Friday, July 2, 2010

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.)

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