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.