Friday, September 26, 2008

ROF

This was actually a subject I was gonna do a magazine piece on last year (before I stopped writing for PB magazines) because it cuts across all facets of paintball and seems to be a focal point for many if not most of the disgruntled within the grassroots paintball biz. Word of warning: If you are among the disgruntled you're probably gonna like part of this and want to throw something at your monitor for other parts. If you feel a surging pain up your left arm stop reading. S'all I'm saying.
There's two parts to this: tourney ball & the so-called trickle down effect seen at the local level around the country. Let's begin with the fun one, tournament paintball. [But first, one caveat: Don't start in about the evils of ramping with me while defending electronic guns that can be shot at 10-15 bps in "semi-auto". That just tells me either you don't know what you're talking about or you have a particular axe to grind and reality a mere inconvenience. It is all one issue. So here's the deal; don't try making a nonsensical argument and I won't call you rude names. Seems fair to me.]
There has been, for a couple of years, a call from some quarters to reduce the ROF allowed in tournament play. One reason given is current ROF creates too high a barrier at the rookie and young gun level and scares players off with firepower that overwhelms beginner skills. Other reasons include makes the game stagnant, takes the fun out, costs too much in paint and turns local fields into shooting galleries 'cus all the baby ballers want to blaze just like the pros. We'll leave that last one out for now 'cus it's got nothing to do with actual tourney play.
Let me take a moment to ask a question or two. Where is the hue and cry aimed at the NPPL's irresponsible gun rules? (If you are under the misapprehension that NPPL is controlling ROF you are way behind the curve or easily duped in which case I'd like to tell you about this property for sale in south Florida ... ) And who among you rips PSP for ramping guns even though they's the only ones actually controlling ROF? Consider those rhetorical questions.
I'm in favor of regulating ROF in tourney play. But only to a point. I think there is a case to be made for matching ROF to developing levels of skill. I am NOT in favor of a universal ceiling ROF though I can live with the PSP's current 13. The reason I am not in favor of a universal ceiling is that ROF corresponds to skill level in a positive way as well as in the negative way everyone tends to think of. And one thing I'd hate to see is a needless artificial limit placed on the upper levels of competitive paintball. Pro football isn't played by Pop Warner rules. Pro level paintball shouldn't be held hostage to rookie skill, or the lack thereof. ROF in the recent PSP context both defines and refines much of the tournament skill set directly and indirectly. That said I'd tier ROF at 8, 10, 12 and 15 and if you think that's overdoing it I'd settle for 10 and 13. 10 bps for everyone either at or below D3 and 13bps for everyone above. As to the common reasons given above the only one I buy into at all is that there is merit in not driving young players away before they develop the skills to appreciate the game and discover if the competition is what they really want. Stagnant games are the result of deficient skills and tactics. Lack of fun is not really wanting to compete in a tourney context and/or routinely getting your ass whooped. Paint consumption is more directly tied to time played--at least when the difference is 15.4 to 13.3 bps. And now for the impact on local fields.

I don't deny ROF is a serious issue at the local level but imagining that changing tourney ROF to some lowest common denominator will fix the problem is wishful thinking, a desire to shift the blame and/or a refusal to take some personal responsibility. How's that left arm doing? Remember those rhetorical questions? You can answer them now.
I visited a local field with some old friends awhile ago that was mostly woodsball. Much to my surprise, not, the majority of the camo jockeys were shooting the latest high tech hardware including of course some raging Tippmanns as well as Egos and Dms and the rest. Here's another question for you: Were those guys mere puppets of Evil Paintball Marketing who wanted to be just like the "pros" and couldn't help themselves? Or were they seduced by firepower? Or were they just keeping up with the Joneses? Nor was it an isolated unique situation. Check out your next local Big Game and see what the other side of paintball is shooting. [Once upon a time the major gun manufacturers had a max bps agreement. It lasted less than a year.]
It just doesn't add up for me. There are a lot of conflicting claims depending on just what argument is being framed. Tourney made them want it. Yet, the numbers say tourney is a small piece of the whole paintball pie. And rec and scenario players are supposedly uninterested (and used to be viewed as hostile) to tourney except when they aren't. And all that media pressure presenting fast guns as cool has brainwashed every baller from here to Missoula which is why the magazines and DVD business is exploding... Doesn't Blues Crew have a gun sponsorship with one of those big bad mainstream gun manufacturers?
When I started playing paintball field rentals were a mix of pumps and early semis but guns like the Illustrator were beginning to appear. Guess what. In short order there was a firepower disparity at work. Not as pronounced as today nor with the capability of today's guns to transform anybody with a finger into a paint chucking machinegun but a version of the same problem. So it's not really new.
More questions. Do you sell machineguns and factory and aftermarket multi-function boards in your pro shops and stores? Do you sell everybody who has the cash as much paint as they want to buy? So let me see if I've got this right: you supply anyone who wants it with the stuff you want somebody else to control for you. Is that about it?
The technology complicated a preexisting issue by making the disparity (the potential difference in equipment) a wider gulf and by making the consequences so unpleasant (unsuspecting and/or unprepared peeps getting blowed up). And some of you advocate tourney ball putting that genie back in the bottle for you. Not gonna happen. Got a couple of ugly little secrets for you. Technology has been driving tourney ball too, not the other way around and as long as the technology is out there people will want to use it.
So what are local field operators to do? They could sack up and regulate what they can control or not. Be like the NPPL or be like the PSP. Simple choice. Take a look at which one is working and which one isn't. I'm not suggesting it's all down to controlling guns but it is certainly part of the difference. What the vast majority of competitors want is a level playing field, an honest competition. Which isn't really all that different from what the average rec player wants--an equal opportunity and a fair game. And in both cases it isn't superfast guns that deny that opportunity, it is the lack of proper regulation. IT IS THE LACK OF PROPER REGULATION.
Try these:
Depending on the size of your field prioritize according to your desired market.
Segregate players by both skill and equipment as well as inclination; play tourney style vs. play rec ball.
Be specific about the rules of play on your website and in your safety briefings so everyone knows what to expect. Include upfront the penalties for gun violations and enforce them rigorously. For every loose cannon you "lose" you gain more from everyone else who see the rules work.
Invest in a PACT timer and teach your refs how to use it. When you chrono a player you can also check ROF.
Build some pride and purpose into your ref staff as they are the front line to your success.
(There's other stuff that could be included and each situation is a bit different but that's the foundation for getting control of ROF.)

Or, you know, you could go find somebody who really will do it for you. Try your insurance company or your local government and explain the situation to them. I'm sure given the right horror stories and a bit of pleading they'd be happen to tell you how to run your business.

1 comment:

Travis Lemanski said...

Good points here. I like your idea of breaking ROF into beginner tiers 8...10...12 etc. I have been saying for years we need this to grow the starter, the guns are so intimidating now at the beginner level. nice post.