window of unpredictability there exists more time and more freedom to make individual play of the game decisions.) For the Legion then the status quo would seem to be ideal yet in recent seasons they have moved to a roster mix that is nearly evenly split between U.S.-based players and Russians.
So what do we want? What should separate the best from the rest? Is it purely gun skills? Physical tools? Something else? Something more? If we can't define the skill set(s), both physical and mental, that comprise the ideal player the players will still be subject to forces that shape their development. Those forces are our training routines and the rules of the game we play.
Paintball has been developing more sophisticated training methods but still relies heavily on scrimmaging. This isn't unreasonable but it is inefficient. Scrimmaging is a necessary element but it is very paint intensive and is only a valuable learning tool when conducted by knowledgeable players and/or coaches focused on learning and improving. It easily reduces to just playing paintball, which is more fun but not always very productive.
Right now in the U.S. there is a bias toward scrimmaging regardless of other factors. In part that is because that is how it's 'always' been done. And among the pros the growing scarcity of resources and time for practice forces hard decisions and tends to push teams toward the familiar. And finally the early release of competition layouts makes the scrimmage imperative. No team would willingly cede practical knowledge of and familiarity with the competition layout when they are convinced their competition will have that knowledge and familiarity. If the layout is available it must be played.
In the short term the only viable way to have a dramatic impact in shaping the ideal player is to not release the layouts in advance. (Here I'm really focusing on the pro–and new semi-pro–division where the impact would be the greatest.) This is so because we are in an era of mostly very limited resources and as a consequence less time to prepare. And until (if ever) paintball can boast real professionals the time, resources and commitment will always be an issue. The non-release would free up the teams to develop different training regimes that would focus on a player's adaptability and capacity to read the changing field and react on the fly. The physical skills would remain the same but this change would dramatically alter the mental game and it's application to the Xball format. The result would be a much more demanding and intense game given the speed Xball tends to promote. (You'd eventually have better players and a better game. IM not very HO, of course.) There would also be a variety of other, I think, positive results as well from this one change.

This post takes some shortcuts in the interest of brevity (can you believe it?) and may as a consequence be a fairly demanding read. If you have any questions or just want to be argumentative don't hesitate to post a comment.

Yes, I know what I posted on Saturday. Get off my back. It's still Saturday somewhere in the South Pacific, right? You know, the whole international dateline thing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Goulash Thickens & Other Miscellany

Ever heard of the Centurio Series or the European Central Series? If not it doesn't matter. (They were two, mostly eastern European paintball series with vague pretensions of competing with the Millennium Series.) It doesn't matter because now they are one larger series, the European Paintball Championship's Grand Tour, still predominantly in eastern Europe, directly challenging the Millennium Series in a number of fascinating ways. It appears they will be organizing their new league(s) in a manner consistent with the Pro Circuit concept with regional conferences for divisional play and an all-inclusive season ending Grand Tour Cup event. The challenge to the MS is the EPC's announced goal of creating a pro division and competing using the xball lite format just like the MS. If the EPC can build some sponsor support and entice a few established pro teams to compete they could, in fairly short order, pose a real threat to the MS's European dominance.
I wonder what the chances are the Russian Legion competes in the new league? And is Moscow Caste selling their Millennium spot in order to switch?

I have come to the conclusion that certain elements of the PSP occasionally tell me things as a form of retribution. I should have thought of this a long time ago as it's what I would do in their place. The upshot is VFTD is unlikely to "break" any shocking big time tourney news so if you've been expecting something, anything any moment now--stop. Just knock it off. There is however mounting pressure to finalize decisions and make announcements (or should that be pronouncements?) as the unofficially not-yet-announced first event will only be six or seven weeks out at around the first of the new year. So it really won't be long now--or else.
Last order of business before finishing up Christmas shopping--my own personal annual nightmare--(What do you mean you can't think of anything you really want? But I'm supposed to know what to get you even when you're clueless? Umm, no, I can't think of anything I really want either) is to note the inclusion into the blogroll of Jason Lineberger's Strictly Scenario and Chris Remuzzi's Chronicles of Muzz. Also, VFTD welcomes Mach as the newest member of the DPA. Postulating that Mach is attending (or recently attended) Michigan State I'm typing very slowly. Hey, Mach is the El Azteca still there just off campus? Hmmm, cheese dip. Oh yeah, and look for Mach's paintblog, 'Paintball in Michigan' in the blog roll.
Robots vs. Ninjas, Part 2 will be posted later today. I give and I give and it's never enough, is it?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa the Avenger

VFTD wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas with The Killers performing, 'Don't Shoot Me Santa'

Thursday, December 18, 2008


My friends, and I call you my friends in order to lull you into a sense of false security so that I can take advantage of you. (No, not like that, you pervert.) In fact until I figure out how to use this manipulative power over the internet y'all are safe. Or are you?
When I started VFTD as a blog it never occurred to me to see what, if anything, other paintball bloggers were doing. In fact, it never occurred to me there were other paintball bloggers. (You might be a raging narcissist if the mere existence of other like-minded peeps never entered your mind.) In my defense I never conceived of this blog as being topic driven (even though it is) or in competition for an audience either. Mostly I wanted a place to keep doing what I've been doing for a few years now.
Anyway, enough about you, what about me?
Lately however I've been beat about the head and shoulders (figuratively of course) by all the paintball blogs springing up like mushrooms in a Mississippi basement--or at least coming to my attention--and I've decided to do something about it.
All of that was preamble to putting up a blog roll in the sidebar below the Dead Tree Archive. (What you've just read is a classic example of a big build up that fails to deliver when you find out what it's all about. Life is filled with disappointments.) I'll also be adding a sites of interest roll though I can't help but assume y'all won't see much of anything new in the list. Regarding the blog roll--it will be fairly strictly limited to actual blogs but otherwise I won't discriminate by type of paintball blog. The ones I read will be at the top of the list. [UPDATE: Not so much as it turns out. The gadget doesn't allow me to set it up that way. Instead it will cycle blogs by the most recently updated.] Blogs belonging to the DPA will also be listed and if anyone else would like theirs included just drop me a line with the site addy and I'll put it up. I'm sure it's not a big deal but I'm curious to see what happens.
Regarding sites of interest they will not, except in the broadest sense, include commercial sites. I'm thinking more along the lines of forums, news and information sites.
If I ever include commercial sites I will do it the American way and charge them for advertising.

Coming whenever I get around to it; Robots vs. Ninjas, part 2 & Restructuring the Local Tournament. Along with responses to the coming PSP announcements and whatever nonsense the MS is spouting next. In case anyone was wondering VFTD will remain a Shawn Walker free zone so don't expect any future comments. I'm not trying to be even-handed or open-minded, I just don't care.
Till next time keep an eye out for the blog roll as I'm very nearly computer literate and internet ready.

Not Plane, Nor Bird, Nor Even Frog

it's just him--little old undrdg. Welcome aboard. Now buy yourself a vowel. And see if you can get Sweet Polly Purebred to drop by. She's one fine ...

VFTD also welcomes Russ (of Russ and the UK refs). Every year during World Cup Russ can found in the evening sprawled curbside outside Son on the Beach.

UPDATE: Signing up for a tour of duty is Geoff Waterman (of the PSP) and the Great White North (eh!). If you check his avatar he's the one on the left and that thug beside him must be PSP security. Geoff also plays paintball for the world famous Blue Man Group--huh--erm--I meant Blue Gunners.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yet Another Cynical VFTD Game

Since PBReserve has unearthed some more info it's time to play the next game. (Thanks, kids.) And for those who might be wondering--no, I didn't rat out the PSP so I could play a new game. I'm pretty sure it was Scooter Libby.
There is a tentative Pro team list for 2009. There is a hierarchical list of other pro teams and their numeric position for filling a pro spot. (It is completely irrelevant if the listing is accurate or not to the aim o' the game.)
Drum roll please.
Here's your challenge. First: name the 12 teams that will be on the field in (let's take a wild stab in the dark) Phoenix competing in the season's opening event. Second: name the 12 teams that make up the semi-pro division at the first event. Object of the game is to get as many of the 24 teams right as possible--so a 24 out of 24 would be the best score possible.
The tie-breaker is--cruel and unusual. How many teams will claim a spot in either division (pro & semi-pro) but NOT compete in the first event.
And the No Life But Paintball award will go to the no-lifer who is able to name which teams will claim a spot but not compete. Incorrect answers will be subtracted from correct answers in order to determine the Loser, er, winner so don't bother listing everybody you can think of.

Okay, since I hear playing the games aren't any fun without (real) prizes let's see what happens. I have a pair of red/black I3's with tinted lenses. If the game gets 100 entries I'll send them to the winner. If the game gets 200 entries the winner will receive an '08 Damage pro jersey. Put your thinking caps on and get to guessing. Game will remain open until 2 weeks prior to the event.

Effect of ROF on the play of the game; Part 2

Here's the set-up. 1) Honest question: [a] Will someone please tell me what the skill is when moving under higher rates of fire? [b] Is there some talent or skill players develop to get through tighter lanes of paint? [c] Isn't the whole point of the 'lane' of paint that a player CAN'T get through it?

The answer to [b] first: yes and no. The skill is in learning how to get through a controlled gap (a lane of paint) and then successfully and routinely executing, not in how to magically dodge 13 bps (which isn't what happens most of the time). You might be surprised to learn how many ways there are. [c]: No, the whole point is to try and contain/control movement in order to gain a positional advantage and this concept is a team concept not an individual player concept. [a]: it isn't a single skill, it is a diverse group of abilities; it's vision, it's timing, it's coordinated action, it's often running & shooting, it's body awareness [where you are in relation to where peeps can kill you], it's planning and preparation, it's physical tools including raw speed. There are a couple others but hopefully you get the idea. It's a rather complex interplay of game playing elements that in combinations allows movement through a zone the opposition is trying to control.

Here's the big picture answer–and the reason why ROF is important to the game play. ROF is the principle modifier of Movement. A few years ago, during the transition to semi-auto field rentals from pumps, we were playing some after hours paintball with the soon to be obsolete (then) pumps. We were playing approx. 5 on 5 on the speedball field which was mostly barrels and crossed plywood. Before one game it occurred to us that the pumps weren't capable, on that field, of containing our movement particularly if the other team played as if we all had semi-autos. The predictable result was that we ran them off the field in seconds. The proximity created by the dimensions of the modern xball field require a counterbalancing ROF in order to retain the game's complexity. Even with the old 15 bps and sideline coaches good players are still able to move and run down their opponents. If, for example, you put the pro ROF at 8 bps on a standard field layout the result would, in short order, be a brutal game of train wreck points because the ROF wouldn't be able to control movement versus the skill level of the players. The fact that pro players are capable of moving when confronted by high ROF is one of the defining characteristics of the current game. From my point of view, the ideal ROF for purposes of game play is one or two notches below being able to control the movement of the best teams. (And incidentally the reason why graduated ROF doesn't bother me at all. It should give developing players an opportunity to exercise the correct skill set with the correct priorities placed on the various demands of the game.)
When movement becomes too easy it loses value. In the modern format ROF makes movement meaningful. And meaningful movement is what makes all the great moves great.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Big Guns Are Rolling In

Now we're talking. The army gets some artillery. A crisp VFTD salute to the mysterious "manufacturer." I know I've seen that logo someplace. It's on the tip of my tongue--no, wait, don't tell me--I'll get it. Hi, (for the sake of anonymity let's say) John.

More Donuts

Made you look.
Chad joins the army. All you slackers could learn a little something from Chad about posting comments--I'm just saying.

Comic Stylings from the MS

Hit the title link to check out the official statement. It's a bit thin on content but makes up for it by being long and boring.
The following is my translation from Milspeak into English. (The first two paragraphs nearly had me weeping with gratitude but I got over it.)
1: We can't keep delivering quality events without more sponsor cash and if we're gonna bring in some big money outside sponsors we have to maintain our current level of professionalism. And, oh yeah, this is gonna be good for everybody. We'll tell you how later.
2: The purpose of the MS has always been to attract new players and promote the success of the industry. No, really.
3: Look, either we soak the sponsors for more or we're gonna raise prices on you players. But less money means we can't get those outside sponsors. Uh, for you. Yeah.
4: Our sponsors have been paying all along while others have taken advantage by using the MS to promote their stuff. (VFTD: I'd really like to know how that worked. And just how the new sponsorship demands will change that.) Times are tough and we need the money.
5: The info out there is basically correct.
6: We are working the carrot and the stick to make this happen. Hey, it's a bargain. We wave the TV show under your nose hoping you don't remember how successful past TV efforts have been while threatening to lock out your sponsored teams if you don't play ball. And all we really need is for a couple of big players to go for it and the rest of you will follow like sheep terrified of being left behind.
7: we'd like to thank the sponsors that pay up and encourage you to buy from them.
8: we're not going after other items of gear right now so it's all good.
9: when we said everyone was on board we meant that not very many sponsors are openly refusing--yet.
10: Don't worry, be happy.

No need to thank me. I'm always happy to help out.

UPDATE: MS website has been down for a few hours on the 15th and carrying into the 16th. No idea why but if anything changes from the original Mil posting I'll let you know as soon as the site is accessible again.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Effect of ROF on the play of the game; Part 1

In the comments section of 'Random Thoughts on the PSP & ROF' Raehl posed the following questions:
1) Honest question: Will someone please tell me what the skill is when moving under higher rates of fire? Is there some talent or skill players develop to get through tighter lanes of paint? Isn't the whole point of the 'lane' of paint that a player CAN'T get through it?
2. And even if there is such a skill, isn't any loss of the "move through high rates of fire" skill balanced out by the introduction of the "hit moving targets" skill?

Beginning with Q2 the simple answer is no. It's no for two reasons: one) it's not one or the other. There is nothing precluding the use of (or theoretical value of) a "hit moving targets" skill as the game is played now. [Feel free to argue that the "hit moving targets" skill will increase in value but realize that argument hinges on ROF not movement.] Two) Movement isn't about moving through lanes held by high ROF. [I do understand how, particularly at the lower levels, it may seem that way largely because that is how it is usually played at that level.]
Elsewhere Chris equated "hit moving targets" with leading the target so I am taking that as his meaning. If that is correct let's look at skeet which, I think it's fair to say, is exemplary of a shooting sport where the primary skill is to "hit moving targets." How do they do it? By judging the trajectory of a projectile that has known and consistent speed and flight characteristics–and shooting through a spot so that the clay and shotgun pellets arrive at that spot at the same time. So the real difference between leading your target and ROF is the ability to put a projectile through the spot more than once. Of course leading the target also implies being able to make a calculated judgment about where the target is going in order to decide when and where to shoot. Now if you will humor me for a minute try to recollect your favorite xball field. Now "look" at the spaces between bunkers. Now estimate the time it will take to move between various bunkers consistent with the play of a point. Odds are you know most of the time where that player is trying to go so you don't even need to make that calculation. All you have to do is put a ball (or two) in the right spot at the right time–but if you are making that determination AFTER a player begins moving 9 times out of 10 you missed not because you can't hit that spot but because it was already too late.
Given the current standard playing field there is no leading the target (or so little as to be inconsequential)–there is spot shooting aimed at eliminating moving players and there is lane shooting which inhibits movement. (There are, of course, other aspects of shooting; snap, gun-fighting and so on but they aren't directly relevant to this discussion.)
Additionally, the idea of one skill simply replacing another skill is not one to accept without serious thought in part because the use of these "skills" do not occur in isolation to the rest of the game. And in this case because the the "leading the target" skill is irrelevant.

Okay, but what is the relationship between ROF and movement? Part 2 will address Raehl's first question–and I'll try and put it all in a larger context.

Friday, December 12, 2008

They Don't Call It the World Wide Web for Nothing

A merry VFTD welcome to Goose from Venezuela. When you guys fly south for the winter you fly south for the winter! Get it? Goose? Flying south? Yeah, it was kinda weak--alright, it was seriously lame--but it's been a long week so cut me some slack.

UPDATE: Allo Fred. Our first French recruit.
Do you know Alex Lundquist? Fred. Alex. Alex. Fred. Perhaps you guys could compare head shots.

Random Thoughts on the PSP & ROF

I'm gonna wait until the official announcements before posting anymore on the coming changes to the PSP. Once the announcement(s) are made I'll be breaking them down in detail. The good, the bad and the ugly. It won't be long now.
Okay, just this one thing first. My largest concern going in was that decisions would be made in this period of economic tightening that would, given the apparent push toward a world standard, lock us into a survival mode version of the game. I no longer have that concern as I am convinced that no decisions were made that would put the PSP and/or the MS in that position. It kinda sucks to deal with change after change but given the current situation I'll take the uncertainty as long as there remains some flexibility--and there does. It also seems there is the basis for a good foundation going forward. (Yeah, I know. What does that mean? How 'bout some specifics?) I'm not Deep Throat--just trying to be encouraging. Hey, made me feel better.

A word or two (or a hundred) about ROF. ROF is not a single or isolated issue. It impacts play of the game, player development and paint consumption. And of course the playing experience. While radical differences in ROF will have an obvious impact on paint consumption the regulating factor is duration; the amount of time playing the game, or games. (More on this another time as there are some complicating factors that make it difficult to prove one point of view over another.) When I use 'play of the game' I'm talking about skill and proficiency and in that context ROF is one of the determinative factors of skill & proficiency. The skill required to play effectively at 10 bps is less than at 15 bps. If that is correct then a regulated range of bps should lower the threshold skill demand of the competitive game on developing players. Basically it should be easier for more players to be competitive at the lower ROF. And isn't that what the lower divisions are for? Lastly there's 'player experience' which isn't so much about the competitive environment as it is the more inclusive recreational environment and the mismatched diversity of player skills and equipment. But here, just as in the competition environment, there is no excuse for a lack of regulation. Sure, ROF is a potential problem but it only goes from potential to real problem when field operators let it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If the PSP were serious about limiting paint use they would limit paint use." I'm just saying. (And incidentally you slackers aren't helping out much with this whole kewl quote of the day concept.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rule of the Game

Baca's Rule #17: ROF is not the determinative factor in paint consumption

MS Gun Sponsorship Update

Despite the Laurent Hamet presser referred to in the last post Planet owner Ledz categorically denies they have agreed to this deal over at P8ntballer. You may also review an English language translation of the press release in question in the same thread.

So let me see if I understand what's going on. Last year the Mil pushed gun sponsors to upgrade their sponsorship in order to provide sanctioned tech support meanwhile the Mil was unable to police their own events for peeps violating those rules so now they want more money from sponsors to continue NOT doing what they've promised to provide. Next the MS will be sending out emails warning potential sponsors their booths could catch fire or be robbed during an event unless they fork over an extra insurance premium. That's the way a protection racket works, right?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Millennium Takes a Big Bite--

--but will they be able to swallow it?
Despite a notice sent out by Laurent Hamet (of the MS) claiming to have a raft of gun makers already on board word on the street is everyone is waiting for somebody else--preferably a major player--to refuse so they can follow suit. Nobody wants to be first or worse, end up being the only one but in the meantime they are all being held up by a gangsta with a cap gun.

Looks like I'll have to hold off on breaking down what PBIndustry acceptance would mean. Too bad 'cus it's already written. In part, it would be a Faustian bargain for the Big Guns who might be tempted to use the "protection" to remove some competition as they, in turn, would then be on the hook for whatever the MS decided to charge having already agreed to the principle.

In the meantime I thought y'all might like to know just what exactly the MS is asking for. (Extortion is kinda like asking, isn't it?)

There are 3 versions of gun sponsorship; Diamond (50K), Platinum (30K) & Display (10K). The difference between Diamond and Plat is allotted space for setup. Only diamond and plat sponsors are allowed gun techs. A Display Gun "sponsorship" allows for 1 (one) brand, sales, display & on field use. It is unclear just what brand means--a single manufacturer or a single gun line?

And then there is the Sponsor Other (5K) category which reads, "Only products belonging to sponsors can be sold or exhibited at 2009 Millennium events. The product can be sold at the event. Only products that have a sponsor can be exhibited or sold at 2009 Millennium Series events." The same one brand restriction, whatever that is, applies here too.

Amusingly it is being promoted by the MS as "maximum product protection for all sponsors."

It's Not Personal

It's just business.
I don't know if this post is strictly necessary but it may prove a useful reference in the future. Have I upset or annoyed (_________)? [fill in the blank] Please review the post, It's Not Personal, and have a nice day.
Over the years it seems I usually end up holding contrarian opinions from much of the Paintball Establishment on all sorts of issues and I don't see that ending anytime soon. I've also noticed that in some of my recent postings I'm trying real hard not to put anybody out and the truth is that's just not me. So here's the deal: if you find yourself offended by anything I post consider this a blanket apology covering all such past & future incidents. And better yet I am very nearly completely sincere.
Remember, it's not personal--it's just paintball.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

In the endless war against internet boredom VFTD is inaugurating a new regular feature. In the future feel free to send in your own nominations.

VFTD Quote of the Day: "Frankly I'd rather play real Xball with autocockers & automags than the watered down gruel of a game called Xball Lite." (Quoting, of course, yours truly.)

Some call him ...

Alan. Greetings to yet another paintball junkie. The Army continues to muster.

New Look Pro

At last--it's New Look Pro. (About time too.) While the focus will be the on field playing of the game it's nearly impossible to completely separate from the business & politics of the game.
I'm writing this based on a couple of assumptions. That the PSP has an interest in maintaining a pro division that serves as the pinnacle of competition paintball. And, that the ultimate goal remains the mainstreaming of competition paintball. (Or, as I prefer, the "selling" of paintball.) Even if there is now a willingness to take a more incremental approach than in the past. You know, actually build the game.
It will be interesting--to me anyway--to see what comes out of the Vegas meeting (apparently not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas) with respect to the pro game and the rumored semi-pro or open division. The news could also be exciting or disappointing or horrifying.
Four issues strike me as being most significant. One (1), changes to the actual on field competition. Two (2), changes to the rules (ROF & penalties for example) and/or practices of the PSP. Three (3), the 'lost' generation of players who may be too good to play. Four (4), the relationship, if any, that the league fosters with the pro teams.
Regarding point 3 there already exists a lost generation of players. Back in July I discussed the issue as it related to D1 here, here and here. And with the prospect of a single national league and a limited (locked?) pro division there exists the potential for a glut of pro ranked players looking for a place to play. I expect this to be addressed by either adding a new division or turning D1 back to an Open division. The core problem is that if the issue isn't handled well the league may end up squandering the skills and motivation to compete of a lot of players [who also have the potential to make a valuable contribution to the game]--and unintentionally send a counterproductive message to all the lower division teams--your motivation and desire to be the best you can be will drive you out of our league.
Point 4 is the critical issue. How it is addressed, or if it is addressed, will be reflected in the choices made related to points one and two. Last year's changes proved less than effective for a couple of reasons. One reason was a miscalculation of what would make a real difference and the second was because no decision made last off season altered in any significant way the relationship of the pro teams to the league--it remained fundamentally adversarial. (That's a 'loaded' term but I don't mean to attach any negative connotation.) In my view that miscalculation was a direct result of the nature of the relationship. It is also my view that until the relationship is altered many of the changes that will be made (or have been made) will not serve their intended purpose.
Regarding point 1 the relevant aspect here is do choices made now lock the league (and the teams and the players) into a version of not-gonna-call-it-xball-anymore that is less than optimum? And is less a showcase of the sport and just generally less. Less may be unavoidable for the time being but my concern is that these choices will be put forward as beneficial to the teams but will only result in compromising the potential of the game.
Point 2 is mostly a subset of 1 but is also intended to cover stuff like the release of field layouts, etc. The pertinent question with any changes made in this category is do they benefit only the league or only the teams or some combination. Another area of concern is that the league sees a need to economize and in that process simply shifts some additional burden to the teams either unintentionally or in the guise of helping them. For example the changes made last year reduced field time for most lower div teams with no changes or increases in cost. Or the NXL maintaining their operational decisions on the backs of the competing teams even with a substantially altered game.
As to how this plays out on the field an xball lite variant at the pro level will result in lost strategic and tactical options. [I'll explain how another time.] It will almost certainly also result in more cautious, less exciting play and increase the potential for poor officiating to impact the outcome of matches.

Once the official announcements are made the VFTD will break them down in detail but until then it's difficult to be more specific.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Addendum to Limbo & the Minefield

Couple of additional thoughts on yesterday's post--and no, this doesn't count as an all new post (it's an addendum) so 'New Look Pro' will (still) be the next new post. That is the official VFTD rationalization and I'm sticking with it.
While I think the MS is flirting with having a league that nobody shows up for if they follow through with the new gun sponsor restrictions (particularly in a worsening economic climate) I can see why the big manufacturers might consider it a bargain. If the price is a barrier to other gun makers then the cost/benefit works in two ways. One, it clears the field of competitors (for sales and promotion) and Two, it retains the traditional promotional value (potentially enhanced by the TV show). One not-so-secret characteristic of the leaders of PBIndustry is they don't actually want competition (which makes them just like every other industry leader.)
Final Thought--Will Ford, GM & Chrysler be paying NASCAR the old going rate next year for the "privilege" of having their brands compete?

Despite the changes made last off season by the PSP there was an attitude that in some respects dismissed the loss of pro teams because there were others waiting to fill in for them. With all the pro teams at loose ends this off season will that attitude carry over? After all, it worked out so well last year. It was considered a 'realistic' approach to the hard facts of life. Fair enough but can THE national league promoting a world competition standard survive and succeed without a functional pro division? It ain't clear to me that they understand that this is what they are flirting with.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Limbo & the Minefield

This post was intended to be 'New Look Pro'--stop me if you've heard this excuse before. Problem is when I started writing the issues broke down essentially in two ways; the on the field game play and tourney environment with all its attendant political and economic complications so this post will address the tourney environment and the follow-up will be--finally and at last--New Look Pro--and discuss on the field game play.
While the rumormill churns I find all the talk of kick-starting a new national league less than credible. I could see a replacement for the XPSL--maybe--but all the chatter is just talk, talk, talk and enormous phone bills. For the foreseeable future competitive paintball will be dominated by the PSP.
This raises some, let me phrase this diplomatically, interesting questions. The situation has all the intrigue of a Faulknerian snoozer. Owners of the PSP are also leading members of PBIndustry and owners of pro teams. This ain't breaking news but it remains an inherently unhealthy complication because of the conflicting interests involved in making league related decisions. Every calculation is what's good for business; what's good for the league; what's good for my team and (hopefully) what's good for competitive paintball.
Now consider that the norm has always forced the teams and league(s) into competition with each other over sponsors. (Nobody ever seemed to take this seriously until the money started to dry up.) At the same time the league calls all the shots on what it takes to compete. (Remember the built in conflicts above?) And all of a sudden everyone is concerned about the survival of the pro teams? I will gladly grant there was concern before and efforts were made last off season but how much were those decisions influenced by factors other than the good of the teams and the league and competitive paintball? More importantly, what's coming this time around–and why?
This off season will present some unique challenges. There are seven "homeless" pro teams that competed only in the NPPL (not including Avalanche & Aftermath which are in the precarious position of having bailed on the NXL.) There are 10 NXL teams. Prior to the Pacific bankruptcy there was widespread speculation that not all of those pro teams would survive into the '09 season. In a continuation of the team losses from '07 a significant percentage of the current pro teams are in free fall.
In this environment every team is waiting to hear what will happen next season. The answers will go a long way towards determining the immediate future of pro paintball--and incidentally let the teams and players know just what the league really thinks of them. Will the decisions made simply maintain a version of the status quo--and will that be enough?

Is your head spinning yet? If not toss in the (apparent) decision of the MS to deny players and teams the use of guns made by non-sponsors of their league and to charge those sponsors twice, for use rights and vendors space. With this sort of impeccable timing it's a miracle they are still in business.
Here's a thought: What happens if 2 of the 3 largest gun manufacturers simply refuse to go along? (Of course they also happen to be the guys who just spent the week in Vegas negotiating a new world standard and who knows what else?) What are the chances all the little guys are just waiting for a signal to line up in opposition? Or, if you don't like that how 'bout this? What if the leading sponsors pooled their fees and invested in a new European league? There are peeps pursuing the possibility as well as alternative resources available. (Of course, that would put a crimp in the old new world standard, wouldn't it?)

Next time–New Look Pro (yeah, yeah, I know)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mr. Curious Again

Over at John Amodea's (new) blog, (welcome to the new media, John) he began a series of posts that are, in part, a retrospective of the history of paintball. I recommend anyone interested in the current state of the game check John's blog out. So many involved in the game today know amazingly little about what came before which makes it all the more ironic that some of the peeps most in need of John's review are the ones who made that history.

The broad strokes of the post are unassailable but donning my Mr. Curious personae, which requires only an expression of wonderment mixed with confusion--and not a great personal stretch--I am curious about a couple of things in John's post. I wonder what gun sales were in say, 2000 or 2001 compared to 2008. I also wonder what impact the burgeoning market in almost new virtually identically performing used guns is having on new sales particularly during an economic downturn. I'm also curious about the real impact of media and industry focus on the tourney side in recent years (and the varied effort over the last couple years to reintroduce recreational paintball into the pages of most of the magazines.) I have no doubt that poor local field operation has been exacerbated by punks with blazing gats and alienated some numbers of newbies but were these ever players interested in rec and/or woods ball? And have these assumed losses impacted the numbers of rec/woods players? Lastly, did anyone expect the explosive growth of the early part of this decade to go on endlessly? (Well, doh, some parts of PBIndustry clearly did but still ...)

In any event it's great to have multiple voices and more venues in which to discuss this wretched game called paintball.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Call Me Mr. Curious

Yeah. That's right, I'm ripping off Letterman for the Mr. Curious gimmick and I'm not too proud to admit it. But he doesn't do it anymore so where's the harm? And if I hadn't told you most of you wouldn't have known--kinda like most of the tourney players out there seem oblivious to the fact that the latest incarnation of the NPPL had a grand SIX year run. OMG! What will we do? What will become of paintball?!
I'm curious about a couple of things today. I'm still clinging to the curious timing of the Pacific bankruptcy announcement--at least with respect to the Vegas meeting and the prior (and at the time ongoing) PSP/NPPL dialogue--and I'm also wondering how long it takes to actually file the necessary paperwork with the state of Cali 'cus it doesn't seem to have happened yet.
I'm also curious about the timing of the "leaked" word that some new league is in the works behind the scenes and may involve some well-known faces. I'm struggling here for the right word--but it seems almost "unprofessional." Maybe I just don't get it but at best this venture is months out and doesn't it take some of the wind out of the sails of any official future announcement? I'd want to spring this on an unsuspecting paintball world and make the biggest splash possible. Unless of course I was hoping to encourage ex-NPPL teams without a home to wait a while before deciding what to do next. Could also simply be that nobody in paintball can keep their mouth shut about anything.
And that's just the way the VFTD likes it. Here's where you jump in with the latest gossip and speculation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One More Cynical VFTD Game

In order to encourage more participation this cynical VFTD game will be multiple choice and the results will be graded on a curve. There will be no wrong answers, only those that are less right. So if your self-esteem is a quivering mass of jelly have no fear, VFTD is here to help you. In addition to providing no "wrong" answers from which to choose there will be a completely random and totally unreliable guide offering scientific insight into your character based on a strictly limited data sampling of, er, one.
At the end of the voting period VFTD will tally the votes and whichever answer receives the most votes will be declared the winner -- and the correct answer. Facts are for losers.

QUESTION: What happens to the NPPL name and brand?

Answer A: Jerry Braun & Steve Davidson decide to go halfsies to see if the dream can be revived.

Answer B: Chuck Hendsch scoops it up for old times sake and puts out a press release announcing a league for the players, by the players.

Answer C: a group of disaffected woodsball teams join forces in order to break away from the hegemony of greedy promoters and start their own league.

Answer D: under cover of darkness a covert team of spec ops mercenaries grabs everything with a NPPL logo and disappears into the night. The following day Smart Parts announces it now holds the rights to the NPPL.

Answer E: a guy named Spackle from Akron Ohio accidentally bids on the NPPL mistaking it for new-fangled milking equipment for dairies.

Answer F: a mysterious auto dealer from Canukistan outbids everyone and immediately announces a pro 7-man circuit to be held at the grand openings of his newest dealerships.

Answer G: the PSP buys it and renames the NXL and every written record of the term "xball" is excised permanently (as is the jumbo X.)

Check here to see what your answer tells the world about you. If you chose:
A) You have sadomasochistic tendencies and an unhealthy fixation on rubber and riding crops.

B) You have trouble holding a job and the one person you would most like to meet is The King, from the Burger King commercials.

C) Congratulations, you are Joe Normal. You drive a rusted out Camaro, have a mullet and keep a wad of Griz between cheek and gum. Wednesday is your favorite day because it's bowling night.

D) You are a conspiracy wacko. Welcome to the club! I'll show you the secret handshake later.

E) You enjoy an alternate identity as a cross-dresser named Olga and your favorite TV show is 'The Dog Whisperer.'

F) You are an idealist doomed to disappointment as you struggle to come to grips with reality.

G) You are a drone of conformity regurgitating the conventional wisdom.

Next World Order

Say hello to the new boss same as the old boss.
For a lot of tourney players nothing much is going to change. Sure, a rule here, a rule there that add up to some minor changes but nothing major. I think this New World Order talk is perhaps overblown--even if some arrangement is agreed upon between the PSP and MS. Yes, they will be the leading tournament series but they don't and won't have a monopoly on tournament paintball. Most tourney players don't play in either of them and if either league makes enough decisions that alienate their customer base whatever they agree on won't much matter. What the next world order does offer is the possibility of formalizing and stabilizing the game/sport of competitive paintball. And that could be a very good thing.

Here's some of what I think you can expect. 5-man in a couple of variants; xball & something (very) similar to the way the PSP has been running their regular 5-man. At the lower divisions of xball play I don't expect (and continue to hope) there are no major changes. There could very well be more divisions of both xball and 5-man. The place where the greatest changes are most likely is at the top because that is where the widest divergence between the PSP and MS currently exist. I hope, for purely selfish reasons, that the end result is either allowed some flexibility or looks much more like the PSP version than the MS. The tension is between keeping the pro level game the format's undisputed flagship competition and the pressing need to reduce the cost of competing at the pro level. There have got to better ways to address those needs (and there are) than watering down the game--again.
On issues like locked divisions and restrictive non-sponsor possibilities I won't hazard a guess 'cus that's all it would be. I will say it strikes me as borderline insane to do stuff like that at the same time you're trying to forge a world game identity for your version of competitive paintball.

One of the critical discussions to be had as the next world order begins ought to be about what has been lost as much as on what has been gained. What, if anything, can be done to regain or restore some elements of the game play that may be seen as lacking or lost. Who knows, maybe it won't be much of anything but if one format is going to dominate and become the world standard that version of the game has an obligation to represent as much of the energy, excitement, thrill and skill as can be stuffed into it.

And Now For a Bit of Rampant Speculation: Given the seemingly odd timing of the NPPL filing I think one of two things probably happened. Either the NPPL & PSP worked out their bargain or Freidman decided it wasn't worth the effort--nor the likely continued cost--and simply wanted out. Both make sense. The former implies that Friedman remains interested in "selling" paintball. The latter suggests he's washed his hands of the whole mess and is satisfied to get out. For the life of me I can't see why he'd want to stay and keep trying to "sell" paintball on terms other than his own. And if he didn't think he could do it using the NPPL why would he think he can do it using the PSP?
More intriguing is what will become of the NPPL brand? I smell another cynical VFTD game.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Army Goes Galactic

Klaatu Barada Niktoe. Greetings to our first extraterrestrial member, Uatu, the Watcher, who joins us from the Marvel Comic Universe. Not to worry, we won't expect too many comments.

UPDATE: Unlike Uatu Cole has his feet firmly on terra firma. Welcome. Who knows when the VFTD will be in need of legal representation. Do they have summer session?

THIS JUST IN: Beherit enlists and the VFTD forms a new battalion, the metal militia. Thrashing is acceptable but electronika will not be permitted. And just so we're clear--no black blood oath required.

Introducing ...

the Killer Kiwi from further Down Under and newest member of the Deadbox Puppet Army, Martin. I would recognize that Howdy Doody-looking avatar anywhere, Mr. D. Mostly 'cus it gives me the creeps.

UPDATE: Before introducing the two latest recruits I'd like to thank them for their timely decision which allows me to include them with Martin.

What took you so long, Mark? Mark is an old friend but y'all shouldn't hold that against him. After all he's a victim of paintball like the rest of us.

He's Gumby, dammit! As a huge fan of claymation a big VFTD welcome to Gumby, er, Lawrence. When can we expect Pokey to join up?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pacific Pulls Plug

Bad news: one less national paintball league.
Good news: everybody who wanted one league only got their wish. Albeit, not quite the way they had hoped for.
What inquiring minds really want to know: What's next for Pony? Is it back to the outrageous party-go-round that is Denver? Say it isn't so.

On a more sober note: there were dedicated and sincere people who worked for the NPPL over the years and made a large contribution to its successes and the pleasure those of us who competed enjoyed. Thank you all.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another Cynical VFTD Game

If one game is good two gotta be twice as much fun, right?
This one's harder but I got faith in y'all. Here's the deal: predict the Vegas results for standardizing competitive paintball.
Pick the format.
Pick ROF (rate of fire).
Pick the number of divisions of play and how many will be locked or closed, if any.
Will there be sponsor restrictions on gear or gun use on the field of play? (Yes / N0)
Tie-breaker: predict any significant rule changes. Alternate tie-breaker: will player classification also be standardized (forcing Eurokids to compete over here in same division they compete in over there.)

Play early, play often.

A New Cynical VFTD Game

Time for some fun, kids. Pick the league(s) for next season and how many events will be scheduled. Must choose between PSP, MS & NPPL only. For example; NPPL & PSP, 10 events.

Extra credit tie-breaker: pick the fate of a lower tier league. For example, NEPL folds. (I am NOT predicting the NEPL will fold.)

Winner will receive the satisfaction that he/she was smarter than everybody else. VFTD is the final arbiter of all results and all results will be final.

UPDATE: I am sorely disappointed that Pacific Paintball chose to ruin our game with their untimely announcement, bankruptcy not withstanding. Unfortunately the news leaves us with no winners.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hiking in the Wilderness

No, this isn't New Look Pro. (Yes, it's still coming.) This is an update on Off the Reservation. It was suggested to me that the MS did in fact bring something to the table--a new TV deal. After I stopped laughing I thought about it for a moment. If having mediocre paintball on American TV led to the MS gig then okay, maybe the TV deal in Euroland will prove to be a big hit for the U.S. and finally get competitive paintball over the hump and into the mainstream. (And if that didn't make a whole lot of sense to you, join the club but that is the logic involved--such as it is.)
Another way of looking at this (rumored) endeavor to internationalize or standardize competitive paintball is that at long last the powers that be are attempting to take sensible incremental measures to build competitive paintball into something that might be recognized as sport and actually attract serious outside interest (at some unpredictable time in the future.) Hey, anything is possible.
Here's another idea. Name the two large independent U.S. paintball manufacturers [makers of paintball gear] who chose not to pay the MS's extortionate sponsorship fees and skipped the series last year. (I'm not using "extortionate" to imply any criminal conduct--in case you weren't sure.) If you guessed that the answers coincidentally happen to also be owners of the PSP treat yourself to a piece of pumpkin pie. Will the negotiation result in some rapprochement that will see the missing companies at MS events next season? Inquiring minds want to know.
How 'bout all of the above? Call it Big League multi-tasking at its finest.

Btw, you guys are really boring. 76 comments on relegation (which isn't even going to happen) and nobody wants to talk about competitive paintball's future?

UPDATE: blogging etiquette says one doesn't delete content but rather corrrects it. So, where it says paintball manufacturers the intent was manufacturers of paintball stuff, not paintballs specifically. And if that has left you dazed and confused here's what I was getting at.

The Big Picture issue is that the MS will have a say in what xball looks like in the future over here for no other reason than the PSP has decided now is the time to standardize the game and given what xball (xtra lite) looks like over there that is a sorry thing indeed. Particularly if we end up paying for what may amount to another reduction.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Off the Reservation

I've been told before there's no point in fighting it (or even arguing about it)--and that's not really what I'm doing--because it (whatever it is) is gonna happen whether I like it or not but passive acceptance ain't in my nature. And while it probably doesn't matter what any of us knows or when we knew it--or what we think of it--so what? What's the point of bothering with the blog if I'm gonna censor myself?
About now you might be wondering what the hell is he going on about now?
Same thing(s) I've been dancing around all week. Fortunately there's now been more info posted on a public forum about at least part of it so I feel free to add my two cents.
As some of you will be aware the PSP is having their annual shindig in Vegas soon in order to decide this season's installment of The Future of Paintball. This season's installment may turn out to be a much bigger deal than the norm (for a couple of reasons)--and we'll see and hear about it when we see and hear about it--and in the meantime I'm gonna address an item that will be on the Vegas agenda.
One chunk of the agenda will be given over to hashing out some arrangement with the MS on "standardizing" the competitive game. In one respect this is a swell idea. On the other hand it's been played at before with all the World Federation jabber of a couple of years ago when all it was then was another skirmish in the power struggle to be jettisoned when it--the struggle--had played out. This time it's supposed to be different. But why? Because the next road down the path of mainstreaming the game is another version of professionalizing--which is this notion of setting an international standard. And the purpose of mainstreaming paintball as sport--yes, give yourself a cookie, it's the "selling" of paintball one more time in another guise.
Of course nobody is opposed to "selling" paintball if the price is right and there's not much point in getting all worked up over decisions that aren't made yet.
But still, what does standardizing look like in practice? And what does the MS actually bring to the table? They play Xball XtraLite in most divisions. They've got locked divisions down thru D1 and rumors of wholesale defection and/or team losses coming they've done such a good job of late. They've a got a partial rulebook from, when, back in the 90's? (Maybe it ain't quite that bad but it's a joke nonetheless.) They charge license fees on top of entries to get in a locked division. They apparently want to drop ROF to 10 bps (and at that ROF if my grandma couldn't make her corner I'd kick her ass.) And their players routinely drop a couple divisions to come and play World Cup. Just what do they bring to the table? Or is this a negotiation of what the PSP can expect to impose or some broad compromise for the sake of a deal that benefits who?
And one more thing on the sudden push to standardize a world game. Could anyone possibly pick a worse time to start pushing this idea? Let's see, we's all going to hell in a handcart and we're all gonna have to find ways to economize and hang on until things improve--hey, I know, let's make decisions in this environment that may set the course for the future of the game. What better time than when everyone needs to cut back as much as possible. It's freaking genius is what it is. And doesn't surprise me in the least.

Next time: The New Look Pro

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Being Paintball Sports Promotions

One might try to lay the NPPL's faults at the doorstep of the PSP and I can see the temptation. (After all, what was the raison d'etre of the NXL and all those runs at TV if it wasn't about "selling" paintball?) But a couple of factors preclude coming to that conclusion; the NXL and joint ownership.

Oh yeah, almost forgot, the same disclaimer as the one in Being Pacific Paintball applies here as well. Mostly the point of the disclaimer is to make sure if anyone objects they hold only me responsible. You'd think that would be obvious--this is my blog--but we are talking paintball--so I try to go the extra mile.

Creating the NXL as a separate entity, despite the fact it ran at PSP events, actually protected the PSP in an odd way. As did the distinct ownership stakes (NXL franchises & PSP) even when individuals held both in common. But none of that alters the fact the NXL was set-up to reap the benefits of *selling* paintball or that the majority of PSP owners wanted to sell paintball as badly as the other guys--and more power to them--but they wanted something else as much or more. Control.
I'm not passing judgment. (You can if you'd like.) If I were slicing extra large portions off my personal block o' cheese in order to keep the party going I'd probably feel a bit proprietary myself (after a quick visit with my local mental health professional to make sure I hadn't lost my mind.)
With the separation of interests the PSP focused on providing an essentially no-frills (or few frills) tournament aimed at delivering the best competitions they could manage. Toss in the xball format and the slogan 'Advancing the Sport of Paintball' actually meant something that was easily defined whether you agreed with it or not. With Lane Wright at the helm of the PSP the distractions that hurt the NPPL weren't problems of the same order or magnitude. (It's worth noting in passing too that formats have made a difference as well in how the leagues are viewed. Each has some positives and negatives but in comparison 7-man suffers in the critical perception of the referees and their roles and impact. Which isn't a small thing.)
However--and it's a pretty substantial however--where one might equate the NPPL using their tourney series like a booster rocket to launch their mainstreaming & big money dream I see something more from the PSP and that brings me back to -- control. (None of this is, or ought to be, particularly shocking to anyone who has been paying attention and yes, it's a bit of amateur psychoanalysis after a fashion but hey, it is what it is.)
The original NPPL devolved from its original vision into a combine of promoters [for the sake of simplicity] and that eventually engendered the division that created the separate national leagues; the NPPL and the PSP. The NXL followed. It is, among other things, a history of a struggle for control. As a practical matter we are at a place where a small group are in control in part because they've sought it and in part because they've paid for it. And I don't begrudge them in the least--in fact I'm glad someone was willing to do it. But, and this is a big but, a sir-mix-a-lot sized booty--the potential extent of the control is outsized especially if we end up at some point with only one major league.
Paintball, you see, is still a nascent sport (it ain't done developing, it isn't settled in a lot of ways). In that circumstance, in our circumstance, the dominant league is very likely gonna control what the game becomes in the next few years. In essence they become conservators of the game and its future. That was the larger point of this post. And we will all be along for the ride whether it's a ride of our choosing or not. And it concerns me because in the way the NPPL has goals above and beyond putting on good events the ownership of the PSP has a lot of irons in a lot of fires and the likely result, at least at times, is/will be decisions made that serve a narrower purpose than the game.

[There is also plenty more about the PSP/NXL in the Dead Tree Archive to keep you entertained if you are so inclined.]
**I cheated on the date code. But I almost got this posted, er, yesterday.**

Enlistment is Up

Since I started doing this I can't very well stop now, can I? DJBeatright joins the army. Welcome.

Not to worry--Being the PSP is coming. In for a penny, in for a pound. (Which, for our Brit friends, is what your pound will soon be worth. Misery loves company.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being Pacific Paintball

Upfront I want to apologise for the miserable *prediction* that is the Richter or Beaufort? post. It's mostly not particularly informative. If you can make heads or tails of it (or think you can) odds are it's even more disconcerting. You are either excited or terrified. Or a little bit of both or perhaps, like me, you're thinking it's a day late and a dollar short.
This post is my attempt to make it up to you and follow-up on my threat in Last Word on Relegation to drop a dime on Pacific Paintball.

Disclaimer: all the following is nothing more than my interpretation of the factoids. (Your opinions may vary so feel free to add your comments.)

In some bizarro alternative universe (or if you're into speculative quantum mechanics, a different multiverse) I could be way off base but if I've got it wrong at least I've been consistently wrong. In the Dead Tree Archive there are 3 columns related to this topic; The 18 was published in Feb, 05 and An Inconvenient Truth in Mar, 07. Is the Honeymoon Over? was written in 07 and is among the too-dangerous-to-publish unpublished pieces listed towards the bottom of the archive. The columns will also fill in some detail the post doesn't include for those interested. (Why the Dead Tree Archive? It's all part of my grand scheme to generate massive multiple page views and boost my advertising ... er, hang on, I don't actually have any advertising. Apparently the grand scheme needs a little work.)

The trick to understanding the NPPL is to realize that paintball is a means, not an end. That was true of the Pure Promotions version of the NPPL as well. I don't mean that to necessarily imply anything negative but I do think it's had consequences. I also don't mean to suggest that you can't do one thing and have multiple reasons for doing it but, again, I think the ultimate or primary purpose will necessarily influence every decision that follows. This can be good or bad and, depending on your point of view, both at the same time.
So if a renowned international tournament series isn't focused on paintball what is it focused on? In the Pure Promotions (PP) days part of it was to show the Old Guys that the New Guys knew better and could do it better. And the largest part of that was tourney as festival. Tourney as festival was also a key to "selling" paintball and TV was seen as the medium to making it happen. And it so happens that Pacific simply picked up where PP dropped out and is also in the business of selling paintball. It's more complex than that and Pacific has more than one goal but all of them boil down to ways of selling paintball (not operating successful tournaments.) Which, if it actually brought more money and profile to competitive paintball would be hailed as a great success. (And it might even be one.)
However as a black-hearted cynic I am inclined to see the dark cloud rather than the silver lining. So what I see is a league that is fundamentally clueless in addressing paintball issues and doesn't have anyone in the organization today who is likely to succeed where others failed. Pacific expended all their capital (cash & goodwill) pacifying the pro teams while the rank and file voted with their feet and left. The question for them then is what comes next? More of the same or something different or ...?
If I were you I might be wondering about a couple of things; Who are these imaginary buyers and what's that pacifying the pro teams all about? 'TV' was shorthand for future paintball success. That has changed to 'outside sponsors' (the imaginary buyers.) Kinda like global warming has morphed into the more all-inclusive, climate change. The part that's for "sale" is the pro division competition on TV. What is on offer is the premier paintball event to connect to the wide world of all things paintball and its prime demographic, etc. The medium, and the seller, is the NPPL who can deliver all that. Or so the pitch goes. And in order to validate the pitch (prior to the first big deal) the league needs the pro teams participation. Once, if it were ever to happen, the league became the de facto face of paintball the actual participating teams matter much less.

Tomorrow the PSP. (Is that a promise or a threat? You decide.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Richter or Beaufort?

Hah! It's a trick question. The answer is both! They're both scales. Richter of course is the seismic scale that measures shifts in the earth's crust, you know, earthquakes. The Beaufort Scale measures, among other things, wind speed.
While the winds of change are blowing in paintball and we's all distracted a few subterranean rumblings hint at the possibility of an earthquake or two really rearranging the landscape. I can't tell you what the Big One, if it comes, will do to competitive paintball but I can suggest a window of time when it's likely to happen--if it does. (Obviously if I'm calling one possibility the Big One I do have some idea what might happen.) Figure on the Big One to come sometime in the last half of December--if it comes at all. Even without the Big One you can count on some lesser quakes doing a decent job of shaking things up.
I know what you're thinking: Great, it's like a bad Nostradamus prediction but without the rhymes. Anybody can do that and be right once in a while. After all even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile. I don't disagree but nothings set in stone--yet.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Last Word on Relegation

However the final decision from the NPPL shakes out it may not matter much in the larger scheme of things. Be it relegation and promotion or just promotion with no relegation or some one time only expansion to an even number of teams ('cus 18 + 3 = 21) or perhaps the NPPL might say that Philly abandoned their spot and consider them out while choosing not to relegate Dogs and Rage which would put the division at an even 20. And since nobody actually "owns" their spot (and the NPPL can, as a practical matter, do whatever they want) that would leave only one guy unhappy and solve a host of other problems. Admittedly that option would also leave a bunch of team owners more nervous than they already are (or ought to be.) Or who knows, they could opt for some absurd variant involving a clown car, a bunch of rubber noses and calliope music.
I find myself in substantial agreement with be smart's comments from the previous relegation post with regards what's coming. I doubt there will be any relegation though if they are gonna promote I think the pro division is better off also relegating and not being diluted with the addition of more teams (with the greater likelihood of drop-outs.) And for those who like predictions I'm predicting a pro division of 24 teams that never has 24 teams competing in any single event and ends the season around the old 18 teams mark, plus or minus 1 or 2.
The sponsorship issues are even worse in some respects than portrayed--there is little doubt with no direct league involvement in deals--that paint will be a critical issue next season for virtually all the pro teams. Beyond that a lot of the sponsors will delay committing themselves to new deals. The old window of time these things used to happen in no longer applies and teams will occasionally find themselves lowballed at the last minute with few, if any, alternatives but to accept. Beyond that some pro teams are gonna find themselves out in the cold.
In a related prediction: At Commander's Cup (Did the NPPL downplay the whole Cup thing compared to the Pure Promotions days?) there were 8 teams competing pro that are also NXL teams. (At the start of the year it was eleven.) I'm not seeing all eight in both leagues to start next year. Something between 3 and 6 teams competing in both is about right and if you want to pin me down I'm gonna be optimistic and say 5.
As for other decisions that will be made I expect four events but I have doubts about no entry, no prize package [in the pro division] (though it's been talked around) and I see some real problems trying to integrate Semi & D1 mostly related to classifying eligible players and dealing with relegated pros. It might however provide a rationale for restricting (or eliminating) future relegation. Not saying either one won't happen but the teams are ambivalent about aspects of the former and the later will be a problem. Largely because there's already resistance to moving up on the part of a fair number of teams for whatever reasons and top loading a *new* D1 with relegated pros won't be encouraging to most. Of course participation in the lower divisions is already soft.

*Here's a slightly o/t question: How many relegated pro teams competed the following season in semi-pro while maintaining a core roster?*

On the plus side that's not really the worst of it. One of these days I'll screw up my courage, put on my big boy pants and tell you what the NPPL is really all about. I won't be needing my Magic 8-ball (Try again later) nor will I be staring deeply into Mama Lambini's crystal ball. Call it a prediction. Call it a prognostication. Call it an outrage. Call it unbelievable.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Return of the Burning Question: What Paint?

Hit the title link to check out the original post--or just go down the page a few posts. No thanks to you slackers I have a few answers to the original burning question: How competitive can a small scale operation be in terms of cost per ball?
The answer is: not very. And you wouldn't believe the seamy underbelly that is the world of paint manufacture. Okay, it's not exactly Sin City but there are shenanigans a-plenty.
The word is that cost of materials is fairly standard with perhaps a slightly higher cost in Asia. That is easily offset by substantially lower labor cost and the economies of scale necessary to be competitive require between two and four operating systems (encapsulator, dryers, mixers, etc.) so it would be tough, if not impossible, for a small producer to compete successfully. This leaves everybody else in the position of requiring x-volume of sales in order to make their basic economies pay off which is fine in a growing (or even static potentially) market but leaves the industry very susceptible to relatively modest declines and in a panic over any prospect of serious declines in total sales volumes.
As to what's going on in the industry here's a peek: a well known company is, and has been, for sale for awhile and even as the asking price has gone down there are still no takers. Another manufacturer, part of a larger paintball company, is at risk of being shut down or divested if it doesn't show a profit soon. Another manufacturer tied to pharma production may be separated from the pharma group and expected to be profitable on its own--or else. Add to the mix the fact that not all paint under a particular label was necessarily produced by that manufacturer and that your white box can almost literally be anything the making and selling of paintballs is not for the feint of heart.
That leaves me wondering a couple of things as it relates to pro paintball sponsorship. If a company was to sponsor or partially sponsor a league would the volume required make a dent in the economies of scale and perhaps be worthwhile to manufacture simply on that basis even if the return didn't improve the bottom line? And, would there be sufficient perceived value for a Chinese company to come in and be a Big League sponsor in order to overcome market resistance and perceptions about quality?
Next time there's a Burning Question I expect a bit more help from you slackers so consider yourselves on notice.

Rule of the Game

Baca's rule #14: effective shooting isn't the ability to put 15 balls on target, it's the ability to put the first ball on target.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


'Bout damn time but it's finally here--well, there. Check it out. Hit the link in the title to visit weltworld. While you're there sign up to receive future issues direct. It's easy. (Even I can do it.) And even better, it's free. So there's really no excuse.
What are you waiting for?

Robots versus Ninjas

Time flies when you're blogging and so this post is about two weeks late, give or take, but now that it's here, who cares, right? For a quick refresher on the topic go here. Now that you're up to speed it's full throttle robots v. ninjas. The argument aimed by the ninjas (proponents of 7-man) against the robots (xball players) is both ironic and misguided. The core of it is that coaching turns the xball player into a robot simply following commands and if that wasn't bad enough these same coaches kill the ninja style of play by making game-breaking run-thrus almost impossible. At least the kind where the player making the move also survives. This view has a lot of advocates not least a chunk of the Middle Skool pros–those guys whose careers span most of the out-of-the-woods era of competitive paintball and perhaps even a few Old Skoolers. Doesn't however make them right.
Coaching is communication. And communication is a basic tennant of competitive paintball going deep into the forests of yesteryear. No one objects to a back player rolling his gun and telling his insert to make the move they worked out before the game started. Yet when a coach tells a player to go–bumping a gap in the snake or the like it's the ruination of the game. The plain truth is the xball player still must have the full complement of individual skills in order to be successful. All that those within the sound of the coach's voice get extra is information about the unfolding point. And more and more the notion of a coach "operating" a player, any player, like his robot is failing the practical test–it doesn't work very well and most of the time that's not the focus of the coaching going on–which is simply to provide more info in a changing environment. (The obvious "secret" to neutralizing coaching is rate of change; how fast things keep happening.) Even so, coaching can and does alter some things and it's a fair debate to question just how much. That said, coaching never eliminated anybody or stopped a single run-thru.
The real argument is over the nebulous skill called timing. Timing being that sense a player either develops or doesn't of when to do things though it's usually associated with making moves, judging the opportune moment and going for it. Hence the objection to robot-like players and "ruined" run-thrus. Of course the critical element that made (makes) timing valuable is LACK of information.
The irony in the whole argument is that xball has altered all of competitive paintball in ways those making the argument have apparently failed to recognize.
You gotta crawl before you can walk or run. Remember the example in the original post of how crawling has changed? 15 years ago crawling was the ninja style of paintball. And what changed it? The game environment.
How long has 7-man been a major format in the U.S.? Less than a decade or about the same amount of time as xball has been around. Is 7-man a more natural progression from the prior generation's 10-man than xball is? I think that's a fair statement but neither format is played the way 10-man was in the past. 10-man was a gun dominant game. Yes, the same basic rules applied and peeps worked for angles, moved up field etc. but the guns controlled the rhythm of the games and the first teams to push the pace were changing the way the game was played. I'd start the transition with Image followed by Dynasty but you might want to throw in turn-of-the-century Shock and old Lanche, too. (I've often wondered if the early electronic cheats weren't motivated by a desire to reestablish the old order of the game. Okay, too philosophical and not to the point.)
Regardless Dynasty epitomized the new game of speed and movement and xball formalized it with a tiny unforgiving field of play that demands skills sharpened to a knife's edge.
For those of you who've been around long enough the differences in the 7 minute 7-man game of today from even the last incarnation of 10-man is pretty stark and the style of play and broad skill sets demanded of players today owe far more to xball and teams like Dynasty than they do to the historic game.
There are no robots or ninjas, only ways to play the game that demand a different balance of skills. [Which reminds me, one of the better ways to introduce rookies to tourney ball would be on larger scale fields.]
I've little doubt this debate will continue but the important part of all this isn't who is right or wrong in the robots versus ninjas debate. The lesson is that so far in paintball's brief history very little prior consideration has been given to the consequences of the changes being made. Or the corallary that future changes will, whether intended or not, mold and shape the game in new and different ways. And, lastly, that any contemplated change should be rigorously examined for its likely consequences before being instituted.