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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Relegate This: Another Burning Question

Aight. The thing is I'm wondering if anybody but a relative handful of teams actually cares about this at all. It's a big deal, trust me, if you're playing for a pro spot or playing not to lose one but otherwise I'm beginning to think nobody else is all that interested. Sure, if asked most players will say it's good 'cus psychologically it keeps hope alive that anybody can play pro even if they know (like I know and you know) that it ain't true except with some extremely rare exceptions. Did I just hear somebody say, Greg Hastings? Or was that Tony Perez? (Ouch. Even I cringed a little. Man, that was cruel and totally uncalled for but still funny and I hate to say it but funny wins out.)
Do you think fans of paintball [all seven of them] would rather see Miami Rage or MOD? Do the Naughty Dogs have a bigger following than the second Impact team? Is the pro division really better off without Rage and Dogs?

So here's the burning question: Do you think promotion/relegation is an important part of the NPPL game and if so, why?

NPPL San Diego Recap

It's Tuesday. Yeah, I know. I was supposed to post this yesterday. Monday. Stuff happens. At least I hope we've all learned a valuable lesson in the process. Don't rely on idle bloggers. And if your life revolves around reading a blog--I'm sorry. So stiff upper lip, Bucko, and let's move on.
Unlike the NPPL I am not enamored with parking lots. Never have been though the first time in Denver was a novelty. The Qualcomm parking lot is particularly lousy (except in comparison to the recent Buffalo event which was like an imaginary lunar landscape formed out of granules of asphalt and gravel.)
The league tried out a new schema in event design for SD which was either quite clever or desperate or perhaps both. Imagine the fields as the outside of a large oval open at one end with all the vendors inside the oval facing outwards. Now envision the pro paddocks placed between the two feature fields with access to those fields put as far away as possible from the paddock so that the players needed to walk (and mingle) with the other players, spectators, fans (and other assorted dubious at best distinctions of persons on site) etc. between games. Finally put registration as far away as possible from the entrance area (without actually crossing the border into Mexico) and you have the basic plan. The idea is to keep traffic moving constantly in the vicinity of the vendors as much as possible and the pros in the vicinity of the public as much as possible. Both ideas have merit conceptually but I'm the sort of person who resists being manipulated, even passively, so I can't say that I liked it particularly.
The fields were carried over from Houston (and were pretty conventional with no gimmickry of design) so I was somewhat surprised to see such an uneven quality of play in the prelim round. It certainly wasn't lack of motivation or effort and maybe I'm completely misreading it but it just seemed then (and still seems now) like everything was off somehow.
Most of the leading series contenders had rough--to put it mildly--days which was totally unexpected. The Ironmen looked flat and the Canes had some bad luck and made some uncharacteristically poor decisions in a couple of games they were up in. Just goes to show confidence alone ain't enough and as Yogi Berra might have said, 100% of success is 50% mental. Dynarats dominated--and deserved the win--and a lot of teams that needed results this event played hard and had good showings and every report I've heard about the webcast said it was solid (with occasional sound outages) with entertaining games on view--so I'm not sure why I'm ambivalent about the event. I just am.
It coulda benefited by more teams and more peeps coming out but that almost always applies (how's that for alliteration?) and word from vendors row was that not as much transacting was going on as they would have liked or hoped for. Which isn't a big surprise.
Okay, now for the extras I promised.
Disclaimer: The pro teams had a meeting Friday evening [during the event] that saw a rep from every team in attendance. There will be no gossip, no out of turn revelations revealed and no names given. (This self-imposed restriction is much harder on me than you think because there's somebody I enjoy mentioning in any context just because I know how much it pisses him off and that, of course, is the fun part.) Issues only and my opinions. And the reason I'm doing this is because so much of what goes on in big time paintball is shrouded in secrecy and it's important for peeps who care about competitive paintball to know that there are other people (who may have more of a voice) sincerely trying to make a difference on behalf of the sport as a whole. (Wow. I think I need an insulin shot.)
Gonna start with number of events. You've heard the rumors. All the leagues seem to be discussing a reduction in number of events and this was no different. The consensus was 4 events spread out sufficiently to give the vendors as much latitude over the course of a year to reach customers as possible while still scheduling 2 events during summer vacation to encourage participation from the lower division teams most likely to have more young players.
Moving on to venues. The general opinion was that with some additional effort it ought to be possible to find workable venues that aren't excessively expensive (particularly in the current economic environment) that also offer ways to increase public participation in the same ways HB works. There were a number of good practical suggestions for how to get this done as well.
Game schedules is next and this was unique. The thought was twofold: how to improve player participation by limiting lost work and/or school days, hotel stays, etc. and encourage more fan participation in the pro games by creatively reworking how games are scheduled.
Referees and officiating. In general everyone thought the refs are motivated and doing their best but that ways exist to make real improvements. (And yes, if that seemed a bit stilted and awkward that's because it was and because it's a tough topic for a couple of reasons--and my opinion is forthcoming.)
And finally, relegation. No real consensus here though there was a majority view. You already know I'm not opposed to the process but don't favor it under the present circumstances. The principle argument was the continuity and loyalty one wherein teams with proven records of supporting the league and fielding competitive teams should receive some consideration and not to do so demonstrates no team "owns" its spot and that the league isn't interested regardless of past efforts made that benefited the league too.
On all these subjects no league decisions have been made and apparently no decisions will be made any time soon.
My views on the listed topics are as follows: 4 events is the bare minimum and looks to me like survival mode--which it probably is--and is very likely what will happen. On venues--viva la change! Plenty of good ideas were forthcoming and the league(s) should be highly motivated. The virtue of the game schedule ideas was it offered some creative thinking on a subject few would have thought the pros cared much about. Given the logistics of putting on an event I don't see it working but it's worth looking at and the further idea of reviewing all the suppositions of how an event should operate is also worth doing.
Regarding the refs the problem now is one of ill-defined roles, rules and lack of leadership. What the corps of refs needs now is some clarity--what exactly is our job and how do we do that job and can we count on the league to support us? Any ambiguous rules need to be removed or tightened up. (Read: fix the gun rules yesterday. They are a joke.) For ambiguous situations the refs need their own guidelines for handling and there needs to be a defined chain of command and the buck needs to stop with the field ultimate. The only time Zinkham or anybody else should be put in a position to act with respect to what happened on field is if there is a clear misapplication of a rule or rules.
Relegation is getting a separate post because I'm curious about something. (You'll see shortly.)
There it is. If you've got any questions--ask away--and I may even answer them.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Here in Chilly San Diego

It's Saturday evening and last time I checked the final standings from the pro games still weren't posted--oops, now they're up. Could somebody put an event in Cali when it's actually warm? Geez. I'm not suggesting July and I'm sure it seems fabulous to most everybody else but every time I come to Cali it's colder here than at home. Fine, I'm done whining--'cus everybody hates a whiner.
I intended to do a mini event revue with a focus on the turnout, vibe, venue and the competition but you shoulda been watching the webcast and at this point you can check the scores to get up-to-date. All the rest will have to wait until Monday. If you were (foolishly) expecting any info on the latest from the vendors it ain't gonna happen. Look, I know it's actually important given the current marketplace but I've never been a gearhead or a gun whore so it's hard to fake real interest especially when it's late and I need sleep. Besides, there must a bunch of other places that will give you the scoop on the newest stuff.
On the plus side the Monday report will have some special extras. Call it a tease--call it a promise. Call me a slacker. It is what it is.


Joins the Army. Welcome.

UPDATE: Bobcat gives this post a dynamite reax. You da man, Bobcat.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I'm sitting around McCarren airport in Vegas waiting for my San Diego flight and besides all the bad news in the gaming industry--Sands (Is that ironic, or what?) is apparently already on the brink of bankruptcy--the place is dead. And that's with a big fight in town tomorrow night.
The latest gimmick from Planet is about your only shot--at having the word, rockstar, associated with you in any way, shape or form. Or you could buy a Dynasty jersey and say, Look at me! I'm a human billboard! And by gimmick I mean it's a pretty clever idea and nicely executed. (I first saw it in one of the insufferable NPPL email press releases that seem to arrive daily. Which, sadly, must mean they have some degree of effectiveness even though I hate getting them and only continue to tolerate them on the off chance I receive something I need to know and might otherwise miss. Take a deep breath.)
Actually the part about the Rockstar guns I find interesting is the nature of the deal made between Rockstar and Planet. Who approached who? And if any remunerations were part of the deal which way did they go--to Rockstar or Planet? Inquiring minds want to know but chances are I'll have to kidnap Nicky T. and threaten to tell him my paintball stories in order to find out. C'mon, Nicky, spill the beans. I got a million stories and all the time in the world. Let's start at the beginning. My first pair of goggles were ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Over at the new ProPaintball (Post title is the link. Cool, huh? Why the title? It's an automated feature for lazy bloggers, is why.) the kids from PBReserve are running a poll about the NPPL's promo/relegation system and I'm interested to see what happens--with the NPPL. That, and of course I have an opinion. Kinda goes with the territory.

Conceptually I like the current system just fine. However, I think there are some practical reasons not to do it. The first year or two there was a much healthier semi-pro division with established pro teams in the mix and a reasonable expectation that the teams being promoted were competitive. Currently the division is so weak I think it's hard to make the case the semi-pro competition is producing pro-worthy teams. Nor has the system encouraged developing teams to push for the next level as it's possible to count on both hands (minus a thumb) the number of teams that have competed for promotion over the course of the season.
Part of the relegation/promotion scheme is intended to force teams to be as competitive as possible all the time which ain't a bad thing. However, for the system to deliver it presumes a stable, active, maturing competition environment. And any way you measure it none of those factors apply. Promotion can only be viewed as valid if the upcoming teams are seen as having earned it and likely to be legitimately competitive. Personally I'm not convinced that being the best 3 of 9 proves much of anything. There is also the question of developing new talent. With few teams moving up the ranks and most of them with inconsistent (constantly changing) rosters if all that is really happening is mostly a giant game of musical chairs for many of the same players or an actual dilution of the competition then promo / relegation isn't working as envisioned. Nor is it a system in harmony with a developing pro league. From my perspective what you want is consistency and continuity--and playing musical teams is counterproductive to those goals. Additionally neither the team nor the league structure is so well established or populated as to accommodate failing teams without concern particularly when the league not only makes no effort to help support its teams, it is actively in competition with them for ever more limited industry support. That's why I think the NPPL would be better off without promo / relegation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Informal Survey

Subject: early release of field layouts prior to events
(It isn't your imagination. I am, once again, returning to a topic already covered to one degree or another. This will be the final word, for now. If you're wondering what compulsion moves me to this sorta behavior; it's the kids. Mine and the gaggle of paintball players I routinely deal with most weekends. Somehow it is never enough to hear a thing once. They must have everything repeated over and over so it has become my habitual practice. And your curse.)
The reason given for releasing the layouts early is to encourage teams to practice at paintball fields that have the up-to-date xball bunkers and can setup the latest layout. [Which always sounded to me like some quid pro quo arrangement with Adrenaline Games and not a terribly serious reason. Where, after all, is an xball team going to practice if not on an xball field whether they have a specific layout or not?]
In my informal World Cup survey--sounds authoritative, doesn't it?--most field owners I asked about it thought it did one of two things. A) made no real difference, or, B) tended to swamp them with teams ONLY when the layout was available. What B means is that for fields catering to tourney teams the field release practice has created cycles in their business; heavy use near an event and little or no use (from the teams) the rest of the time. Owners answering A didn't really cater to teams.
This is anecdotal, limited in scope and completely unscientific but it makes sense. Teams have limited resources so releasing layouts early only encourages them to practice when they can optimize their efforts and play the event layout. Contrary to its claimed purpose this ain't helpful to fields investing in xball bunkers and annual upgrades.
It remains an open question how NOT releasing the layouts would effect local field business but there are quality of play, player development, and player skill set implications as well. Think on that for a bit. I will be addressing the issue in an upcoming post called Robots versus Ninjas.

Burning Question

This is the first of what I see as an ongoing, if irregular, series for those rare occasions--you probably ought to sit down--when something comes up and I have to admit some degree of ignorance on a currently hot topic.
Today's question is a bit technical and relates to economies of scale in paint ball manufacture. I'm curious about how it breaks down. Plainly the key elements are volume and efficiency in the economy of scale but it must be matched against materiel cost and cost of operation. [Which, I'm guessing, along with debt load is where the big boys are getting into trouble.] My question is this: How competitive can a small scale operation be in terms of cost per ball? (No, I'm not planning on buying the Encapsulator Jr. and starting a home business.) I'm just wondering if there is some middle ground that can be price competitive.
If you've got an answer or an idea I'm listening.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pro Ball Blues

This is in response to a comment in the earlier post, Paradigm Shift? (posted below). For some helpful context read Paradigm Shift? before reading this.

The comment that inspired this post asked if it was possible pro players might have to start paying for things, like paint. I'm going to use the NXL situation but it's not just an NXL problem. PBReserve has reported on related factors in recent months like Procaps getting tough regarding overages, the Procaps / Archon (Zap) merge--which effectively took the Zap brand off the market--and the rumor GAP may consider closing up shop. (While other unsubstantiated rumors suggest at least one paint maker is currently on the block.)
The NXL began the season with 12 teams and finished with 10. Is it coincidence that the two that dropped out were Procaps teams? Maybe. I don't know but I do know a little something about pro teams and paint usage.
This past season the NXL had 3 factory teams and 9 independents. You could argue that either Infamous and Aftershock were both factory or neither were so I split the difference. You could also argue a better distinction is franchise / non-franchise--in which case you'd be wrong. End of the day what matters here is money and the motivation to spend it.
Two indies crashed and burned before season's end. Of the remaining independents 2 are shoestring operations that survived last year's team losses getting by on the minimum and 3 others have a single principle benefactor. None of them, including Dynasty, got the level of sponsorship you think they got--although Dynasty, as the only legit brand among the indies, was head and shoulders above the rest.
So how much paint do they use? I'm gonna keep the numbers simple and the totals low. Each event every team plays a minimum of 5 matches. Figure 20 cases a match. Since the prelims got screwed up the last two events let's skip Sunday usage altogether and call it even. The result is 200K per team per event or 1 million for the season. For practice let's say 2 a month at 50 cases per (and that's low paint usage for a typical two day practice.) The result is another 2 million balls. There's 3 million balls used in one league based on very modest numbers and MOST of the NXL teams didn't get 3 mil or more freebies this past year. Now start your calculations for those teams playing both leagues and it isn't hard to see that something is going to give.
Does this mean pro players are gonna have to start paying for stuff? In some cases it probably will but there are still a couple of problems with that scenario. One, it simply transfers the cost from team to players and Two, the majority of pro players are chosen on their ability to play, not pay. As it stands now if the pro game is too expensive for the current teams it's going to be too expensive for the players and simply shifting the burden likely means pro ranks populated by wealthier, not better, players. Alternatively some mix of costs might work for some teams and players but doesn't do anything to address the larger issues.
(Incidentally, this is why I recommended last year in the off season that field layouts NOT be released prior to events. The reasoning was it would force teams to find alternative, less paint intensive ways to prepare, among other virtues.)
What it is going to boil down to is what value does PBIndustry and the Big Leagues place on the pro game--as it exists now--and can they afford to keep it alive as the pinnacle of competitive paintball? My view is the current system will not sustain the current teams and the current environment does not promote the creation of new pro caliber teams to take their place. Which is why I'm advocating looking for creative ways to change the system.
Of course it could be we'll all just have to take our lumps. Long term the game isn't going anywhere even if some of us lose out in the short term.
Happy happy joy joy

Monday, November 10, 2008

New & Improved

Okay. I'm lying again. It's not new--except for the Dead Tree Archive and we've been there and done that. But I've added a couple new features. One is the visible link which appears at the bottom of any post that somebody else has linked to. That way you can follow the links and see what somebody else is saying on the same or a related topic. The other is the Reax (reaction) also at the bottom of each post which is intended to be a shorthand way for you slackers to express your opinions without having to go to all the trouble of posting a comment. The standard blogger offering was really lame (funny, interesting, cool) *yawn* and I'm not convinced mine is much better (dynamite!, cherry bomb, dud) but it will at least communicate your response to each post you care to react to. [Could that have ended more awkwardly? I didn't think so either.]
If you've got any other ideas for Reax let me know. I'll probably change it periodically because I'm easily bored.

UPDATE: for some reason reax isn't working yet. Nothing is wrong with your computer and I'm not insane. (Honestly that second part is open for debate.

SUPER DUPER UPDATE: Hurrah! It's all working correctly. It only took two days and what was left of my hair.

It's Alive!

The dead tree VFTD archive, that is. Finally. Check out the link Dead Tree Archive below the blog archive on the sidebar. Had a couple technical problems yesterday to iron out and there's still 2 bad links, Views 165 & 175, but those shouldn't take long to fix (once I figure out why they aren't working.) Otherwise it should all be good. If you have any problems checking the archive out please take the time to drop me a line and let me know.
Each entry that originally appeared in PGi is listed by month/year and number of the issue it appeared in. The link is my title for that column (so it may vary from the title PGi used.) Also included is a brief summary to give you an idea of the topic that month. The remaining entries either appeared in PB2x or went unpublished.
If you read something in the dead tree archive you want to comment on or argue about feel free to drop me a line anytime. Either I or one of the kids will be happy to respond. Oh, the kids? My new business. Taking my cue from PBIndustry I've got a start-up in Shanghai populated with hungry, motivated (One might almost say starving and desperate) youngsters with English language skills to match the best Indian subcontinent IT customer service worker. It's all pretty hush-hush for now ...

UPDATE: missing links should be fixed. (No, that's nothing to do with spaying or neutering your Yeti.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pro Circuit News

Okay, the post title was kinda deceptive but what isn't these days? There are some grumblings and rumblings going on out in the hinterland with talk of forming some new regional series around the xball format. Talk is just talk and this is probably not the best time to launch but the prospect of putting into place a couple more foundation pieces to the puzzle is a good thing and irrespective of the Pro Circuit concept it's good for competitive paintball. The fact there are peeps out there willing to consider doing it and excited by the prospect is a good thing in its own right. We'll see.
Got recent quasi-confirmation on another Pro Circuit-like conception percolating as well. And that is all I'm gonna say about it. Yes, I know, that's unsatisfactory and provides less information than a Bill Belichick midweek injury report or a redacted FOIA copy of a Guantanamo interrogation. Can't be helped. Well, of course it could be helped but the best you're gonna get is a hint: I've written about this before, just not on the blog. Only in an old deadtree column or two. (Which makes this as good a time as any to say the deadtree archive will go live tomorrow sometime.)

Paradigm Shift?

The paint situation looked bleak and bleaker where we left off in the last post, Paint It Blue, but here's a thought for all the big leagues – (and the paint guys?) to consider. In keeping with the Pro Circuit concept what would happen if the NXL (or the NPPL repping the pro division) worked out a deal for an official paint sponsor of the league to provide paint to all the competing pro teams during the event(s)? Or if that seems too daunting and costly what if the individual events were offered up to paint sponsors? Draxxus sponsors the Chicago Open, for example. The sponsor can't lose whoever wins and gets the value added of associating the brand with pro paintball, not just a single team. Within that framework there also exists some creative ways to structure the deals that might be beneficial during the difficult period coming. The potential advantages are both practical and competitive. With everyone shooting the same paint there's no advantage or disadvantage on the field; it would be a big plus for teams struggling in a reduced sponsorship environment while leaving teams free to pursue alternatives for practice; it would instantly justify the current entry fee structure (in the NXL) and it would be a step toward legitimizing the NXL brand as distinctive from the PSP (which may have real relevance in the future and was a goal in the original formation of the league.)
Would the result be a better, more stable model?

Paint It Blue

The post I'm not a seismologist was about the kerfluffle coming for the paint manufacturers. (I've decided I don't much like the word, crisis, as the urge is to use it so often lately it begins to have the same force as the threat of terrorism color code of the day so from now on unless it's an actual crisis kerfluffle will stand in for the possibility of destruction, chaos and the imminent imploding of the known paintball universe.) The later post monopoly 101 was about the ongoing dialogue considering the prospect of the MS (and possibly) the PSP restricting event gear sales and usage to league sponsors only. What intrigues me about this pair of posts is what conclusions might be drawn from information already in hand. (That, and I get to rehash in greater detail topics already commented on because I never know when to stop.)
This off season's paint sponsorships will go a long way to predicting the viability of the pro game and teams for next season. Sponsorship was down last year and if the rumors and restructuring have any validity availability is likely to tighten further.
The current practice – restricting brands available to league sponsors – for selling paint at events would seem to make the case for extending that policy across the board. But it doesn't, not when examined in any detail. For starters paint is unique in that it's meant to be used up. Like buying a hamburger. Or keeping it to paintball, batteries. Your purchase assumes consumption and has no long term consequences. Unlike virtually everything else you might buy in order to play the game. Even so, paint choice isn't irrelevant and is frequently simply tolerated by non-sponsored teams who are more price sensitive than brand sensitive. And the current practice must raise the price of any case of paint regardless of how reasonable it may seem because the vendors have to not only cover their ordinary expenses but also the premium the league charges. And at this point in time that is becoming prohibitive for the vendors – end of the day their wallet is bare, too. The larger problem is the old economies are failing to apply anymore. As everyone gets squeezed it becomes harder and harder to make the process, at any stage, profitable.
Instead the place Big League paintball finds itself is with the leagues facing unpredictable but almost certainly tougher times (think Richard Harris in A Man Called Horse) in the immediate future in part because of the precarious position of the paint manufacturers. In an environment where mid-sized and small vendors struggle to justify participating in Big League paintball instituting sponsor only restrictions across all paintball related gear sales and use is suicidal folly. The rationale with paint was to justify the promotion charging the paint manufacturers for the right to sell at the event. [The leagues can't charge the sellers for the right to sell if somebody who doesn't pay can sell, too.] Not only won't that work to improve league revenues with respect to gear it will drive all but a handful of heavily invested vendors away as well as some (probably significant) number of teams and players beyond the likely losses from the economic downturn. Beyond that it will raise the bar on future participation to a prohibitive level that will keep business and teams away.
Among other things it badly misjudges the current market trends and the value of participating in Big League paintball at every level.

Kay, I think that (hopefully) dead horse has been thoroughly and sufficiently beaten.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last Mag Standing

Is it APG's world and we're just living in it? How far removed are we from the next feature article on dealing with snake bite and a pictorial of scenario "tanks"?
Time for a new game that none of you slackers will play. In fact, it's two games in one.
First game is predicting next deadtree mag to do the el foldo (or move exclusively into cyberspace) and give a month and year. (And, no, I don't have a morbid fascination with the demise of others. I'm just playing shuffleboard on the deck of the Titanic whistling a happy tune. C'mon, join me, it's fun!)
Second game is predicting which paintball website will be the first to suffer the Deathstar's fate and cease to be a force. [*] (PBStar doesn't count, btw.) Same rules apply. Only commercial websites are eligible.
What do the two games have in common?
Advertising revenue. Or more precisely, the lack thereof in the case of the "winners."
Winners will receive the coveted VFTD e-prize and a gold embossed certificate recognizing your status as yet another paintball no-lifer.

[*] Yes, another terrible joke. Get used to it. Expect it. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Thanks to the link and promo from the kids at PBReserve I'll keep this post at the top of the stack for a few days. Play the game, losers.

I Wonder What Colour Their Shirts Will Be?

(OT) Many happy Election Day returns, kids

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ghost Town

Just took a look at paid registration for the NPPL San Diego Commander's Cup season finale and it ain't a pretty sight. Only 85 teams paid as of this evening with about twice that registered with only 3 more days until registration closes. I wonder what impact the Houston cancellation is having as well as the state of the Cali economy. We'll have some idea how soft the market is getting on the strength of the last minute entries paid from the registrants pool. Not looking good.
If you want to participate in a positive way and can't play make sure you check out the free webcast of the event from nppl live and show some support.

UPDATE: Friday 3:00pm EST and registered paid is up to 103. 12 hours to go.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reality Seldom Takes a Holiday

Our pals over at pbreserve recently reported the retirement of Kenny Rosenberg but Kenny let them know that, no, he wasn't retiring, just taking some personal time and he'd be back in '09 playing for a team that would financially compensate him, er, pay him. My initial response was, okay, so pbreserve got the story right the first time.
No disrespect to Kenny who is a fine player but if he thinks the credit market is tight now he ought to take a close look at the opportunities available at the pro level in paintball. Especially those that offer compensation above and beyond playing ball. I could list around 50 pro players who lost their spots in the last year or so and most of them aren't playing today, for compensation or otherwise.
I hope Kenny gets what he wants but the point I want to make is aimed at all the ballers out there dreaming of playing pro ball one day. Whatever you've read on the internet or seen in the magazines or heard from a friend of a cousin of the girlfriend of one of the Dynarats if you're playing this game for any reason other than you love it you will be disappointed. Don't give up on the dream but understand that the opportunities are shrinking because the money to support teams and players is shrinking and isn't likely to get better any time soon. Play for the right reasons and you'll seldom be disappointed and everything else will be gravy.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Congrats JB

Junior Brown of XSV is the new owner of