Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No Easy Answers

Is not an excuse for failing to look for answers. It's a recognition of reality. In comments to The Monday Poll post this week raehl suggested uncapped semi-auto hopperball and Don (tongue in cheek, if not firmly) suggested no batteries equals true semi-auto. My purpose here isn't to dissect the merits of either suggestion but rather to point out two or three factors in play when we try to "solve" various of the presumed "problems" with competitive paintball using their suggestions as a springboard.

Arc of Development
James Naismith invented basketball but nobody sets up peach baskets at either end of the floor anymore. In fact the dimensions of the modern competitive game aren't always uniform depending on the level of play. And nobody playing football eschews the forward pass today because it wasn't part of the original game or utilizes the wing T formation much anymore beyond a few high schools--and even they may have moved on. My point is simple; the game is constantly evolving and it's difficult, if not impossible, to resist. MLB has held a line with wooden bats and NASCAR uses restrictor plates on some circuits but even well-established sports aren't immune.

Arc of Technology
Much of the driving force behind changes in competitive paintball has been technology. (And behind the technology is the ever present desire to make a buck. D'oh!) While technology itself is neutral it easily and often outpaces our ability to consider the end result. Producers are looking to profit. Ultimately the players, collectively, decide if it's something they want or not. Sorta. In the long term. In the short term the balance can be tipped to favor the producers. And thru much of competitive paintball's short history that has occurred because producers also controlled the competitive game. Including the rules. And as technology has bumped up against the rules it is the rules that have changed to accommodate technology with, as far as I can tell, virtually no concern for the outcome. However, (for whatever consolation it might be) regardless of how some might choose to apportion blame within this process changing technologies are an unavoidable factor and will eventually find a balance between the producers and the users

The Will of the Players
Despite the fact most of you are sheep y'all eventually get around to only buying and playing the brand of paintball you really want to. Mostly. For purposes of this post that means the 13 year old who kinda sorta wants to play tourney ball doesn't want to play hopperball or some variant of low ROF. And it doesn't matter if he only thinks that's what he wants. And it's not some PBIndustry conspiracy that there are high ROF Spyders & Tippmanns or tons of DMs and Egos out in the woods. Players are buying and shooting the guns (goggles, packs, hoppers, etc.) they want to. Sure the choices have limitations but as long as there are choices players will do what they want--including quitting playing paintball.

Nothing Happens in Isolation
Decisions are like dominoes, one leads to the next--whether it was the intended next or not. So what about raehl's uncapped semi-auto hopperball? If it's an answer what's the question? How many players per side? What size field? Is there an age component? Is it a beginner's format? Have you ever tried shooting a high ROF electro with a real gravity fed hopper? It's like owning a Ferrari and being unable to leave Manhattan. My point isn't to nit-pick the examples, it's to demonstrate there are no simple solutions. Why aren't Young Guns divisions with age restrictions more popular if ROF is the problem? Are there really too few players interested in competitive paintball or too few mentors and captains to lead and organize?

All the pieces of the puzzle must be accounted for. If you do it right there aren't any leftover pieces. Here's another example. Not a great one because I don't know enough of the details but I am intrigued by the CFOA's efforts to promote 3-man. Once upon a time 3-man was a staple local tourney option. It seems like a no-brainer for entry level play but what happened to it? Will the CFOA's efforts be rewarded? Is it being played with any restrictions? On Race 2 field layouts? Is it working or isn't it? Why or why not? The uncertainty surrounding competitive paintball these days can be a frustrating struggle--but it is also an opportunity. Just not one subject to easy answers.


Reiner Schafer said...

There are no easy answers. From you post (a good one I might add): "While technology itself is neutral it easily and often outpaces our ability to consider the end result."


"And as technology has bumped up against the rules it is the rules that have changed to accommodate technology with, as far as I can tell, virtually no concern for the outcome. However, (for whatever consolation it might be) regardless of how some might choose to apportion blame within this process changing technologies are an unavoidable factor and will eventually find a balance between the producers and the users."

Players (users) are going to grasp onto whatever technolgy may give them an advantage to win. Would NASCAR competitors opt to use restrictor plates if not forced to do so? Of course not. Producers love to market and sell new technomogy. Users will always use any new technology that may give them an advantage. But there is an entity in the middle that is responsible to make sure the technolgy provides the desired results. At least there is suopposed to be.

Competitive paintball has in large been funded by producers, unlike most other (popular) sports that are supported by viewership. That middle entity that is supposed to be looking out for the overall good of the sport (league) has had no choice but to be influenced in it's decision making by the producers (not even going to talk about the users/players cause they will always choose that which gives them a perceived advantage) as that is where they are getting a good portion of their funding. Producers want to sell new technolgy and paintballs.

If you put the inmates in charge of the assylum, you will get something other that sane results.

Having said all that, is there a chance to reverse things? Abolutely. Is it going to happen? Absolutely not. Top level professional play would need to amalgamate into one league and the rule makers of that league would need to feel that there is an advantage to dumbing down technology to attract a wider spectrum of players (and in the process alienate many of those choosing to compete in current versions). Those two elements are not going to happen anytime soon.

Therefore your Monday Poll is really spot on. In the situation the industry has evolved in and still currently resides in, low level technology versions of competitive play will only be available in niche markets and are not going to hit the big leagues any time soon, even if in the long run they would prove to be popular with larger number of participants. Producers (sponsors/league financiers) don't want it and current users (players) don't want it.

As an aside, I do find it a bit ironic that the producers were putting pressure on leagues a few short years ago to lower the ROF (the beast they pushed to create). In the end it bit them in the butt. Karma?

Anonymous said...

You forgot number 5 which is it's all about being TRENDY!

papa chad said...

I'm starting to think that limiting pods could really bring the sport into affordable play, and at the same time add a good, new, strategic element to the game. but which game (psp or nppl)? and how many pods? well, if the point is to make things even between those who can afford to give their guys seven pods per game and those who can afford to bring two or three, we should probably come to the middle somewhere. Is four pods and a loader really so limiting in x-ball (if we capped pods there)? it just seems the "paint gap" has always been there and there will be a division in those who can afford to roll their guns for an entire game and those who can't and just leave the sport, so here's an idea. have an official league pack. let all manufacturers make them and then approve them. if it's so hard to keep people from "sneaking" a 1 1/2 foot pod on the field, make the packs transparent or something. penalize those who are caught with more pods than that. how hard could it be to regulate? not so hard, I think.
then, there really should be one format, but it has never seemed that the players could have any say (or have said anything) about changing the sport for the better.
if the industry didn't have such a chokehold on what the game looks like it seems like we could make progress.
is it really that hard to get a council of seasoned pro players to see the good and bad in each format, and bring them together as one?
paintball has always needed unification, but we never seemed to get there. today the game has what, five-seven major formats for competitive play? and five more kinds of "casual" play? com'on. I just think paintball should be a single thing, not some underfunded scatterbrain of ideas. if the players really had a say I think we could and would come to the conclusion of unifying the sport under one banner- one that where we ALL as paintball players could slap the same sticker on our car and say we play PAINTBALL- not some obscure division of it. if only.

papa chad said...

also, limiting pods would really leave it up to you how fast you need to shoot, and when. so my vote goes for a collective of capped semi-auto (maybe around 15?) and a limiting of pods. if you need to shoot super fast, you will drain your paint supply super fast. in this way, the game becomes more interesting and less of a money-spending contest. I would like to say limit it at 3 pods and a hopper per game. not too much for normal people to afford, and perhaps not too little for legitimate play.

Mark790.06 said...

There is a way to play the game if the ROF is 13.3, and there's a way to play it if it's 15.4, or 10.5, or 12.5. All the ways to play are not much, if at all different, from one ROF to the next.

True, the newest of the noobs may have issues at higher ROF combined with the pace of the game, and something like a 3-man type thing may make it an easier transition.

What I see are players with 2+ years experience playing at that higher pace in practice as well in competition who cannot grasp the team-game fundamentals. They still may experience success here and there. Enough to keep their interest in the sport.

Eventually they lose that interest, and sure many factors can cause this, but what I see is the frustration accumulating over time because they have no idea why they cannot progress to the next level. If there was a FPS video game that had no web-forum with hints and cheats on how to advance to the next level. What kid today would keep playing it?

I know this is a subject regarding ROF specifically, but in the long run we're (usually) talking about what is best for the game to grow, and I got to say it's has a lot to do with that frustration.

I have no suggestions or answers for this, and it may be a dead end to save these frustrated souls, but it is a quantifiable amount that take this exit ramp out of the sport.

OK, maybe a suggestion came to me.

If for every 4 or 5 Syndicate Dissected-type video where instead of hip music and super slow-mo chest slides someone does a "how to play the freaking game video" or better yet "how NOT to play the game" with video examples. You can get a year's worth of material at just one of my events.

Instead of the Short Bus stuff where they make fun of fat dufuses flopping behind a small dorito, a break down of why the D2 player should be looking to go to D3 instead of shooting inside for instance might be more productive. But I do still like to laugh at the dufuses ;-)

How come I know that if the linebacker doesn't bite on a play action pass you don't throw the crossing route? Or if the pump fake doesn't freeze the safety you don't throw the go route?

anonachris said...

Mark, if we lose slow-mo shots of euros with alluringly sexy accents that think they're hot stuff before getting mowed off the field, or if we lose short bus vids of fat kids falling on their face in the mud, I'm coming for you first.

But I wouldn't mind mr baja giving us a few video-pointers. But he has to do it with his shirt off and glistened up in baby oil

J-Bird said...

Mark, you're going right up my alley. I posted in another thread that it's time to make paintball "technical" and make these "pro secrets" more accessible. However, (as posted by J.Stien) that's not going to happen unless somebody sees benefit for it. In my perfect world i could just online and see total breakdowns of how a team won a match, with information on the players who played each position, what their strengths are etc... But, (from my prespective), teams dont want to let that information out for various reasons.

Also -- with more field owners "seeing the light" and moving away from tournament ball, where is the new player going to learn how to play? Or; Who is going to teach a new player how to play? I personally think that "paintball clubs" might be the speedball field of the future: fields ran by teams, to teach, practice, and develop. There are only a few fields like this in the nation, but what field owner is going to even attempt to venture into that market if they think it's doomed to fail?

just some musings while reading.

anonachris said...

"teams dont want to let that information out for various reasons."

Hah. I laughed a little. Thanks. Have you been standing around a pro team before they play? Like 10 seconds before the game starts? The best teams in the world are winging it and they can't really tell you what they're doing other than running up the field, getting an angle on the other guy and shooting him before they get shot. Be fast, don't get shot, shoot the other guy, make moves, don't lose your head when things turn against you. Those are their secrets from what I have been able to see.

J-Bird said...

argh! there must a be a method to the madness D:<

Mark790.06 said...

I just don't see how making the focus on high percentage up-field moves instead of low percentage cross field shots can be a super duper "pro secret" of some kind.

It's not like pro teams have to worry anymore about up-start novice teams beating them and ruining their chances of making the cut.

Wouldn't it be easier for pro teams to scout for talent if the teams they're scouting have a clue how to play.

At the pro level things are a world away from what I see on a monthly basis. A pro player may not have thought along these fundamental lines in so long because it rarely is useful to the game they play. It's no wonder that all they can teach in a video is how to snap shoot or pop shots.

raehl said...

I wasn't suggesting hopperball out of some perverted sense of nostalgia or unwillingness to change. "Semi-auto" hopperball even allows for technically unlimited rates of fire. I even have no significant objection to guns shooting 30 balls a second. But I think we can all agree that a game where everyone was shooting 30 balls a second for a whole game would, well, kinda suck. And even if it didn't kinda suck, it would definitely be expensive!

The problem is we all play to win. And shooting more paint increases your chances of winning the game you are playing right now. So on the margin, given the choice between shooting more and not shooting more, people who want to win choose to shoot more.

The problem is over the long term, shooting more costs more, and at some point, people have to choose to stop playing, because they can't afford to shoot enough paint to win, and if you are playing to win, once you realize that you can't afford to shoot enough paint to win, the only decision is to stop playing.

I just don't think anyone could argue that we wouldn't have more players if the cost to play was half as much because we used 25% as many paintballs. The paintball manufacturers would make more money (higher margins over more customers), the equipment manufacturers would make more money (still selling guns that can shoot 20 bps when the player decides they need to to more players and selling a lot more high-margin items like jerseys and pads and pants), and we have more people playing the game.

It's win win win all around. But it requires everyone to get together and agree to eliminate shooting more paint as a factor in winning.

Anonymous said...

I've been around Tournament Paintball for 25 years and have heard these same arguments for every one of those years!The game and the names have changed but the song remains the same.
Heres a little Fairy Tale:
Once upon a time there were 16 Kings from 16 Kingdoms that attended events of Evil Dictators that were dictating how the game enjoyed by their Kingdoms would be played. controlling the entry fees,the venues and the paint prices, in order to increase profits the judging was getting more and more erratic and the rules or lack of them was becoming more than The Kings could deal a few Kings decided to voice Their opinions regarding these issues only to be told thats the way it is if you want to play!For several months the Kings continued to enjoy their beloved game under the control of the Evil dictators who controlled the world knowing that to oppose the dictators would mean expulsion from the world they truly loved.
One day a peasant boy who had been enjoying this game of Kings Happened upon one of the Kings and noticed how unhappy He was with this game that at one time had brought so much enjoyment to him and asked why are you so unhappy?"I think this may be the last time my Kingdom attends these events" said the King This wise peasant boy replied if you dont like the way this is being done do it yourself and walked away.
On the long journey across the country the King thought about what that peasant boy had said and thought why not do it myself?
Upon returning to his Kingdom the King decided to gather together all the great Kings for a event of their own where the kingdoms could create their own rules and make the event more affordable to the smaller Kingdoms from around the world, bring their own Paint,bring their own Air,establish their own fee structure,and to use the players from one of the other Kingdoms to oversee the event.
After braving great odds and the possibility of the Dictators not allowing these Kingdoms ever Participating in these events again they held their 1st event.The Event was the best event these Kingdoms had ever attended there were no complaints no disputes no issues whatsoever and every King talked about what a great event it was for months.
Several weeks later the King contacted the peasant boy who had so influenced him with a simple suggestion and asked the boy to assemble these 16 Kings and form a Alliance to continue these events.The peasant boy set up 2 underground meetings which all 16 Kings attended and a new group was born to lead the world united,in control of their own destiny and to enjoy their world forever.


until they themselves became the next Evil dictators!!!!!!!!!

The moral of this story is history will repeat itself unless the players and teams unite and do what those Kings did so many years ago but learn from their mistakes along the way and ensure that this time history does not repeat itself!!!

Does anybody know what organization I am talking about?

anonachris said...

Can you explain the higher margins for the manufacturers if we reduce paint consumption? I understand they would want to charge more. But economic reality is economic reality. If someone can produce paint at X cost they will. And if they can paint at cost + 10% they will.

Now I follow on more customers, but that is only true to a certain extent anyway.

I actually wouldn't mind tournament rules that limited paint to 2 pods per player or something. I think that rule seems right in line with restricting rate of fire. If we think leagues can restrict rof, they can also restrict volume.

But I don't buy that it will bring us to profitable paintball heaven on earth.

Baca Loco said...

Again, kids, very worthwhile comments. Y'all are going to spoil me if this keeps up.

I intended the post's outline to be more all inclusive than simply ROF related issues but it's all good.

I concur.

Papa C
I wouldn't have a problem with limited paint but why must it be all-inclusive? And why must there be a unified format?
While I favor the current iteration of the UCP (universal classification) as an essential step forward for competitive paintball I don't think the game is at a point where there's any advantage in limiting the scope of what we consider competitive paintball. Which is one reason I introduced the idea of the CFOA's 3-man events. And how 'bout the UWL? Is it comeptitive paintball or is it relegated to some other status?
Bottom line right now I want more peeps playing competitive paintball. If that's going to happen here are some of the hurdles to be overcome in the process.

Isn't that really an indictment of team captains and leaders?
Could you put a percent to the attrition you think is happening?
How many of these kids are teachable? I have run into more than my share who are positive they know it all already.

J-Bird & a-chris
Yes and No. The best teams in the world aren't "winging it" for the most part but there are some pro teams that do. Parse that however you like.
For the teams that do evaluate and document their opposition it isn't the sort of info they would be inclined to post on open forums as it includes tendencies, perceived weaknesses, patterns, etc. and is valuable info if you know how to use it in real time.
It is also a separate category of data from how any given team chooses to play.

J Bird,
There is. Even the seemingly haphazard teams have the underlying structure of their training and accumulated knowledge and experience at work when they compete. However plenty of them couldn't break it down into rules & reasons if you held a gun to their head.

No need to be defensive. I'm fine with your hopperball as I am with the CFOA's 3-man events. What I was getting at is even if uncapped semi-auto hopperball is the answer--it isn't the answer in and of itself in isolation from a whole array of other factors. I'd love to see somebody offer hopperball and see what happens. Where paintball often seems to get in trouble is in the aftermath. (not a plug.) Should hopperball succeed we need to ask why and make sure we know what all went into it's success and the same if it fails.
And if hopperball is successful at the local young guns level does that mean it must be introduced into every other form of competitive paintball?

More coming in a regular post.

Mark790.06 said...

"Isn't that really an indictment of team captains and leaders?"

Who, Dad that's never played the game before? Going with the video taping suggestion: an adult is more capable of drawing conclusions, seeing consequences of actions or in this case, inaction's.
Granted, Coach-Dad is also more capable of denying his own boy could have ever done anything wrong. That's why there is drug rehab, prisons, and Lane ;-)

"Could you put a percent to the attrition you think is happening?"

I think it's pretty high, 70-80%. I've seen many quit playing for many reasons, but it may all start with the frustration because of a lack of success. Few quit after a 3rd win out of 4, but a 3rd 2nd place in a row, and I've seen teams implode. Suddenly that teammate needs to pay me back for paint from 2 events ago, NOW! The issue may now be money, but it wasn't before that last loss in the finals.

"How many of these kids are teachable? I have run into more than my share who are positive they know it all already."

You can't save them all, but if you were able to show them on video what they, or someone else in a similar situation, did that may have caused a loss it's harder to deny the problem.
It goes farther than that. Those who may be starting into competitive paintball would eat these videos up, and before they ever get the "I know it all" syndrome.
All I'm saying is to come up with something that will make a loss in paintball something a player can learn from. As of now I see very few if any players able to learn from a loss.

Reiner Schafer said...

Mark, I believe you make some good points. I think most neww cometitive players take up competitive play as the next step iin paintball. I think most assume that they will automatically learn the skills needed and advance from being a noob to a pro, if they just show up and get the experience.

Paintball lacks the organization that many other sports have. My kids were involved in Little League when young, and it was all about teaching them the basic skills, teamwork, and learning from mistakes and losses. My nephew who I am now raising, is involved in soccer, as was one of my sons, and again, there is much more emphasis placed on learning the game and how to play it then there is in winning. Those that learn to play the game well go on as adults to become pro (or some other higher level of play) and can then concentrate on winning. But they put in many years before they got there learing the basics.

Paintball players seem to get frustrated rather quickly when they don't see the opodium on a regular basis. Much of that has probably to do with the fact that it is a huge financial commitment compared to sports like soccer and baseball. There is much more incentive to throw your arms up in the air after not placing decent finishes and take your finances and time and spend it elsewhere. That will ALWAYS be a problem with paintball unless a format can be found that new players can strive to get good enough to play the highest level at, without the financial drain. But that means the Pro level must be either playing the same format or if it's a different format (ie, unlimited paintballs versus severely limited paintballs), it's paid for by some other means than out of the players' pockets. But to have ALL players at ALL levels always playing at the bottom of their pockets (always broke or in debt) will create a situation where the attrition rate is huge.

Missy Q said...

What is it this week? - story-time?

I have one about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman...

Baca Loco said...

No, not Dad. Remember the make-up of most Florida 5-man teams back when Static formed--and the demographic on that team? Plenty of older (20s, 30s) players were playing and running teams.
It seems to me that the broader demographic of active tourney players back then facilitated introducing new players into the competitive game.

Anonymous said...

I blame Dynasty.
No-one cared about having little kids on their team until those guys came along.

anonachris said...

Hah. No one cared about little kids on their team until Xball and people start saying things like "We need small, fast, killers."

I'm pretty tired of watching people pick up all the small fast kids, thinking they'll turn their team into champs. I think I'll go eat another twinkee and cry.

Mark790.06 said...


True, but there were a lot of REALLY bad teams with 20 & 30 y.o. on them back then too. Plus some pretty bizzare layouts that played a whole lot differently than any 2 x-ball layouts ever did.
Agreed on the broader demo though.