Thursday, August 28, 2008

Field Design for Dummies

Don't be offended by the post title if, in fact, you aren't a dummy. It's just a take-off--unless you are a dummy. (In which case you got bigger fish to fry than a post title. Good luck with that.)
And, yes, I'm avoiding dealing with the post(s) I've promised on "fixing" major league tourney paintball. And, no, it's not because I don't have the ideas, I'm just debating how in depth to go. So soon. Maybe. Besides, it ain't like it's gonna happen.
Xball fields in particular developed over time a stagnant design consistency that featured a dorito wire, a snake side (and more importantly) a standardized pattern of insert bunkers feeding the wires along with corners to defend the wires. And, of course, the jumbo X in the middle. Didn't particularly matter which bunkers were in which spots, all the layouts played pretty much the same way. Part of this was the carry over from The Ratko Years and part of this was a lack of philosophical examination. And by philosophical examination I mean thinking about both the limitations of current design and the potential results of making changes. For example, how 'bout the bunkers themselves? Even the shapes in play have an impact.
Most of the recent changes are predicated primarily on three ideas: designs should allow a variety of tactics to be effective because that frees teams up to play to their strengths. (The traditional design tended to make everyone play the same way.) The key to achieving this is twofold; spacing of insert bunkers to create multiple paths and use of the blocking pillars in new ways.
No corners, or inset corners, place a higher value on aggressive upfield movement and forces new thinking about how to counter those moves.
Make elements of the new design purposefully more difficult to play with a focus on trade-off elements. For example, the can on the d-wire or the block in the snake corner at NEO.
The results are as follows: teams can play a style that suits them though the field encourages a faster, more aggressive game. It should also reward more integrated play--and by integrated play I mean the extremes of the Xball and traditional 7-man skill sets. And lastly it will, I am confident, fast track the development of lower division players.
It's more complicated than that and I didn't cover stuff like elevation (difference between laying, kneeling, standing) or a more calculated control of effective shots from various positions and so on. (Btw, if anyone is interesting in this stuff feel free to post something in comments and I'll be happy to chat about it at length. Yeah, I'm secretly a nerd.)
Lastly, we haven't yet seen the end of this process and some of the elements haven't, in my estimation, been fully integrated but end of the day it's a big step forward. Keep an eye on the other major league designs too.

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