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?