Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Lane Wright Interview; part 2

Following is the Lane Wright interview. It doesn’t cover all the questions submitted nor even all the questions I wanted to ask him. With respect to the questions I avoided those that were purely speculative or hypothetical, for the most part. Or fluffy. Definitely no fluff. Or any fishing or baseball questions. In general I focused on Lane’s role with the PSP and secondarily, tourney paintball. This interview was handled as a series of questions submitted by email with a follow-up via phone for clarifications and to harass Lane a little bit on those questions he preferred not to answer. I've broken up the interview into sections to accomodate the ADD crowd. All the questions and answers are included without additional comment.

11. There is a growing sentiment in some quarters that now is the time for the PSP to strengthen and expand regional relationships in the 5-man and Race to format (ie; NEPL,WCPPL, Vicious Series becoming their regions 'CFOA'). Do you share that broad sentiment? And is that something the PSP can and should do?

It’s in the works. But again, in these financially strained times, even cooperative minded people are having a hard time taking risks. For any relationship to work, both sides have to concede. Right now, it’s hard for people who are barely staying above water to concede anything – PSP included. But I am working with several other leagues to come up with a plan that works for us all.

12. Even if your time table is different how do we get there from where we are now? Is the idea of the UCP a part of this process?

I believe the UCP will ultimately play a huge part in the process. It can be the binding that ties it all together. If I “knew” how to get there, we would be there. I have ideas. I listen to others ideas. Several of us are trying to do a type of loose think tank deal and will meet after the season to attempt to put together a plan.

13. Okay, enough of that for now. Using the high-powered NFL sports model ... they are constantly tweaking rules and making adjustments to keep their sport current with the type of players who populate their game. Do you have a particular rule change(s) that you personally would like to see implemented within the PSP?

Personally, I think there are too many bunkers and the guns are still too fast. People who say slowing the guns down slows the game down are ignorant. Do I think those are things the PSP should jump up and do? No. But, personally, I think it would make the game a lot more intense. I want this to be a sport. Not guys out playing with their toys.

I think the scoring needs to be addressed. I won’t elaborate, but you know what we are dealing with. I am a big opponent of anything that makes the game slow. No harm intended, but as good as Strange’s results were some years ago, I couldn’t stand to see them play. It was mind numbing. We have a point structure now that makes teams HAVE to play a boring game. They’d be foolish not to in some cases. That has to be fixed.

Other than that, I’m not a big rules guy. I want to keep it fun. Keep it fast paced and exciting. And have good enough reffing for the best team to have the best chance to win. If all that happens, and my company finds a way to make it financially beneficial to work as hard as we do, then I’m happy.

14. And now for something completely different. Do you see the webcast as a viable income generator for the PSP and is there a long term strategy in place?

It’s a great idea at a terrible time.
The webcast is awesome. Its potential is limited only by finance. The web is the new TV. Chasing TV now is completely idiotic. Anyone chasing TV is looking for some type of self promotion or something, I just don’t get it.
Yes. I absolutely see the webcast as an income generator. I simply don’t know if we will be able to fund it long enough to get there.

15. If so, how’s it going to work?

Ideally we have so many people tuning in that Doritos beats my door down with a huge check to capture our audience. The problem is that in order for those views to be high, we need to make it free. We charged $5 at World Cup last year and lost 67% of the viewers from the free day. Those numbers have to be high. So we want to make it free to watch. The issue we have is that we can’t afford to keep it going without charging people. I guess we could afford to keep it going if we skimp out on quality. That’s not an option for me though.

It’s tough. I think it could be the eventual life blood of the league and the sport. I don’t know if I can figure out how to maintain it long enough for that to happen.

16. One of the coolest features of the webcast this year is the expanded role of player statistics. However, other than the broadcast fans and players don’t have access to them. Are there any plans to make them available for fans and players to follow throughout the season? To expand and perhaps include Semi-Pro? Or even expand the range of statistics kept?

There are big plans for the stats. That’s all I can say. HUGE plans for the stats. But I promise. It won’t come quick enough for most. We’re gonna do it right, not right now.

17. Switching to sponsorship questions you mentioned in a recent conversation that the PSP decision to restrict vendors to principally manufacturers hasn’t had the effect you expected. Does that mean the subject will be reconsidered in the off season? Could we see a return to past practices or something different, perhaps some sort of compromise policy?

It didn’t work. All it did was cost PSP about $50K this year in revenue. It is already being rescinded.

18. The Doritos name was on prominent display in Chicago. Can you tell us a little about this as it relates to potential sponsorhips going forward?

No. I cannot.

19. Given the important role in supporting the league sponsorship has had in the past does the PSP have any ideas for how to replace that income? What sort of priority will that subject have this coming off season?

It will absolutely have to be discussed. This business is here to provide tournaments for competitive paintball teams. That is the first and foremost objective and will be for as long as I am in charge of operations. But the fact is that the sponsor monies are NEEDED to make it happen. So their concerns have to be addressed. Right now, their concerns are that they can’t afford to sponsor us. Not that they don’t want to. They can’t!

That loss in revenue doesn’t equate to a loss in expense. That money has to come from somewhere if the operation is to continue as it has been. The other option is to scale back operational costs. Less refs, less expensive venues, changes to the format to make it more affordable to run, etc. Some of those things took place during the last off season because I do have my finger plugged into the industry. We lost a good deal of sponsorship money this year. I made changes to off-set that. At some point, the changes become too much and the only option is to charge more.

There may be another option with the feeder/affiliate league thing I am working on. It could be a revenue generator for PSP. That’s not something that I have total control over, so I am certainly not counting on it.

20. If there are no replacement dollars for lost sponsorship what does the PSP do? Would the league consider raising entry fees?

It has to be considered. No one WANTS to charge people more money. If there are increases it is because that is what was needed to make ends meet. Period.


Anonymous said...

I was always under the impression that more bunkers meant faster play. More angles blocked. Less players mirroring up off break every game. I know this is a little off topic, but if lane wants to speed up the game a little then wouldn't more bunkers be the solution?

BTW I agree that a slower rate of fire translates into more movement. If your gun is capped and its easier to move between lanes then you shift the advantage from sitting back and chopping off the offense to making more aggressive moves. Case as point watch any competitive pump games.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Doesn't more bunkers mean faster play????? Bigger/Less bunkers means slower.

Thats my only question. Other then this, what a TERRIFIC interview, and a great guy to be leading our sport. Say what you want, but tournament paintball begins and ends with lane in the years 2008-2010 (at a minimum).

Well thought out, informative anwsers and great questions from Baca. Thanks Lane!


Baca Loco said...

Yes, more bunkers means more overlapping bunkers and fewer lanes and more movement. In point of fact however there is plenty of movement potential with the current number of bunkers on a decent layout.
Gotta remember Lane is Old Skool and all he wants to do is run to the 50. :-)

Don Saavedra said...

And the only reason he'd stop at the 50 now is because he's old.

raehl said...

He's not old, he's just well-seasoned.

Lane said...

I'd only stop at the 50 if I was trying to stop at the 40. It's the lack of stoppers that made me give up. And Chris is right. I'm not old. I'm well-seasoned .... and well done....and well used.... and well..... hell, I'm old.

I understand about the bunkers, though. I believe the bunkers do add moves but they take away from the excitement because no one can see the moves. Not sure I'm right. Just an opinion.

raehl said...

Smaller bunkers and elevated stands would work. Especially if the bunkers are shaped such that they are easy to see OVER (for people in stands or elevated cameras) but not necessarily around (for players on the field).

houdini said...

Great interview and opens up for more debate. To do player classification in a team based sport and be fair is truly a complicated formula and to do this without access to player game stats is never going to be fair. This then gives rise the question if player stats are needed how can this be achieved when the game has such high ROF. Reducing the ROF will make it easier for more accurate stats recording, make it easier for players to move on fields and reduce total costs for teams to compete. (ok I know there is also an issue of manpower for stats taking so another dilemna to deal with)

There is a distinction between amateur level tournament paintballers and true divisional level paintballers and maybe leagues should address this fact. If an amateur level grading system was introduced based simply on team performance and limitations put on teams that compete at this level to not only keep participation costs down but to limit prize money/sponsorship levels, then players who play for fun and who simply love competing could play in this system. All grades in this system compete under the same rules and the same ROF. They are grade for the next season is based on their end of season team rankings only and they move up or down a grade based on this.

For those who truly treat paintball as a sport and want to achieve more then Divisional play could then offer greater benefits with bigger prize money and sponsorship allowances, those that join the divisional system must adhere to a universal ranking system formula based on their individual performance stats, their team performance stats and a grading/rank system for the league they are competing in. Again I know this is a complex issue eg. how do you compare the performance of a back player Vs a front player based on stats - surely some MIT braniac could help?

Anyway just food for thought since this seems to be the topic on more than one paintball blog...

anonachris said...

I understand the thought behind limiting prizes at lower divisions. But the fact still remains that there are plenty of local 3man tournaments where a team can show up and win 3 Egos or at the very least 3 Tippmanns. It doesn't look good for the PSP when the winners feel like they got the shaft, and then start doing their phony math, telling everyone how much money the PSP is making.

I'm not saying I agree with them, but the perception of the players is crucial. Which is also important in the player classification debates. If players feel something is is grossly unfair, regardless of how well thought out or how much you have justified it to yourself there is probably a problem. Obviously everyone is not always going to agree, etc. but perception and expectations is just as, if not more important than the reality of the situation.

raehl said...

PSP is never going to compete with local events regardless of prize package. PSP is expensive because the events PSP puts on are expensive. Some people are not going to see the value in what PSP does, and there is nothing wrong with those people choosing to play local events instead of PSP.

But I think it's an error to compare no prizes at the lower divisions of PSP to prizes at local events. What should be compared is local events with prizes against local events with no prizes, and I firmly believe that leagues who do NOT offer prizes will be more successful in the long term, especially if they take the money they were using to buy those three egos and drop the entry fees instead. Giving away prizes to newbie players is just plain not sustainable, especially in paintball competition, where 60-90% of the money a team spends does NOT go towards prizes but field, air, paint, reffing, etc. Trying to 'win' stuff when the average payback is 10-20% of money put in is just silly. You have to consistently be in the top 10% to just break even, and the other 90% of people who are losing money are just not going to stick around.

Compare to poker, where the payback average is 95% - be in the top third of people playing, and you're winning some cash. Be in the top 10% and you're winning piles and piles of cash.

Anonymous said...

I just thought of a question that I wish I'd had the forsight to ask....

Lane, the PSP is always adjusting to new technologies and players, (like all sports) to make it as fun as possible.

Do you see it as hypothetically possible that an enforcable semi ever come back into exhistance? What needs to happen?

Baca Loco said...

Yes, it's hytpothetically possible. Would the PSP then choose to go that route? Who knows? There's also a couple of ways that it would be possible. One, PSP controls the regualtory software of all the markers regardless of maker and restricts the ability of individual players from altering the presets. Alternatively the PSP could write such detailed and extensive rules governing marker operations--kinda like NASCAR does for the cars--that complaiance with the rule set results in a compliant semi-auto. However in both instances you're back to enforcement. The virtue of the current standards are they can be enforced.

Don Saavedra said...

Or force everyone to leave their electronic markers at home.

Baca Loco said...

'Fraid that doesn't solve the whole problem. Reactive trigger?

raehl said...

You can devise a repeatable test for a reactive trigger. You can't devise a repeatable test for a computer-controlled device where the software is unknown.

Prohibiting electronic markers would work. Requiring boards that run on commodity chips with readable, public software would also work.

Of course, enforcement in both cases would still be more difficult than enforcing ramping or limited paint.

anonachris said...

Why is anyone even wondering if banning electronic guns would be an option? Aside from the fact that the suggestion is the equivilant of "We should just make a rule that requires players to use 12grams."

Does anyone remember the days of chopped balls everytime you: run someone down or have a half empty hopper?

Nevermind the fact that the entire industry is tooled and geared up in an entirely different direction. It's just silly nonsensical talk.

The PSP is not at the point where it can really dictate things to the industry that the industry itself does not want. It's not like some outside agency governing the sport. The people that fun the PSP are not going to legislate their own products out of existence (much more likely they'll legislate new products into existence, which makes the "commodity chip" raehl speaks of at least a little more likely. (although I don't believe it)

Anonymous said...

whoa Chris. i think we all know how rediculus the notion of enforcable semi is.

Just trying to get a sense as to what needs to happen if its ever gonna work...

I put the possibility of semi coming back slightly below the eventuallity of reballs and those fencing suits (patent pending).