Friday, October 30, 2009

PSP Suggestion Box

There is the increasingly rare interesting thread over in the PSP forum at PBN requesting suggested changes to PSP. Started by Ken of the PBV it's focus is on the sorts of changes that affect the play of the game and the players. If this isn't an off-season ritual already it will become one as the league has shown a penchant for making moves. I am not posting in the thread because Ken specifically requested constructive positive input and some part of this post won't be. Constructive maybe, positive--not so much. For my part I will also be covering some old ground with ideas and suggestions posted in the past for those among you who started reading after I did this the last time (and because I can seldom resist any opportunity to repeat myself.)

Ken started the (paint) ball rolling and the thread did what most PBN threads do--went downhill from there. Throughout there is support in the thread for a modified game with a race to win, ie; whoever is ahead when time runs out, wins. This instead of the Race 2 whatever. A modified scoring system is suggested that deals with the silly notion you deserve something for taking longer to lose (the OT point) and there's a request for an across the board standard ROF. All of these are perfectly reasonable ideas from a player's perspective. (There were also some unreasonable ideas. Along with requests to bring penalty boxes back and standardize the game across all divisions.)

Here's where I'm less than positive in my response. The league dropped xball and went to Race 2 with new ref jerseys and everything. Did anybody notice? I seriously doubt they want to try and re-brand their game all over again. That, and there is a reason matches are a race. The race total controls the average match length, not the match time. Statistically a match window can be calculated for the Race 2 matches, and trust me, it's significantly shorter than a race 2 win match would be. [For example, 12 minute match time Race 2 Win versus 15 minute match time Race 2 4. R2W using point time variables of 30 seconds up to 3 minutes gets a match window of 18 minutes to 60 minutes plus. Using the same variables in R24 results in a match window of 16 minutes to 26 minutes. Additionally the weakness--from the perspective of the PSP--is that faster, more aggressive points results in longer matches. And for the curious, the R25 match window is approx. 21 minutes to 33 minutes.] And there is a schedule to be maintained and there will be (already is) increasing pressure in the future to try and find ways to cut down event length. And of course the long term trend isn't more on field time--regardless of the rationale.

Regarding the idea of a new scoring system that weighs wins and overtime wins and losses differently the league might go for it. Given the limited number of matches played the current scoring system offers added complexity and uncertainty and (I'm guessing) that finds approval in some quarters. The suggested scoring change is even more complex, resolves the 3-1 record versus the 2-0-2 record conundrum and offers another layer of seeding clarity. Then there's the scoring system that is also a format modification in that it retains the Race 2 but adds a win by 2 element. The idea here is to identify a clear winner in the more competitive matches. (It would also be a value added for the players and not as time intensive as a simple Race 2 Win since it would only come into play under certain circumstances.) Or we could go to simple wins and losses but then the issue of limited match numbers re-enters the equation.

And then there is ROF. I doubt there is any discernible trickle down or that there is anything more than a gut feeling ROF values "saved" paint or encouraged more newbies to play locally. Even so it would be a mistake to change it--again. The lower ROF has real potential to be beneficial for lower level players (despite the fact most of them are certain they know everything already.) Now that it's done I wouldn't change it.

Personally I'm tempted to begin with things I don't want to see. Like another batch of changes being touted as beneficial to me while in fact they reduce my game time and increase my per player cost. Like last year. (I know, I know, without the PSP we'd be playing guerrilla events in cow pastures (oh, wait!) on vacant lots and in the wee hours of the night in stadium parking lots. Whatever.) And the "inevitability" of small ball. Fortunately, with the 50 cal craze I expect the league to do their due diligence before they jump on that bandwagon. (What is it they say about the definition of insanity?)

Instead I'm gonna take a stab at being constructive too. First, I think the Win By 2 variant is a winner. By my rough calculations the time cost is minimal even in the matches where it occurs, say +5 min on average. Best of all though it only kicks in under very limited circumstances and only alters the Race 2 limits under the most competitive circumstances where a clear winner is a highly desirable outcome.

Here's my wish list. Keep D4 Race 2 4 as entry level to the-game-formerly-known-as-xball and make all the other Am divisions [1, 2, 3] Race 2 5 with identical entry fees and the bulk of the prizes offered in D1 & perhaps D2. Encourage teams to excel instead of penalizing them for getting better, or worse, force them to compete at a higher level based on a poorly conceived, anti-competitive scheme. [The classification system.] Carry that over conceptually to semi-pro and pro as well. If they play the same format they should pay the same entry. And don't start in on the prizes nonsense, the prizes have been shrinking faster than the match times. All I'm suggesting is a coherent policy that promotes and rewards excellence. (But I'm not holding my breath.)

Got any ideas you'd like to toss out there? Here's your chance.

UPDATE: On a nuts & bolts level I'd like to see the Pro roster bumped up to, preferably 10, but the number doesn't really matter as long as it's larger than 8. And it's already sorta 9 with the mid-season makeshift injured/replaced player rule so I suggest doing away with all the pointless detail and simply call it 10--which is where semi-pro already is. Besides, I am confident that if the PSP asked likely pro teams they would discover 10 is a pretty popular number. Just saying.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preview of the 2009 Paintball Year in Review

This post is not--full stop--not the 2009 Paintball Year in Review. Or even the beginning of that post or posts. It is, in fact, this lazy slacker's means of avoiding starting the actual review. But it also may serve a real purpose as well. That depends on you.

The Paintball Year in Review will focus purely on competitive paintball as that is the guiding topic of VFTD. It will broadly cover the 3 major leagues; PSP, NPPL & MS. It will touch on some industry trends like 50 cal and others that impact competitive paintball, like sponsorship and the general economy, Smart Parts post mortem and the continuing trend toward consolidation. The Big Leagues portion will highlight assorted aspects that strike my fancy (seem to be particularly relevant) like the PSP webcast or the future of the 7-man format. There will probably, almost certainly, be other (value added) stuff crammed in there as well. How could I resist taking another swipe at the PSP classification rules, for example?

However, besides offering y'all a brief preview the point of this post--other than putting off for another day the actual work of writing the Review post(s)--is to offer you an opportunity to suggest items or subjects you'd like to see addressed in the 2009 Paintball Year in Review.

(FYI--Failure on your part to participate does not absolve you from sharing responsibility for the final product. I'm just saying. The way it works is like this: VFTD provides the forum and opportunity to participate and whether or not you avail yourself of that opportunity the offer alone compromises your ability to object to any future content. Consider this a lesson in how Big Paintball operates--along with large chunks of the real world. Hey, you had to learn sometime.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coaching the Coaches

VFTD is pleased to announce another brilliant idea. I know what you're asking yourself: How does VFTD know it's a brilliant idea? You mean other than it was my idea so it must, ipso facto, be brilliant? Okay. Fine. Because it addresses an issue that impacts every level of competitive paintball--particularly in the used-to-be-called-xball format--from D5 to pro. And I know this from informed observation and years of experience. Heck, there isn't even a uniform definition of the role within competitive paintball.
What? Yeah, that might help. No worries, just the voices in my head reminding me to tell you the subject of today's post is coaching.

Sometime during the off-season last year--late 08 or early 09--I wrote a post wondering if there was a market for team-based clinics aimed at upper division teams looking to improve and continue to move up. (At some point most teams, like most players, hit a wall where they stop improving.) The idea was that player clinics address individual skills and development but that nobody had (has) done much within paintball to address team issues in achieving excellence. [This is normally where I'd put a link to the original post but I couldn't find it. Okay, I couldn't find it after ten minutes of looking and got bored ... so I blew it off.] It seemed to me one way to accelerate the process was to propose a team clinic concept that, if done well, could help teams over the hump or speed up the development process. I also suggested that I would--in a moment of altruistic generosity and devotion to the betterment of Paintball--volunteer to perform this duty if called upon (for a modest retainer & travel expenses.) As you might imagine, the response from a far-sighted and thoughtful paintball community was--the sound of crickets chirping. Fair enough. It's still a good idea. It's also a cost effective option for any truly serious team but whatever.

Similarly, I think a coaches clinic could be very helpful for any coach taking on the role and even those who have been doing it for a while but see room for improvement or are looking for new ideas and methods. All this, btw, is predicated on a definition of "coach" in line with traditional sports definitions--not just the official sideline designated screamer. Although we could begin with the how & why of what the designated screamer screams. (One thing I'm not deficient in is opinions. And I'm almost as good at making up reasons that sound reasonable for those opinions.) A *real* competitive paintball coach needs to be able to teach, train and develop players both individually and within a team framework. And on game day (or match days if you prefer) be prepared with game plans, scouting and evaluation procedures as well as real time play calling and tactical adjustments. [In reality a lot of these functions go unperformed or are handled by different people or by committee. Or the players. In any case--and in most cases--there are organizational deficits and room for improvement whether one person or five are handling the required roles.] Given that definition the purpose of the clinic would be to address all these areas in terms of organizational methodology, practical tips and concrete ways of dealing with routine concerns and perhaps a little game theory for the adventurous.

Now (hopefully) that sounds swell but in reality it's a lot harder to find simply because this aspect of the game is developing in the same way rules, formats etc. are changing and developing. So is coaching. What it means and how it's accomplished. The objective of a coaches clinic would be to take a shortcut that offers coaches the benefits of learning from somebody else's mistakes and successes. Like with the team-clinic idea it's aim is to accelerate the growing process and provide the necessary tools for improvement.

I'm thinking organizing a coaches clinic around World Cup would probably be as close to ideal as it's gonna get so right off I'm a day (or more) late. Hey, couldn't be helped. Next time I'll try to have more conveniently timed ideas. So if the PSP wanted to play a role or even take over and run with this idea I certainly wouldn't object. At any rate I've got nearly a year to work it out and see if anybody is interested.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Monday Poll

For the rare few actually paying attention, yes, I pulled last week's poll early. What really happened however is that last week when I set it up I neglected to take into account I was posting it late. What can I say? You get a little older and it takes more than 24 hours to get the Vegas out of your system. Anyway, it wasn't a high interest poll for reasons I'll get into in the review below.

This week's topic is easy, highly speculative, probably partisan and so simple a squid could do it while sleepwalking. Which teams will be playing semi-pro in the PSP next season? Lots of talk and not much substance out there right now. Just the way we like it so now is the time to test your ability to prognosticate (sounds better than blind, dumb luck guess, doesn't it?) and/or your insider knowledge with a Monday Poll. You can pick as many teams as you like from the list--so you get to cast more than one vote (if you're from Chicago that'll seem normal)--and if you pick 'Other' please include who you had in mind in the comments. I feel compelled to remind you that many teams, particularly in the higher divisions, when arbitrarily propelled upward by the PSP tend to fall apart. (Okay, it isn't arbitrary but it might as well be since the primary purpose isn't about merit or excellence or earning it.) And that the notion currently floating around that some NPPL Pro teams are considering joining the used-to-be-called-xball fun makes competitive but not business sense (to me) but who cares? I say run with it while the running is good. The list is ridiculously long but if it only included the obvious it wouldn't be much fun, would it? There are some CPL teams and some NPPL teams not already playing in the PSP. And of the lower division PSP teams only Fierce and CEP players will be reclassified from D1 to semi-pro but who knows who else might jump in. Oh, and I've included last year's regulars too. Will they be staying, bumping up or fading away? You decide.

Monday Poll in Review
I'd like to say this poll ruffled a few feathers 'cus I'd come off as edgy and dangerous (and maybe even cool) but so much for wishful thinking. A look at the total number of votes is a clear indicator the poll didn't attract much attention. I think there's probably two principle reasons why. Many aren't that interested in the NPPL 3.0 (the league formerly known as the USPL) and most are hesitant (even anonymously) to offer an opinion on technology that frequently isn't all that well understood. Even by serious ballers. I'll leave it to you to decide which had a greater impact.
Of those that did vote on the idea of a league certified gun board the results were 31% generally positive and 64% generally negative. Of particular interest in the negative votes was the fact that the potential for added cost to the player wasn't a significant factor as it garnered only 8% of the votes. For those of you scoring at home that's 2 to 1 who broadly don't see a league certified board as a step in the right direction. But while it's all well and good to test which way the wind is blowing (it must be 'cus everybody in DC does it all the time, right?) public opinion doesn't tell us anything about the actual merits.

So is a league certified board a good idea or isn't it? Before that can be answered we need to know the intended purpose. If , for example, the notion is to standardize gun performance as a further measure for leveling the playing field that's one thing. If the idea is seen as a method to improve enforcement of the rules that's something else again. In either case the predicate is the highly dubious (if not outright delusional) notion that modern electropneumatic markers can be regulated (and policed) for "real" semi-automatic functionality as the state of the art currently stands. Or if, at some point in time, tamper resistant technology can effectively monitor the operating technology in such a way that the benefit outweighs the cost and complexity involved. Regardless the primary objective is preserving so-called semi-auto play and that is the crux of the problems all the versions of the NPPL have had with consistent rules enforcement and/or the perception of fair play when it comes to gun performance.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Name That American

Everybody knows American players litter Millennium rosters but just how many of them are there and just who are these players? I don't know about y'all but I'm curious. And it's not only the MS. There are more and more American players showing up on team rosters for events all over the world.

VFTD needs your help to do a couple of things. 1--name that American. Who are the players and who are they playing for? VFTD would like to compile a list of the Americans playing for other teams around the world and everyone who helps (by contributing info in comments) will qualify for a special VFTD prize drawing.

The other thing VFTD is interested in is how these arrangements are made. VFTD assumes that most of the time these deals are facilitated by shared sponsors. Help a blogger out and get entered into the special prize drawing.

UPDATE: While it comes as no surprise that y'all are a pack of lazy slackers I am somewhat surprised by either the near total lack of information on this topic out there or the complete indifference in which it is considered. Or perhaps both. I get why Americans yawn at over which players are playing the Mil but is the so-called growing Euro-parity really just anonymous Americans and European self-deception? Say it isn't so.

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekend Special

Dateline Antalya Turkey. Site of the Sarsilmaz Cup, the fifth and final leg of this year's Millennium Series.

In the lead up to this event there was more talk of not attending--from locked divisions teams--than there was earlier in the season when it became clear the Paris event scores wouldn't count for the series title. In some cases league roster rules may have contributed to the no shows. The majority however seem to have been based on economic realities despite reports from the site of an excellent venue and economically yet exemplary accommodations. One important question is: Were the no shows legitimately unable to attend or was that more of a convenient and understandable excuse? If the former it may portend another round of reductions in total team participation next year and if the later it should serve as a wake-up call to the MS to act quickly to shore up a faltering commitment--and, no, increasing the locked division licensing fees won't do that.

From on the scene reports and a close review of the scoreboards it appears to VFTD that 7 of 28 teams in the SPL are no-shows and that 10 of 27 teams in D1 are no-shows although that number could be higher depending on D1 team reffing participation. (3 D1 teams per event ref instead of play so only 24 D1 teams are listed on the scoreboard.) Even with the large number of (apparent) no-shows the MS maintained their normal seeding and scheduling which left nearly every bracket a team or two short (and in one instance it appears there's a bracket with only one team in it attending the event.) This of course means that everyone is penalized with less paintball in the prelims--and for some, that's all the paintball they're gonna get.

In D2 only 3 of the top 8 seeds showed with only 12 teams altogether competing in the division. Which suggests the weakness displayed in the locked divisions (other than CPL which appears to be intact) is a league wide concern. If the no-show numbers are correct it means that total team attendance is only 81 teams.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paintball Media: When More Is Less

Confused? If not I'm losing my touch but all will come clear quickly. (Alliteration rocks!) This is, by the way, Part 2, of a paintball media series begun with 'Paintball & Media, part 1'. If you're wondering about the title switcheroo just thinking about typing Paintball & Media, part 2 bored me blind--so I didn't. Sure, it might've been easier for you but since when did that matter? That's right, never. Good to see we're on the same page.

The first part concluded with the observation that with the demise of the paintball magazine (mostly) that no other media had really taken their place as a portal into the game for those who don't already play. [Okay, of the surviving mags we all know APG has the greatest reach and has always been a significant first point of contact--and probably still is--even if that knowledge makes us cringe just a little bit. Or is that just me?]

A magazine was (is) an easy access, all things paintball to all people that offered, often unintentionally and even passively, an invitation to join the fun. Maybe it's me but I don't get that from most paintball media today. Modern media outlets and sites are fragmented and their products are targeted--mostly to existing players. Each one designed to serve a narrow purpose. There are stores, forums, blogs, team sites, video sites, dedicated business & team & player sites on places like Facebook, more stores, local field information sites, gossip sites, tournament series sites, industry sites, online magazines and a few general interest and/or paintball information sites ( that often go long stretches without being updated or only provide generic content.) Most of these are niche elements focused on serving a specific function and, as a practical matter, are aimed at existing players. Sure, there is some overlap and any one of these sorts of sites might grab the attention of a non-player but that isn't what the sites are about. Hundreds and hundreds of different paintball-related sites and almost none of them are dedicated to communicating the thrill of the game to those who haven't played it already. And that goes for other media as well. Stuff like DVDs and free webcasts and, despite their best intentions, much of what has made it onto TV was, at best, a display of paintball but seldom a celebration of the game or the sport. A reason to want to participate.

Today, right now, more (and more diverse) media is less because the paintball-related outlets that exist tend to specialize and focus on attracting and serving elements of the existing player base. But there isn't any blame to be assigned here. Many of the media outlets were never intended to be paintball outreach and for the few that are it's difficult to find ways to make it feasible if not profitable. It's a new and developing world and we're still learning. Things can (and will) change. Right now the challenge is to find ways to exploit the opportunity that exists, to find new and creative ways to attract non-ballers to try paintball. For example, could a new broad-based outreach campaign be a part of what the PSTA becomes? And there are already some websites looking to act as clearing houses for news and information. How many steps beyond that is it to becoming something more, an enticement, an open invitation to the non-baller to get into the game?

Paintball needs, maybe now more than ever, to inform, educate and excite non-ballers to the thrill of the game.

Facebook, My Space, Yada Yada Yada

Mick over at T-Square reminds me--with his post today--that I meant to address this a while ago and it got lost in the daily grind--as many things seem to do.

Once upon a time I set-up a Facebook account intending it for an unrelated to paintball use that never materialized and as a consequence I forgot about it. Except when I periodically get emails about somebody or other who wants to be my friend. These queries tend to be about 95% paintball related. Which I, in response, have tended to promptly ignore because most of the time I've no idea who the person is and/or they are fronting some paintball biz that's just gonna spam me. Well, for whatever reason I received a spate of these requests for friendship recently and as I recognized a name or two figured I'd accept and see what happened. What happened was a whole other load of friend requests from friends of friends clogging up my email. As a consequence I've mostly decided it's an insidious plot to inundate me with largely anonymous cyber-buddies ... and I ain't having any.

I'm reasonably sure there is no My Space account and I'm positive I'd rather be dipped in honey and staked out over a fire ant hill than Twitter. It is conceivable I might do something with VFTD in one of those sorts of forums in the future but unlikely. So please, if you've tried unsuccessfully to befriend me don't take it personally if I didn't respond and in the rare instances where I did please don't expect me to try and keep up or respond through that forum 'cus it probably ain't gonna happen.

I do however answer all my VFTD email and don't mind in the least being contacted directly.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Burning Question

Is something just plain wrong when a team that wins 3 out of 4 events isn't the series champion? I mean, does anybody else really believe anybody else is actually the better team this year? (Not a shot at the other teams or players--as I know and respect a number of them but c'mon.) Isn't this the sort of thing that only happens in the Millennium?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Monday Poll

To make up for the lateness of this posting (it is Tuesday, after all) I'm gonna give some added value by doubling up. Put it all on black. Oh, wait, not that kind of doubling up. (A little Vegas lag.) Not only will this be a Monday Poll but it's also a hot, fresh rumor of the NPPL variety. Yesterday there was an owners meeting in the aftermath (no pun intended) of the Vegas event and one of the rumors that leaked out of that smoke-filled conference room was this: a standardized board rule to reduce gun cheats and the largely subjective decisions from referees about what's a legal gun and what isn't. Here's the idea: a single manufacturer optimizes boards for different brand guns and as long as none of the settings are altered the guns are defacto legal. And a simple check of the board settings can confirm either tampering or no change. (Posing this question and passing on this rumor doesn't constitute a fact. The league may, or may not, follow thru with this idea. Who knows, your votes may influence the outcome. Hey, it could happen.)
Here's the poll question: Is a league certified gun board a ...

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll--boy, do you have a short memory--was World Cup losers and in a tedious display of boring sincerity the top 4 losers according to percentage of the vote were ... 50 cal (22%), NPPL (40%), Disney (48%) and--drum roll please--the number one WC loser was all the players and teams not attending the event. Of equal interest--to me--was the dearth of votes that might have been construed as anti-PSP (or protest) votes given the venue and other changes the league made this season. It was also rather sweet to see all those Disney votes as if the monolithic Mouse will ever notice the loss--or didn't precipitate it. For whatever it's worth it would seem the VFTD voters continue to be well disposed toward the PSP.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shooting the 50 Cal Paintball

This week's Monday Poll will be posted on Tuesday. (Mostly 'cus I spent a huge chunk of the day traveling home from Vegas and my priorities once I got home didn't include a blog post--for once. Oh, and this one doesn't count as it's an easy one to crank out. 10 minutes tops.)

A reliable source--you'll just have to take my word for it--has shot close to a case of the currently available paint in an xball field setting. This paint was shot at approx. 280 fps and carried end to end and corner to corner with a small adjustment (to barrel elevation.) Overall it seemed pretty close to the 68 norm. [Although I gotta say it didn't seem like a real competition situation which might alter player perception.] It was also shot at players to see what would happen and the anecdotal view is that it didn't sting as much, marked well and broke at better than a 50% rate. Though I'm unclear if that means a 40-50% bounce rate or what. Still, that may not be too bad given the available formula isn't supposed to be the final tourney grade fill.

One of my concerns was confirmed though (apparently) as the small ball went through the upper half netting on a PSP standard field set-up. You know, the lighter weave stuff at ten feet and above.

I don't think it means a great deal (but if confirmed the netting issue is big) or answers all the questions but it is an interesting addition to information we have about the small ball.

UPDATE: Today's word, boys & girls, is 'reading comprehension'. Okay, that's two words but try to stay focused. First, when I say "reliable source" it does not mean infallible or even necessarily disinterested. It means someone I know who would not blatantly lie. And when I say 'anecdotal' I mean precisely that. This is not about facts, it's about impressions. Was the expressed viewpoint skewed or swayed or shaded? Possibly but what we do know despite all else is that current netting will NOT contain a 50 cal ball at even a presently legal velocity. We know that the current formula used to display the product breaks maybe half the time--at best--in something like a real world situation and at the very limited ranges involved in playing xball aiming is NOT the same. Maybe you read that as a stirling endorsement, I did not.

Guest Post from Information Merchant

This came over the transom today. While VFTD does not endorse all the views contained in this open letter VFTD does find them worthy of discussion. After all, that is a big part of what VFTD is about.

An 'Open Letter' from the Information Merchant:

In an ideal world there would be two national (US) paintball leagues and both would be able to support themselves and further the sport. That is an ideal world. Given the realities and constraints of this world, consolidation and unification is the only option for national-level paintball (the feasibility of a regionalized structure is out of bounds in this letter, as I hope we all want a platform for national competition). To that end, I would like to humbly ask you to ask yourself, “Is what I am doing really best for paintball?”

I don’t know if 7man will die without the USPL. I do know that the USPL isn’t saving it. The league is alienating the support base with sub-par events and is “proving” 7man to be unsustainable as a national circuit. I don’t know if that is a false-positive, but after the failures of Pure Promotions and Pacific Paintball, and now the USPL with the combined strengths of Chuck, Tom, Bart and all the other intelligent and/or experienced individuals putting their efforts towards that league, 7man's inability to be run successfully at the national level will be a given. The longer the USPL exists, the harder it will be for another 7man league to start up in the future. (And this ignores the rumblings that the USPL is moving to a match-based format of play, so even the saviors of 7man are going nontraditional to try to save their league. Put another way, the league formed to save 7man is rumored to be forsaking 7man in order to save the league).

It is irresponsible to suggest that it is our duty, as paintballers, to (blindly) support paintball in all its forms and formats. Supporting all of paintball, as it is today, is hurting the sport. It is dividing our (very limited) resources is bad for our sport. We have enough companies (i.e. sponsors) and enough teams interested in national competition to support one league. All we accomplish by splitting up is to create distraction, diffuse resources and prevent any one group from pulling itself up, not to mention the increasing likelihood, if not actually probability, that we will cause both leagues to fail.

I can’t help but think about what could have been done this year if we had unified under one banner and really supported the sport. The PSP probably lost $100,000 to $150,000 in entrance fees to the USPL and another $100,000 in sponsorship. Imagine what the PSP could have done with that;
  • Right now $100,000 people are out of work and taking $50,000 jobs. The PSP could have hired a salesmen, a PR rep, to approach non-endemic sponsors, something the NPPL was having moderate success with (Army, Marines, video game industry, energy drinks, car companies…). There is no saying whether this would have borne any fruit. If not, it is $50,000 lost, but if so, it would have been that much more money and exposure coming into paintball, that much more mainstream attention coming into paintball.
  • The PSP could have expanded their webcast. The PSP webcast is our best avenue for attracting new national players. with more cameras,more interviews, more content, more statistics, it would have been an even greater draw. The more people who watch, the more people who have an increased likelihood to play.
  • The PSP could have put more effort into getting all the regional leagues around the country behind them, creating one unified structure. This could have involved getting pro teams to attend those events, to promote the PSP and X-Ball (and themselves). This effort may have involved donating entrance fees to the prize packages of the regional events. These activities would help the regional leagues attract more players (thereby making more money). It would get more local players into the sport, helping local stores and fields. And it would further increase the likelihood that some of those teams end up playing the PSP. We need to introduce the best regional teams to the PSP if we hope to continue to have a PSP. This is all part of the larger unification of paintball.

We could have had more teams and better events with better webcasts which would make paintball more attractive to sponsors, who could have been courted by a full time professional salesperson. We would have given back to the players, to the sponsors, to the regional leagues and to the sport. And we would have taken some steps towards unifying paintball across the country. And in so doing we would have helped local stores and fields and leagues and local players.

That is the opportunity cost of the USPL, right there. The damage that has been done may be irreversible (will Rockstar ever come back with a $90,000 sponsorship proposal?).

Sit back, all you owners of USPL pro teams, all you divisional teams supporting the format, all one tourist teams looking for a good time playing one national event per year, sit back and ask if what you are doing will lead us down the road where this all goes away?I believe it does. I believe it will. I hope you reconsider the blind support of paintball in all its glory and restrict yourself to only supporting paintball that helps support the sport.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tragedy of the Commons

Warning: This is gonna be boring paintball stuff along the lines of past boring posts like the ones here, here & here. Oh, and this one, too. (The Econometrics of the Commons series) If you missed them count yourself fortunate or, if you are a glutton for punishment or a junior member of the Marquis de Sade Club enjoy. Basically the series called out PBIndustry. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

This post is covering some related territory--hence the title--and is intended to be the introduction to the posts I've been meaning to get around to on the PSTA. Within the overlapping frontiers of social & political sciences and economics 'tragedy of the commons' normally refers to the inability (or unwillingness) of individual actors to act cooperatively with respect to common or shared resources--often within a closed or semi-closed system. [This, btw, is the general area of study of the recent Nobel prize award given in economics.] Or the uncommon result when they do act in concert. Bored yet? I'm just getting started.

Anyway, it seemed to me there were potentially some interesting parallels in a small, emerging market--like paintball. (There are also some very significant differences, too.) For example, Texas Gulf Coast shrimpers have behaved certain ways based on finite fishing beds--and have been a prime area of this sort of study--but is it either appropriate or rational for PBIndustry to have behaved in similar ways? And they have--and, no, I'm pretty sure it wasn't either appropriate or rational even though it worked for a few (or seemed to work, as the case may be.)

Without getting too bogged down however the simple point is to set a baseline for PBIndustry and my baseline, as expressed in past posts, and restated here is that they have screwed the pooch more often that not. And the past conduct of PBIndustry is my prism for looking at the PSTA, its goals and purposes, and its future plans. This doesn't mean I am opposed to the PSTA or disbelieving of their claimed intentions. Only that, in my estimation, the PSTA will have a lot to overcome both externally and internally. Can the PSTA actually accomplish positive for paintball results? Will the PSTA succeed where PBIndustry has failed in the past? Or will the PSTA, despite every good intention, fail because PBIndustry can't seem to avoid the 'tragedy of the commons'?

It will be interesting to hear what the PSTA's current goals are and how they intend to go about achieving them. Of course I will probably have a thought or two on their prospects in light of past history. And I will flesh out future thoughts within the 'tragedy of the commons' framework throughout the upcoming PSTA posts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Has the Bandwagon Broken Down?

You know, the one heralding the 50 caliber revolution. Yeah, that bandwagon. Now before you start accusing me of being an ignorant hater let me say I'm not opposed to the idea. I get the potential advantages. Heck, I'm sold on price alone--all other things being equal. The key words here being--potential and equal. Thing is I'm not good at wishing will make it so or blindly following the latest marketing sleight of hand. My problem is I've got a brain and it works--most of the time.

For the sake of argument let's grant the 50 cal flies as straight as a 68 and breaks as well as a 68. Even if true there are still more than a few issues to resolve. Like actual retail pricing. Marking ability. Distance traveled and/or velocity. And impact. For starters. Beginning with pricing all manner of savings, mostly as a percentage of current prices, have been floated and they seem reasonable (if still hypothetical) based on the relative size and weight differences and manufacturing efficiencies from one to the other. However, real numbers seem in short supply. (Or nonexistent.) And here is where the rub begins. (Is it a hit or an attempt to wipe?) It seems to me that various of the desired properties of the 50 cal paintball are in conflict with each other.

What makes a top tourney grade shell? It's brittleness. And the fill? It's opaque marking ability and viscosity. And what is the other principle characteristic of top tourney grade paint? It's price. If, because of its nature, 50 cal requires a more expensive manufacturing baseline some percentage of the proposed savings disappear. Or else all the qualities to be found in the current unfinished 50 cal paint will be eroded in cheaper grades. At which point questions about marking ability and impact arise.

Simple physics insist the smaller shell has superior tensile strength--all things otherwise being equal--compared to a 68 hence the need for the thin shell. Less surface area means the impact is spread over a smaller patch. Mitigating this is the fact a 50 cal paintball has roughly only 40% of the fill capacity of a 68. The current incarnations of the 50 cal paintball also weighs in at roughly 40% of a 68 cal paintball so with respect to actual impact the question becomes what is the surface area of impact ratio? While the principle variable is velocity on impact.

And here is where things start to go at cross purposes to each other. The smaller, lighter ball will not travel the same distances when propelled at the same muzzle velocity. The gains made in reduced surface area do not overcome the weight disadvantages. (For more detailed data check out the 50 Cal Forum at PBN.) The only way to modify this outcome is to add weight or increase velocity. Adding much weight is difficult because of dimensional limitations--small ball--and material restrictions (stuff like non-toxic and biodegradable, retaining fluid characteristics, etc.) and a significant velocity increase will have safety restrictions and flight characteristic degradation at some point. And, oh yeah, a heavier or faster ball carries more energy and will increase the impact. (And come closer perhaps to violating more restrictive firearms laws in Canada and Europe.) Throw in the rumor that in order to get a "good" mark the fill can't be too thick and you end up with different desired outcomes tugging this way and that.

On top of the present uncertainties where are the ASTM (or similar) certified testing results? I might have missed them but so far haven't seen any. I'm told at least one major league is concerned that the current netting will be insufficiently safe for 50 cal use. And how do current goggles hold up? If the final product ends up being heavier and shot faster? Will this effect the insurance premiums at local fields?

One other thing concerns me with respect to competitive paintball and that is the prospect of a radically shorter time to distance for the 50 cal ball if the velocity has to be dialled up in order to achieve other similar to 68 cal results. In the past high velocity was (and is) primarily a safety issue but in a competitive situation it is also a potential playability issue as well. The time it takes a paintball to go from A to B will alter the nature of the game we play. How much I don't know.

At a minimum there remains lots of unanswered questions with respect to the actual utility of a 50 caliber paintball and until there are real answers I suspect there will be lots of room on that particular bandwagon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

PSP World Cup looks to have come through the venue change and the inhospitable weather with nary a hitch and it seems fair to suggest this year's event was a major success. The largest group of vendors all year and what sounds like very good numbers rumored for the webcast. The PSP and competitive paintball in general have the realistic possibility of reaching more people; players, paintballers and the curious thru the webcast in one weekend than were actually present for all previous World Cups combined. Think big, PSP, & plan accordingly. The webcast is an unprecedented outreach tool.

NPPL 3.0 presents the USPL World Championships at the Riviera this coming weekend in Las Vegas and the final "official" numbers has 96 teams registered and paid for the event including 41 non-pro 7-man teams. While not a big turnout it's a respectable result and will bookend nicely with the HB event that kicked off the season. Clearly, despite the inauspicious timing the Vegas venue was a solid draw. Even so it remains to be seen how the pro owners evaluate this season and what changes if any may be forthcoming. And, realistically, how much debt the league will carry over. I am not sure the league is over the hump just yet but then I didn't really believe it was in a position to survive the first year.

Across the pond the countdown to the Sarsilmaz Cup is entering the final weeks with the event due in a little more than two weeks. Despite bolstered prize offerings D2 & M5 registrations continue to lag with fully half of the registered teams being local Turkish teams. There's time yet for the numbers to change but little reason to presume the original widespread unhappiness amongst likely MS participants has softened. I guess we'll find out.

The Grand Tour was downgraded last week to the Ordinary Tour and this week suffers another decline in the VFTD perception of viability as it is once more downgraded to the Marginal Tour. The season closing event in Greece has 15 teams registered in 3 divisions of play. Ouch.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Monday Poll

Prior to World Cup we had the projected "winners" of World Cup poll and with the help of hindsight it's time to choose the World Cup losers. You may choose more than one answer and if you can muster the energy I'd be extra interested in comments explaining why you picked the answers you chose. Some are serious, some not so much. Some are probably fairly self-explanatory but others aren't. Have an opinion and share it. Dammit!

Monday Poll in Review
74% of responders watched, intended to watch and/or loved the webcast. More to the point of those familiar with the webcast only 9% either found it unappealing or preferred the NPPL webcasts. (And who are we kidding? Chuck and only 3 of the 16 USPL owners voted for their product. Okay, now I'm kidding. I have no idea who voted for what.)
The poll was mostly intended to generate awareness and interest in watching the World Cup webcast anyway. I hope you took advantage of the opportunity always keeping in mind that the road to real sports legitimacy isn't an easy one and that how the sport is promoted and how many people show an interest matters. And matters a great deal.

World Cup Miscellany (plus)

Before returning to our regularly scheduled posting--a new Monday Poll will be posted later today, for example--there are a few items I need to comment on that can't wait for the season wrap-up.
I'd like to congratulate Pat & Bonnie on the CK2 premier and give a shout out to Tyler, Duder and Lu. Can't wait to see it. I would have attended the premier but it was way past my bedtime and I need's my rest. If you haven't seen and/or don't own Pat's movies you're missing out. They are more than stories about individual players and teams, they are universal stories about competitive paintball.
Caught the last couple of hours of the webcast yesterday--left right after we were done playing--and it was terrific. Not only was the paintball action first rate but I thought the whole "experience" was very professional and seamlessly integrated. It keeps getting better and better.
Congrats to Raiden for the D1 win and a big way to go boys to Hamen and Kyle. Way to go, boys.
On a personal note I'd like to thank Matty for the very kind and generous comments. It's just as well I didn't hear them live as my head is already an enormous melon.
Regardless of individual merit this is a team sport and we all win or lose as a team. On that score I'd like to take a moment to thank my kids for a good year and remind them that we're just getting started.
And the plus is a shout out to Franktankerous for winning the recent VFTD Monday Poll contest. I posted the announcement in that original post but apparently Frank missed it. If'n you want your prize drop me a line Frank.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

World Cup Saturday

Another short report. Congrats to the semi final winners in the pro and semi-pro brackets; Red Legion (who I've nicknamed The Machine), Philly and Vicious & Aftermath. Congrats too to XSV and Nexus who will playing for semi-pro third tomorrow. As will Damage and the Ironmen in the pro division. It's not what any of them came to Cup for but third is better than fourth.

There's a few items coming from Cup worth discussing--like yellow paint and yellow jerseys--but now isn't the time. I'll come back to this kind of stuff with a season ending wrap-up, probably after Vegas.

Otherwise today was a big improvement weather-wise. While still hot and humid it wasn't debilitating like the previous days--though I saw a few players down for the count none looked serious.

World Cup Rumor Mill

While I'm almost certainly missing a site or two I'm still amazed that there isn't more info leaking out of WC. (Not that plenty of peeps don't know--just that nobody is feeling the urge to spill. Or it could be that sensible peeps are terrified of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the face of another round of shrinking sponsorships.) There sure is lots of *stuff* going down in the background even as the world's biggest tourney is going on.

You want a taste? (Careful, that's how you get hooked.) Word on the street is you want a Luxe you'll need to talk to Richmond Italia. Street's also saying that the patents held by SP are part of the seized company's assets. Did I say seized?

And yeah, that was just a taste. It gets a whole lot tastier.

Friday, October 9, 2009

World Cup Friday

Short and sweet today, kids. On Wednesday Jeff Stein from the Canes was suggesting we might as well petition for an event in Death Valley. (He was joking. Sorta.) Well, no need. Death Valley can't possible be much hotter. And then there's the paintball action. So fast, so brutal, so uncompromising players and refs alike are dropping like flies. Matches are more than paintball under these conditions. They are tests of endurance stamina and desire and players are pushing themselves to the limits and sometimes beyond. On one level it's awesome and on another--saner level--it's just plain nuts.

On the pro field today it was the quarterfinal elimination round with pairs of teams playing a best two out of three for a chance at the semis. Each round went only two matches as Philly beat Shock, Legion downed X-Factor, Ironmen took Aftermath and Damage beat Dynasty. Damage was the only team from the prelim round to make the semis and that action begins tomorrow at 9:40 am. Tune in and see survival of the fittest championship paintball.

Later Slackers

Enlistments for the Week

It's Friday and that means it's time to recognize this week's recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army. When there are any. This week we's all in luck--but mostly me.

ORonayne & Joe signed on the dotted in the last couple of days and VFTD is happy to add them to the roll. Thanks to you both. Currently Mr. Ronayne is doing yeoman's work as the live announcer at World Cup for the pro field and for those brave and dedicated souls who are testing their mettle against the severe heat he's like a cool drink of water.

VFTD is in the midst of our year end recruitment drive with a target goal of 100 before year's end so if you're intrigued but uncertain check out the DPA here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

World Cup Thursday

Yeah, yeah, you want to know where World Cup Wednesday is, right? I know. It's not enough that there's a World Cup Thursday, no, you needed a WC Wednesday too. Well, you're obviously out of luck but if it makes you feel better about it there was a World Cup Wednesday but my ethernet access went out last night before I could post it--and I was little busy today--until now.

Let's get the other big issue out of the way up front. I know absolutely nothing about any divisional scores. There's gotta be scores posted somewhere so suck it up and look around. APPA will post them eventually and Pro Paintball should have some of the day's scores posted. It's not that I don't care--Okay, it is that I don't care but the whole truth is that my poor melon can only hold so much information at one time and all those numbers just end up all jumbled anyway.

The venue is pretty sweet but there's planes flying around all the time. It's weird, you'd think there was an airport around or something. Given the number of pro games scheduled the semi-pro kids have their own field next door. From what I hear the action was pretty furious with the Eurokids giving a good account of themselves with the final four undecided until the last match of the day.

VFTD Weather Update: It's hot. Hotter than Satan's armpit to hear the whining from some of the pasty white northern types. But you know what they say, it's not the heat it's the humidity. And they--whoever they are--happen to be correct. And the humidity is brutal. If it's any consolation it was balmy and beautiful last week here in sunny Florida. Right here, right now it's seriously hot and sticky. Fire Rescue has shown up three or four times each day and I'm guessing they aren't dropping by just to catch all the paintball action. So if you aren't here--and if you're reading this you probably aren't--there is some consolation in that the conditions are rough. And even better--for you--the webcast begins tomorrow morning. I'll wave. (No, actually I won't.)

The pro field is one of the nicest ever. Level and flat with excellent grass. The only downside is an east/west orientation that late in the day is blinding to one end of the field. (Probably the same in the morning but I don't know--yet. Depends on when the sun comes up I would imagine.) There were some very tight games today with a lot of back and forth as only four spots were available with 9 teams fighting for them. Joy Division got their first taste of PSP pro paintball and performed better than their scores might suggest. It's a steep learning curve and they showed improvement over the course of the event. (Btw, I know a few pro teams that are gonna have yellow jerseys next year if the league is gonna allow yellow when we's all shooting yellow-breaking paint. Just saying.) Chris "Pony" Lasoya played with Joy and looked like the old Pony until he tweaked his knee. (When I said old I meant he looked like the young Pony out there. Confused? He was looking good and It was good to see him on the field again.) Though their scores don't show it the 'Canes played better than they have all season and have a foundation to build on for next year. Last two matches of the day determined how the seeding would go for tomorrow and who would go through. Shock beat Aftermath in OT after 'Math fought back from a significant deficit to tie it up with a few seconds remaining and Damage knocked off Infamous in the last match of the day. As a result the seed order for Friday is Damage, Aftermath, X-Factor & Aftershock. And despite finishing 2-2 (like Shock) both Infamous and Impact didn't go through. (Shock got it on point differential.)

There's plenty of parking and a winding maze-like vendor's village everyone must walk through to get to the fields. Despite the annoyance it's good to see a lot more tents and vendors than we've seen all season. And if you are desperate for some relief from the elements you can always hike over to registration--and I do mean hike--which is in a Fantasy of Flight building a mile or two from the fields (a slight exaggeration) that happens to be air conditioned. A shuttle to registration would be nice. Otherwise, the venue is solid and I'm told the layout is basically the same as was used in Chitown last year. If you rented a plane at FoF you could probably see it from the air.

More tomorrow, slacker.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Major League Paintball Held Hostage: Weekly Update

First word I've received from on site at Fantasy of Flight is that the fields look outstanding and the grass surface is in excellent condition. (Of course it's still out in the boonies and will continue to require a few minutes of highway driving so I expect the whiners will continue to find it unacceptable on some level. Btw, while I'm in favor of our events having some non-paintballing outreach I'm inclined to believe that the webcast has about 1000 times the potential of hanging out in parking lots, whether they be at DisneyWorld or NFL stadiums.)

The PSP is touting 300+ (and I predicted last week the final numbers would break 300) but according to the APPA registration page WC is at 298 teams with a handful of D2 Sat-Sun teams unpaid but there registration remains open. So, either APPA is behind the curve or the league is being slightly optimistic with respect to the numbers. No biggy but I'm not a fan of the appearance of fudging.

Over at NPPL 3.0 there's still a couple of days to (officially) get registered and paid for the Vegas finale. Currently 98 teams are registered (not including the pros) and 53 of those have paid. In the last week it looks like the biggest move has been from 5-man teams. 7-man participation continues to look weak even as the NPPL Kids got ahead of the curve with the early confirmation of the 2010 HB event. (Granted, without my glasses I could have missed the fine print but I didn't notice any mention of 7-man in that HB announcement.)
UPDATE: mention of both 7-man & 5-man was in the announcement. I don't consider it an error on my part however 'cus y'all were warned.

Across the pond in Millennium Land the open divisions have finally shown some signs of quivering life as D2 registration is up to 2 teams and M5 has made a move up to 7 teams. Clearly that extra cash on the barrelhead offer is working like a charm. Can anyone doubt the runaway success of the Turkish Experiment? And come to think of it if a failure to sign up early and often encourages more money to be tossed into the prize pot in the lowest divisions of play ... I'm seeing an opportunity. Just saying.

Lastly (and certainly least) the Modest Tour--formerly called the Grand Tour--has all of 11 teams lined up for the season finale in sunny Greece. Oopah!

About The Failed Chicago Olympic Bid


With apology to all Duran Duran fans

Support Paintball

Now all we need is the bumper sticker. Support Paintball. Who knew it was that easy? I mean once we's united in our support of paintball everything will be swell. Won't it?

I don't know about y'all but I just want to tear my hair out when I read some of the mindlessly myopic well intentioned blithering spewed out on the internet. Fortunately I have so little hair left it's hard to get a good grip ... but anyway. The current source of my all-out-of-proportion and increasingly violent urges is the vapid notion that all that is required to put things right is for everyone to support paintball. (Stupidity make Baca angry. And you wouldn't like Baca when he's angry.)

Of course it gets even worse when some of these geniuses start fleshing out the details of their support. Support paintball by playing a tournament series. Support paintball by buying more stuff. Look, I'm all for supporting paintball but I have no patience for empty platitudes or marketing slogans masquerading as a call to action. You want to support paintball first stop for a second and try and figure out that supporting paintball doesn't necessarily mean blindly supporting the status quo. You want to support paintball? Get some of your friends together and go play.

Monday, October 5, 2009

World Cup

I don't know about y'all but I can hardly wait. Weeks of preparation and the culmination of a whole year's effort into one long weekend of paintball. Looking forward to it. I'm hoping once the event gets started I'll stop receiving 400 freaking email blasts a day from the PSP. You know it's getting out of hand when you can't remember the last NPPL blast you got--okay, it was about HB 2010--but still.

The Monday Poll

I was planning on being a lazy slacker this week--what with Cup activities--and skip The Monday Poll but in good conscience I just couldn't do it. No really. (Remember, next week will be the World Cup Losers poll.) Truth is I had nothing and I was okay with that. In fact I was planning on running with it and blaming too much Cup stuff to do--and then I had an idea.

There's been lots of talk about the PSP's webcast. The majority is positive but talk is just that, talk. So with this week's poll I'm interested in digging a little deeper. Tell the truth. (Anonymous confession is ramification free. What more could you want?) I also want to encourage everyone who is serious about competitive paintball to dial the webcast up every day it's available. Most of the time there isn't much we can do about the current state of affairs. With the webcast however you can make a difference. Numbers matter. It's free. It's the world's best paintball on display. On the downside it's a little harder than voting in The Monday Poll--and I know what a challenge that can be. Still. buckle down and do your part. Hey, you don't even have to watch. Just sign up and let's see if we can burn their bandwidth to the ground.

Monday Poll In Review
You crazy kids never cease to surprise me. Given the percentage of voters who only voted once--despite being able to choose as many options as you wish--the lack of cynicism is remarkable. Or, I could be misreading the intent of the voters. For example, a vote for Disney (as a WC winner) implies that Disney was looking to get rid of paintball but did it in the non-confrontational way of pricing it out of the market. Or perhaps in a way in which nobody could be accused of turning down money in a struggling tourist/entertainment economy. But does a vote for the PSP imply a win for the PSP at somebody else's expense? I don't think so but a voter might have seen it differently. The factoid though that both the PSP and Players choices are the leading vote getters suggests to me most of you hard-working voters are responding sincerely. Nice try but I'm not falling for it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Enlistment for the Week

It's back! One mighty leap for Teta, one small step toward world domination. (If Teta is not the newest member of the Deadbox Puppet Army please set me straight in comments. Stupid gadgets.) Willkommen!

VFTD is also pleased to announce the silly season recruiting drive. The target number is a modest 27 additional recruits before Christmas to bring the total to 100. Cut loose. Free yourself from the strings of conventional paintball thinking. Join today. It's the easiest thing a lazy slacker can do. Commemorative 'Cut Your Own Strings' DPA scissors now available!