Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Weekend of Paintball

Last Saturday I was out with the team at our regular practice field, CFP, preparing for Cup. We already know how we want to play the World Cup layout when we're in control of a point so my focus on Saturday was addressing the ways an opponent can attempt to take us out of our game and take control for themselves. As it turned out our practice opponent's strategy was exactly what we needed. And what I expect a number of our potential opponents at Cup to employ to one degree or another.

A few former teammates (and old friends) were also out at the field on Saturday playing paintball and during a couple of breaks in our practice session I walked over to the players area for the rec ball fields. Both times the guys were on the field in the middle of what seemed like endless games. Both times I had to return to our field before they finished their game(s) and/or got eliminated. A number of the guys I used to play with who are still active have gone to playing predominantly pump paintball, rec & tourney. It's certainly more economical and it seems like pump may also be the current home of the inveterate tinker & customizer. Back when I started playing creating a unique marker was all the rage as there were lots of aftermarket parts makers while the truly enterprising no-lifers made their own parts. To look over the selection of markers the local pump crowd was playing with was almost like going back to the future without the Delorean or Doc Brown. (Thankfully no crazed Libyans wielding RPGs showed up either although they could make an appearance at Wayne Dollack's Grand Finale. You never know.) There was also a limited paint tournament event last Saturday that was of some interest. In watching some of the competition I was reminded of a bit of Faction propaganda and one statement in particular, "A slight adjustment to the rules would remove the advantage of shooting more paint and totally change the economics of tournament paintball." This particular version of the limited paint mantra is in the HydroTec thread over on the Nation. More on that shortly.

After we finished practice I hung around for a while to shoot the breeze. My friends and I walked over to check out the tournament. Turned out it was a 2-on-2 event on an approximately xball-sized field (with a few additional bunkers). The paint limit was 10 paintballs. Yeah, 10. It was a pump event. And, no, it wasn't restricted to stock class guns. More interesting was how the majority of games (points?) played out. With never more than four players on the field at a time and enough bunkers to hide half a scenario team and, dare I say, damn little paint flying around the set-up practically promised wide open, crazy action. Which never materialized. In fact 90% of the games used the same half dozen bunkers with the players one balling at each other until somebody was eliminated--at which point the remaining two player team would attempt to pinch out the single player. It was perhaps the most hilariously tedious tourney ball I've ever witnessed. I mention it because I find it instructive on a few levels and because it really was amazingly bizarro paintball. As a real world game played using Faction's limitation to the extreme it demonstrated that the controlling variable in any paintball game is the human one.

Now it's time to take a closer look at Faction's statement. He is asserting a couple of things; that some measure of restricting paint use in tournament play will 'totally change the economics of tournament paintball' and be 'a slight adjustment.' He is also claiming that any disparity in the amount of paint shot between two competing teams amounts to some sort of unfair advantage and competition by wallet. For starters all tournament paintball is already limited paint; limited to the amount of paint each player carries to begin a game or point. What Faction is really advocating is restricted paint--and if it is actually going to have a real economic impact it will need to be a severe restriction. Really, a severe restriction? Let's say a D1 team shoots as much paint per point as my pro team does, around a case and a half. Is a full hopper and three pods per player a severe restriction? Not so much 'cus three pods and a hopper is the case and half they average shooting per point. Now if that's all they had would they likely end up shooting less? Probably, but would it be enough less to really matter? How much less do they have to shoot before it makes a big enough economic difference? Or let's put it another way. The same D1 team averages 7 points played per match (MAO was between 6.75 and 7.5 points per match in the prelims) and makes the cut so they play a total of 6 matches to place somewhere in the top 4. At a case and a half a point that's approx. 65 cases per event. With the three pod restriction let's say their usage drops to one case per point, or around 42. Compare that to the D1 coach who said in response to my recent suggestion the leagues stop revealing the event layouts that his team would likely shoot half as much practice paint or less. They currently shoot 200 cases in practice between events so by his calculation they would save 100 cases. Is it the tournaments teams can't afford because of the volume of paint or is it the preparation for tournaments?

Nor will the result be 'a slight adjustment.' What Faction fails to understand is that paint is neutral; it is offensive & defensive. It is the means by which the struggle for control is contested in any and every game of paintball played. And as the competitive game has evolved it is the high volume environment that defines and displays the skill level of the individual players.

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying limited (restricted) paint is bad. I think it's a perfectly acceptable option for tournament play particularly where the majority of the players are young and learning the game. But I'm also saying that as the universal answer it leaves a lot to be desired because it would not be a slight adjustment, it would be the first in a chain reaction of then necessary changes to make the resulting format/game playable by the most skilled players. Without sufficient paint to contest control of the field a restricted paint game between highly skilled teams will result in either a bunkerfest bloodbath or revert to a predominantly defensive match in an effort to keep enough room between the players to avoid the bloodbath. In either case it would dumb down the skill level required to compete. More on this next time when I talk about skills.


Reiner Schafer said...

Good post Baca. I more or less agree with most of it (not that it matters). I find it interesting that you know the statistics for points/case. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

In your example of limiting paint and shooting less in a tournament, but the real culprit is the release of the layout too early resulting in 200 cases shot during practices before the event...would the amount shot during practices not also decrease if there were some sort of limits imposed? That’s not to say that the release times of layouts should not be shorten or eliminated completely.

10 paintballs per game? That’s crazy. That would result in some really bizarre play. Do people practice that? Or was this a tournament that people signed up as a one time event just for the bizarreness (is that a word?)?

Limited paintball events at the local level seem to be increasing in popularity. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of the economic times or a general change in trends. Time will tell. There are many sports that have different rules for lower and younger divisions as they do for the big boys. I don’t think it would be outrageous for paintball to have considerable differences in severity of play as levels of divisions change. Minor hockey for instance doesn’t allow full contact. There is a reason for that. More young/new hockey players will take part if there is less threat of physical abuse. As they gain experience, the rules change. The big boys go all out. Paintball doesn’t seem to be structured the same way. Maybe because it’s newer and there doesn’t seem to be a sport-wide ruling body to administrate those structures. But maybe there should be. Maybe that’s what’s missing.

Missy Q said...

I see the LTD paint aspect being done differently than on a 'per-player' basis.
I was involved with several LTD Paint series. The trick is to limit the total paint usage per team.
In the prelim rounds the team are given a consignment of paint. They can split that paint between their players however they want. They get more paint if they qualify for the next rounds. After each game they can re-distribute the paint between the team as per the teams strategy - the front-players maybe just have a loader, the back guys can load up with pods. If the team are low on paint they must change their strategy, possibly go for a quick point, in order to preserve paint for upcoming games.
Teams that qualify for Qtr, semi's or Finals are assigned more paint, and end up getting more value than teams knocked out, because they are technically getting far more paint to shoot.
This way you limit paint, and can have an 'all inclusive' entry fee, without having to police how much paint teams enter the field with. That becomes a tactical decision made by the team themselves.
You will see a regular game of paintball, but without paint being wasted.

Mark790.06 said...

I remember watching a 10-man final between Rage and Justice 2004 WC. I watched from the Rage end-zone and saw that they had 3 players left, all on or near the 50. I only saw 2 Justice players around their 30 or 40 desperately trying to hold Rage back. The stands were full and the crowd was hushed, like a long point in tennis. I remember thinking how this format was so great because of the drama, the highs and lows, the back and forth, and that there was enough time for it to be recognized by the crowd. After 5 minutes or so a Rage player got hit by one of the 2 remaining Justice players, and suddenly 5 other Justice players that I didn't see before sprang up and pinched out the remaining 2 Rage players. It was a Justice 7 on a Rage 3 the whole time, but those odds were not good enough for Justice as they sat until it was much better 7 on 2.
Just to get the year correct I looked this up in the APPA, but didn't really look at the score. I mis-remembered that it was a 5 on 3 as I thought it was bad enough and still a pertinent example of Baca's human variable.

Anonymous said...

Reiner is correct - you limit the amount of paint for a team for the entire event.

Changes a lot. Not the least of which is, entry, paint and air become a constant, not a variable cost.

And I disagree to some extent with your contention that no layout prior to the event will reduce practice paint usage: In many cases it would actually increase usage, since there are so many more variables to train for. Instead of practicing one layout, I'd be practicing 'any possible layout'.

There also remains a gross disparity on the money side. Teams with some support can afford to shoot more paint than those who don't have support (same on the practice field). The real question is not whether to limit paint, but is - do we want teams to have as fair a shake at competing as we can give them or not?

Right now, a justifiable outside view of pro paintball competition is "he with the biggest wallet wins"; right or wrong, debatable or not, every other sport has some form of cost control built into the rules to at least give the appearance that dollars don't control the score board.

Jay said...

I believe the 10-ball paintball tournament Baca is talking about it this one. Doesn't appear to be a one time event.

I myself have played quite a few limited paint tournaments. The OSC in both the 3 and 5 man events. It is a lot of fun. However, at 60rds per play in the 5 man and 40rds per player in the 3 man, it at times seems to be too limited of paint cap. The OSC used modified NPPL rules, so points for pull, hang, bodies, ect. I think if they made it 100rds for the 5 man and 60rds for the 3 man, that it would be better. I do not think that it should go to "unlimited" paint because I have seen and heard of the NPPL pump tournaments (unlimited paint) where the home playing in the pump league has shot 5 pods and a hopper in one match. That's silly, and not because I'm a OSOK ninja either.

I agree that the NPPL and PSP should stop releasing the layout ahead of time. That is one thing I enjoy about the OSC events. You don't know what the field looks like until you get there. The SKILL of field walking still matters as you've never played that field before. I don't see a limit of a hopper and 3 pods to be to constraining, but I'm a pump player at heart ;).

Steve said...

I played a season of NPPL a few years back. They had 4-5 layouts, so it wasn't practical to practice any one layout because you were not sure which you would play or how often. So, practice was more about fundamentals and less about specific lanes and breakouts.

I think not releasing the layout actually levels the playing field and reduces costs to the teams.

Example, my team has good support and our players can afford to play and we have been lucky enough to win this season, so leading up to Cup, we can afford to have 3 two-day practices shooting as much paint as we need. I doubt most teams can afford to do this, so from that perspective, we are at an advantage. Take away the release of the layout and that advantage isn't as strong.

I think money in Pro helps more from the ability to recruit/pay/not charge better players. Paint becomes a small cost when when compared to entry fees, travel, salary, per diem, equipment, etc. in various combinations.

With Baca's statistics on paint usage (which I concur with based on our experience)limited/restricted paint doesn't seem to be a good idea. The overall impact is minor. The same would be true for lower ROF as well.

@Reiner, restricted paint wouldn't reduce practice paint usage as we would just run more points.

If the PSP didn't release the layout would it negatively effect local fields financially?

Anonymous said...

I actually found there to be an added element to the game when World Cup and related events at Survival NY were held as limited paint events.

Those were 15 or 7 player woodsball tournaments and each team was allowed a maximum number of cases for the event.

If I remember correctly (and I might not) if you evenly divided the paint between the players and the games, it amounted to 133 rounds per player per game.

Of course, we were free to distribute it in any manner we deemed fit, so some players went out with 20 rounds so that others could carry more, and some games players had minimal loads to we could 'save some up' for other games that we figured would require more paint.

Lots of time (and fun) was spent scoping out what other teams were doing, figuring out which of our guys were expendable (or on expendable tasks) and didn't need that much & etc.

Seems to me that this would be easier to put over on the scenario/mil-sim side as the accurate simulation of infantry does not include unlimited ammunition. I think that "standard" issue is somewhere in the 150-250 rounds range.

If you imposed some logistical rules (like, you can't just walk back and get more), player's might just naturally think a bit more about aiming rather than spraying.

I'd like to see an X-Ball like game played as 'hopper-ball' for each point (you can reload after a score). I think players might become a little more circumspect in their shooting.

Baca Loco said...

Anon #1
"Changes a lot." Please inform raehl immediately as he considers it but a slight adjustment.

Without the layout the players need to learn how to play--not how to play a specific layout. The full point scrimmage won't go away but it's value will be considerably reduced.
And the only excuse for trying to teach every possible layout is an inability to teach players the game.

At the lower levels it can certainly appear that teams can be overwhelmed when buckets of paint rain down on them. You call that the unfair advantage of the wallet--I call it an obvious mismatch in training, skill and the ability to effectively play the game.

You're going to need to up your game if you want to talk Pro paintball. And while you're at it could you explain for me small market baseball, inequities in NASCAR sponsorship dollars and teams that make a mockery of their salary caps and pay the fines 'cus they can.

Thanks, Jay

That has always been part of the argument. You may recall at one time the field was released 3 weeks in advance and everyone practiced during those 3 weeks. The next alternative was open release or no release and open release initiated a practice arms race that needs to stop. In any event teams will still practice. The open question is how?

Anon #2
Good luck getting the scenario crowd or promoters to limit paint. ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree stop the pre-event layout release. I have heard some teams not even attend events because of the lames ass excuse of a poor layout! Bring some true skill back to the game!

Baca Loco said...

Hey Reiner
Didn't notice earlier that comments ate my reply to you and Missy so here goes--again.

Limited paint won't affect practice. It would just mean more reps.

I don't know anything more about the event. I just found it instructive.

No problem with rules modified to age, experience and ability--including limited paint. Not otherwise a big fan of centralized authority particularly as competitive paintball is hardly the well established game.

Sure, why not? Although it all devolves at some point to how much paint can the team carry onfield each point/game?
I also think that it would be difficult with the Race 2 format as there's a range of possible points per match.

Reiner Schafer said...

Reading this thread has reminded me how diverse not only paintball in general is, but also competitive paintball.

Soccer has 22 players on a field, a ball, a ref, two linesmen and a standard size playing field. It's like that everywhere in the world and it's been like that for years.

Competitive paintball has lots of different formats. More formats than anyone that's been involved in paintball for a while could count on all their fingers and toes. How could there possibly be a centralized governing body? What would they govern? Instead, we have individuals with enterprising ideas, promoting THEIR version of the way they think competitive paintball should be played. Each of those versions has it's own governing body (sometimes a single person).

I actually like the diversity. But looking at the big picture, it does seem a little odd.

Paintball is obviously still evolving. Players want to compete. What is less obvious is how they want to compete. Apparently they don't all want to compete the same way. That really dilutes the One Percenters even further.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that limited paint requires less skills and that high volume shooting displays the skills of the pro's.

It requires different skills.
with lower volume:
Accurate snap shooting becomes a greater factor.
anticipating the right time to suppress becomes a factor.

It is a different game for sure, but still requires skill.

I don't think the game simple becomes a bunker fest or a defensive game. It just makes it harder to do certain things on the field......or could we say that it requires more skill to do certain things?

I have trouble comprehending why so many defend high volume paint use as the vital component to tournament paintball. (loader, high end gun, board makers, and paintball manufactures excluded, of course)

Still with memories of winning Zap Am with a paint bill greater than our winnings...

raehl said...

I suppose it depends on your definition of "slight". The rule book is 23, 24 pages long. Limited paint would change maybe a quarter of a page of it. Doesn't seem like much to me.

Would game strategies change? Sure. Are there still teams of players with paintball guns trying to shoot each other? Yeap.

While I do think 10 balls a game is a bit ridiculous, I'm not sure watching any particulr limited-paint game is any more instructive than watching XBall in 2002 would have been. It takes a while for people to switch to playing a new format efficiently.

There probably would need to be other changes though - limited paint would allow for fields with fewer obstacles, for example. Right now a lot of paint volume is needed to suppress movement because oftentimes the lane to deny the movement is fairly narrow. If, with limited paint, we're expecting players to develop the skill to shoot other players on the move, then we'd want to put more space between the bunkers so players have the opportunity to do that with limited paint, instead of just shooting a lane and hoping the other guy runs through it.

A lot of the demand for high-volume-paint shooting int he current game is simply because by the time you see a player make a move, if you don't already have paint in the air, it's too late to get it there. So we sit around lobbing tons of paint at each other because often only by keeping paint in the air at someone who might move do we have the ability to contain movement.

Baca Loco said...

Anon #4
Thanks for posting a contrarian point of view.

I said one of those things but not the other. I'll be explaining in today's post.
Different skill emphasis, yes--but also different field dimensions, likely different number of bunkers, etc.

On the current xball field with the current set of bunkers you can't anticipate when to supress--either you do it or you don't--and when you don't the high skill player moves. In fact the high skill player moves regardless of what you do eventually. And you can snap-shoot all you want but why should I engage you in snap-shooting when I don't need to?
The facts are simple; when a high skill player gets within a certain proximity of another player neither "unlimited" paint nor 12.5 bps can stop them from taking the other player down if that is the tactic in use. The only thing that slows the modern high skill player down in the current competitive environment is volume of paint.

Alas, the rule book is not the play of the game--but you've always had trouble with that.

Ah, now you're removing bunkers. Another slight change. Are you keeping the same ROF potential? I'm afraid you're going to have to make the field bigger again--and so it goes--but fortunately it's only a slight change.