Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is Tournament Paintball? part 3

It is evident now that competitive paintball is where the drive and desire to move tournament paintball into the realm of sport has taken us. It is what it is and it was inevitable. Competitive paintball will continue to develop. If the vehicle hadn't been xball it would have been something else. It is also evident that the current difficulties are the result of a number of factors some of which have nothing to do with playing the game. There will be no one stop easy fixes. Most of us have no way to affect the outcome regardless. But there may be some things that can be done in the present to help build a more sustainable and broader tournament base.
Before offering some practical suggestions I think it's also important to make the conceptual distinction between competitive paintball and tournament paintball. Of course both terms represent a form of competition but competition is also an aspect of all paintball. Today, wherever you are, the default definition of tournament paintball is related to the xball brand of competitive paintball. And if that is what potential and beginning tourney players think tournament paintball is they (and we) are limiting their options and reducing the number who will try it out. What I mean is the PSP needs to undo everything it's done in the last couple of years with the affiliates and universal classification. (Bet that got your attention.) No, that's not what I mean but I do think one option is to offer tourney play at the local level that isn't the first few steps up the national and international competition ladder. Alternatively (or in combination with) local and regional competitive paintball needs to lower the bar to participation.For example our local practice field also hosts a PSP affiliate series with the bulk of participating teams being D3, 4 & 5. And what do those teams do to get ready for their next regional event? They spend their weekends scrimmaging each other full points and burn through paint at tournament rates. It hardly matters if the events themselves are reasonably priced if teams can't afford to practice. And they are preparing to compete this way because that's what we taught them to do. If that is the minimum requirement to compete in D4 is it any wonder we're losing teams?

Let's review: At present competitive paintball is too expensive for its target demographic and simultaneously (and unnecessarily) restricts the opportunities of a significant number of the most dedicated players.

What to do? We broaden the definition of tournament paintball in order to legitimize a wider variety of tournament options. (Sure, this already happens as a practical matter but only in a piecemeal haphazard way.) Lower costs for competitive paintball. Lower the bar to tournament play with alternatives to competitive paintball. Slow down the "career" track and also offer options that don't involve a "career" track. Reconnect with the disenfranchised players.

(Sorry. No easy button involved. And if you're still uncertain I am not throwing the PSP or anybody else for that matter under the bus. The further sport paintball moves from generic paintball the more intermediary steps it needs along the way to provide a conduit of future players.)
Ok, back to what to do. How to lower costs? Shoot less paint. Which can be accomplished a few ways. I do not favor limited paint or drastically lower ROF--at least not at the national sport paintball level of competition. Do not release the field layout prior to the event. (It's deja vu all over again. Yes, I've suggested this before.) Without the layout there's little point in shooting truckloads of paint weekend after weekend. Teams will have to adapt. Find new ways to train and not be forced by the system to try and keep up with the next team by shooting extreme amounts of practice paint. Teams could literally save thousands of dollars. The rest of my suggestions relate primarily to the local & regional tourney scene. Lower the bar to tournament play. Something that is already happening in places. We need to see more generic 3-man and 5-man paintball events. And keep those players out of the UCP (Universal Classification Program) of APPA [or on an alternate local track] until they begin playing the bottom rung affiliate league events. We need some reseeding stand alone Open events. And for the time being we need to trim the number of total events down.
The specifics aren't important. Different areas will likely require different choices but the baseline goals need to be the same. Entry level tourney play that doesn't require the dedication, commitment and expense of competitive paintball as a gateway opportunity. Keep it simple with 3-man and/or 5-man. No pre-release of the layout. Strictly limit who can play. (I'd be sorely tempted to disallow anyone with an existing APPA i.d. but there's probably some room for consideration there.) Simplify divisions. Want to limit ROF? Give it a try. Or limited paint? Sure. The goal is a low pressure tourney environment a step or two above walk-on play for the most part. Ranking should be seasonal as long as divisions remain competitive and keep those players off the UCP. Let them track at their own pace as much as and as long as possible. Those that want greater challenges will make the necessary moves on their own.
The idea of open events is aimed at the D2 and D1 ranked players no longer playing because there are lots of them and very few options for them to keep actively involved short of trying to maintain a competitive commitment. Anyone can play an open event and skill level by team doesn't matter because by the final round of play all the teams are seeded against similar skill levels. Say the promoter decides on three divisions of play; A, B & C with prizes tiered as well with A having the best. Every team that signs up has a shot at all three packages. The teams are assigned divisions randomly and Round 1 is played. The reseed puts the most successful teams in bracket A, the mid-pack in B and C for the rest. Round 2 confirms the seedings but also allows some potential movement. Reseed and play Round 3 and there you have it. Round 3 winners receive the prizes for their brackets. It's a good way for lesser teams to get to compete against better ones and at the end of the day still vie for prizes and/or trophies and it doesn't penalize any player regardless of classification status.
There's also no reason not to run these kinds of events along with affiliate league play. What should be avoided is offering or trying to offer too many events over the course of the season. Too many choices dilutes the product and odds are, particularly in the current environment, the majority will end up picking & choosing. Far better to have a few rock solid events in place early so teams can see it's a do-able schedule and plan ahead.
A few words on the UCP. It's worlds better than it was. It's also appropriate for competitive paintball. I still wonder if it's flexible enough but I am not opposed to it or the concept behind it. I just think that in the here and now there is no good reason to push every tournament player onto a one size fits all fast track. Because it doesn't and there's no reason it should. What competitive paintball needs--among other things--isn't a larger pool of rec players but a larger pool of tournament players that have an opportunity to grow and develop at their own pace.

This is hardly a conclusive post but it's a start. There's so much more to all this that hopefully I've made a dent. Regardless, I have no doubt it's a topic that will be revisited again and again.


Anonymous said...

I love this post. I think it is right on. I have never been a fan of Chris' idea to limit paint for existing tournament players, but I like you idea of not releasing the layout. My team has been successful this year playing PSP D1. The cost for us to feel prepared for an event is absurd- we shoot 200 cases. We would still practice, but we would shoot half that or less.

It would take a while for your idea for regional/local events to catch on. It might be rejected by the players and the tournament would fail, especially in area with lots of choices. Maybe create a national addition/change for D5/D6 teams that use the RaceTo-2 format, but with limited paint (ROF and quantity). Make this official UCS so if a league offers it, it's consistant.

Mike said...

The WCPPL is a small league that ask players for their input. This PBn thread deals with paint and the kind of business it is for an upcoming tourniment...

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of mystified by the 'disinterest' of looking at limited paint.

I think it's the way to go; it positively affects budgets (they're not open-ended anymore) and, I believe that unlimited paint serves as a crutch for the less skilled player. It makes games more tactically interesting and increases the skill required to compete successfully.

Experimentally I did this with a tournament series back in, oh, the stone age; teams were very much against it at the beginning of the season, very much for it (with further restriction) by the end of the season.

Finally, it largely removes the "compete with your wallet" part of the equation.

Reiner Schafer said...

Anon, making drastic changes to rules in a sport that players are currently playing and wannabe players have been striving to play is not going to go over well. That would hold true for any sport. Limited paint competitive paintball changes virtually everything in the game to the point where it is not the same game anymore.

I agree that limited paint competitive paintball could be a viable option in the paintball world, but it will have to be grown from the ground up, starting at the local level and growing from there. It already is, and will continue to be, one of the options to attract players into a competitive paintball environment; players that might not normally be attracted to the "normal" competitive game. In that regard, it is exactly the kind of thing Baca is talking about. But it's not going to be an option for those already playing a game they love.

raehl said...


Fortunately there's almost no one left playing the current set of rules, so not many people to lose!


Under the current classification rules, 3-man events have no bearing on anything else. You can play them to your heart's content and go into RaceTo-2 with a clean slate.

Most leagues do kick you out of the "brand spanking newbie" 3-man division after about a season though.

More generally, I don't think the classification system is really much different now than what you're asking for. There's the "everybody can have fun playing here forever" division, the "You're more serious about competing" division, and the "brand spanking newbie" division. They are called D4, D3, and D5, respectively.

I do have people tell me that they or others are "not ready" for D4 and should be able to stay in D5, but that doesn't work. If all the people who think they are not ready for D4 stay in D5, then we just end up with everyone who was in D4 now in D5 and everyone who was in D3 now in D4. That's fine, as long as you don't want a newbie division, but most people agree that a newbie division is necessary.

Baca Loco said...

Anon #2
While I understand your point regarding
paint volume used as a crutch--it's routinely on display in the lower divisions--the move to limited paint doesn't require greater skill, it lowers the resistance threshold and frees up less skilled players.
Otherwise I would echo Reiner's comments.

None of that means however that limited paint events are a bad idea. Offered in the appropriate venue it's a positive answer.

The reason I made the two track suggestion was regardless of how many divisions there are to cover every conceivable category of player I'm concerned that any player or team in any spot along the national competition track is necessarily signing up for a more demanding track than they may really want or be able to commit to.