Monday, September 27, 2010

Back to the Future

Picking up on elements of the post, Weekend of Paintball, and also related to the post, Crazy is probably a little harsh, John, this post will look at the ramifications of restricted paint on upper level competitive paintball as well as evaluating the skills of the game. While I am not opposed to the use of restricted paint in tournament paintball it's critically important to recognize what the impact will be. At the developmental level--players are learning the game and have little or no experience--restricted paint will likely advance those players development by encouraging a focus on the correct skills by providing a less intense, less demanding playing environment. But what happens if you put highly skilled players in that same environment?

I've used this story before and if I have to use it again, then dammit, I will. Years ago, during the tourney transition out of the woods, at team practice we decided to use pump guns--to save paint!--playing on a speedball field. After a game or two of eventual close proximity trainwreck paintball one group decided pump guns couldn't control the field and decided to play accordingly from the go. As one side was taking their primaries, setting up and assuming we were playing the game they expected the other side kept running, ran through the field and shot everyone up close and personal. Given the dimensions of the field, the number of bunkers and the lack of firepower it only took the one game to demonstrate that pump practice was over. Once everyone understood the implication of a lack of firepower there was no point in trying to make the pumps work. The corollary lesson is that players conform to their expectations and those expectations (along with fear) frequently have a greater impact on a game's outcome than any other factor.

Let's talk more about the game environment for a minute because the issue in the pump game example wasn't limited paint. It was an inability to get enough paint in the air when needed; it was about the ROF. It was the (low) ROF given a compact field with quite a few bunkers. That combination didn't allow the pump guns to exert any real control over the actions on the field. After volume of paint the next critical calculation becomes ROF. If field dimensions and bunker sets remain the same but competitive paintball introduces restricted paint the new primary calculation becomes conservation of paint (because you can't afford to run out.) And we already know that in the current competitive environment without paint in the air you cannot control movement. If you can't control, restrain, inhibit movement the result is players quickly gaining upfield positions with superior angles in close proximity to one another. And if the combination of sideline coaches and 12.5 bps can't stop players from bunkering each other in the current competitive environment the result in a limited conservation of paint game will be trainwreck paintball--or, if a team thinks it's to their advantage they will play a defensive make-the-other-guys-run-into-our-guns style.

None of that is set in stone, of course, but in order to "fix" any "imbalances" caused by the move to limited paint more changes are required. Three options immediately come to mind; enlarge the field so the space between bunkers expands, reduce the number of bunkers or enlarge the field and reduce the number of bunkers. Two aspects of distance now come into play; between bunkers and between shooter and target. If the space between bunkers is expanded a moving player is exposed to opposition paint for a longer period of time while the distance between shooter and target roughly defines how long it will take a paintball to reach the target. The object is to restore some sort of balance of the game's elements, ie; make is as difficult to move in the limited paint game as it was in the unrestricted game but at some point proximity and ROF will (again) overwhelm the field modifications. (And where is the dividing line between difficult and a roll of the dice?) Will it occur in such a way that the result still replicates, more or less, the current game play? I wonder. If we go with option one at what point does the field become too big to play a cohesive 5-man game? To sustain any of the Race 2 variants given the time constraints built into the format? Reducing the number of bunkers might leave us with the same sized field and increased space between bunkers but will also dumb down the game play by reducing the movement options available to the player. Or a combo of a slightly larger field and a few less bunkers might work best even if it is less complex than current field designs.
One thing restricted paint can't undo is the lessons learned about how to play the game and as long as ROF remains the same (or something similar) restricted paint won't turn back the clock or restructure the hierarchy of skills used to play the game.

Since I'm running long I'ma bump the discussion of how skill fits into all this for a follow-up post.


Mark790.06 said...

You forgot to say you'll follow-up post "tomorrow" ;-)

From what I see at my little pond, in terms of paint wasted, is when a player is shooting when he could be moving. Somewhere between 3 to 5 times per game, on either side, there are openings for moving up field that are not even sought, let alone recognized, by the players.

I've mentioned the video thing a while back; the short bus type series but more instructive. End zone cameras able to show a D wire player missing a move, or shooting inside at a low percentage S1 player rather than staying wire and thus playing more offensively.

Now lets take it a step further.

Use them in PSP events from D2 and below, but the camera man is a retired D1 player or above (we got lots of them now-a-days), and the camera is equipped with a lazer pointer and once he documents 3 missed opportunities he paints the player with the pointer which signals the refs to pull his camping ass! A replay screen in the pits can show the penalized players' team what a root growing waste of paint he is and, dare I say, learn something from it. And a voice can boom over the loud speakers upon the player getting the hook: Humiliation! I so want this job!

By the way, being more familiar with the 2-man 10 ball series as it's played at my field (by the way any gun, in any mode, with only 10 balls loaded in it is allowed), any time an entered team with recent or long time experience playing psp ramping has won it fairly easily.

3DSteve said...

Baca, you seem to be basing a lot of your arguments on a pretty shaky example. I certainly can't speak to anything not expressly mentioned in you posts, but it seems you guys picked up pump guns and expected all of your skills to transfer immediately.
I'm pretty damn good with a pump gun; I'd argue I'm near the upper levels of competitive play, but I'd never believe I could make solid judgements about PSP or NPPL formats after playing one or two games in that style.
Do you think your team's small handful of games accurately compares to an average game of modern competitive pump play where movement is inhibited by a players ability to put one or two balls on a quickly advancing player?
That being said, this isn't an ROF discussion, it's a limited paint discussion. That means the guns are still able to inhibit movement, just not for the extended periods of time we see in todays game. Heavy break shooting and early eliminations wouldn't dissapear, but perhaps ineffective break shooters would be forced to just run instead of run and shoot.

Either way, I like watching the current pro formats the way they are, but don't believe I could afford to play them regularly.

Jay said...

I'll vouch for 3DSteve's claim that he's a good pump player. ;) He's got multiple top 3 finishes in national pump tournaments.

Also, in the limited paint events I've played/watched, it didn't turn into the awful situation you've described at your practice. It wasn't a bunkerfest or "lock em up and wait for the first dumb move" party either. It was interesting paintball.

Limited paint works on the same layouts that are used in PSP and NPPL. The format has been played on the same field dimensions and with the same number of bunkers the PRO's use since at least 08. Granted, it's the pump only format, but we're talking limited paint, not gun technology. Limited paint formats must work right? Otherwise the OSC, WCPPL, NPPL (use to be limited, has now moved to unlimited) and others have seen good turnouts (for a pump only league) and more seem to be popping up all the time. It must be fun/work or people would stop registering?

Just my $.02

Jay said...

And since I'm too dense to figure out how to edit a comment...

If the limited paint format did take off, wouldn't the paint suppliers at the events just charge more for per case, since they have to make their money somehow? That would bring back to square one...or the "savings" in practice paint would be the benefit...

Reiner Schafer said...

Not necessarily Jay. Any format that either broadens, or in general, makes paintball popular with a wider demographic can offset the decrease in paint shot per individual. One of the things that you have to remember is that virtually all of the paint manufacturers today also sell lots of other gear. Gear that there is probably more mark-up on for them. More players means more gear and clothing sales as well as hopefully more paint sales overall.

Providing formats that might be more popular with the beginner/novice/intermediate crowds will also make the probability of more local events being more successful. In our area for instance, the biggest series (BCPPL) has just announced that it is more or less folding (being incorporated into a larger “national” series). Attendance has been dismal and the overwhelming reason is cost to play and practice (of which paint is always mentioned as the #1 money sucker). Without local paintball tournaments/series, the whole sport is in jeopardy. You can’t have a national pro level if the underlying infrastructure disappears. You can try, but it’s not going to work.

If the pros can somehow handle the huge paint bill (through sponsorship or what have you) and have the skills to play in an environment with incredible amounts of unlimited paint, that’s awesome. But if those same things are tearing the infrastructure that supports the pro level apart, then changes MUST be made for the sport to survive. That’s the conclusion a simpleton like me comes up with anyway.

Baca Loco said...

Basing? No. Offering as anecdotal evidence and an illustration, yes.
Skill level is only indirectly an issue.

Are you prepared to play with your pumps against my guys with our NTs and regular packs of paint and call it even? And if not, why not?

Of course restricted paint isn't ONLY about ROF but the larger point is that it also isn't a stand alone change and making such a change will require other changes. And the outcome will, once again, fall into the category of unintended consequences unless people give it some thought.

My claims about the nature of restricted paint competition are conditional. On the level and skill of the players. Perhaps you missed that part. And the part where I favor restricted paint for it's educational potential under certain circumstances.

Your experience didn't meet my conditions. And, no, a pump tourney isn't like any other restricted paint tourney and the difference is technological.

The value of sponsoring a league varies and certainly one element of assessing that value is how much paint can they sell.

3DSteve said...

"Are you prepared to play with your pumps against my guys with our NTs and regular packs of paint and call it even? And if not, why not?"
Yes...absolutely. Would I get my ass handed to me? Yes...absolutely, but I think you're misundertanding my OP. You're further illustrating my point that you can't cross these formats for a day and expect that experience to make sense enough to extrapolate anything from it.

I think our argument hinges on this statement from the OP: "The corollary lesson is that players conform to their expectations and those expectations (along with fear) frequently have a greater impact on a game's outcome than any other factor." And I'm saying that if the players expectations are wrong (inability to control the field with limited ROF or limited paint) then the game will work itself out. The expectations have an impact until those expectations are destroyed by another team's ability to adapt and overcome the barriers, then new expectations are formed.

"...the larger point is that it also isn't a stand alone change and making such a change will require other changes. And the outcome will, once again, fall into the category of unintended consequences unless people give it some thought."
I agree.

...and I still don't want to see pro paintball go to limited paint.

Jay said...

I guess we agree to disagree then. I still think limited paint, using whatever gun technology, will still work on the same field dimensions and bunker numbers that are in use now.

So when is Damage coming to play 3DSteve and I? ;)

I'll watch PROs play despite the format as I'm just a fan of paintball.

pbdude said...

Hmmm... here's a hypothesis for field design and gun/rof usage. (not saying it's true, but wondering)

The ideal field size increases as rof/paint consumption on that field increases.

The ideal field size decreases as rof/paint consumption on that field decreases.

So modern fields have gotten smaller, with higher rofs have had a negative impact on the game, if this is true. But it need not be, if field size increases. That is to say, higher ROF can allow "stand off" kills due to the higher volumes of paint in the air.

So the ideal ramping field size should be bigger than what it is now. And the ideal pump field size should be smaller, as evidenced by the fact that pump games can quickly turn into a meelee if a team figures out they can run around with near impunity.

pbdude said...

That is to say, higher ROF can allow "stand off" kills due to the higher volumes of paint in the air.

should read

That is to say, larger fields allow "stand off" kills due to the higher volumes of paint in the air.

Baca Loco said...

Sorry Guys, didn't see the new additions until this morning

We're not mixing formats. The rules, field dimensions, number of players, bunker package, etc. are all the same. The only difference is ROF and possibly how much paint each player brings onto the field.
Since you concede the outcome, what is the cause? Far as I can see it's either skill differential, ROF disparity or a combination of both.

You're misinterpreting the section you quoted--but that's okay. And I, of all people, can hardly begrudge a fellow his own Quixote-esque quest.

In that case I would suggest some practical experimentation but I doubt it's a very high priority. ;-) Barring that you'll just have to wait awhile to see your illusions shattered.

I think the important measurement is the space between bunkers and depending on the number of bunkers on a field that would ultimately effect overall field size. It's really a topic worthy if its own post; Movement vs. ROF--probably next week sometime.