Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pro*file: Grayson Goff

Name: Grayson Goff
Age: 24
Hometown: Austin, TX
Occupation: Insurance Advisor
Family (siblings, pets): One sister, Three dogs, and 30 some odd horses
General interests other than paintball: Golf, working out, and good times with good friends.

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?
Well, one of my friends in grade school was having a birthday party. I didn't know him to well so when he called to invite me I thought it was a little strange. Turns out one of his other friends couldn't make because of a vacation so they invited me so teams would be even. I got introduced to paintball because I was this kid's 11th friend and I've pretty much been playing every weekend possible since.

2. What team do you play for now?

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
ArchAngels, Smart Parts Factory, Vaqueros

4. Who helped you become the player you are?
Jack Withers, Gerald and Rich Garcia, Alex Martinez and the rest of the BKiT

5. Who are your favorite paintball players?
This year would be J-Rab. He played out of his mind and was a big reason for the Russians success. The American line had always been the weak link and he changed that with gamebreaker after gamebreaker. I don't see him slowing down in 2010 either.

6. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
It may seem kinda strange with two wins under my belt, but our 2nd place finish against the Russians in MAO. To be more specific, It was our first finals appearance and that feeling you get before playing it is a hard one to describe. I personally enjoy the thrill of not yet knowing the outcome of things, guess it's why I love gambling too. All you can think about is all the hard work you've put in to get here and how it all finally paid off. We give up a lot to play a sport that one day will probably cripple me, I don't get paid anything, and I've sacrificed a lot of things to be where I am today.

7. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done in order to play paintball?
I missed my high school graduation to tryout for a team. All my friends thought paintball was stupid back then. Look at them now, more than half of them are slaving away at life while I travel the world and live the dream.

8. What is the single most important lesson the up and comer needs to learn?
The hardest thing to teach new players is the thinking aspect of the game. Paintball is like playing speed chess with someone shooting at you, people yelling in your ear the whole time, and your adrenaline is jacked. If you can't make good decisions in these circumstances then you'll never be a great paintball player. The best way I learned myself was watching games. And when I say watching games, I'm not talking about how people usually watch games. They just sit there and wait for the next cool move. When I was developing my knowledge, I'd watch a game and analyze every aspect of it as it unfolded. Soon I began to analyze games while I was on the field playing and it helped me start making better decisions.

9. What makes Texas unique in the world of competitive paintball?
I think Texas is a real unique place for paintball as of recently. When I grew up playing against guys like Archie, the Odells, the Cohen, and Dixon, we had two solid tournament series that everyone attended and I think that's a big part of why X-Factor has been so successful. For some reason, all the leagues collapsed here in Texas. The only thing left are rookie 3-man or random open tournaments leaving the whole state fractured by cities and regions. So when we went looking for talent this year I wasn't expecting what showed up at our front door.
Out here in Texas we've never had another pro team to model ourselves after. States like Florida and California have such rich paintball backgrounds and it's easy for kids to see what the pro paintball level is and try and obtain it. We didn't have that out here. All we saw of other pro teams was at tournaments so we had to figure things out for ourselves as we went. It also kept us somewhat immune from pro teams cherry-picking our players until recently...

10. Do you (or any of your teammates) have any superstitions related to playing paintball?

I pretty much wear the same head gear for the whole year weather permitting. I also always have a microfiber in my left pocket and a tool in my right because I have lazy teammates. :-)
I'd like to thank my sponsors for this year: Empire, Eclipse, Invert, RPS, Gen-X Global, and Alex Martinez. Also a special thanks to my Belgium team Breakout Spa!

Thanks Grayson, way to get the sponsors in there.

If you want to keep up with Grayson, or his evil twin, George, check him out at MWGO.
UPDATE: Of course I didn't change the photo. Do you think I'd get something like that wrong? C'mon!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Great Divide

First appeared the moment–yes, the very moment–someone saw competitive paintball as sport and sport leading to money. That moment may not have arrived for everyone at precisely the same time but close enough for horse shoes and hand grenades. The initial efforts to position themselves to take advantage were the NXL and The 18. The NXL began as 10 franchise teams that owned equal shares of their league. The 18 was NPPL 1.0's response; the league restricted access to the pro division and structured the upper divisions to function kinda like UK soccer leagues with promotion and relegation. In both cases it was leagues and teams preparing for the next step in competitive paintball’s development; quasi-mainstream sports acceptance and outside granola. While we know how that’s worked out so far the great divide is something that isn’t often discussed though it still exists, and if we’re lucky, will one day be a real problem.

The NXL was modeled on mainline American sports; the 18 on European club sports. If the NXL had succeeded there would have been a single entity with multiple partners and a well worn path for growth and development, cooperation and profit sharing already built in. If the 18 had succeeded things likely wouldn’t have been as smooth and this is where the great divide comes in. NPPL 1.0 held all the cards, controlled promotion and relegation and but only offered a promise of trickle down success–if the league scores the TV prize "we" all win. Well, yes and no. The league certainly would have been a winner but no matter how you slice it the structure pitted the pro teams against the league in the effort to gain sponsors. And still does. It is the state that exists today and has existed since the league(s) went from sanctioning body to event promoter(s). And that conflict is the great divide. Ignored when times were flush, ignored when TV was right around the next corner and ignored until it was too late when the sponsor dollars stopped raining like pennies from heaven.

Today’s landscape is a little different, in some ways the roles are reversed. A different league has an ownership group made up of teams while the other has no answer for what comes with success–but it isn’t yet a meaningful great divide. NPPL 3.0 could be poised on the brink of success but it will only come from outside sponsors–but never did when there was more hoopla, more teams and more money committed to making it happen. Realistically all the teams’ own is the dream and the debts they are collecting operating a league on an outmoded model that features a dying format. But such is the potential power of the great divide. Some portion of the team owners want control, some want a sense of self-determination but all of them want a piece of the pie should a pie fall off the baker’s truck as it drives by. Regardless of the league all the pro teams have paid a price, some more than others, some for longer than others, and they don’t want to see their effort and contribution come to nothing. And should success in outside sponsors or TV or a billionaire philanthropist ever show up they feel like they’ve earned a share and that without them ultimate success is impossible. (If sporting success comes to any major league it will almost certainly benefit all eventually–but that’s another post.)

One can debate the relative merits but it’s almost irrelevant. The great divide isn’t going anywhere and should success come it could easily tear elite competitive paintball apart. (Not that we’re in danger of that particular fate at the moment.) Or, you know, it might be worth a minute or two to consider what sort of response would be reasonable and practical in the eventuality. Of course just because it’s not operating today the old NXL franchises still exist and who knows ... Or if worst came to worst others have managed with a players union. I’m just saying. It’s not a problem today but what if--

Btw, if you're a glutton for punishment or interested in some related paintball history there's a few pieces in the Dead Tree Archive that might interest you. Take a look at 'The Pro Dilemma' or 'New Pro Paradigm.' Or for specific on the leagues as they were, try 'The 18' and 'Living the Dream.'

Like Scary Movie IV

Only better! The kids at PBLive have risked life, limb and reputation by inviting me to be their guest on the Wednesday March 3rd show beginning at 7 pm PST / 10 pm EST. Listen in as the biggest mistake in paintball history goes on the air live. Marvel at the consistency of my dull monotone. Curse the day Al Gore invented the internet. Tune in to see if Guy Fawkes will make a special guest appearance.
Wanna learn more? Click on the PBLive logo.

Enlistment for the Week

VFTD welcomes Pedro Jacob who signed up for a tour of duty with the Deadbox Puppet Army this week and joins us from Portugal. Thanks, PJ.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

PSP Webcast Blues

The PSP's webcast is on hold. I mentioned it in this week's MLP on Suicide Watch. There's info and opinions over at ProPaintball. It was a decision nobody wanted to make but the simple fact is the history of the paintball webcast weighed heavily on that decision. There's always been lots of talk about the willingness to pay but somehow those dollars never materialized when the time came to ante up. And the quality of the PSP's webcast isn't cheap--at least not according to paintball's current means. Pat's webcast premiered during WC '08. It was free the first two days, and the numbers grew from Thursday to Friday. The league charged $5 for the weekend and viewership dropped 75%. They didn't make anything close to covering the cost and worse, nobody watched. (Relatively speaking. A very few thousand peeps paid.) The webcast was brought back for '09 and the decision was made to provide it free to viewers and see if sufficient numbers could be generated to make it worthwhile to PBIndustry and outside industry advertising. The numbers were better but not good enough. For WC '09 the league made pay-per-view games and a VOD option available that generated less income than the $5 per viewer of WC '08. The highest quality webcast the PSP knew how to provide has cost the league around 300K including the capital investment in equipment. That is the history of the webcast to date. But that history doesn't have to be the future.

The PSP does have a plan for the future that includes a webcast but there are no guarantees they will be able to make that particular future happen. Or how far in the future it will be should it arrive. However, it seems to me there may be alternatives worth exploring. How about pre-sold subscriptions for WC '10? Tier 1 is the live webcast. Tier 2 is live webcast and the post event download of x number of matches. Tier 3 is the live webcast and a post production WC '10 DVD. Pay for as much or as little of the webcast as you want and the league knows going in approx. how much they'll make. How big a hassle would it be to set-up to take those sorts of subscriptions? I don't know but if enough people are willing to pony up something in advance it just might be possible. And how 'bout a special rate for stores and pro shops to receive the live feed? They could organize special events or sales around the opportunity for their regulars to see the greatest competitive paintball on earth. Would it be enough? I don't know. It could be the logistics are crazy complicated. One thing I know, bitching about it won't change anything. If you've got another idea let's hear it. If Camille got enough emails from peeps willing to buy an advance subscription to a WC '10 webcast the league would at least have to look at the possibility, wouldn't they?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In the Aftermath

Pro rosters are getting close to settled and I'm beginning to wonder if the Infamous/Aftermath merger isn't going to end up more a hit & run. I don't have any insider info and it could be even they don't know exactly how their final roster is going to turn out, but .. but ...

Whatever happens with the Infamous roster there's gonna be a number of players out of a gig and I want to know whose in, whose out and who moved to a new team. What do you know and when did you know it?

Burning Question(s)

How many defections from the locked divisions will it take to cripple the Millennium?

(Rumor has it upwards of 8 [of 28] SPL may bail. They are Blackout Charleroi - Dornbirn Daltons - Notorious London - Vienna United - Influence Montpelier - Sucy PAC ultimate - Duesseldorf Reckless - Hellwood Paris. There are also a few D1 names being bandied about.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

It's Tuesday so it must be idiotic post title day. Yay! (For the new kids the MLP weekly update was called MLP Held Hostage last year. See a pattern?) It may not always be sunshine and lollipops but the purpose of this recurring post is to keep tabs on the status on all the major leagues (leagues that feature a pro division) and for those who haven't been paying attention--competitive paintball is in flux and successfully navigating this difficult period is a demanding challenge. VFTD's contribution is to call shens when necessary and otherwise use mockery and ridicule to highlight the various leagues foibles--and because it's amusing. To work--

Not much to report on the not so Grand Tour. Their website (link down on sidebar) has some new info on the first event of their season in Venice and there is one team registered so far. On the bright side there's still two months to go.
UPDATE: GT kids have announced a 3-man xball lite (race to 3) division at a significantly lower entry. Does 3-man have a place as an xball format? Does 3-man have a place on an international stage?

Likewise in the Millennium Series--VFTD is now stalking them via Twitter and I can report the league is consistent in their general lack of communications. (Just the way I like it when it comes to Twitter.) Malaga is around 6 - 7 weeks out so numbers aren't overly important yet but there are still no locked division teams posted as registered while the open divisions have ticked up a team or two over the last week. How long can the league keep teams and sponsors in the dark with respect to their premier divisions? Additionally while more 50 cal gear appears to be available in Euroland VFTD has yet to hear of either a 50 cal sponsored team or word that any team plans to compete using 50 cal exclusively.

This past week the NPPL put out a press release announcing a live webcast press conference during which they announced they'd have a bunch more information available soon. Okay, it wasn't quite that bad but it was short on specifics and details including things like how many actual teams are actually registered in which actual divisions--but that information should be available soon. Regarding registered teams the "official" word is around 60 and Chuck added that most were paid or had put down a deposit or something. One bit of info that didn't make the webcast recap post is that the venue will be a bit closer to the pier this year while remaining on the south side and there should be room for up to 3 fields. The other thing I found of interest was Chuck's mention of feeder leagues. As noted in the recap post the RPL is a 5-man league but the other two leagues mentioned (I think--Chuck seemed a bit uncertain himself) were the NEPL and the GPL. Both have 7-man divisions. Last year GPL ran a truncated season of 2 events with 8 teams playing both and 5 teams playing one. NEPL runs a closed league that will max at 18 and currently has 13 teams signed up for 2010. If the NPPL survives how long will it be before there are more 5-man teams competing than 7-man?

PSP's second deadline for entry has come and gone and the final deadline of March 5th is less than two weeks away. 5-man registrations remain soft compared to last year. However, if everyone registered also paid total participation would nearly match last year. That's not the way it has worked in the past with some percentage of hopeful or frivolous registrations always swelling the numbers but seldom actually competing. The word has trickled out there will be no Phoenix webcast and while not official it is confirmed. Rumor has it there may be a Chicago and WC webcast but this has not been confirmed as far as VFTD knows. With respect to a post last week the league will take steps to address the issues raised. No final decision has been made but the tentative solution meets with my approval. I won't comment on details until I hear the final decision.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Monday Poll

Now that we know both the Millennium and the NPPL will allow 50 cal guns & paint to be used side-by-side with standard 68 cal guns & paint the results should give everyone a good idea of what to expect from 50 cal in the future--at least in the context of competitive paintball. Today's poll question asks you to predict what that result will be.
Introducing 50 cal to competitive paintball will ...

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll question asked you to predict the turnout for this year's upcoming HB event. Fun, conclusive of nothing, little more than a snapshot of opinion the results were nearly a bell curve except for a slight weighting toward a more negative result. As many voters predicted 100+ teams as predicted the event would be called off. The mid-ground was the dominant vote getter pulling 35% of the vote and while being in no way scientific one might conclude there are more hopeful potential competitors out there than the run-of-the-mill internet chatter might suggest--including that of VFTD. 62% predicted more than 50 teams would play but at the same time 71% predicted less than 75 would play. The seeming is discrepancy due to the large middle range vote that is counted both ways. The only certainty is that we'll all know in a few weeks.

NPPL Live Webcast Recap

If you missed the webcast last night I have two words for you: Shawn Walker. And here's another word: stakeholders.
Was that unfair, unkind, cruel even? I don't think so. The broadcast opened with Chuck asserting (once again) that the USPL is no more and that this is the NPPL (3.0), the once and future 7-man paintball league. Say it loud, say it proud. I'm willing to take him at his word. And of course some of the same themes were repeated as well. (Walker's RPL was also identified as a feeder league which was mildly curious given that it's based on 5-man ...)

The broadcast was about an hour long with a brief intermission in the middle. Leading up to the broadcast I thought was a good idea, answer questions, drum up more interest & generally promote the league. Afterwards, it seemed long on talk and a little thin on content. A lot of territory was covered but largely in a superficial manner. So before I get into some of the details here's a list of items discussed I won't be responding to;
the admission that last year was financially rough but this year will see a turnaround,
while the USPL is no more there's still an enormous U in the middle of the playing field,
anything related to classification, ranking & player id's because seriously, really?
the disconnect between the press release and the broadcast,
when asked "why 7-man?" Chuck's response of it's great for TV and semi-auto. Or Alex's hyperbolic follow-up that we'd still be in the woods without 7-man,
the oft-repeated mantra of being a league run by the players for the players.

Using the press release as a topic guide I want to go through the list and briefly give the league's responses to the broadcast topics.
Rule book changes--yes, there will be some and most revolve around gun rules and most will relate to penalizing players and not teams though how that's gonna work was not stated. And there will be something about how to catch illegal guns too.
HB field layout--everybody likes it except Rodney and while it hasn't been played yet a field is a field is a field. It'll be fine.
Event paintballs--nope, didn't hear anything about this though it could have occurred during the brief period the audio was down early in the broadcast.
Sponsorships--working on stuff, KEE is a big supporter as are Kingman, Spyder, the Army and working on energy drinks and more stuff. Making a bigger effort to connect with locals.
Ref clinic report--last year's refs were dedicated and hard-working but the NPPL is determined to have the best refs possible and it begins with communication, or something like that.
Pro team updates--3 new teams, Dogs, Entourage & Vancouver Vendetta; 3 teams out, Rage, Elevation & United, so 15 teams. Except there were 16 last year and if 3 drop and 3 replace them where's the missing team?
Rankings--no worries, the NPPL has years of old NPPL records to rely on.
Hotels, travel and HB special events, promotions and parties--Chuck thanked the Hilton for the use of the suite for the broadcast.
Special Guests (local field operators, HB city officials, hotel reps, Vip Girls and more)--one field operator, Gio d'Egidio (and new volunteer), no officials, reps or girls. Perhaps we could count Junior from Ballers Cafe (also new volunteer), Chris Iaquinta from Splat! (also new volunteer) and Justin Mason from as more.

Stuff not mentioned in the press release that got mentioned was the all volunteer reorg of league duties, introduction of 50 cal guns & paint, webcasts for HB & Vegas and a new D4 division. Chuck remains Commish, Frank Connell is registration, Dennis Olson is finances, Rich is rules, Eric Crandall is General Manager, Bart is pro team liaison, Rob (I missed), JB is sponsors, Iaquinta is marketing, Gio is promotions and marketing, Tom Cole is Ultimate and at the end Chuck mentioned Dante for event set-up. D4 will be exclusively for D4 ranked players. And GI Milsim will presumably be a sponsor too--and they probably said so--as the league will allow 50 cal use side-by-side with standard 68 but otherwise nothing else about it.

I originally intended some more in-depth commentary but this is even more tedious the second time around and I'm rapidly losing the will to live so you're out of luck.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pro*file: Kevin Rugaard

Name: Kevin Rugaard
Age: 28
Hometown: Wheaton, IL
Occupation: Concrete Truck Driver
Family (siblings, pets): a brother and sister and a wicked 2 year old niece!!
General interests other than paintball: I like soccer and volleyball, riding Harley's and working out.

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?
First experience was with my dad. Think I was about 12 or 13; it was a private game with a bunch of his friends, kids vs. adults all day; we were mowin them down in the woods... too much fun!
2. What team do you play for now?
Legend in the NPPL, Amsterdam Sabotage in the Millennium series and the Chicago Heretics in the UWL

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
psycho circus and uprising

4. Who helped you become the player you are?
My younger brother for sure, he was the reason I got into tournament paintball and his drive and enthusiasm for the game is what got me hooked and wanted to keep bettering myself in the sport. Learned alot from him in a short amount of time. He never BS'd me either, if I was playing like crap and wasn't doing my job he was the first one too let me know.

5. Who are your favorite paintball players?
Anyone on Dynasty or Vicious; I respect the team aspect so much, and any team that can keep the core together and work towards a common goal for success gets a big thumbs up in my book. It's not easy too do today with so many players demanding so much from teams to play with them.

6. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
I will never forget the night out we had in Boston '06. It was a crazy event to begin with, terrible storm out of the midwest delayed my flight until Friday morning. I literally got out of the cab and was on the field about 12 minutes later... after just missing the cut we decided to hit up the downtown scene. We were pretty toasted before we left and that just set the mood for the night. Girls everywhere, two guys totally cool with headbutting and punching one another, pyramids with bachelorette parties in too short of skirts and one guy arguing with a fat girl for the last Italian sausage being sold from the vendor. Too many stories to get into, but it that's a small taste.... We still talk about that night 4 years later.

7. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done in order to play paintball?
I woke up at about 7am the morning after I was the best man in my boy's wedding. Never been so hungover in my life and drove the hour and a half to a non-mandatory practice to play. I spent more time throwing up in between games than I did actually playing... either that or flying to Iran last year for a tournament, that was intense. I was lying to people and telling them I was going to Dubai instead, didn't get as many crazy looks or questions that way; ultimately went because the Ironmen were going and figured it can't be that bad if they were going.

8. What is the single most important lesson the up and comer needs to learn?
Gun skills by far. The higher up you advance in your paintball career the tougher each and every shot gets. Biggest thing I notice is that if you make a move and you develop that shot whether its just a blind shot or a snap shot, you only have the first couple shots to make that kill before they realize what you have done. Some people have different talents regarding their skills... Take myself, I'm right handed but I'm able to shoot even faster and more accurate left handed, and that's why you'll find me in the left corner every single game with Legend. They have their strong corner and players shooting their dominant hand down the wire and I'm shooting mine right back at them.

9. How did you get a spot with Amsterdam Sabotage? What's the difference between the US and Euro brands of ball?
Last year I just made a post on a predominantly used European forum that I wanted to play overseas and after talking with a few different teams I ended up with them. They are a great group of guys who are hungry to make it to the top, last year we were the first team in Dutch history to qualify for promotion to the SPL, so were all pretty pumped about '10. There's this big thing about European ball is so far behind the US; to some extent I think that is true, but the teams over there are getting better and better each year. The one thing I do notice is the gun skills and playing technique of some of the players, but even like over here it's at the lower divisions. Division 1 was strange because you had some really tough teams some tournaments and then other teams you're blowing them out 4-0 in about 5 minutes. It'll be interesting too see how SK Moscow does in Phoenix; they ended up 1st in the pro division and are playing SP over here.

10. Do you (or any of your teammates) have any superstitions related to playing paintball? Something like always wearing the same socks or being the first guy to chrono? If not could you make up something that sounds good?
I can't really think of any superstitions for anyone else, I know that I HAVE to wear one Red and one Black Nike soccer sock at major events, don't know why but I do and if I do forget them I get nervous.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Deadbox Puppet Army

This week's recruit, sci-fi, joins the DPA from the UK and his team plays in the NSPL. (K) (I added the K so it would all, um, rhyme.) Anyway, sci-fi is number 1 in VFTD's second century. Welcome and thanks, sci-fi.

Join early. Join often. (Maybe just early.) Our motto is "No Strings Attached." Which may seem a bit odd for a puppet army but just because you're a puppet doesn't mean you have to like it--and can't fight back.

UWL: Scenario/Tourney Hybrid?

The UWL (Ultimate Woodsball League) is into its second year and this coming weekend there will be an event in Ft. Myers, Florida. [Not so fast. The event date has moved to the weekend of March 27th.] Tom Cole was generous enough to offer me (and teammates) an opportunity to play in the Florida game but unfortunately it is on a previously scheduled practice weekend. If you are unfamiliar with the format check out their website. The UWL is working some of the same territory as the SPPL. While over at the new and improved Big Bullet you can find info for a more traditional form of 10-man tournament woodsball with the NPL.

I confess I don't have a huge interest in traditional tournament woodsball--been there, done that, enjoyed it (mostly) at the time--though it would probably better suit what few worn out and tired skills I have left; slow, sneaky & experienced. But I do kinda like the sound of the UWL game. There's strategy, tactics, complexity and the opportunity to utilise the whole laundry list of paintball skills even if there is an emphasis (perhaps) on a more traditional skill set. Anyway, I wanted to mention the available opportunities in order to encourage anyone who thinks it could be fun to give it a try. With the trend in major league tourney ball to younger and faster it would be great to see a more diverse player base have competitive paintball options. Maybe one answer to where paintball is today--and where it will be tomorrow--is more choices, not just a change in primary industry attention.

I also wanted to pose a question or three, too. Is the UWL's target player normally a scenario player or an Old Skool tourney guy? Or, the likely answer, both? But even so is this a formula for growing competitive paintball? I'm not sure. On one hand the concept is planting seeds that might grow and spread. On the other it's drawing its target participant from a different niche with a nostalgia tour of sorts. It's called Old Skool for a reason. Don't get me wrong. I still like the game concept. I'm not a snob about different forms of competitive paintball. I'm glad it's out there and available--I'm just wondering if the current top down approach will ever produce anything more than a modestly attended handful of events. Of course it could be I'm dumping too many expectations on something that wasn't ever intended to be more than what it is. But maybe I'm not. Read this at the UWL website.

If the majority of the players are crossovers from scenario is that growth? Does it really serve to reestablish competitive paintball in a woodsball environment? Again, I'm not sure. It may very well prove to be aspirational but that's a pretty big leap. It seems to me if you want to build to a national level competitive woodsball series you also need to begin looking at where the growth will come from and how it will happen. Back in the day future major league 10-man team players started locally playing 3-man and 5-man. Just like most modern tourney players do. If competitive woodsball is ever going to grow and be a viable option don't potential (future) players need a place to start? Maybe something as simple as encouraging UWL host fields to offer introductory tourney woodsball events along with the big show when it comes to town?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mr. Curious

Is bored. Things have settled down for the time being with only team and roster gossip floating around--for the most part--and I usually won't indulge him when it comes to team and player gossip but this one is a little different. And besides, it's just a couple of questions.

According to ProPaintball Dynasty will be teaming up with Impact this year to play their (Dynasty's) Millennium Series CPL spot. Last year Dynasty teamed up with Arsenal to play their MS spot. It was assumed by some that given the rumored difficulties SP was having meeting their sponsorship obligations--some even suggest that's how Dynasty acquired the spot in the first place (from Philly)--that Dynasty was (or would have been) unable to play the spot without T4's backing in exchange for the split roster. If true, Mr. C. is wondering if the Dynasty/Impact split depends on Bart's wallet this year? And will that wallet begin to feel the pinch if it's called upon to help out the NPPL again this year--as was rumored about last year?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Some Good Old Fashioned NPPL Bashing

Not really. At least not the way I see it but somehow when I "bash" the PSP it's constructive criticism and when I "bash" the NPPL it's because I'm a hater or something. So sure, I'm bashing the NPPL--again.

But first--a positive comment. On the announced live webcast scheduled for 5 PM PST Sunday February 21th. This is both a good idea and a necessary one as it may drum up additional interest and help prove to the fence sitters, however many of them there might be, that the 2010 edition of NPPL 3.0 is for real. (Yep, I changed it to 3.0; the original unified NPPL was 0, pure promotions was 1.0, pacific was 2.0 and the current version is 3.0.) The presser's opening paragraph fills us in on the basics:
Reporting Live from Huntington Beach, California this Sunday NPPL Commissioner Chuck Hendsch, Rich Telford (XSV), Alex Fragie [sic] (Dynasty) and special guests will be speaking about the new NPPL 2010 season. Topics discussed will include 2010 Rule Book changes, HB field layout, event paintballs, sponsorships, ref clinic report, pro team updates, rankings, hotels, travel and HB special events, promotions and parties.

It will be interesting to see what impact this has and how the league follows up on the webcast. Will sponsorship talk include GI Milsim and the possibility of 50 cal? Will KEE be the exclusive paint supplier? Will an actual list of registrants and paid teams separated by division appear soon?

There's a thread over at PBN in the USPL/NPPL forum about the new system the NPPL is implementing and a promise or two from Frank C. regarding a soon-to-be-released team list. Now either a complete list will or won't appear. What I found more interesting, for a second or two, was the dialogue regarding the league's decision to no longer use APPA. Most of the official responses claim it will be just as good and that the league's interests are player driven. A couple of commenters tried to make a case that competition in player databases was good for everyone and offered players choice. With respect to the official replies I found this quote from Frank interesting; ".. but I can promise you that it is going to be a great system that did not empty our pockets to use." (Bold highlight added by me.) And when he says 'empty' he means 'didn't fill.' I think that says all that needs to be said about the league's position. As to the efficacy of dueling databases the NPPL has had years to get it right and offer something actually in the players' interest. Haven't managed it yet. And then there's the utterly false claim of choice. Yes, you can choose your league but even if there were a hundred player databases you got no choice. You use what the league uses. Period. End of story. Don't get me wrong. I understand times are tough and the NPPL needs additional revenue streams and apparently their piece of last year's registration wasn't satisfactory. I'm okay with that, it's the song and dance I find annoying.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Great Social Media Experiment Continues

It's official, Twitter sucks. But then I'm not doing it right, or taking full advantage of the potential or some similar nonsense. Thing is I don't "follow" anybody--actually I think I follow 3 or 4 other sites and frankly, one of them is really starting to annoy me. The problem is I don't want to network. I don't care what special sale Joe's PB Emporium has this weekend only or what color your DM 9 turned when you baked it in the oven or even how instrumental the raid you led against the Klingons was in last weekend's scenario game. I really don't want to know about the new rims you bought or that Scrappy has worms--again. And I sure as hell don't want to be bombarded with hundreds of dumbass tweets from the hordes of mostly imbeciles who think they have a life 'cus they "tweet" the same lame, boring worthless drivel out into cyberspace that they text to their friends.

So maybe Facebook?

PSP Media Liaison

Before anyone gets too bent outta shape let me say I'm not treating this seriously. In fact I found it damn funny. (As always your mileage may vary.) Yesterday the PSP put out the presser on their media liaison--in this case, Gary Baum, who will handle the assigning of media passes for photography & film. (Are there no more media passes required anymore for non-photographers? For example, could I get a media pass? Okay, not me, but, you know, some responsible new media journalist.) But all that is really beside the point.

The press release went to great lengths, extreme lengths even, to state Mr. Baum's qualifications--as a photographer. Which is swell but what exactly does taking a good photo have to do with responsibly assigning media passes to other photographers? And isn't Gary, just like the rest, hoping to turn his interest into a few extra bucks in the process? I mean, if there was any real money involved would you give control over everyone's access to one of the guys hoping to acquire that money? Who gives Winnie the Pooh the key to the lock on the honey pot?

In the current context this is mostly a whole lot of nothing. I just found it hilarious that 90% of the press release tells what an accomplished photographer Mr. Baum is and then, almost like an afterthought at the end that he'll be handling the distribution of media passes for, in essence, all his competitors. But hey, that's paintball.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

The not so Grand Tour has managed to release a bit more info on their season opening event in Venice with a link to a YouTube kite-cam video of the venue (and a Google--or was that Yahoo?--map of the location.) Turns out there's a nice park on the edge of the lagoon in Mestre. It's close to the airport and the Mestre train station and you can see Venice across the water from the park. The kite cam might have sounded like a good idea but it was a rather windy day. As a result the video is pretty disorienting as the kite spins, twists and whips wildly side to side and up and down. Would any other league promoter use such an eccentric tool to promote their event? Who else would put on an event in a country where ostensibly paintball is illegal? On those accounts alone the not so Grand Tour is VFTD's favorite least well attended tournament series.

Things continue apace in the Millennium with little change from last week--at least little publicly announced change. Registered team numbers are up by a couple of teams though still no indication of who is registered to play in the locked divisions. And it occurred to me that there hasn't been a formal announcement--not that I heard--of which teams will be promoted and/or relegated this year although that should simply be a formality as the mechanism is already in place. Unless ...? There's still lots of time before Malaga but it won't be too long before the pressure begins to mount to release participation numbers. I guess the question is will keeping everyone, including sponsors, in the dark help or hurt in the long run?

The NPPL posted their online registration (and i.d. card) forms yesterday. On both they are requested the players self-identify their current player ranking but a reasonable question might be: Based on what? It looks like the league would like to have a baseline set for their new database based on the standards of the system they don't use anymore. In a curious side note the only access to either registration form is the link attached to the announcement that online registration was now available. (The same announcement was duplicated in the News section of the website. The registration link goes to a different page.) And the actual location of the registration forms is at Regardless there is no listing (yet) identifying teams that have registered and paid and it will be interesting to see how long the league holds out before they list the competing teams. Particularly as the prize packages are tied to the number of participants in a given division. Meanwhile, the NPPL wants you to know spaces are limited.

The PSP is on the tightest schedule with the Phoenix Open just a month away and assorted odds and ends still to be resolved and/or announced. The divisional 'designated spectator' rule was canceled a couple of days ago causing some hubbub and there are other details still to be decided (Where are the rules? Will there be a webcast?) but in all likelihood the the league's attentions are mostly focused on sponsors--or the lack thereof--and the total number of teams paid and playing. In the format formerly known as xball registration was at 99 earlier today. Phoenix last year had 92 paid. Race2-2 currently has 39 registered. Last year there were 51 paid. Right now the numbers look like xball should be (could be) close to last year with Race 2-2 lagging somewhat. While there's still time the lower number of registrants suggests it probably won't match last year. And if that's the case it will be interesting to look at two other factors; Race 2-2 participation in the west coast affiliate leagues--are they drawing teams away from the PSP?--and 5-man registrations for HB. This year, more than ever, it's a numbers game. Everybody else still has some wiggle room. The PSP will be locked in first and we'll have a clear indication of what to expect the rest of the season for major league paintball around the world.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Monday Poll

Is back! Until, you know, it's not. I was gonna do something on the PSP divisional sideline coaching with the now canceled 'designated spectator' but it doesn't really matter how riled up some of y'all are over that because it's not coming back. Not when the insurer says "nyet" and in one season it resulted in two lawsuits. I don't find the lawsuits hard to believe but I do find them pathetic. (It's not like a support pole collapsed and crushed somebody or Marlene ran over anyone in her golf cart of death and, while I've heard rumors, I've seen absolutely zero proof that Waterman tanked that mouthy chick in Chicago.) And Shakespeare had it right. (Unless, of course, you are a lawyer and a regular reader of VFTD--then it's just all the other lawyers that I was referring to.)

Moving on I think the NPPL needs some VFTD loving this week so this poll is for them; Chuck, Bart & Frank. Online registration is supposed to open today for HB but when I checked a few minutes ago it wasn't yet available. That being the case this week's poll asks you to predict the number of teams that will be participating in the 2010 Surf City Open. And since providing individual numbers would produce a rather unwieldy poll I'll just give a range of choices. For example, 0 would indicate you don't think the event is gonna happen and any range of numbers above zero is the total team participation. Got it? Then click & vote. Here at VFTD it's not a right, it's a privilege.

VFTD on PBLive

In another sign of the coming apocalypse I will be doing the March 3rd broadcast as Ryan's guest on Paintball Live. I was considering wearing the Guy Fawkes mask from the movie, V for Vendetta, but that would likely involve actual effort so it's probably not gonna happen. I am also crossing my fingers and hoping I remember to comb my hair and not pick my nose. Alternatively, there just might be unexpected technical difficulties with the video portion of the program. Oh, and I just realized it doesn't start until 10 pm EST which means there's a good chance I'll fall asleep the middle of the show. Talk about streaming entertainment--wow! Consider yourself forewarned 'cus this ain't gonna be pretty.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On the PSP Pro field

While we continue to wait to hear the list of final changes for the new season there is one item that needs to be considered (or reconsidered) and it concerns the implementation of the new 90 second rule. (And, no, I'm not gonna lobby to not do it 'cus that's a battle I'm not gonna win--not right now anyway.) But the issue does relate to the 90 second rule. The routine on the pro field has been to start the two minute countdown on the ref's signal of a flag hang. But this happens prior to the official awarding of the point as the refs check the player after signaling the hang. The result is our 2 minute clock has always started running before live players can leave the field. The intent, I assume, was to save game time and not burn clock while the refs are checking the player(s). Problematically, the refs take however long they take and with the break time now reduced the commish and/or the league needs to decide how they're going to handle this before the first teams step on the field.
The sensible answer is to stop the game clock on the hang signal but not start the 90 second clock until the point is actually awarded or denied. The problem this presents the league is that the time they thought they were saving per match will be reduced. In fact, the only way it won't be reduced is if game clock runs off while the refs decide every clean hang or the 90 second clock starts as before--with live players on the field. Either way it takes away from the game for the teams and I can easily foresee teams having to burn their timeouts because of it. In the past it passed unobjected to because 2 minutes was a large enough buffer that it seldom proved to be a critical inconsistency but in this effort to play more matches there isn't ten, fifteen or twenty seconds to spare anymore.
So, what you gonna do PSP?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pro*file: Tyler Humphrey

A remake of 'Escape from New York' is in the works and one of the contractual stipulations is that the Snake Plisskin character "I heard you was dead," has an eyepatch, must be called Snake and remains a "bad ass." (Yes, that is literally part of the deal.) And it reminded me of Tyler because I tend to think of him as one of the last of a generation of Pro players who lived the role the way all the hopeful kids on the outside looking in dreamed about.
Yeah, I know. If you want to be a stickler Tyler isn't currently ranked pro by APPA, so if you want, consider this a throwback Pro*file.

Name: Tyler Humphrey
Age: 20-something
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Occupation: Operations and IT at Paintball Central
Family: Best Parents in the World: Brian and Marilyn, Little Sister Lindsay, Big Brother Brian
Interests other than paintball: I’m really into tennis these days, I play on a couple teams and in different leagues. I’m just a huge fan of all sports and competition, really. I’m also really into politics, all the way from the local level up to DC.

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?My brother and I started playing together when we were young’ins living in Ohio.

2. What team do you play for now?
I have been really involved with and coaching a team called Lost Boys. I hope to be playing with those awesome kids in the near future. Just being around a group of great guys that are passionate about competing and winning has really re-motivated me!

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
I’ve played for numerous teams in Europe like the Ton-Tons and Moscow Phoenix, a few teams here in the States like Gridlock, Aftermath, Image (2007) and Shockwave. But really the only team I’ve played for that matters in my career is Trauma.

4. What role do you play on your current team?
Sadly, I’m nothing more than a coach at the moment. L

5. You and me both, buddy. Who helped you become the player you are?
My dad is a fierce competitor and brought me up the same way; without him I wouldn’t have the competitive drive that is necessary to win. Brian Stewart and I started at the local tournament level and really pushed each other to become better, so I attribute a lot of my fundamental paintball skill to that relationship. I really looked up to a few players on Image (sadly, most paintball players today don’t even know about this team) during my Amateur years like LD, Lane Wright, Opie Thomas, LB, and Rob Staudinger. I believe watching that team created my aggressive playing style. It was Rob who brought me and the rest of Trauma to the Pro ranks and taught us how to play as a team. And believe it or not even you, Baca, taught me a few things. Specifically, you taught me how to think much more analytically about breakouts, shooting lanes, and risk-taking which has helped me become a better coach. So, thanks to all you people!

6. Who are your favorite paintball players?
My favorite players of all-time are Opie Thomas, Richie Maliszewski, and Billy Ceranski.

7. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
My favorite paintball memory of all-time is a three way tie between 2001 World Cup, 2002 World Cup, and 2005 World Cup. 2001 was Trauma’s first national level victory as an Amateur team. We had moved from Am-B to Am-A mid season and were not expected to do as well as we did. 2002 World Cup was Trauma’s last event as an Amateur team. We won the event, capping off our unprecedented 6-wins-in-a-row and guaranteeing our spot in the pro ranks. 2005 World Cup was Trauma’s first win as a Pro team. All 3 were the result of a whole lot of work and sacrifice by everyone on the team. The more work you put in, the better the victories feel.

8. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done in order to play paintball?
I remember the first World Cup I played in, back in 1999. I didn’t have enough money for a plane ticket, so I hitched a ride in the bed of a pick-up truck and rode there and back (13 hours each way). It was snowing on the way back, but it didn’t matter at the time.

9. What advice would you give a new player who hopes to one day play pro?
To become a pro player, you MUST:
a. Check your ego at the door, you are not as good as you think you are, you are only as good as the work you put in.
b. Learn from people that have done it before you.
c. Be a leader! Be early for practice and don’t leave until all the work is done. Do your homework at practices and events. Encourage your teammates and stay upbeat even after a loss.
d. Be a competitor. There are two types of people: those that don’t want the ball during the last few seconds of the match, and those that do. If you aren’t the type of person that wants to be on the field when it really counts and your team is depending on you, you will never make it.

10. I remember the photo of you in the ballerina outfit. Very becoming. Did you ever consider, I don't know, dressing up like a cheerleader?
It was actually a one piece women’s swimsuit from a Wal-Mart in Honolulu. I was about to grapple with a Gracie brother and needed some type of distraction. In the end, it didn’t help. Seriously though, paintball has provided me so many opportunities: I have met so many life-long friends along the way and been to so many different cities and countries that I normally wouldn’t have been able to see. I appreciate everything that my sponsors have given me over the years and all the people I’ve met. I hope I can give back to the sport and help others realize the same dream that I’ve lived.

Thanks, T, nicely done and I appreciate the props. You'll take a check, right?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

PSP PHX '10: The Twin Towers

I am going to revisit a comment I made in the laning post for this layout in the next to last paragraph and offer a fuller explanation. Specifically this: (This includes routinely filling the MTs as the result is a predominantly defensive posture that won't allow teams to push the wires if they drop a body. It will also tend to overextend the lead wire player as it will lead to an inability on one side or the other to fill the voids anytime the lead player is eliminated.)

This is not an attempt to talk you (or anyone else) out of playing those bunkers because I know lots of teams will and that's fine. Given the typical skill levels exhibited in the lower divisions a defensive strategy is frequently effective because it is less demanding of the individual players and puts the other team in the position of needing to be demonstrably better all around--or else points devolve into two defensive-oriented squads hosing away at each other hoping to shoot somebody before they get shot. [And on this basis alone the move to raise the ROF will undoubtedly retard the development of some percentage of lower div players.]

My interest here is in discussing why dependence on the MTs is a tactical error, all things otherwise being equal. The attached diagram of the layout identifies the MTs and Home with red. Other likely breakout primaries are marked with yellow and the same side of the field transition bunkers are marked with green. The colors are intended for quick reference and to help visualize coming points. Red indicates primary spots taken in a common breakout using the MTs. Yellow indicates other primary options that are initially neutral but become defensive positions if the opponent is forcing the action. Early on green represents a first stage offensive push.
In any breakout using the pair of MTs as primaries the likelihood is the MT players will initially be inside the shooting zone and/or shifting to positions similar to B & I shown on the laning post diagram of the layout. This will tend to push both wire players to a limited number of primary options and on the D-side in particular will consistently expose that player to running the same lanes over and over. (On this layout that outcome is hard to avoid regardless but is particularly risky when playing both MTs.) The only tactical discretion that remains is whether the Home shooter has a specific rotation to make or is simply looking to fill should one wire or the other be eliminated. Among other things this becomes extremely predictable. Even the most aggressive breakout option utilising both MTs will seldom, if ever, push more than two players out to a wire. The immediate impact is twofold; basic breakouts employing the two towers put a premium on your laning for effect (as failure gives up the wide gun as often as not) and maximizes the impact of any wide rotation losses you take (because there is no one left to fill the spot.)
Once the breakout is accomplished there are only two options moving into the mid-game transition; Home player makes a pre-planned rotation to one wire or the other, or, Home player waits to fill if/when a wire player is eliminated. In the first case one wire player at least gains support but conversely the other wire is isolated. And eliminations of the wire players give up both angles and open the field deep into the defensive team's side of the field with only the inside guns of the MTs (and possibly Home) to contest control. Additionally wide eliminations without immediate attempts to fill put the defensive team at risk of pressure up the middle of the field.
Of course eliminations off the break will change the dynamics of how a point plays out but my basic point stands. Playing both the MTs is fundamentally a defensive game plan that puts extra pressure on your wings to stay alive and offers them little when its time to shift to offense. Do the MTs have a role on this layout? Yes. Should they be relied on or figure prominently in any game plan? No.

There's plenty more to all this but as usual I'm going long. If there are any specific questions don't hesitate to ask and I won't hesitate to try and answer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Burning Question

How many fields have created a player database using their waiver forms?

The Gun Whore Effect

I have a new theory on the decline of the industry. Like all the other theories it's short on verifiable facts but there is at least a certain logic to it--unlike some of the others, for example, oh, I don't know, say the trickle down theory of robotic hordes of ballers shooting mad paint because that's what the insignificant One Percenters do. (Not to be confused with the punk ass tourney wannabes swarming unwary fields across the country like a plague of locusts. Shooting mad paint. At high ROF.) And while I wouldn't give this theory a primary role in the decline it could have served to make matters worse after the fashion of what repackaged mortgage debt did for financial institutions during the real estate collapse--and beyond. I call it the Gun Whore Effect.

It might more properly be called the Turnover Effect but that doesn't have the panache of The Gun Whore Effect. Gun whores, in fact, have been with us almost as long as the game has been played. Once different kinds and brands of markers hit the market the gun whore soon followed. The gun whore is, of course, that select group of ballers who can't resist the next hot gat and will buy as many of them as possible--sometimes selling older guns in the process, sometimes not. There is also a gun whore lite group that may not have a stash of markers but must have the latest and greatest and as a consequence goes through guns faster than Tiger Woods does cocktail waitresses. The result is gun whores churn the turnover rate in gun sales well above the norm.

It used to be that gun manufacturers made guns and aftermarket shops customized them. Eventually manufacturers began to try and tap the custom market and in no time at all the cycle of "new" gun introductions was annual. In creating an annual turnover cycle manufacturers overheated the marketplace (although since this first occurred during the big growth years it went unnoticed.) Amongst gun whores the effect was to accelerate the rate of turnover; both buying more guns faster than the average but also dumping more used guns back into the market as well. When demand was still rising it didn't matter but as soon as demand flattened (and/or declined) the result was a market glutted with used guns of virtually identical performance and nothing like enough newcomers to sop up the excess and still buy new at anything like the volume the manufacturers had come to expect.

Today that glut continues and continues to depress new sales while manufacturers are stuck trying to differentiate their latest gear from last year's and perhaps even incongruously relying on the gun whore portion of the market for even their reduced sales. And since player numbers have been calculated based on new sales nobody really knows how the numbers stack up, only that the sales aren't there. The one thing I would be willing to bet is that there are a lot of guns collecting dust in a lot of closets.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

The Grand Tour is promoting a pro division again this season--with a couple of changes. The format this year is to use the results of the first four events to seed a top four that will compete the Tour title and series prize money. The championship event ending the season has been confirmed as Moscow in late August. They will be competing in something like the current Race 2 -5 format. Other divisions will be playing Race 2-4 (or thereabouts.) The first event remains scheduled for Venice for May 1 & 2 but no details have been posted yet. The (Not-So) Grand Tour's participation numbers were very modest last year so it will be interesting to see how registration goes for 2010. With a preponderance of Eastern Euro and Russian teams I wonder if they'll see Venice as a holiday--or just too far away.

There's not much to report on the NPPL either. Online registration is supposed to open Feb. 15th and at that point we'll see if more team info is also available. The HB event is still about two months out though so any current data is unlikely to be too meaningful. It is perhaps a bit more interesting that the league has virtually gone silent with the departure of Camille. While the near daily email blast was somewhat annoying it made the NPPL hard to ignore. Right now the NPPL is a hopeful tournament series being run like a covert op--on a need to know basis--and apparently nobody needs to know.

The MS have opened registration for Malaga and are so far taking a page from the NPPL playbook. (Maybe.) The thing is under teams playing Malaga the open divisions show registered teams; so far 6 in D2, and 3 each in the new D3 and M5. But there's nothing in any of the closed divisions; D1, SPL & CPL. (And last year's CPL champ, SK Moscow, is registered to play semi-pro PSP in Phoenix.) As I understand it teams in the locked divisions are also on a payment schedule that has them pre-paying either all or a significant portion of their fees up front so the fact that the league can't or won't identify who is--and isn't--registered in the locked divs is curious to say the least. Especially as there's been lots of grumbling and whispering this off season with rumors that a number of locked div regulars won't be back this coming season.
I'm also interested in how 50 cal will fare. So far I've heard it will be allowed but I've yet to hear of any team receiving a 50 cal specific sponsorship or intending to compete using the 50 cal guns and paint. It would seem with all the established 50 cal backers in Euroland that would be an obvious next step.

PSP Phoenix is about a month out with the format-formerly-known-as-xball currently showing 87 teams registered and Race2-2 (5-man kinda) at 33 registered. Last year Phoenix ended up with 143 teams paid including 92 xball and 51 5-man. Last year also saw a lot of teams paying entry at the last minute but even so the current numbers must be a little nerve-wracking particularly in light of all the off season changes which were generally well received. If folks are happy with the changes and total numbers still decline it will be a sign of continuing weakness at the national event level. (Although with the new affiliates strategy it might be worth seeing if there is improvement this year over last at the regional level as the season goes on.)
So far an updated rule book is yet to be released and I'm wondering about the logistics of a 3 day event. We already know Pro and S-P are going to 90 seconds between points to save time and extend the number of matches per day on the pro field and while Phoenix has room for more fields every field added without x number of registered teams makes it that much harder for the league to stay out of the red. Is the 90 second rule soon to be a part of everybody's event?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dye picks up Hinman, er, Aftermath

One might read the sponsorship deal Dye has offered to Aftermath as just one in a long line of similar arrangements but I wonder if there's more to it than that. And I'm not talking about the Big Picture implication of cementing ties between the PSP's principle owner and the owner of the west coast's PSP affiliate league--though that can't be discounted and is no doubt an element of the deal.
Traditionally successful teams attracted sponsorship because of their success but the nature of the relationships was (is) fluid. Some teams/sponsors forged longer term relationships while others didn't but it was all rather hit or miss and team formation mostly remained a product of serendipity; friendships, proximity, luck, etc. (Discounting the factory teams which are no longer anchoring the upper echelon of teams.) Except players come and go as does desire and motivation and it has been a rare accomplishment to see the best teams remain amongst the best for any period of time.
That may or may not be all that big a deal but in an environment where industry is re-thinking its priorities and also adjusting to the new media and a shifting marketplace the idea of branding has gained some momentum. Branding can work a couple of ways; by lifting the product du jour up on the back of a successful and popular brand (in the case of a team) or by tying product to an up and comer where the product is seen as essential to the success of the developing brand. It's a longer term strategy but has real advantages if the risks can be minimized. The primary risks are a failure to ultimately succeed or even survive the term of the deal.
Now take a look at Aftermath. Is Dye counting on this latest batch of kids to fulfill their expectations? No way. Dye is counting on Mike Hinman to do what he has consistently demonstrated he's capable of doing--putting a very competitive team together and on the field, over and over, despite (or because of) a lack of roster continuity.
So did Dye sign Aftermath or did they sign Hinman? I say they signed Hinman. And I will further suggest that if the industry is serious about branding, continuity and minimizing risk they should think seriously about emulating this move by Dye to support the organizations and/or individuals who have demonstrated staying power and the ability to build successful teams.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

VFTD: Book Review

A first--and probably a last given shrinking attention spans and literacy rates--which kinda of begs the question; who is this book for?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The book is 'A Parent's Guide to Paintball,' by Steve Davidson. The book is for parents, d'oh, (of would be young players) but it is also a source of comprehensive general information about most every aspect of the game. As such it's also an excellent resource for anyone interested in getting their paintball knowledge on. Distributed by KEE there is a dedicated website and it's also available through Amazon. And a routine Google search for "paintball books" puts 'A Parents Guide..' at or near the top of the list.

Davidson, considered by some a polarizing figure in the early history of the game, has been involved in paintball for 25 years and knows his stuff. Beside being eminently qualified he writes in a clean, easy-to-read style that communicates the simple to the complex in an understandable and (even) entertaining manner. The book includes a number of useful appendices and while some of the info is out-of-date, given the way the industry & media in particular are changing, it's neither s huge surprise nor a fault of any real consequence. There's also a solid glossary of paintball specific terms. The only aspects of the book some might object to are the price and the advertisements. The Amazon price is $15.95 and the majority of the ads are full page black & white ads for mostly KEE distributed product lines. (Compared to buying 3 paintball magazines you get a lot more specific and useful info and a lot fewer ads.) Overall the book is a straightforward and honest introduction to the game of paintball that also conveys a sense of the fun and excitement playing paintball offers.

If KEE (for example) wanted to make a long term contribution to "growing the sport" they could do worse than making a commitment to putting a copy of this guide in as many local libraries as possible around the country. Just saying. And if you know somebody who wants to know more about paintball 'A Parents Guide ..' fits the bill.

Friday, February 5, 2010

PSP PHX '10: Laning Off The Break

Normally I don't do this prior to an event we are playing but in this case it's a more complex "problem" than usual and I don't expect I'll be giving anything away to our competition--and even if I do it will still come down to players, plans and execution.

Keep in mind that ideally the lanes chosen are consistent with team goals and not simply picked by the player(s) randomly or because it's a more 'comfortable' option; ie, I can't do that 'cus I'll get shot so let me shoot over there instead. The lack of a unified effort on this layout will prove particularly counterproductive in a match with a real team. (And, yes, if you're wondering I am suggesting there are plenty of 'teams' that aren't really teams in a meaningful sense.)

Inside the half circle on the diagram is the basic shooting zone. I've chosen some spots but the available lanes aren't limited to the spots. Anywhere within the zone offers most of the same lanes. On the d-side of the field the home shooter has limited lanes and minimal control of the wire. This is where A, B & C come into play as players delay their move to their primaries in order to lane first. A & C are moderately high risk which is where E & I become options. E represents player movement up field with the option to shoot a moving lane to either side of the field and I is positioned in the nearest TCK in order to shoot a cross field corner and D1 lane. The problem in relying on I is that you remove a gun from the snake side of play otb.

Regarding the snake side, while it is more open to effective laning options, it is still possible and important to make your opponent prove their laning ability. And once again relying on crossfield lanes will weaken your initial efforts on the opposite side otb. (A d-side shooter [A or B] in those positions is a d-side player on that point but is, in a sense, out of the play during the critical initial seconds so the effort to shoot the crossfield lane leaves that player playing catch up. So while it's a good lane there is a real trade off.) Additionally, players shooting lanes from outside the shooting zone will require time to reach their spots and this is where your team speed can come into play. It is important to make solid judgments in practice about actual degree of risk involved in the various breaks you attempt and to have alternative options planned in advance.

The core complication is how to mix your laning options so that you consistently put paint through the critical lanes without getting caught inside the shooting zone or simply inside generally after your opponent is wide and denying outside rotations. (This includes routinely filling the MTs as the result is a predominantly defensive posture that won't allow teams to push the wires if they drop a body. It will also tend to overextend the lead wire player as it will lead to an inability on one side or the other to fill the voids anytime the lead player is eliminated.)

Hopefully this will give some teams a good place to start preparing fo Phoenix. If you would like additional information or have a specific related question put it up in comments and I'll (probably) be happy to take a stab at an answer.

Recruits for the Week

This is a milestone week for the DPA here at VFTD. (I love acronyms, how 'bout you?) We have broken the triple digit barrier thanks to our two latest recruits; Electriko and Mr. L. Thank you both and welcome aboard. Now a century strong how long will it be before that number is doubled and doubled again? And every new recruit moves us one step closer to--world domination! (cue maniacal laugh)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Optimized Bracket Adjustment

Before I get started on the OBA (optimized bracket adjustment) a few (more) words on yesterday's classification post. I want to demonstrate in real numbers the difference in the current method for moving down and my suggested alternative.

Let's say a player earns 4200 points during the 2010 season. The player is ranked semi-pro as a result. In the current system (assuming no higher scores are received) the player's scores remain the same in 2011 and 2012. For 2013 the score is reduced from 4200 to 3150 dropping the player's rank to D1. And in 2014 the score drops again to 2100 where it stays, leaving the player ranked D1.
Using my alternative take the same player and the same 4200 points earned in 2010. The score remains the same in 2011. In 2012 (assuming no new qualifying scores are received) the player's score drops to 3360 and the player is ranked D1. In 2013 the score drops to 2520 and player remains D1. In 2014 the score drops to 1680 with the player assigned a D2 rank and in 2015 it would drop to the D2 floor of 984 where it would remain--until sufficient new scores were earned to start the climb up the ladder over again.
The larger point is simply that any player who rises to semi-pro (or pro) status but is unable for whatever reason to maintain it is no longer a semi-pro (or pro) player by demonstrated ability and shouldn't remain one by rank. That player may retain semi-pro potential but that is very different than playing at a semi-pro level and their classification rank ought to reflect the fact.

The Optimized Bracket Adjustment modifies scores earned in sub-optimal brackets. In a bracket of 8 teams 50% of the field end up in the top 4. In a bracket of 20 teams 20% of the field end up in the top 4. Clearly the larger bracket has a higher degree of difficulty in achieving a top 4 result. In the 8 team bracket the winner receives a 100. Second gets a 77 and third gets a 64. (All numbers rounded.) Eighth place gets 10, seventh gets 23 and sixth gets 36. In the bracket of 20 teams the winner receives 100, second gets 85, third gets 80. Twentieth gets 10, nineteenth gets 15 and eighteenth gets 19. All scores revert toward the mean except the polar scores of 100 and 10.

My contention is that a win in a bracket of eight is not equivalent to a win in a bracket of twenty (or more.) All results aren't created equally and shouldn't be valued equally for the purpose of determining a player's classification. The OBA takes into account the disparity in the relative degree of difficulty between random bracket population sets. The OBA would assign an optimum number of participants to a bracket and any number less than the optimum would modify the final event scores received by the participating teams. It would NOT alter their place of finish and the purpose of the modified score is as it relates to the ratings that impact classification only. Any number of teams below the optimum is then recognized as being competitively insufficient to award maximum points. It would also be relatively easy to do. It could be accomplished at least 3 ways, 2 of which are; by altering the range of scores from the top down (meaning the max score would be less than 100) or by changing the mean score (by moving both the high and low score possible.) In either case it would only require a simple numeric change to the equation generating raw event scores. And depending on the program structure it probably wouldn't be all that difficult to include. (Easy for me to say.)

But, again, this is more of a quibble than an absolutely necessary modification. The OBA would be most useful in under-populated brackets that displayed little or no parity. The fact that the high score is removed from consideration goes a long way towards assuring only players who legitimately earn their rank receive it--particularly in under-populated brackets--and as I said in the first post the new system is a substantial improvement over the old one. Any perceived or real inequities in the system are unlikely to affect any significant number of players. All it really needs is a little more flexibility in allowing downward player movement.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

PSP Classification System: Moving Down

Picking up on yesterday's post on the PSP's new classification system I want to nit-pick the details a little bit in the areas where this system retains some of the old system's problems. Hereafter a "problem" is something I would like to see handled differently or better--not a problem in a design or structural sense. So, my problems with the system may not be yours--until I convince you otherwise.

Yesterday I mentioned there was a floor in each division where the event rating (raw score times multiplier) was insufficient alone or cumulatively to push a player (team) up a rank and that it was roughly the bottom third that wouldn't change their rank assuming consistent scores. (If you are D3 playing in D2 and routinely at the bottom of the results you stay D3.) Well, there is also a threshold for moving up and it is approx. at the 23rd percentile so that if your accumulated average event ratings put you (your team) in the top 25% percent or so consistently the numbers will move you up a rank at season's end. My quibble here is only at the margins--what is the appropriate amount of teams (players) to gain the next rank--and does this threshold do that? Ideally I'm not sure it ought to be a standardized value across the divisions but despite that reservation I think the new system serves the interests of the lower divisions quite capably.

Now all of this is a little fuzzy partly on account of dropping the high score and only counting scores 2, 3 and 4 as determinative. As I noted yesterday this keeps an aberrational score (or one received in a less populated bracket--more on this coming tomorrow) from dominating the results. But the fuzziness is advantageous to the players as it also creates boundaries that aren't as hard and fast as before and helps make the overall system one that sees players earn their rank while simultaneously being less likely to push wholesale advancements. This is particularly so in the lower divisions with more populous brackets. [Despite the fact all the calculations up and down the divisions are computed consistently the size of the sample--the number of competing teams--has an impact in increasing potential opportunities for movement. For example the boundary between D2 and D1 is more fluid than the boundary between D1 and Semi-pro. One might argue the differences are small but they become readily apparent as sample sizes increase.]

Despite these improvements and despite the standardization of how a player's rank goes down I think it's still too restrictive. (Once again my problem may not be yours.) In the lower divisions with the focus on moving up dropping ranks has little to no priority but nonetheless remains a function of this system. From the upper divisions however movement down has greater urgency because there are both practical and artificial limitations on opportunity. This system, like the last one, is heavily biased toward the notion that once a rank is achieved the player is not subject to significant change or loss of skills and/or game-playing ability. For example any, let me repeat that, any player who achieves a pro rank cannot, in this system, ever drop below semi-pro.

Flatly, that's ridiculous. The system continues to judge players on team results--there's little option on that count--but all players aren't equal and some player gain ranks with teams their ability doesn't merit. Players may like to think once a high-ranked player always a high-ranked player but it simply isn't true. Most players, regardless of rank, have to work at keeping up their skill level and that is more true the higher a player gets. The new system drops scores 25% after 2 years and 50% (total) after 3 years which results in a player dropping one rank. Instead, drop a player's score 20% a year after the first year with a maximum 80% for all players ranked higher than D2 while using D2 as the floor with no higher-ranked player ever dropping below that level. The result would prioritize recent performances and scores and good players would continue to accumulate scores that keep them in the upper levels.

Tomorrow: Part 3 (The Big Finish): The Optimized Bracket Adjustment

Un, er, Redacted

The post I pulled last week has been re-posted to its original date, 1/25/10. It's irrelevant now and not really worth your time--if it ever was--but the curious can have a look. It's called 'T Minus 90 and Counting'

Monday, February 1, 2010

PSP’s Restructured Classification System

Without rewriting the classification rules in simple English I’m hoping to get through this subject relatively painlessly. That means, 1) if there’s any follow-up questions don’t hesitate to ask and, 2) there will be a second part regardless of how long this post ends up being. The second post will cover the one area of weakness in these new rules.

Fortunately it should be a relatively short post as the new rules have done a very good job of addressing some past issues. The new system puts players in the position of earning their rank (by and large.) The new system is more flexible in that it has a structured consistent methodology to handle player movement both up--and down. Which is a big and positive step. The mid-season movement qualifier is protection against outliers moving players prematurely. And the dropping of the high score in the calculation of the player’s rating helps confirm the player’s ability as well as reinforcing the idea of earning the rank assigned. There is no automatic movement up the ranks based on which division a player is competing in. And there is a rational floor built into the system that assures players (teams) that simply aren’t competitive or even average won’t be forced to move up beyond their ability (in most situations.) Put it altogether and it’s a significant improvement. Add it to the regional affiliates inclusion this season and the Big Picture concept of a universalized competitive paintball environment regardless of where you play or what level you compete at and the new system is an essential, perhaps the essential piece of that puzzle. It’s not perfect–but what is?–but it is world’s better than the old system and even without the addition I’m going to suggest in the next post it will work well for most players in most circumstances. It is the new state of the art.

Okay, perhaps a bit about how the new system works is in order. In some respects it’s just a more nuanced version of the old system but it is the new flexibility, and the way the accumulated numbers are valued, that makes all the difference in the world. The event score formula simply assigns a place value to any number of competing teams in a range between 10 - 100. First is 100, last is 10 and everybody else falls in-between. That’s not where the changes are. The key to the new system is the multipliers and the idea that players play themselves into the rank(s) they achieve. The disparity between the top ranks and the lower ones may seem extreme but the relationships between each rank and within those ranks is consistent top to bottom. The same event results in each division will result in the same outcomes. A D3 player becomes a D2 player in exactly the same way as a semi-pro becomes pro. For example the "floor" of each rank is around the 69th percentile. That means as a D3 moving up to try D2 if your season sees scores in the bottom third of the D2 scores most of the time those players would almost certainly retain their D3 rank. This means the standard to move up a rank is to consistently score in the upper two-thirds so that a player’s accumulated rating minus their best score moves them into the upper two-thirds. Conceptually, with a floor all players will eventually find their place within the divisions in a largely non-coercive system.

In the larger divisions I don’t see any real issues with the new system. However, there are vestiges of the old issues in small divisions and I’ll discuss the problem and suggest a fix tomorrow.