Friday, July 30, 2010

Talking Paintball

I really enjoyed seeing the ProPaintball kids come out with a pro ranking but I was disappointed to see how little conversation it generated. Disappointed but not surprised. Half the fun of being a sports fan is talking about your favorite sport, the games played, match-ups to come, the players, sharing opinions and talking smack, standing up for your favorite teams and players and all the rest. It's happening around the clock, 24/7 around the world. Sports radio is huge. There's at least a dozen television networks dedicated to sports available from your local cable provider. Sure the bulk of the talk is about the big time mainstream sports but that's not the point. The point is guys and more than a few gals (that didn't date me much, did it?) really enjoy talking about sports. So where is the competitive paintball equivalent? By and large it doesn't exist.
I'm not sure why. Unless it's partly the fact there's no language for talking competitive paintball as sport. Most sports have statistics. Ways to compare teams and players based on various aspects of performance. Paintball doesn't. We have "What a killer!" or "He sucks." That and player name recognition and reputation based largely on video clips and articles from a now nearly dead media. And without a language for discussing paintball as sport it's that much harder to actually educate both players and fans about the game. (If that wasn't quite clear, yes, I'm suggesting even many of the players either don't know their own sport or at best don't know how to explain it.) And, there remains little connection between the "fans" and many of the current batch of pro players. There's minimal info about actual games played in competition. Little known about many of the players. Teams with no history--it's small wonder it's hard to figure out how to be an active fan.
Which is why I like Cade's effort to get folks to predict event outcomes for the PSP tournaments on PBN. It's a start. As are the assorted league partnerships with what remains of old media and some recently forged relationships with new media. And if somebody came up with a workable fantasy paintball that would be a big plus. (As were the webcast statistics when they existed. See, they had more uses than just flushing out the webcasts.) I've even suggested the PSP set up a booth and encourage people at the events to "gamble" on Pro match results using PSP dollars. There's lots of things you could do; donate the purchase of PSP bucks to local charity, vendors could accept PSP bucks at some modest exchange percentage to in effect offer discounts and encourage more on site buying, build up the interest in pro games, etc. In the meantime (if the gambling angle is too complicated) there's always a tournament version of bracketology. One reason college basketball's season ending championship tournament is such a sports happening these days is because everybody can fill out the brackets and guess at the winners of each game over the two plus weeks of the event. Newspapers and websites and informal groups at work or from the neighborhood award prizes or collect pots to give the winners. More people are more invested when they have a stake in the outcome. So how 'bout some PSP bracketology? Not only would it get more people actively involved in the results of matches played it would provide a sort of value added to the proceedings. And it touches on an element of how the major leagues can and should promote themselves that they haven't. (More on that soon.)
So what are you waiting for? Let's talk paintball.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ask Baca

No beating around the bush. No clever misdirection or subterfuge. This time. I was reading the Sports Guy yesterday--as I often do--and it struck me, not for the first time, what a sweet gig it is to do columns responding to reader questions, comments, etc. And I want in. Look, I confess--content is hard. Especially when you promise not to do some stuff. For example, there's a burning question I really want to ask about Dynasty and T4 but it could possibly be construed as sorta disrespectful so ... it's a no go.

That means I need your help. I need questions--any old sort of paintball or paintball-related questions you can come up with will be fantastic. And instead of you guys commenting on my posts you can send me your opinions for my comment. What'd'ya think? This could be your big break. It'll be fun. So help a poor tired blogger out, okay? I got a new toy today--a compact camcorder--and you know, could be I'll do some special video features for VFTD--but only if I have the time. Ya feel me?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mr. Curious

Has had his ear to the ground waiting for the latest rumblings of rumor or gossip and if has finally paid off. Except he's got this terrible kink in his neck. Next stop, the chiropractor.
Anyway, initially it seemed the shake-ups at KEE weren't over yet as the word was more high profile employees were likely headed for the exit doors. That now appears incorrect. On top of that however there's talk of KEE relocating their HQ to Arkansas. Sounds vaguely JT-ish, doesn't it? Indications are that's the current plan.

A Road Less Traveled

A Paintball love story. Not. If I wanted warm and gooey--get your minds out of the gutter--I'd go for some Cinna-minions down at the local IHOP. Actually I'm picking up where 'Broken Record' left off. I know I promised new ideas and they may in fact be new to some but there really isn't much that is truly new. Even in paintball. What I really have to offer is a variation on an old idea used in perhaps a new way. Now that you're thoroughly confused let's get started.
Paintball as sport is moving toward integration but that causes issues at the local and regional level where tourney ball is competitive but it's also a (struggling) business in many cases. Part of that process is pushing younger and younger players out of competitive opportunities because of their classification and the inability of the locals to accommodate those players within the framework of that integrating process. (And even without the integration process there has always been, or so it seems, the ever present sandbagging hysteria which does much the same often for less reason.) At the big maw end of beginning and developing players the integrating process needs to cookie cutter and categorize everybody new and up-and-coming. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that it's just that it is often contrary--or can be--to much of the motivation and fun for playing a competitive form of paintball at the local level. Sure the desire to win exists but so too the desire to hang out with friends and enjoy playing the game.
The driven players do what they have to do. The rest simply want to have fun playing the game.
As currently envisioned competitive paintball as sport has a tiered pathway that leads from the local field's D5 event all the way up to the major league's Pro division. It works (or could work) because it universalizes the competitive experience in format and classification. But as much as everyone may want it to it cannot accommodate everybody's interest in competitive paintball.
In the past we've discussed all sorts of alternatives; return to the woods, mechanical markers, pump guns, restricted ROF, limited paint and more but those "solutions" are aimed at throwing a wider net to attract more players. They don't directly address keeping the ones we've already got but this does: re-seeded open division play. (See, I told you there are no new ideas.)
No or very limited restrictions on team rosters. Institute whatever set of rules and format you want and organize it a couple of ways based on participation. The secret is relatively short rounds and reseeding of teams. To make it simpler you could have Open A that allows Pro/Semi-pro ranked players to be rostered and Open B that doesn't. Play a round and be re-seeded into a new division based on scores playing a traditional 5-man format, for example. After the second round everyone finds themselves seeded for the final round in competitive groups and you finish up playing for your division title. Mostly the best teams, most experienced players, rise to the top but not always. Early losses don't matter. Everybody gets to compete. The lower div teams and players get the benefit of competing part of the time against superior competition and still end the event with a chance to win their division. It could be a season ending "special" event or a bi-annual or if it proved popular it could be a semi-regular alternative to "serious" competitive events. It's also a way nearly everyone who wants to compete can play together.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Major League Paintball Weekly Update

The not so Grand Tour's Austria event was this past weekend. A total of 35 teams participated. No further info except scores are posted at Of note was the Ukrainian team HULK in the Masters division. Is that a great name or what? They had a "sister" team in the lower division called HULK X.O. What a lost opportunity when they could call themselves something like Hulk Smash. Or if it's a feeder team they could be the Dr. Bruce Banners. I hope they at least wear green. (You don't want to play them when they're angry.) Also playing in the Vienna event was the eventual X3 winner, an Austrian team called Army of Lovers. I sure hope that sounds tougher in German--not, of course, that there's anything wrong with that, liebchen.

Nothing much of note in Millennium Land where open division registrations for October's Paris event season finale is up to 15 teams. With all this time before the last event of 2010 the MS has a real opportunity, or so it seems, to get their house in order and lay the foundation for a better 2011. Along with looking to make a few Euros in Asia they'd be well-advised to be working out a new model or at least modifications to how an international tournament paintball league can be profitably operated. The old ways aren't cutting it anymore as traditional revenue streams turn into trickles.

NPPL registration for the DC Challenge closes today. The best quick count I came up with is 68 teams including 14 Pros but we already know the Pro numbers will be 12 or less. I'm kinda hoping the schedule for Friday's play will leave one field or the other available in the late afternoon and the powers that be will allow a bit of practice. How 'bout it, guys? Just need an hour or two and a few games. The All*Star game(s) will be held on Saturday before during after the Pro prelims. There are links posted at the NPPL website for All*Star voting results but no lists are available yet. On the same page the NPPL reminds everyone the event will be covered by all their major media partners including Check it out and see what a major media outlet like has been up to lately.

Registration closes for the PSP's MAO event this coming Friday. There are currently 77 Race 2-X teams registered as the numbers shift some more at the last minute with some teams bowing out and others having waited until the last minute. There are also 30 Race 2-2 teams registered. A Race 2-X decline from last season now appears inevitable. It's likely just a question of how many. Phoenix was down less than 15%. Chicago less than 5%. It's beginning to look like the PSP season may once again hinge on the World Cup turnout as has been the case in the past. We should final numbers for next week's update. Lastly, there are whispers, not even rumors, just whispers, that at least one PSP Pro team may be in trouble. It's that time of year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Broken Record

If you've been hanging around the VFTD watercooler long enough this post will seem like deja vu. (Come to think of it VFTD's second birthday was a few days ago.) During that first July I spent a lot of time on the "lost" D1 players and I've replayed that record since then, too. A couple of things in the last week reminded me that, despite changes, not much has changed.
In prior posts I tied the lost players to the misguided classification rules. Those rules were changed--for the better--and yet, lost players is still an issue. Players from a well known high profile Florida team that fell apart recently (and unexpectedly) are trying to put the pieces back together. Part of their motivation, besides a desire to compete, is the realization that if they can't compete at the major league level they can't compete at all. At least not in Florida. Of course money is an issue too, always has been and always will be and the current state of the economy is affecting a lot more players than just the players caught in the classification pinch. This is also the first year of the PSP's affiliates rollout and while progress has been, and is being made, it isn't all sunshine and lollipops. And some of the grey clouds attached to the silver lining continue to be classification related issues. Those aren't so much wrongly classified players but the recurring tensions that occur as all leagues feel the pinch and the need to do everything they can to accommodate as many customers as possible. [Sports have players but paintball leagues need customers and the two categories don't always line up evenly.]
There's the rub as it applies to lost players. It's a helluva time to try and sort a fully realized, vertically integrated sport out of tournament paintball. I don't know any proponent of competitive paintball who doesn't want this to happen--or something quite like it--and if this effort had coincided with the good times I think it would be an established reality today but that's not where we are. The higher ranked the player becomes the fewer the options that exist for competition. Those options often include higher costs along with a more fully developed and complex organization in order to be competitive. At the other end of the spectrum the affiliates are torn between upward player movement pressure, enforcing classifications and the lack of competing upper divisional teams in a process that frequently breaks up existing teams.
The sport demands a legit classification system. The leagues need players. The timing is brutal but it is what it is. Competitive paintball needs to keep as many of its adherents actively involved as possible. But how?
Tomorrow, a couple of new ideas.

New Look ProPaintball

No doubt you've already been there seen that but if you haven't the title is a link to the latest--ProPaintball's first pro teams power ranking of the season. Go check it out and let them know where they got it wrong--and right.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dad Life

Talk about hardcore & keeping it real. Scary real. (Title link to YouTube. The full image is clipped here.)

Wait a minute

I'm confused. (Surprised? Me too. This almost never happens. That I'm confused. It's probably the effects of the heat & sun. It is b-r-u-t-a-l brutal outside.) Anyway I was catching up on the latest--and I do mean latest--from the NPPL. The league is going the extra mile to make the DC Challenge an entertaining event, which is awesome, and it would be even awesomer (if that was really a word) if perceived entertainment value made more potential customers dig deep for those major league entry fees. I'm not holding my breath or crossing my fingers. There's a BBQ on Thursday night. (Is Pev bringing in extra porta-johns?) No cover for the Saturday night players party, All Star awards and UFC 117--you know I'm there for that. The brand spanking new Hall of Fame. Just past the men's room at Pev's on the left or so I hear. But now I hear that two, possibly three Pro teams are gonna be no-shows for DC. Will their All*Stars participate? Will anybody care? Will the All*Stars know who they are before the event? And what effect will it have on the prelims & Sunday schedule, if any?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Telford Take

The title is the link. Check out Rich's take over at Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball. It may not be quite that simple but I am convinced that competitive paintball isn't the lodestone some make it out to be. In fact, I'm convinced it's an integral part of a healthy game and industry.

The Sound of Shutters

Digital SLRs still have shutters, right? Of course they do. I think. Anyway, it doesn't really matter. I was reviewing some paintball sites looking for info that could pertain to upcoming posts on the PSP affiliates and the next promotions post--yes, I'm still going to finish those posts--when I noticed how many photographers there are trying to drum up business at paintball tournaments. It almost seems like it's inversely proportional to the number of teams and players participating. The fewer players there are the more photographers looking for a gig. Which is a good thing if you're not a photographer...
(It could also be I just never noticed before.) It also seems as if the numbers of photographers has exploded since the print magazines died. Almost as if Joe Photographer no longer has to justify his (or her) work in the context of "what magazines have you been published in?" Of course there have always been photographers at events and since I shun having my picture taken like a superstitious New Guinea headhunter I'm the last one to notice just how many. Even so, it's kinda creeping me out. I assume most of them got into shooting paintball events through playing paintball. At least I hope so. If increasing numbers of professional photographers are circling around tournament paintball like sharks attracted by chum in the water is anybody still making junior high yearbooks anymore? At this rate how long will it be before the sound of shutters drowns out the rat-a-tat-tat of paintball guns?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ask the Coach: The grass is always greener

Finally, the latest episode of 'Ask the Coach'

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Appropriating the Paintball Lifestyle

There's a video (and lengthy comments section) over at my favorite tourney ball news, rumors & gossip site, ProPaintball. It's the HK Army Chicago 2010 video. Now, the thing is I'm not all that interested in the video--which is okay--but I am fascinated by the general debate regarding the HK Army. For those heroically out-of-the-loop the HK kids (and not so kids) initially parlayed internet popularity with hordes of adolescent fanboys into T-shirt & headband sales in order to finance their paintball. At least that's the myth. They are a bit more commercial these days--which is also fine. The intriguing part is the hook which is a Cali slacker variation of the hard living, hard partying, hard playing way of life (or so-called paintball lifestyle). Much of the "debate"--such as it is--revolves around whether or not this sort of promotion is good for paintball. While I think that "debate" is worth having when it comes to thinking about what competitive paintball is becoming and the dominant image the public has of our sport--that's not where I'm going here.
It's the paintball, stupid.
I am reminded of the high roller world of Formula One racing and the dead head phenomenon. A certain class of wealthy and indolent rich peeps used to (and probably still do) follow the international Formula One circuit; it is the quintessential jet set lifestyle. Do they love racing or is it just an exciting excuse to travel the globe and kill some time? Dead heads followed the Grateful Dead around to catch live shows and get high. At one time it was a prominent enough activity to be considered a subculture, a lifestyle. It seems to me one could as easily lump the
HK kids into the same category--and if that's all it is, it's harmless enough but shouldn't make any claims on competitive paintball. It just turned out to be the activity the "lifestyle" is constructed around.
It seems to me that a priority of a "paintball lifestyle" is, practically by definition, the paintball--and try as I might I don't now and never have seen any evidence the HK kids are particularly serious about competing. Or maybe most of them just aren't that good and the handful that have actually made something of themselves as players have done it on serious teams. There's no paintball lifestyle without real commitment to the sport.

Major League Paintball Weekly Update

Short and to the point today. (More posts coming.)
The not so Grand Tour will be hosting an event in Vienna this coming weekend and there are currently 35 total teams registered. Players will have the opportunity to compete in a 1 on 1 tourney and are also being invited by a sponsor to try laser tag. By comparison the NPPL should be feeling like world beaters.

The MS Paris event isn't until October so there's plenty of time for the board to work out the tangled mess they've made of Asian relations lately. 10 unlocked division teams are registered to date. Additionally, for all you Euro-types who would like to have a word with the Millennium board I've got the next best thing for you. Over at P8ntballer Robbo is soliciting gripes, suggestions, comments & complaints as he has been invited to the next MS board meeting where he will address the board with the most pressing and universal items posted in this thread. Here's your chance.

In the PSP registered team numbers have been creeping up the last week with 76 teams registered for Race 2-X divisions and 23 Race 2-2 divisions. Race 2-2 remains weak but a turnout above 80 would be less of a decline than experienced in Phoenix this year. By comparison the drop in Chicago over last year's Race 2-X teams was around 3%. Planning ahead it might be in the league's interest to open Cup registration as early as possible and consider incentivizing Race 2-2 participation in order to encourage the biggest turnout possible.

The NPPL DC Challenge is the weekend before the PSP's MAO event, August 6-8, and will apparently feature an All*Star match-up of some sort as well as the introduction of the first Hall of Fame inductees in a related ceremony. No word on who will be making the Hall of Fame decisions and no details yet on the format of the All*Star match-up. In any event it appears the event will be modestly attended with current registrations for non-Pro teams still under 50 total teams. This event will also feature the return of Arsenal to the Pro division.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Playing the A in MAO

Since teams have not, for the most part, had to deal with the A (or the X) anywhere but in the center of the field I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss aspects of how the A will play for MAO, and why. (The first post on playing the MAO field is here.)
There are three keys to observe; the A is inset so it isn't the widest wireside bunker, it visually obstructs most of the wire in both directions, there are very limited means for defending a forward, upfield teammate.

Key 1--the wireside of the A can be contested from all the other wireside bunkers, SD, MD & corner TCK. The A has an elevation advantage over the SD which is negated, in part, by the proximity of the two positions as it allows the SD player to immediately initiate a counter move. Wireside A versus the MD is a wash and the corner TCK has an advantage that is only slightly negated by the placement of the SD. The basic result is that if wireside A is contested along the wire the midfield position offers no immediate advantage unless you take an opponent by surprise.

Key 2--the size of the A blocks a significant portion of the line of sight for all players playing the wire. In one sense it makes it easier to move up. (Although the practical application of key 3 can neutralise much of that opportunity.) It also necessitated pushing most of the D-wire props wireside otherwise it would have been a blind race to the 50 and surprise! Lastly, the enormous "blindspot" it creates also makes it virtually a must stop which will halt every D-wire attack as long as it is unknown (unclear) (uncommunicated) as to where opponents are on the other side of the A. (And for all its size it is not an easy bunker to play.)

Key 3--denying movement up the D-wire cannot come from the wire itself given the placement of the A. It must come from the inside out. In all likelihood that will mean a Home shooter or the midfield MD (or both) will be in play most of the time for at least the early phases of a point. The effect of this is two-fold; if a team commits its "extra" gun to that role the team ends up with a balanced attack of 2 on each side but the A remains a stop at the fifty and in so doing you limit the strength of your snake side push potential. If the containing shooter (Home or midfield MD) is part of your D-side breakout the team becomes dependent on the D-wire lead to both stay alive and stay aggressive and the transition from defense to offense can be (often will be) quite difficult.

The A itself is a poor offensive position. Each leg act almost like independent bunkers which are half BBB (the discontinued square block) and half dorito with the angle upper that only plays to one side. In between is the v-gap that results in players getting shot in the feet and inside lower legs with regularity (refs need to be on the lookout) all the while leaving the A player unable to see possibly huge chunks of the field without wrapping and risking exposure.

None of this means the D-wire for MAO is good, bad or indifferent. It's simply different. Period. Given the overall design the D-wire should play slow and I do have some concerns with the large shooters lanes at play. Teams with good laners and some discipline should be able to make D-side play pretty miserable for players used to making aggressive, quick moves and force those teams to find different ways to play this layout.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Latest on the MS Goodwill Tour of Asia

If you missed it first time around the posts here & here should set the table. In a nutshell the MS had a pre-existing relationship with the PALS organization that hit a rocky patch when it appeared a couple months ago or so that elements within the MS were dealing with a separate Asian group to set-up a counter Pan-Asian series--both "sponsored" by the MS. Apparently that announcement was premature (or ill-timed) and within hours public statements were being denied & pulled, websites were disappearing and the PALS people were calling it a figment of the collective imagination. Here we are, post Campaign Cup--the whole brouhaha largely forgotten everywhere but Asia (apparently)--and the MS board in the person of Barry Fuggle sees fit to bring it back to the public eye with the official statement available by clicking on the title link.

The gift that keeps on giving.

The following is a paragraph by paragraph VFTD interpretation of the latest Millennium statement. The MS statement appears in italics with the VFTD interpretation following in the standard type face.

The Millennium Series is dedicated to the growth and promotion of the sport of paintball since 1999. Since that time the Millennium Series ( runs the biggest tournaments in Europe and offers a platform for competition to the best teams of the world.

We only want to help you.

Apart from running our own series, we support other tournaments, series and leagues, in Europe and worldwide on a global scale by various means. This includes, but is not limited to providing knowledge, equipment and various other assets.

Whose your Daddy?

In the Far East, the Millennium Series has been endorsing the PALS tournaments, which use our rules. The PALS ( has grown over the years amazingly fast, featuring their flagship event, the World Cup Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and having successfully hosted events in other countries, like Thailand, Taiwan and Philippines.

With our support PALS has been a big success.

In the last months the Millennium Series has been approached by a consortium of individuals and companies, who want to develop paintball in Asia as well. During our recent London event the Board of the Millennium Series invited all parties involved to several rounds of meetings to learn more about their exact intentions and to explain our own vision for the development of the sport in Asia. What was clear was there was a lot common themes and aspirations by all and we sincerely hope that all concerned will see the benefits of collaboration rather than competition which will only help to slow down the growth of the sport in the region.

Look, PALS has a good thing going but we have additional business opportunities to explore. Asia is big enough for everybody so let's figure out how to work together.

Basically the Millennium Series is asking all parties involved to find a way together towards our common goals. In a time, where support from within the paintball industry is getting less and less, it does not make sense to build parallel structures and organizations, which would lead divide and fighting each other. Instead, existing structures should be used to accommodate the ambitions and totally justified strategic interests of other individuals, which have already shown commitment and constructive passion for the game, both in Malaysia and in other Asian countries.

It doesn't matter who did what. The past is the past. We need to make the best of things and find ways to profit together.

If these parties manage to focus on common goals and strategies in a constructive manner, exciting times lay ahead for Asia, which is already the fastest growing region in paintball!


Barry Fuggle
Board of the Millennium Series

Don't get me wrong. I've no issues whatsoever with the MS making moves in Asia. (I do have general concerns about industry players potentially having too much power and influence through control of things like leagues but that's another post.) I am only amused at the routinely ham-fisted way they go about it. Particularly amusing is the word that the whole alternative league business got started because Mr. Fuggle was looking to sell greater volumes of Hovid paint in Asia--among other things. On a slightly more serious note if anyone thinks the eurokids of PBIndustry are going to get their own Asian playground without a fight, think again. As the U.S. market stagnates PBIndustry is looking to open new frontiers and Asia, including China is the target.

UPDATE: There is conflicting info as to how directly involved Mr. Fuggle is/was in Hovid or in the "interests" of the new group, for purposes of brevity, the aborted Millennium Series Asia although those connections are clearer--at least at the moment.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Women & Paintball

And of course, girls. Chicks. Babes. You name 'em, it's cool. I was tempted to call this post 'Paintball & the Irrational Sex' but this is supposed to be a serious post (more or less) and while the comments would'a been fantastic--the more frothing the better--I decided to forgo a purely personal pleasure for the good of the paintball community. (Did you believe one word of that last bit? Me either. Obviously I need a marketing guy, or gal.)
I was perusing the paintball web checking out the latest news, rumors & gossip and ran into a couple of (quasi-) related items. One was a thread in the field/store owners forum at PBN and the other was a press release post at the Big Bullet. The former was about why girls are less interested in paintball than guys are and the later was soliciting nominations for's PB Woman of the Year for 2011. (You may have noticed they announced their 2010 award at Living Legends 3 last month.) Anyway it's a standard ploy for self-promotion. Everybody does it and all you really need to know is that the next award recipient will be chosen by the website's sponsors (?) and a panel of 9 judges--and that the PBWoman website couldn't come up with enough women in paintball to fill their own panel of judges. Which leads me to the (slightly) more interesting and general topic of women & paintball.
Women & paintball is a recurring topic of discussion. At least in certain quarters. One that always seems to get hung up on how to "fix" the "problem" of too few female participants with (mostly) the same old same old. For example a few years ago Pete 'Robbo' Robinson excoriated the then Jerry Braun run World Cup for not providing female friendly facilities even though the event was being held in an acknowledged cow pasture--and it seems to have set a tone because most of the "answers" revolve around changing things to better suit the female temperament. Ideas run from the commonplace of bars and clubs (ladies nights) to special discounts, indoor plumbing, etc. At this rate fresh ideas will be reduced to cleaning up the place a bit; tidier bunkers, maybe vacuum once in a while, dial down the competition perhaps and do we really need winners & losers? Before long somebody is gonna notice girls don't like guns very much and then where are we?
I once wrote a VFTD column for PGi magazine entitled, The Shocking Exploitation of Girls in Paintball, that deals with girls playing tourney paintball but never got around to addressing the supposed dearth of women in paintball generally. Until now. It's really quite simple. It may not be PC but geez, it ain't rocket science or brain surgery either. I hate to break it to you like this but girls are different. And being different the vast majority aren't attracted to paintball. That's it. It's not that they can't play, they can. They just don't want to. The things about paintball that appeal to guys don't appeal to girls in anything like equal measure. If they did the whole idea of trying to get more girls playing would be moot--they'd already be playing. Imagine you are an ice cream salesman and half the people in the world love ice cream and half don't. How productive is it to spend your time trying to sell ice cream to the half that don't like it? Instead of wasting time, energy and resources trying to increase the percentage of female players do something productive. Like figure out how to get (and keep) more guys playing the game.

NPPL All^Star Game

Is a go. Notification went out in an email blast overnight and has been posted to the league's website as well. (Title link) The format will be modified Super 7. What that means is unclear as no further explanation is given. Apparently Alex Fraige was chosen to captain the West by his peers and Josh Davey will Captain the East--but no word on how he got that assignment. Voting is now open for the Eastern Conference players until the 22nd--so you've got about a week to cast your votes. You may choose up to two players per team. In fact you are required to vote for at least one player from each team. Now it could be I just don't understand what voting for my favorites means but I was under the impression it didn't include arbitrary limitations or compulsory votes in order for my picks to count--but apparently it does.
What are you waiting for? Vote for (some of) your favorites now and, er, some other guys.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Major League Paintball Weekly Update

Are these the dog days of summer? And can someone explain what the hell that even means? All I know for sure is we're halfway thru the season--more in the MS--a bit less in the not so GT--it's hot, muggy and oppressive outside and bigtime paintball continues to hang in there. Which, on a day like today, is a win.
The NPPL's DC Challenge is less than 4 weeks away. Personally I've lowered my expectations when it comes to the whole All-Star game/Hall of Fame hoopla that's been bandied about as I've yet to see any sign of the league following up the ideas--which, may or may not, be too bad--but there's still a tournament to be played. A team list can now be found by clicking on "registration" at the NPPL home page. The registration page offers a link to a list of teams, among a few other options. According to my count (earlier today) there are 46 non-Pro teams signed up in 6 divisions, the largest of which is pump with 14 teams.
The PSP's third event of the season, the MAO, follows hard on the heels of the NPPL event and is a little more than 4 weeks away. (Have I mentioned how much this back-to-back event schedule sucks? Well, it does.) The second payment deadline is this coming Friday so here's your last opportunity to keep entry fees to a minimum. There currently 67 Race 2-X teams signed up and 18 Race 2-2 teams. Figure the xball team numbers to really be 75 or so as a number of Pro teams aren't registered yet but will be there.
The Eurokids make a habit of taking the month of August off every year but the break in the MS schedule is ridiculous as the season ending Paris event isn't scheduled until the first weekend of October. (Is the UK Federation gonna run their Fed Cup event using the MS's Paris field layout sometime in September? Could be an ideal situation for UK kids.) I heard that a number of the big vendors were no-shows and that lots of the shows were stripped down or reduced versions. Makes me wonder what some of the leagues "sponsors" are paying for--and how much they are paying (despite what the MS's sponsor kit states) when there's no more promise of TV coverage and it isn't seen as cost effective to even bother showing up. Just imagine what the revenues might be like if the league wasn't holding some of the "sponsors" at gunpoint. (Yes, that was a joke. A very tiny one but still a joke unless you happen to be one--a gun sponsor, that is.)
Meanwhile the not so Grand Tour is gearing up for the Vienna Austria event with 29 teams registered and a winner take all 1 on 1 tournament on offer. The event will take place the weekend of the 24-25 of July.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What's the POA?

It's the Paintball Operators' Association. The idea is an organization of field operators. If you've missed it look here and here. Conceptually it's a great idea--but it's been tried before. Of course maybe now is the time. Unfortunately it seems to me the info is a little thin--so far. I'm told more information will be forthcoming soon. I'm going to hold off posting about until I know more but that shouldn't stop y'all from speculating or commenting until VFTD picks it up again.

Monday Poll in Review

Okay, that didn't work out too well--although I appreciate the effort from those who commented. I was planning on doing this week's The Monday Poll on an actual vote to pick the first class of the VFTD Tournament Paintball Hall of Fame and to simplify the process I was intending to limit the nominees to potentially deserving players who no longer play. However, after reviewing the candidates put forward it is woefully thin. Don't get me wrong--lots of good players but also so many seemingly forgotten players that even for something as frivolous as a VFTD Hall of Fame I'm not satisfied with the way it would have turned even though the result would probably have chosen some worthy recipients. (Link to original post in the title.)
Instead I'm going to treat this more seriously and invite y'all to continue putting nominees forward--either in comments or via email and if you think a nominee might be too obscure some background would be appreciated. If this eventually works out VFTD will elect an inaugural class for the VFTD Tournament Hall of Fame that VFTD will link to and that will (hopefully) include photos and a paintball bio brief as a modest record and recognition of the great players of the game. It's really up to y'all.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Simple Solution to Player Retention & Growing the Grassroots?

I received a great email today from Steve Grundy of Annandale Paintball and all the credit for the contents of this post belong to him. (Thanks, Steve.)
Remember the tactics the small ball crowd used to promote the idea of switching from 68 cal? More efficient, less energy required so less painful, breaks better, cheaper etc.Whatever one thought of the merits of the arguments everyone agreed, by and large, that all those things were positive steps forward, if true. And more than a few touted the potential breakthrough benefits of better breaking less painful paint. While small ball has yet to prove itself and peeps still debate most of the claims on its behalf there already exists paint that fits the breaks better less painful bill. Generically its usually called tournament grade paint.
Yes, I know it's more expensive than field grade paint. And yes, I am aware of the usual arguments in favor of field grade paints. They're cheaper and plenty of players want cheaper--because nobody bothers to remind them they are also on the receiving end of those marbles. Rental equipment isn't suited to thin-shelled tourney paints. There needs to be a balance between getting it out of the field rental and breech and/or barrel breaks. And others. But are they legit reasons given current technology or excuses to be lazy and do things the way they've always been done?
Recently at Steve's field a logistical mishap forced them to purchase a highly recommended but different skid of paint from their usual order. (Their usual paint is a good quality field paint that also frequently passes muster as a cheap tourney paint.) As Steve also plays he noticed the paint wasn't up to their usual standard (it broke less often and stung more in the process) and with a little investigating it also appeared they weren't selling as much paint per customer as usual either. Then last week they had a group of first time 11 year olds. Concerned Steve switched out their paint for a higher grade paint and reported they had a great time and no issues with stinging hits or painful welts. Of course no paint guarantees painless breaks all the time but a reduced incidence along with a reduction in stinging hits is one way to optimize the playing experience that virtually everyone agrees on.
What's it worth to a field to send their first timers home happy, especially the kids? How many fields are selling an experience rather than trying to hold the line on costs while calculating profits piecemeal in game play essentials? Does anybody advertise or promote fun, safe game play? Or make an effort to educate the occasional rec player about the potential benefits of spending a bit more for paint? How many additional players per weekend would be needed to make up the difference if a field operator clipped their own margins by providing better paint at a perhaps higher but still competitive price? Or does a field operator need to reconsider their whole operation, top to bottom, to implement this sort of change? Or perhaps simply experiment in limited ways with changes around the edges?
Somewhere in this calculus the field operator needs to make money but ironically in too many instances we are seeing what happens when a field opts for lowest possible cost and high volume--and most of the time it isn't pretty.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The B* Word

The first articles I recall seeing in a paintball magazine itemized what belonged in your gearbag, how to treat snake bite and how to avoid burnout. That was at least 15 years ago. At least two of those articles could appear in any current magazine--even Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball (Facefull for those of you outta the loop)--and not seem out of place. I bring up the ancient history to demonstrate that even in paintball there are few things that are new, including today's topic, burnout. The B* word. Burnout isn't anything new. But the way we talk about it--or don't talk about it, is.
Back in the day burnout was a common topic in magazines and conversations throughout rec and tourney paintball. The definition of burnout was a generic malaise and loss of excitement and desire to play--and could as easily effect the guy who played rec ball a couple times a month as the hardcore traveling pro or the Big Game aficionado or local 3-man superstar. I can't recall there was much effort to explain the causes, more like it was just assumed that some ballers would catch the burnout bug so most of the talk was about how to deal with it and (hopefully) come out the other side once again a happy baller. Much of the advice I remember seemed to boil down to "man up" "walk it off" and "take a little time off."
So when did things change? When did we stop talking about burnout as a commonplace occurrence and start obsessing over the causes? And has it done any good? It was a different paintball world when I started playing so I'm wondering if all the modern supposed causes of people losing interest in playing (burnout) are just the latest "answers" that may have little to do with the real causes. Are there 'real' causes or is it just the nature of the game and the players that interest wanes for some over time no matter what we do or don't do? If burnout is something that will always be with us maybe we need to reconsider some or all the "fixes" we bandy about for saving the game.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Hand Ball

I'm not a futbol fan--soccer for you hicks. The only times I choose to watch soccer is when I'm suffering from insomnia 'cus it kicks the crap outta counting sheep. But seriously, kids, if you have occasional insomnia Baca recommends pills & booze--but only in moderation, of course. And even I heard about the recent knockout round match in the (futbol) World Cup between Ghana and Uruguay. The reason I heard about it is because it ended in a shoot out that Ghana lost after a late in regulation goal attempt by Ghana was "blocked" by an Uruguayan player (in the goal) (not the goalie) swatting the shot away with his hands. For those of you not well versed in the ways of soccer the rest of the world calls it futbol [football] because you play it with your feet, unless you're the goalie, and using your hands (or arms) is a no-no.
So what's the upshot of a play that literally robbed one team of a game winning goal with an intentional foul? The player was red-carded--given the boot--Ghana received some form of penalty kick (which they apparently missed) and the guy who committed the penalty is a national hero and every sports talking head I've heard called it a great play.
So what gives? Is this modern sportsmanship? If so is paintball over doing it? I mean you could commit every infraction in the rulebook and still not alter the outcome of a single point much less a whole match. I'm just saying.

Major League Paintball Weekly Update

With PSP Chicago in the rearview mirror it's time to focus on the upcoming late summer events. PSP MAO (with the offset A) is set for the weekend of Aug. 13-15. Registration is open and currently 58 Race 2-X teams are signed up along with 16 Race 2-2 teams. Next time the league might want to reconsider the payment schedule deadlines as the first one passed almost before registration opened. With basically a month to register and pay it might have encouraged a few extra teams if there had been a little more time to get a bottom tier payment in. Or maybe not. Registration is set to officially close end of July.
PSP west coast affiliate league the WCCPL has cancelled their scheduled event #3. Despite release of an official statement no reason for the cancellation was given.

NPPL's DC Challenge is scheduled for the weekend prior to the PSP's MAO, the 6-8 of August. It otherwise remains something of a mystery. This is the second year Pev's Paintball Park in Aldie, Va, will host the DC Challenge. The league's website claims there will be an All-Star game (or games) as well as the opening of a Paintball Hall of Fame but so far no additional details have been forthcoming. And, to date, there has been no information released on registered teams in any division.

In Euroland the MS completed their Campaign Cup event with nary a hitch and early reports suggest it may have been the most successful event of the season for the Millennium. This was the first year in recent memory that Campaign was held during the summer months and that move has pushed the season ending Paris event into early October leaving the league with a three month gap. It will be interesting to see if the lag or the change of schedule have any effect.

According to not so Grand Tour actual information--as opposed to not actual information?--Lviv was such a rousing success the Austrian organizers of the next event will be pulling out all the stops and offering a truly unique event. Registration to date in four divisions stands at 23 teams for the Vienna event taking place the weekend of July 24-25.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Not Exactly The Monday Poll: PB Hall of Fame

I'ma be honest with y'all right from the git go. There ain't no poll, least not like you're used to. And this not exactly a poll is gonna require a bit more effort than I have come to expect from most of you lazy slackers. Nevertheless, it could be lots of fun if'n you can gather up the gumption to participate. (Is the homespun, backwoods thing working for you at all? I reckon not.)
Here's the deal. NPPL 3.0 (the league formerly known as the USPL) is contemplating, in cooperation with Pev's, the establishment of a Paintball Hall of Fame. The details remain sketchy--which works in our favor--since my idea is to collect your nominees for admittance to such a Paintball Hall of Fame. (The only restriction I will place on your nominees is that they have a connection to competitive paintball in one way or another.)
You may nominate as many people as you like and a brief reason why wouldn't be out of place as I suspect there will be peeps nominated that some of our readers have never heard of.

Let the nomination process begin!

UPDATE: Next week's The Monday Poll will take a selection of the top nominees and VFTD readers can vote for their first class of the PB Hall of Fame.

Monday Poll in Review

Last week's question followed up on the muddy PSP Chicago held at the Badlandz: How would you rate the event? (On a scale of 1 - 10 with 1 being the NPPL Houston cancellation and 10 being the original HB or your favorite World Cup.) The votes that tended favorable ( 6 or higher) garnered 55% while 5 (5%) and below collected 43%. In general the majority of the votes struck me as reasonable except those at the extremes. A 9? Really? A handful of 8s? More ridiculous however was the fact 1 got 16% of the vote. How does any sensible person compare an event that actually happened with one that got cancelled--and never replaced? One answer might be that sense isn't involved, it's more a matter of expectations. First timers to a major league event are far more likely, it seems to me, to be either more disappointed or soured by a Badlandz-type event than a more experienced national competitor. And I would credit some of the unusually positive votes to, um, success at the event, nostalgia, temporary insanity or employment with the PSP perhaps. Personally I would have voted the event a 5 or maybe a 6. Isn't a major league tournament supposed to provide a quality competition? Am I supposed to ignore the compromises and inconveniences? I don't think so. But being realistic doesn't necessarily mean being negative.
In the end perhaps the best that can be said of the poll results is that it appears the PSP has (or had) a reserve of goodwill and understanding from its players that helped everyone get through the Badlandz event. Also, that for the most part PSP participants are there to compete and when the competition is satisfactory so is the event.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


First I want to commend the PSP for taking the risk of putting out a seemingly unconventional field when they know there will be some vocal internet backlash and participation is down--at least in the Race 2-2 divisions. In fact the field isn't all that unconventional as this post will demonstrate although it will, in some perhaps critical ways, play differently for those players and teams who try to push the envelope a little bit. (Fortune favors the bold, it's just the referees who can't make up their minds.) Otherwise, frankly it will play like a mediocre conventional field.

Let's begin with diagram 1, the perimeter. (Btw, I'm reproducing these diagrams in small but you can enlarge them with a click, or two.) I've blocked out all the interior mid-field props so you can see the basic field layout minus the clutter and "out-of-place" bunkers. Viewed this way it's not all that unconventional at all--in fact, perhaps the most unconventional aspect may be the dearth of playable props on the D-wire. There may be lots of bunkers in the middle of the field but it's easy to see where teams & players will go most of the time OTB.

Diagram 2, Home lanes & DZs, show that while there are a few clean lanes to be shot they are, by and large, just gaps (with a couple of exceptions) and the significant amount of DZ space affords a lot of guns up opportunities--particularly in light of the real limitations in terms of the number of bunkers feeding the wires.
Diagram 3, crossfield lanes, highlights the relative ineffectiveness of the crossfield wire shots from the snake and the doritos. Those limitations are matched by a lack of shots that can eliminate wire positions. When this characteristic is a feature of a field's design one result is the field tends to play in halves; D-wire battles D-wire and snake battles snake. (The unique midfield will modify that tendency to some degree but how much will be completely dependent on the teams & players.) In purple, this design also features corner props as widely placed as any other wire props. Coupled with a lack on interior placements for wire control the corner props will be near necessities much of the time and reinforce the (expected) heavy wire play.

Finally, both wire 50s are virtual full stops. The A is begging to create officiating problems (as will portions of the midfield) and the "sub" section of the snake actively discourages interior play by offering few shots and a high degree of exposure to elimination. The purpose of this post was to illustrate that in many ways this design is both conventional and slow. How a team chooses to play or not play the midfield could make a decisive difference and, of course, since we will be competing on this layout I won't be discussing ways to incorporate midfield play into your game plan.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Campaign Cup field design update

Hit the title for a link to check out the original post's analysis & predictions. Play began today and of the 66 matches played across the three divisions that compete in a Race 2-4 format 16 have gone to time. That's nearly 25%. By comparison, in Bitberg there were 102 Race 2-4 format prelim matches with only 7 that went to time (not including any carry over matches from Malaga.) So far the numbers substantiate the prediction that the CC layout would encourage defensive play.

Fundamentals of Evaluating Field Design

Okay, I've probably done something like this already but it's easier and faster to re-do it than to try and find it--if prior experience is anything to go by. Anyway, that's what's up. This post is intended to help explain the next one--which will break down the new PSP MAO field, given that it is an unusual design (or at least appears to be.)
My guiding principles for evaluating a field design are balance and the harmonious incorporation of the active elements of play. In this context "balance" is a very broad term so here are a few examples; offense vs. defense, wire to wire, movement vs. ROF, effectiveness vs. vulnerability, risk vs. reward etc. Balance in offense vs. defense means that either style can be effective (and win points) on a given layout depending on the skill levels of the individual players. The only caveat to that is that defense alone is a passive strategy and must, at some point, counter-attack (or go on offense.) Balance wire to wire is about the speed and effectiveness a wire can be played in comparison to the other wire. (The historic tendency is to make the snake wire dominant.) Balance between ROF and movement means the ROF is sufficiently high to inhibit but not shut down movement. (This one is often as much a factor of the skill level of the players as the field design--and why I continue to favor lowered ROF for lower division play.) Balance between effectiveness and vulnerability refers to the bunkers and their placement and can be thought of in much the same way as risk versus reward. I make the distinction because I use risk/reward more in the context of field position. The harmonious incorporation of the active elements of play refers to the assorted skills, techniques and athleticism the individual players bring to the game. As the game is currently played in the dominant format(s) players develop and use (and prize) a particular group of skills. Since field design can influence how those skills (or others) are utilised during the play of the game some consideration ought to be given to how and why certain elements of a design will incorporate those skills.
In a nutshell the "perfect" design demands a full panoply of player skills etc. yet is neutral to style of play (though I prefer ones shaded toward offense) even while offering a diversity of ways in which it can be played tactically. (Which, given the limitations of field size and prop types is a tall order.)
All of which sounds swell--to me anyway--and almost vaguely scientific but of course it isn't. It's mostly subjective. Some elements of field design can be analyzed but even then the results remain subjective. The only real test of accurate design analysis is a predictive one. (And on that score I'll have an update later today on the Campaign Cup layout.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scenario Slump

Picking up on yesterday's post--if it's true that scenario is also showing some decline in participation--the larger point is that the industry's shift toward scenario as a marketing strategy is not a fix. At most it's a delay (which is also why some companies are less interested in marketing strategy than they are new markets) even if the present result is greater outreach to the scenario community. If the economic malaise is going to impact every facet of the game--and I'm certain it will--then PBIndustry marketing schemes are only marginally relevant at best.