Monday, November 30, 2009

The Monday Poll

I'm tempted to run a Monday Poll on taking a break from Monday Polls--not because I don't like them but mostly because once you lazy slackers get too used to anything it loses its appeal and the value of the polls is directly related to your participation--or more correctly, lack thereof. But I'm not going to let you off that easy. No by god, there will be a poll and you will have to choose to ignore it. (It's for your own good really because nobody likes a quitter.)
Some time ago VFTD ran a poll looking for the likely number of pro teams in 2010 and unsurprisingly the consensus range ran from 8 to 12. We've also done the which teams will be playing semi-pro next year so it would seem to be about that time to pick the pros for the 2010 season. (Btw, I'm limiting this to the PSP for a couple of reasons. Adding the NPPL will likely skew results involving teams many don't consider "Pro" and I'm leaving out the MS because the list would become cumbersome and much of the dominate North American VFTD audience doesn't really know much about Millennium teams. If anyone wants a Monday Poll on the other pro league leave a comment.)
For this poll you may choose as many or as few from the available list as you think you will see on the field competing next year as PSP pros. And you may (as always) offer other suggestions in the comments.

Monday Poll in Review
Thanks to all who took a moment to add their vote, it is appreciated. I found the results not unexpected but still interesting. Perhaps most surprising was the crossover vote, if you will, from other playing categories of paintball; rec, pump and so on (10% of the total) as they are seldom topics of conversation here. I was also pleased to see a general paintball diversity reflected in the numbers for two reasons; it means there is some fairly broad interest in competitive paintball outside tourney circles and it opens up the possibility of different points of view being part of the ongoing dialogue. I was also happy to see 19% of the vote come from tourney players not part of the national scene as it means VFTD is reaching an important part of the competitive paintball community. The future is not national level events as we know them today. Last, and certainly not least, the industry was well represented with 20% of the vote.

And now for a spot of demographics. The typical poll seems to generate between 70-85 votes over a week's time. There are a few hundred unique visitors a day, low hundreds most days, but still hundreds so there's no good excuse not to see those voting numbers rise. You know who you are. (It's all part of a cunning VFTD plan, by the way. I suck you in by getting a vote or two out of you and before you know it you're adding an occasional comment and in no time at all VFTD actually becomes an ongoing dialogue on competitive paintball even as the shy and retiring types remain anonymous. I don't care who you are, or aren't, or whether your point of view comes with an agenda or not as I am a firm believer that a robust dialogue is its own reward.) (That concludes the VFTD comments drive for 2009.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

MS Looking For A Sugar Daddy

The Millennium kids may not know when or where one (or two) events will be most years until the season is underway but they know what they want in sponsorship cheese and we're not talking wedges or sampler packs either--strictly wheels o' cheese and the larger the better.

But first, where are my manners? Here's hoping you all enjoyed a happy thanksgiving with family and friends. I went to visit my Dad for the holiday and came down with a mysterious strain of the turkey flu which is apparently not contagious and can only be caught when consuming excessive amounts of, who woulda guessed, turkey. (The big dumb bird for those who weren't sure.) By now y'all ought to know my middle name is wretched excess--it used to be danger but I had it legally changed--so I was a prime if unwitting candidate. But never again. I have sworn off turkey for the next 364 days.

So during the holiday what should come over the transom than the 2010 Millennium sponsorship kit and its quite an impressive package. VFTD covered the 09 version last year here and here. (These are actually only related posts. I couldn't find the ones I was looking for. Again. And, you know this story all too well, I got bored and quit looking.) Given that this year's pack is chocked full of Millennium goodness I'm going to try and limit my comments to some of the highlights. Up first is a list of Millennium firsts and highlights that bears a resemblance to reality. That's followed by an incomplete schedule for 2010 though it does include dates and countries this year so that's a plus. Next comes the justification for asking for wheels of cheese as the MS proudly announces the massive media blitz that will accompany this season's events and how that translates into buckets full of exposure for prospective sponsors. And just so you're clear on how massive that media blitz will be the MS goes into great detail on 2009's media blitz. And the list is impressive. Except it's unclear to me how some of the numbers correspond to promotion of sponsors and others are highly questionable. For example there's the generic reach numbers of the TV network but no actual viewer numbers from last season. There's a list of magazines MS reporting or ads appeared in for a total number of MS-related pages in print (and discounting the mags no longer printing and the always inflated claims mags make over readership) the question remains how does that translate into a benefit to the sponsor(s)? Same for the list of other media coverage as well as the exclusive list of internet media outlets covering the Millennium. (And apparently one of us--me or the MS--doesn't understand the meaning of "exclusive.") Then there's the MS website claims. 90K hits a day. Every day of the year. 2.7 million a month and approx. 32.5 million a year. Of course a hit isn't a unique visitor or a page view or a click through on a sponsor's link even so even if the claim is legit (and it isn't) what does it really amount to? But everyone expects the MS (or anybody else) to put the happiest possible face on stuff like this so it isn't a big deal even if it isn't clear what real benefit it provides league sponsors.

The fun news though is the new sponsorship options; the title sponsor or the kryptonite sponsor--take that Superman. (No, I have no idea why they called it a kryptonite sponsorship.) For a mere 150K Euros one lucky sponsor can make this year's series the One Lucky Sponsor Millennium Series in all official publicity. In addition the title sponsor gets all the benefits of the kryptonite sponsorship (100K) including prop colors and logos on the central field and lots of assorted banners, logos and links as well as priority placement in the vendor village blah blah blah. (The kryptonite sponsorship is only available if there is no title sponsor.) My logo is bigger than yours. Now this is actually an interesting idea and pretty common in real sports. How it will translate to the MS is something else again.

Another interesting change is a trader's ghetto for the non-sponsor and one time vendor. The catch is that the trader's products for sale must be covered by a seasonal sponsor and also be vetted by that sponsor in order to have permission to pay through the nose for a spot in the ghetto. For example, Bob's Gun Emporium can only sell markers made by a seasonal gun sponsor and only if the sponsor/maker agrees.

And there is a laundry list of other sponsor options as well. Everything from Arena sponsorship (5K) to SPL field sponsor (15K), field sponsor (7.5K), ref sponsor (7.5K plus 100 goggles, lenses, pants and 200 custom jerseys), field tents, VIP, press, scoreboard/scoresheet, gun rack, field drum and trash can sponsors. All of these are predicated on TV coverage that may or may not actually ever appear on a Eurosport broadcast. My favorites are field tents and trash cans. For 5K you are allowed to provide 200 trash cans to the MS for each event. (Probably like the GIMilsim trash cans at Campaign.) When you think garbage think (your logo here.) And for 5K you get to provide the MS with 50 3 meter square tents that become the property of the MS. But best of all "No charge will be incurred for setting up the tent, cleaning and maintenance and no shipping charges between the events of 2010. No hidden charges and no extra charges will be billed to “Your Company.”

The Millennium may not know where their events will be held yet but they know what they want industry to pay to be a part of them. Even more interesting will be how much sponsors will actually end up paying in order to be an MS sponsor. Finally somebody has figured out how to make TV pay real dividends.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Pros & Cons of Small Ball

There's lots of heat and lots of opinions but not a lot of clarity on the subject of the 50 caliber paintball--depending on who you're inclined to give credence to anyway--but that poses a separate problem. Who to believe. Who to take at face value, if anyone, and how to judge what they tell you about the 50 cal small ball.

So who is on which side? Let's start a list.

The pro small ball crowd includes the obvious suspects in GI Milsim, Smart Parts (such as it is), the Millennium Series (and certainly Laurent Hamet--can a Facefull editorial be far behind?), Kingman and, I'm told, PBL--a big Canadian retailer and Dark Sports in the UK. One might also include the P8ntballer website as supportive but not biased in content.

The con crew, last I heard, includes Tippmann, Dye, Badlands--the other Canadian retail dynamo, and the PSP. There's at least one or two other possibles I'm not yet prepared to list. But the territory here is ripe for speculation. For example, is Procaps con? How to explain the fact KEE, not Procaps is producing GI's paint? And after the long and close association of the PSP with Smart Parts and the brothers Gardner isn't it something of a surprise to find them at odds over this?

Of course not everyone is choosing sides. The kids at Planet Eclipse for example appear to be hedging their bets just waiting to see how this all shakes out. If small ball is a go they're ready, if not, no real harm done.

Clearly this isn't a comprehensive list but it's a start. Who else belongs on the list?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mr. Curious

Mr. C can't remember if he asked about this already or not. (I asked if age was catching up with him and he replied, rather indignantly, that he had no idea how much rum was in the eggnog. Yeah, me either.) Anyway, he's curious as to why KEE (and not Procaps) is producing small ball paint for GI Milsim. Not really a big deal from the outside but positively scandalous from the inside. Go figure.

Mr. C also wonders what Commish Hendsch was doing in Kuala Lampour for the Asia World Cup and whose dime he was doing it on. Does NPPL 2.0 really have the cash to front an international goodwill tour? And last time Mr. C checked they were playing a 5-man format, not 7-man so the chances of drumming up some extra entries for next season doesn't seem like a good bet but maybe Chuck's got a new gig with a new paintball company Mr. C hasn't heard about. Yeah, that could be it.
Mr. C would also like to officially volunteer to be the next commissioner of the NPPL 2.0 and he pledges, right here, right now, not to go further east than Hawaii.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Monday Poll (sorta)

Aight, this week's poll isn't exactly a poll. It's an information gathering device masquerading as a poll but despite that ominous sounding characterization I promise it will be far less intrusive than Amazon and the results will be insufficient to allow me to put the data to nefarious purposes--unlike pretty much everybody else collecting info about you these days, on the net and elsewhere. And besides, you're a risk taker, right? An extreme sportsman even (I can't even type that with a straight face) so it's really no big deal.

This week's not quite a Monday Poll is actually a clever attempt to get an idea of who is reading VFTD. Not who specifically--just who in a general way. What part of paintball do readers self-identify as their particular (or peculiar) niche. See, harmless. But now that I bring it up your kinda curious too, aren't you? Of course you are.

Which of the following options best describes my place in paintball--

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll wanted to know how best to "fix" competitive paintball given that the conventional wisdom insists that something (or even lots of things) are wrong with it but mostly that not enough people are playing. Two weeks ago the poll decided it was the economy stupid and a demographic skewed to the young (and as a consequence) frequently broke. Unsurprisingly 48% of this week's votes went to options that could be interpreted as cost saving measures though only 37% of the total vote has a clear application to cost savings. 12% suggested limited paint. 12% also suggested shorter events and 10% were willing to accept anything that made events cheaper. (Though I think its safe to say that the percentage would drop as soon as the "anything" option was defined in specific terms and that this vote actually reflects a degree of desperation and an uncertainty about how to actually make events cheaper.)
On the other hand 32% were hoping for no more change and suggested leave well enough alone--which may or may not be cost neutral in this context. In any context cost matters but it seems reasonable to conclude the leave it alone vote doesn't see a benefit versus current costs in more changes.
Finally, while one might conclude that if 68% voted for some kind of change that the majority isn't averse to some change I wonder if that's really true given that the majority of the options were fairly specific. For example, the limited paint vote won't necessarily be in favor of a format change or switch to 50 cal small balls. The open ended options that focused on change alone only collected 11% of the vote and, as noted above, 10 of that 11% went to the make events cheaper option.
In any event it will be interesting to see how competitive ballers respond when the league(s) announce the changes for next year.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back To The Future?

The Big Bullet has been running a series of teases / announcements regarding a new pump woodsball league that is in the works. While I begrudge no man (or woman) the brand of paintball they want to play--with the exception of the wackiest of the wacko fringe Rambo wannabes. (Oh, how I miss the days when the magazine would get those big bold misspelled letters written in crayon.) I'm wondering if there is a real market for tourney woodsball and from which branches of paintball they will come. Will they be mostly Old Skoolers? Or dissatisfied scenario guys or disenchanted competition ballers?

I'm also curious what this conception of tourney woodsball is gonna look like. There's already the SPPL out there which is more of a scenario lite hybrid and UWL which (at least sounds like) tends more toward the tourney end of the spectrum but I don't really know how it plays out. And now the National Pump League wants to go further back into the past. Kinda.

Another thing I wonder is if the lessons learned in the tourney game in recent years can be undone in a woodsball environment, particularly in a pump game. How will the skill set priorities change? Will they change? And then there are some of the "problems" that were endemic in the woods. Chief among them unbalanced (unfair) fields and the virtual impossibility of reffing as it's come to be understood and largely accepted in the competition realm.

What about current technology? Sure, they can return the game to low tech, low paint but there's lots of peripheral technology out there that could influence games. Stuff like walkie-talkie phones, companies that can provide yours or others GPS coordinates via your phone, tiny radios, Bluetooth, text messaging and who knows what all else.

Aight, enough with the pessimistic vibe. I guess my point is that you can't really go back again. That tourney paintball in the woods was always something less than the Golden Age of paintball, maybe. Or that cherished memories seldom, if ever, recall the refs or the price of paint or that lousy hole-riddled pallet nobody could live behind. Most of the best memories of paintballin' past revolve around moments and friends. Some of elation and others of frustration. If the NPL can recreate a few of those memories all of Paintball will be the better for it.

Enlistments for the Week

VFTD is pleased to announce the signing of two new recruits over the past week. Joining the DPA are Jii from Helsinki Cyclone and Jokella from the Jokers in Ankara Turkey. Welcome.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Show Me the Money

The Millennium Series, impeccable masters of timing that they are, announce a confirmed Germany event date (but not a location) in the aftermath of a massive riot police raid of an indoor German tournament this past weekend and with no fanfare and even less surprise announce the introduction of 50 cal as a legal paintball for series event use. The letter sent to teams can be seen here on the P8ntballer website. As discussed here (at VFTD) one of the MS owners, Laurent Hamet, was (and is) a proponent of the 50 cal paintball. One interesting question is why?

The Millennium kids tell us why. "As a result we will open up our events to new companies ..." New sponsors prepared to pay. Of course they also say, "There is a growing demand to allow other calibers to participate in The Millennium Series ..." So I guess we are left having to pick and choose what's true and what isn't. Unless you've heard or been part of the growing demand to allow other calibers--in which case please fill me in 'cus I missed it. All kidding aside this sort of, let's call it hyperbole, is the stock and trade of paintball promoters and industry and anyone who has been around the competitive game for any time at all knows how this particular game is played. Now nobody with a modicum of sense begrudges either industry or promoters a profit -- unless of course they are delivering a shoddy product. (I'll leave deciding that part up to you.)

What concerns me about this move is a couple of things. One, it opens the door for the other big leagues to make the jump and "blame" their acquiescence on the other guy. "Hey, would Millennium allow this if it wasn't okay?" And, Two, as far as I know there still hasn't been any definitive effort made to test the 50 cal balls against the current ASTM standards. On that basis alone the safety issue is an unknown.

Beyond that just how are the two calibers going to be integrated? If 50 cal performance is inferior at "normal" velocities is the MS gonna allow higher velocities for the small ball? Can a 50 cal team carry twice as much paint as a 68 cal team? The questions are almost endless. But my biggest question is -- Does anybody responsible for this decision actually give a damn about competitive balance and fairness? On its face it sure doesn't look like it.

Update from Germany

Last weekend news of a police raid on a German tournament hit the web. Initially there were on scene reports that video was shot during the raid and would be edited and posted online. Since then the only posted video has been removed and no additional videos have been posted. A VFTD correspondent reports that almost all mention of the raid have been removed from German paintball sites and it appears a decision was made not to disseminate information about the raid. The basis for this decision is unclear although there seems to be single thread aimed at connecting with the persons involved.
Is the German paintball community being intimidated or acting on advice of legal counsel?

In other related news it is beginning to appear that the raid was retaliation of a sort. VFTD is told the field owner who was raided had previously tipped off the police to the unlicensed operation of a local competitor who was subsequently shut down. Coincidentally the shut down field had strong ties to the new GI Milsim.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rules & Officiating 2

Before I get started today let me clarify a bit of yesterday’s hyperbole. Yes, of course, penalties have a punitive impact–otherwise they wouldn’t be called penalties. And, yes, the intent, in part, is to have those penalties act as deterrents – but, there is a point where deterrence doesn’t work and a point where it becomes overkill. Where that place is can be debated endlessly (I'm sure) but I'm inclined to think that penalties that almost invariably result in a score change is a pretty severe penalty--particularly when it's the assigned penalty for nearly every possible infraction. But maybe that's just me.

Let’s talk football. More specifically the holding penalty. Holding, along with a number of other rules, address what is allowable contact and provide penalties for forms of contact that aren’t allowable. Holding in particular however is instructive because it is a rule that has been re-written a number of times and the current iteration of holding doesn’t come close to barring actual holding, it describes what sorts of holding aren’t a violation of the rules and what sorts are. My point here is this: holding is not an inviolate rule. It is a flexible rule and it is a flexible rule because the first concern is the play of the game. While it is necessary that football have rules that regulate physical contact the rule is rightfully understood to be a means to an end, not an end unto itself. And even under these conditions there is a football truism that says an official can call holding on every play if they chose to–but of course they don’t because it wouldn’t serve the game. (And the reason a holding penalty could be called on any and every play is because blocking and aggressive physical contact are elements of the game play–not because everybody is a compulsive cheater.) My larger point is that until competitive paintball writes a rule book based on what game we want to play the result will be a rule book that results in something less. And I would go further and argue the current rule book(s) are little more than band-aids on top of past band-aids that, each in their turn, simply addressed problems that arose over time but have never been considered as the foundational means of describing and defining the game we want to play.

Now this is necessarily a rather esoteric argument and one that might be difficult to grasp (or easy to ignore) but today’s game isn’t yesterday’s game and the rules (and the common interpretation of those rules) ought to reflect today’s game.

The other aspect of this I’d like to address is the very limited nature of the penalties paintball assesses and the potential for disparate impact of those penalties. Ever since the game was 15 on 15 (at least) bodies have been pulled as a form of penalty. But what made sense in a slow paced game with 15 or even 10 players strikes me as overkill in a lot of common penalty situations when playing the format formerly known as xball. The penalty needs to fit the infraction. Or else the penalty should only be assessed when it literally has a game altering effect and redress is required.

Player A makes a move from one dorito to the next upfield dorito and comes up shooting. In making the move Player A is hit. By rule Player A has committed (at least) a minor infraction that should result in pulling another body. But how often in the couple of seconds it takes the ref to signal the player out does it actually affect the other team one or two bodies worth? (And how often do real live refs actually make that call by the letter of the rules? They certainly don’t in the pro game.) But I can hear the sticklers beginning to whine that it isn’t fair. Player A broke the rules and must be penalized. To not penalize him encourages more of the same. (But then so does the nature of the game.) To which I respond of course it isn’t fair but the nature of our current rules and penalties means somebody pays an unfair price. One question that follows is how do we minimize that unfairness. The other question is what impact does any given rule have on the play of the game?

(For those who will argue a definition of "fairness" that, in practice, dramatically alters the outcome of scoring points – or even assigning points – that issue really comes down to what impacts the play of the game with the minimum impact. Sure, you can try to pummel violators into submission but as the NTP posts suggest that actually following the letter of the rules in every instance doesn’t make the game fair, it can make it unplayable. Remember that whole rules aren’t the ends, they ought to be the means? This is where the rubber meets the road.)

Am I trying to say the game is all screwed up? Not at all. (It does amazingly well sometimes considering.) What I am saying is that the playability of the game is dependent on the officiating and varying application of the rules results in wildly different experiences on the field of play. And if we want to create and provide as much consistency as possible it begins with rules designed with the gaming experience we want to promote in mind and with a unified interpretation for the referees to rely on when they are officiating actual game play. No big deal really.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rules & Officiating

This is the continuation of the Name That Penalty trilogy of posts found here, here, and here. If you missed them first time around (or skipped them) or just plain forgot them ‘cus it’s been so damn long do a quick review because the content of this post assumes familiarity with the ‘Name That Penalty’ (NTP) trio of posts. (If you are wondering why I didn't stick with the 'Name That Penalty' series title for all related posts you haven't been here long, have you? I'm afraid that would be too easy and make too much sense. That, and I'm switching gears a bit with these follow-up posts. What can I say? Embrace the eccentricity. Or, for the geek crowd, resistance is futile.)

Each of the NTP posts posits a very common situation in the format formerly known as xball. Each of the NTP posts asked readers to describe the outcome as a decision made by the refs. And as one might have easily predicted there was no unanimity in the responses. Now this could be attributed to the limited information supplied or an incorrect understanding of the rules–since at least theoretically Faction’s interpretation must be correct given that he wrote them–but regardless, the point was (and remains) that situations that occur potentially dozens of times in a single match are open to interpretations that include no penalty assessed to possibly minor or major penalty assessments. Each one requiring the judgment of a referee. And in less time than it takes to read, much less, a referee must decide what the appropriate outcome should be and act accordingly. (And we haven’t even begun to touch on the touchy topic of whether a particular penalty really is appropriate given the game we claim we want to play. That’s tomorrow.)
In the running and gunning a corner scenario the player may or may not know he was hit and cannot know if the ball broke. The question then becomes what do the rules require him to do? Apparently he is allowed to finish his run but not continue shooting. So how many steps is he allowed if any? For that matter how long does it take to recognize a possible hit and then stop shooting? How does the ref know whether or not the player in question did or didn’t stop shooting? The whole run takes no more than 3 seconds.
At this point a couple of factors come into play. Let’s consider this first in terms of risk/reward. As a practical matter would anyone trade two seconds of shooting their gun for two players removed from his team? Of course they wouldn’t but not everyone acts sensibly all the time either but the real hazard here is the ambiguity. What does the player understand the rule to be? Will the ref call it or not? Did the player realize he was hit? And so on.
The other question I have here is about the fairness–or appropriateness--of a penalty assessed and its’ deterrence value. (I’m not a big advocate of penalty as deterrent, btw.) As a practical matter we have a gun being fired for anywhere from 1 to 3 seconds too long and the penalty is the removal of one or two players; 20% or 40% of the team for a given point. Is that an appropriate penalty or is that an attempt to deter a behavior? Can it be both at the same time? Does it in fact deter or does a combination of inconsistent interpretation, the speed of the game and the value players and teams assign to the ability to run and shoot simply create an oft-repeated situation that results in a frustrating crapshoot? [This applies to divisional play as this is not a call made in the pro game 99% of the time–though every once in a blue moon ...]

In the second NTP scenario we have a snake runner hit in the legs below the hips. Break or no break? When, and where, does the player check? (Here’s where a case could be made that Faction got his own rules wrong as 2.8.7 says a player in motion must move to the "nearest cover.") So unless the possible hit occurs at the last possible moment the snake runner, and the corner runner for that matter, should not continue running to their primary but stop at the "nearest cover" and, in fact, be liable for some assessed penalty if they don’t in any situation where the player may or may not be eliminated and can’t know which at the time it happens. Is that the way you want to play the format formerly known as xball. Me either.

Look, I’m running long so I’ll stop for now. Real world officiating is not and probably can’t be as clean and simple as rule book rulings because the rulebook can’t cover all the possibilities. For example, the current PSP rule book doesn’t even include a definition of playing on–it simply assumes in a couple of places that everyone knows what playing on is.

First things first, penalties need to be appropriate to the infraction and refs need to know the whole rule book. In addition a handy item for promoting consistent officiating might be a Referees Guide to the Rule Book written by somebody other than Chris.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Monday Poll

This week's poll continues on the general topic of competitive paintball. Last week's poll was looking for the source(s) of the apparent decline in participation. This week VFTD wants to know what you think needs to be done to help fix the decline in competitive paintball, if anything.

What's the first thing you would do to try and "fix" competitive paintball?

The first thing you will notice is that there is no reduce entry fees or similar options related to making the events cheaper. The reason is it would skew the poll as all you lazy slackers would immediately opt for the easy answer that costs somebody else money. Most of the options might impact cost but those that apply directly don't allow you, the voter, to choose how costs are reduced so if you pick one of those options you are agreeing with the general idea that reducing costs is necessary no matter what it entails. And as usual, if you choose 'Other' and actually have something else in mind please post it up in comments and it will be greatly appreciated. (Otherwise I twist and turn at night unable to sleep wondering what 'Other' you meant when you voted.)

Here's your opportunity to solve one of the nagging problems facing paintball today and it's as simple as clicking a mouse.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll was about the decline in competitive paintball participation and the one certain thing we can take from the poll is that the nearly unanimous opinion (98% - 2%) is that competitive paintball is definitely in decline. (While believing it to be true doesn't make it necessarily true that's not relevant to the poll--though it may be relevant in the real world.) 23% either couldn't make up their minds or thought it was a goulash of factors all contributing to the downturn. 21% laid the bulk of the blame on the economy at large while another 14% claimed it was simply too expensive. Add 'em up and you have 58% of the vote that attributes the decline to cost in one way or another.
The other double digit response was that there are too few new players entering the ranks of competitive ballers. Followed by it's not as much fun (9%) the new generation is too young (7%) the new formats are too demanding (5%).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Burning Question

How much "support" are the forces behind 50 cal offering the Big Leagues to accept an unproven product?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

50 Cal Update for Mr. Curious

In a follow-up I didn't want to get lost in the comments of an old post here's what VFTD regular Frederick Rodrigues from France put up in comments yesterday. (Thanks, Fred!)

A little update about pricing. Laurent Hamet - Millennium, Sup'Airball and Facefull owner announced on a french board that the .50 cal box will be 50% cheaper than the actual .68 cal. Yes you got it, 50% cheaper!! It means that tournament players could buy their high grade tournament paint at a range of 24€ to 30€ ($36 to $45) Since few weeks now, the french market is suppressed with the whole .50cal marketing process. L. Hamet claims that the .50 cal is the only way to save paintball, Profusion - official GI MilSim dealer in France, broadcast tests about accuracy and new range of products, Kingman, Dye and Eclipse also joined the party. Oh! And last but not least, L. Hamet let us know that the Millennium Series could feature both of caliber on his fields in the upcoming season.

History Lesson

The Big Bullet has posted an excellent history of the 50 caliber paintball as part of the site's editorial take on the push to bring the small ball back. Well worth the read if you missed 50 cal the first time around. The link is in the title. Check it out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ask Baca

Gonna try a new feature and see how it works out. I realize this runs counter to the lazy slacker creedo and will require some meager percentage of VFTD readers to actually do something but it's not like I'm sitting at the keyboard waiting with my fingers crossed. So, if some of y'all are interested, that's cool and if not, c'est la vie.

Here's the deal. Got a question you'd like an official VFTD response to? Drop me an email. Got a suggestion for a topic VFTD ought to address? Drop me an email. Got a killer idea for a Monday Poll? Drop me an email. Feeling lonely and need a shoulder? Get a dog.
Additionally, there's tons o' stuff been posted in the last year plus here at VFTD. Try out the Lost & Found and if (when) that doesn't work to dredge up past pearls of VFTD wisdom--well, drop me an email and I'll see what I can do. (All past posts have keywords but honestly the Google search function doesn't seem to work all that well--and you never know when I gave something a bizarre and/or incomprehensible keyword link to begin with.) So there you go. Wanna give it a try, knock yourself out.

Ask Baca responses will be posted on Fridays and I'll answer as many of the requests as possible or until I get bored. Oh yeah, questions are limited only in their general relevance to competitive paintball. Anything from game theory to bunkering technique. It's up to y'all.

VFTD Stuff

Right, I missed last week's enlistment announcement. Maybe the last couple of weeks. Oops. Not like it mattered as the DPA has actually lost a member. I blame the economy. I'll try to keep up but if anyone does decide to enlist drop me a note so I don't overlook anyone else. Thanks.

UPDATE: Is the lost recruit back or is there a new enlistee? Help me out.

Remember my effort a couple (or more?) weeks ago to try and stop the onslaught of "friends" dropping Facebook requests into Baca's emailbox? Well, it didn't work very well. In fact, it only precipitated an ongoing wave of daily requests that continue to clutter the place up. So, I'ma try a new tactic--I surrender. I will be converting the Facebook page into a VFTD-oriented page (maybe this weekend sometime) and hopefully it will be possible to do all the cool internet friends thing without my direct participation. If not--well, I guess I'll cross that bridge when the time comes. Maybe y'all can hang out and be friends with each other.

Picking up the 'Name That Penalty' series next week, probably on Tuesday. Finishing those posts will have priority so unless something big comes up ...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Association of Paintball Field Operators

Perhaps the one thing everyone can agree on is that the local field is the portal into paintball for the new (or prospective) player. And as such the outcome of that first paintball experience is (or ought to be) of prime importance not only to that individual field operator but also to PBIndustry, other field operators, store owners and even, according to conventional wisdom, all true sportsmen of the paintball variety.

The following is not a new idea. It is, in fact, an old failure of an idea. At least past efforts to implement this idea have been a failure. But the idea remains a good one. Perhaps even a necessary one and it may be that only in difficult times for the industry as a whole that this idea has any real hope of being supported, not out of foresight but out of desperation. At any rate the inspiration (and credit) for this post goes to one of VFTD's Euro correspondents who brought the subject up in a conversation the other day. And, as it struck me as both self-evident and timely, it was perfect for a post. (Possibly one of many as I so enjoy repeating myself.)

The idea is the post title; the (formal, organized) association of paintball field operators. But not like the CFOA or the Norcal variety which are tournament series. More of a PSTA-like organization for field owners in order to provide assistance for individual operators as well as operating standards designed to assure that members are best positioned to draw and retain new customers. (It is my understanding the PSTA intends to act in something like this capacity, at least in part, but that doesn't negate the potential value of an association completely focused on promoting paintball fields.) In addition, should the association ever gain widespread participation it would have the ability to act on a universal basis that is beyond the local field in a variety of diverse areas like marketing and insurance. A strong association would also be a position to act proactively on behalf of its individual members. It's a big idea with big potential and almost limitless benefits.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Since the ubiquitous Faction (raehl) seems to be engaging in a quiet crusade to promote the notion of hopperball (and some people are easily led astray) I've decided to devote a post to the subject. On its face it may seem simple and self-evident. If the problem is the cost of paint in the volumes required then the solution is to require less. Much less. Now the typical baller is likely to respond, "That's stupid." But what they really mean is it's different and I don't like different. (Which sums up the majority of thought behind most of the objections to any proposed changes.) But that isn't a particularly good argument.

In fact I'm not going to argue against hopperball. In certain applications. If some bold tourney promoter wants to try and use hopperball as an introduction into competitive paintball or as a variant of beginner tourney play I see no reason to object. (Of course it isn't going to happen. See reaction of typical baller above.) But if it did ... it wouldn't solve all of competitive paintball's problems but it might have some utility. So my first suggestion to Faction if he is actually serious is let's see hopperball succeed on some level, any level. Convince somebody somewhere to play hopperball and see what happens. Otherwise it's a pointless endeavor in which you are advocating, for whatever reason, swinging the pendulum all the way back in the opposite direction.

The implication I do want to address is that hopperball is the answer for competitive paintball. Because it isn't--unless we are willing to dramatically alter the way the game is played. Once upon a time--stop me if I've told this story before (good luck with that)--I participated in a practice where we decided to use pumps. This was prior to the introduction of the format-formerly-known-as-xball so the result wasn't immediately predictable (as it ought to be today.) One team came up with the crazy idea that armed with pumps the other guys couldn't control lanes or put enough paint into the air fast enough to deter a really aggressive offensive push so when the whistle was blown for the first game that team just ran down the field and overwhelmed the other side in seconds. You see, while much of the movement vs. firepower conversation has gone the other way in recent years it works both ways. Too little firepower and you can't contain or control movement at all. For highly skilled players in our present format hopperball would initially invite trainwreck paintball but it wouldn't last long because the outcome would be too random to be acceptable for those focused on winning. In very short order changes in style of play would be made in order to have more control over results. And these changes would be guided by a commonplace concept; scarcity.

A hopper full of paintballs (and no more) puts a premium on their use that doesn't currently exist (even though players can, and do, occasionally run out of paint.) A hopper of paint dramatically alters risk/reward in how that paint is used compared to current practices. It would re-prioritize the game's skill set to focus on fundamentally defensive skills like accuracy and snap-shooting. (Yes, those are defensive skills even if they can be used in conjunction with offensive efforts.) And the scarcity of paint would also change game tactics. The ultimate priority would be to limit the use of your paint to only the highest reward type situations and this would drive a large number of teams to re-embrace a defensive posture wherein the opponent comes to them given that field position would no longer play a critical role in success. (For the simple reason that superior positions are superior largely because of the available firepower.) In fact proximity in a hopperball environment would only invite an aggressive attack because the capacity to defend against it won't exist. The end result is slow, pot-shotting points with teams and players seeking to avoid as much risk as possible in order to enhance their odds of winning.

Hopperball would certainly "solve" the paint bill problem but at what cost to the game? Is that really a trade-off anyone wants to make?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

(Not Very) Musical Chairs

You know the game, don't you? The game begins with one less chair than there are players. The players march around the chairs while the music plays and as soon as it stops the players sit down on a chair--except the one player left without. That player is eliminated, another chair is removed and the music starts up again. The winner is the last player to sit down on a chair when the music stops.

Pro paintball has been playing musical chairs for awhile now and this is the time of year the music begins to play. But pro paintball musical chairs is a little different. The teams are the players and industry provides the chairs and chooses when the music plays--and stops. Of course there is some playing of the gray in that a team or two is able to sneak their own chairs into the game but the end result remains the same. When the music stops there are players left without a chair. Much like last year the haves and the have nots will largely be separated by paint. And it won't be tournament paint at issue, it will be practice paint. Unfortunately there is also a trickle down effect. The state of the current game demands certain levels of commitment in order to be a serious competitor and there are today, and will be tomorrow, bubble teams that may have "enough" resources to continue but not enough to compete. Those teams will be filling a space and they will soon begin to ask themselves if it is worthwhile. Is there a chance things will change sufficiently that next year or the year after might be different?

Unfortunately the leagues don't seem willing or able to address this issue. (Why should they, you ask? Because when the music stops and the game is over nobody will be the winner. That's why.) Industry seems ambivalent, unwilling to give up tournament paintball altogether but also unwilling or unable to support the creature they helped create. And too many teams continue to wallow and wait. Instead everyone is focused on survival. Sadly, survival is not usually a winning strategy. For anybody. Sometime in the hopefully not too distant future the leagues, the industry, the teams will realize things gotta change. This game of attrition won't satisfy anyone at the end of the day. (Been watching too much SportsNation.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Monday Poll

The conventional wisdom is that competitive paintball is in trouble--or if not exactly trouble, it's stagnating. This malaise mirrors a general decline in paintball participation, or at least a quantifiable drop in overall sales of new paintball equipment compared to the early years of this decade. Theories abound as to the specific causes.

Among the favorites are the economy; it's too expensive; the decline in new players has trickled down to competitive paintball; a younger player demographic; the transition from rec to tourney has become an intimidating gap largely because of high ROF gats & a perennial fave, too many punk ass kids (which isn't the same as the younger demographic because it refers to a type of kid playing tourney ball.) All of these possible reasons have some traction. Otherwise we couldn't keep hearing them proposed as sources of the decline of tourney ball. But I've got a couple of others I want to throw into the mix--and then it will be time to vote.

If you buy into the younger demographic argument isn't the question then what caused that demographic movement toward youth? And isn't the answer to that, the xball format? Seems to me the format eliminated a bloc of players simply by being too physically and athletically demanding. Or how about this: The transition from hobby to sport has killed a lot of the fun of competing. (This one is gonna get confused with the fun of traveling around, playing & partying. What I'm talking about is just having fun playing the game.)

Now it's your turn. Time to cast your vote. Competitive paintball is in decline because--

While the polls are fun (for me, anyway) of greater interest to VFTD is what peeps in a position to influence the direction of competitive paintball think is true and what they've chosen to do about it. Consider all the possible reasons for the current state of competitive paintball and ask yourself what anybody has done and what has been the result. I'm just saying.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Monday Poll in Review

On a Sunday. Last week's poll question was: Which league will make the biggest off-season changes? This is a tough call. What is a big change? If the Millennium dropped their locked divisions in the SPL and D1 would that be bigger than if, say, the NPPL went to a capped ROF?

The Review this week is a separate post 'cus I'm hoping to encourage y'all to comment. 58% of the vote went NPPL, while 33% was cast for the PSP and the MS came up a distant third at 7%. Regardless of the percentage let's hear what changes you expect each league to make and explain why one change is a bigger deal than another. And if you've got no idea what's coming what do you think each league ought to do to improve? Or are you a pessimist and expect the biggest changes to be negative ones?

Oh, and one other possible topic of discussion. Which league should make the fewest changes?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Name That Penalty 3

This is the third, and last, scenario I'm gonna ask you to evaluate. (Yes, I know, it's dragging out but things happen. The good stuff is coming.)

Player X is tucked into an Aztec attempting to control a lane. An aggressive cross field move puts an opponent into a position to shoot Player X in the pack. One paintball breaks on a pod still in Player X's pack. Player X doesn't indicate in any way knowledge that he's been hit and continues to play--which includes periodic bursts of fire.
What does the ref do? A) signal the player eliminated. B) signal the player eliminated, throw the yellow flag, and assess a minor penalty. C) signal the player eliminated, throw the red flag, and assess a major penalty.

Next time I visit these scenarios I'm going to break each one down and use some of your contributions in the collective comments to illustrate the points I want to make about rules & officiating.

The game is not in service to the rules. Read that again. Too often rules are designed (and/or enforced) to address some specific "problem." The process confined to consider narrow issues or effect convenient changes. The potential problem with those practices is that the rules define the game as it is played but that isn't the game. (Stay with me.) Competitive paintball didn't begin as a set of rules. It began as a concept, an idea, like every other game and sport. And the rules are written, first and foremost, in order to construct a playable version of the concept. The game is not in service to the rules, the rules are (or should be) in service of the game.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Saving Paintball?

I can almost feel the hate already. You see, I checked out SavePaintball after seeing the Nicky interview over at ProPaintball. And instead of being uplifted by a noble effort it left me feeling vaguely suspicious. I know, I ought to be ashamed of myself but I'm just not. What can I say? About all I can promise is that no puppies and only a few kittens were harmed during the writing of this post. Well, that and I contacted the savepaintball peeps to give them an opportunity to offer their side--and they made a dent. A small dent in the soft melon I call my head. Let's say I'm not totally convinced yet but ... we'll see.

Right about now (if I were you) I'd be asking myself the rhetorical question: Who appointed this guy Guardian of Paintball and why should I care what he thinks? The simple answers are nobody and no reason why you should. Nor do I expect you to. However, this is what VFTD does, question any and everything related to competitive paintball.

Here's the thing that bothered me right away: the sum of the site as it exists now is a few pithy paragraphs of virtually substance free emotionalism wrapped around a campaign to generate email addresses. The site consists of 5 pages and those 5 pages provide 16 opportunities to sign up for the newsletter, connect via Facebook or become a fan. The home page proclaims (one of ) their purpose(s)--"a movement to educate players to grow paintball in their community" and for the slightly thick educate and grow are in bold. But I couldn't find any content that seemed directed at accomplishing either education or growth. Well, except the growth of The educate page makes unsubstantiated claims, acknowledges the numbers may be wrong but claims it's too serious a concern not to act. And how do you act? By signing up. By joining the movement. On the join page SavePaintball is about sparking conversation and providing a platform for exchanging ideas. Okay, so where is it? This platform. Is it gonna be a forum or what? At best the change page seems like a mixed message--Are we saving paintball or taking the sport of paintball to the next level? And while I'm at it how 'bout a clue as to what sort of change does anybody (somebody?) have in mind? Sign up and find out. We are the change we have been waiting for. See, I can do it, too.
Try as I might all I found was a concerted effort to convince ballers to join SavePaintball. There aren't any answers. Not even any suggestions. Or even a consistent message.

There's nothing sinister about any of that and I might be misreading it completely. One might reasonably give the project the benefit of the doubt, despite reservations, and consider it a work in progress. Where's the harm? I may not be impressed by the wrapper but that's not really all that important anyway. So that's what I'm going to do. Give the project a chance. From their emails the guys doing this have some potentially productive ideas--some concrete plans--although they don't seem to be altogether on the same page yet. Assuming the work in progress status let's wait and see what actually happens. After all, it's not what you say that matters, it's what you do.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Responding to Mr. Curious

It seems Mr. C.'s curiosity struck a nerve or two yesterday. As a consequence VFTD feels obliged to pass along some info and continue the 50 cal conversation--at least for another day. Among the info received was a retail price comparison that suggests 50 cal prices could undercut current 68 cal pricing anywhere from around 15% up to around 40% for tourney grade paint. These prices apply to a particular market and might not be matched across the board but provide a place to begin. I am not dismissing that 40% difference out of hand in part because my paint guy suggested some months ago the manufacturing cost reduction could easily go as high as 40%--not that the two circumstances are equivalent. Be that as it may the other consideration is the pricing given for comparison was msrp and at least in my neck of the woods msrp doesn't mean a whole lot. What would be really interesting to discover is the mark-up given the 50 cal prices quoted relative to the 68 cal mark-ups. That would give us a clearer idea of a couple of things. For example, is the 50 cal paint a money maker or is it a means to an end? (Remember, at this point GI Milsim is not a paint manufacturer. Their paint is being produced for them so my question is: Are they taking a mark-up in distribution and if so how much does it affect the retail profit margins?)
In addition it would seem that at least all the GI Milsim 50 cal is PEG based. (I don't know if everyone producing 50 cal is PEG also or not.) Simply put this means the present results are based on the most expensive variant of paint production. That doesn't leave a lot of room for improvement but, then again, it may not matter.

Btw, should GI Milsim or anyone else involved wish to dispute anything posted with respect to 50 cal etc. VFTD would be happy to post, unaltered and in its entirety, any authorised communication in an effort to give readers a full & fair view of the subject. That, of course, goes for any other topic as well and applies to teams, players, industry and paintball-related organizations who wish to make a public statement regarding VFTD content.

While the promotional tactics and claims offered by the 50 cal crowd have a certain odor about them I'm not particularly bothered. As a cynic I suppose that's what I expect. And if the 50 cal peeps can convince enough field operators and retailers to make the move it probably won't matter whether or not it's cheaper for the customer, it'll happen eventually anyway. I can even see it being welcomed amongst the milsim members of the scenario crowd and siphoning off those rec players motivated by playing war games--all well and good. But a couple of things do concern me. One is safety and the other is a short-sighted view that allows another "new idea" to sweep in and alter the competitive game--again--without taking the time to think through the consequences. On the safety front it seems as if almost nothing has been done to test the 50 cal ball within the environment it will be used and with the current equipment. We don't even know what velocities are either practical and/or safe (300 fps gives significantly reduced performance compared to a 68 cal ball) yet it's full speed ahead. Apparently the paint passes thru the loose weave upper half of field netting and I'm hearing that it does the same with the venting on some goggles. Is any of this stuff a concern or just an excuse to re-make the entire market?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mr. Curious

The whole 50 cal business has Mr. C. flummoxed. He's so confused. He doesn't know where to begin. Before one question gets answered satisfactorily somebody else is making a new claim about the benefits of the 50 cal ball and the whole process starts all over again. Mr. Curious isn't an unreasonable guy and he's willing to consider a product with some potential trade-offs but all he wants to know right now, today, is what the price of a case of 50 cal paint is gonna be. Up front, not whispered to some likely dealer with nothing written down. Disseminated to the public at large in black & white because if the 50 cal paint isn't going to be decisively cheaper for the consumer the rest of the conversation is a waste of breath.

Name That Penalty 2

This time it's a snake runner off the break. Once again the player is hit in the legs during the run. The paintball breaks and leaves a mark. The player may or may not have felt the hit. The player dives into the snake and tucks up tight behind snake one.
Based only the information given what is the correct outcome? A) the referee signals the player out and the player is eliminated. B) the referee throws a yellow flag, calls the player out and assesses a minor penalty. C) the referee signals the player out and assesses a major penalty.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Monday Poll

Buckets of riblets and bottles of Dewar's are disappearing as weary discussions last deep into the night in a secluded corner booth at the neighborhood Applebees. The hum of intense conversation carries strained voices as conference call after conference call amid spates of email process the latest dialogue. And the barely audible percussion of a jolly oompah band hangs suspended in the thick air of a windowless basement room playing counterpoint to the repetitious sound of jangling coins as an antique calculator rapidly converts Euros into Sterling. The PSP and NPPL 3.0 (USPL) are already hard at work on the 2010 season. Even the MS have leaked the unconfirmed dates and locations for next season in a likely bid to appear proactive compared to last year' s indecision. Long talks are taking place and big decisions are being made. Change is in the air, but how much? Will there be rules changes? Will there be format changes? Will there be entry and or prize changes? Will there be more or fewer locked divisions in major league paintball? The list of unknowns is long. The time grows shorter everyday. Decisions are likely to be announced earlier than ever in order to give potential sponsors and teams an opportunity to fully prepare and make decisions of their own.

This week's Monday Poll asks Which league will make the biggest off-season moves?

Monday Poll in Review
Last week wanted to know which teams would be playing PSP semi-pro in 2010. Across the board the vote was soft--even on the listed teams that played semi-pro last year; XSV, RNT, Aftermath 2 and PBV--with no team receiving more than 68% of the vote. (I am, of course, discounting the possibility than some percent of the voters were semi-literate goobers who only voted for one team instead of all the teams they thought would be playing semi-pro next year. Your calculation may differ.) In general existing Race 2 (xball) teams were preferred over the majority of the rumored 7-man candidates although Xplict, Arsenal and Mutiny all received notable percentages. Otherwise, much of the voting seemed either a smattering of the usual suspects or a reflection of voters favorite teams. And in something of a surprise the poll proved to be of less general interest than VFTD expected.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Name That Penalty

The horn sounds. Both teams are on the break. Player X is running & gunning a corner bunker. He is hit on one of his legs below hip level during his run. He shoots all the way into his primary. Protected by his bunker Player X immediately checks his leg for a break.
Does the action described result in A) no penalty with the ref signaling the player is eliminated, or B) a minor with the ref signaling the player is eliminated or C) a major penalty with the ref signaling the player is eliminated.

I realize many of you are sufficiently creative to complicate this scenario almost endlessly. What if the player misses the hit? What if the ref waits to see what the player does next. Etc. Etc. None of those complications are to the point. The point is this is a simple, oft-repeated situation. Take it as given and answer A, B or C.

And, yes, for those thinking ahead there is a point. One we'll be getting around to in the not-too-distant-future.

Odds 'n Ends

Just a few assorted comments on various items posted recently or that have come up related to recent posts. But first--
I'd like to take a moment to congratulate PBN and the online paintball community for the Paintballers for Peyton effort and to let Darryl and the Trent family know they are in our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery for Peyton. If you are unfamiliar with the situation or the effort promoted by PBN and want to know more take a look here.

Regarding the final event of the Millennium season held in Antalya Turkey the seemingly universal response from participating teams has been that the venue was brilliant. So it would seem apart from the late announcement of the Turkey location and the ridiculous scheduling in the face of all the locked division no-shows the MS got something right. You know what they say--even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

The weak response to the 'Name that American' post only served to reinforce a personal prejudice or two. (I do however appreciate the effort made by a few of you. Thanks, but there were not enough knowledgeable responses to merit awarding a prize.) First, most American ballers couldn't care less what happens some place else and two, most Euroballers would rather have a drink with a "celebrity" American baller than actually learn anything about playing the game. (Which doesn't really bode all that well for my prior contention that at least the upper echelon of Euroball isn't too far off the U.S. standard, does it? Nor does the fact that virtually all the top ranked CPL teams sport apparently anonymous American--or roamin' Canadian players on their rosters.)