Sunday, January 31, 2010
Not really. Just once in a while. Innocently even, as it happens. But regardless--
It seems I have--once again*--fallen foul of the watchful guardians of PBN in my latest effort at self-promotion. (Rats, foiled again.) I posted a reminder in each of the pro forums (mostly) encouraging them to take advantage of the Pro*files opportunity and that, unlike the magazines of the past, I wasn't going to seek them out--I was just making the opportunity to participate available to anyone or team who wanted to get involved.
This was deemed to be spam and removed, except for the first of the posts. So Aftermath has the original post still up in their forum but I'm not stalking them. Honest. (Btw, how's that gonna work now that Aftermath is officially not a pro team anymore?) And about the spam business--I'm sure by PBN's definition is was spam--but it was also an effort to inform and provide an opportunity to the pro players and teams--not PBN. So there you have it, I'm a (dirty, rotten) spammer.
And, big picture, without rules everything descends into chaos and anarchy and we can't have that, now can we? So for those inclined to think PBN autocratic or just plain silly, remember, they are our first line of defense against the collapse of civilization.
* I was banned once for quoting a mod
In other VFTD "news" I expect to get around to the new classification system and some other PSP related items this coming week along with a new playing the game feature--I'm thinking maybe something about playing the snake.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
With fantastic flavors like Illithid Brain Juice and Bigby's Crushing Thirst Destroyer fatigue doesn't stand a chance. As a pure cane soda it delivers that instant sugar high your lack of physical fitness demands and better still it guarantees that hypoglycemic crash later on. And for those teams and players desperately seeking specialness you can custom order your own private label; like Team Space Squids, complete with custom art.
VFTD--helping ballers spend their paintball cash wisely since 2008.
Friday, January 29, 2010
2. What team do you play for now?
6. Who are your favorite paintball players?
As always I encourage y'all to drop me a line or post up some more info about yourselves in the comments and--as always--I won't hold my breath waiting. Like the French Foreign Legion, VFTD gladly accepts all those suffering the paintballin' jones, no questions asked. (It brings us one step closer to our secret ambition, world domination!)
This week, or thereabouts (I think I missed last week altogether) VFTD is pleased to welcome Tom Harding, Tommy (Gun) Pemberton, Foolybear & (Some call him ...) Jeff. Tommy Gun is a founding--or is that foundling?--member of UK powerhouse Nexus who recently announced his retirement on advice of his doctors. It was too soon as he's too young but no doubt all his fans hold out hope for the future. VFTD wishes Tommy all the best. And doubtless many of you need no introduction to Jason "Foolybear" Lineburger, scenario sensation, who has stepped out of the woods long enough to hang out us now and again. Thanks one and all.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Shortly thereafter the rumor mill was grinding out the possibility that KEE was interested in picking up JT Sports. Today Mr. C says that a press release on the acquisition of JT Sports by KEE is forthcoming, possibly tomorrow and certainly within a day or two. (As always take Mr. C's rumorology with a grain a salt as he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about half the time. /sarcasm)
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Mr. C also insists there is continuing chaos inside procaps after the purge of employees with long-standing ties to the paintball community. He can't offer chapter and verse--but he is prepared to swear to it on the religious document of your choice up to and including the Watchtower tract that nice pair of elderly ladies gave him last Thursday. It looks like a cash flow problem (at least in part) and there are other rumors of more changes coming in the distribution network.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
VFTD was going to post the first Pro*file today but (as per usual) I've been distracted by the sudden exit of the AXBL a week (or so) after they released their 2010 schedule (and the usual suspects began complaining about this and that--but, of course, that's paintball.) [Team numbers appear to have been on the decline for whatever that's worth and there was a petulant quality to their au revoir. On the other hand I hear the AXBL didn't really make much of a profit and, as seems to be the case these days, it all breaks down to the cash to be had, or not, in paint. Go figure.] Anyway, I am not here to praise or bury the AXBL, it had some laudable qualities and some parochial qualities and in some respects I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did.Let's talk xball--and I'm not talking 'bout that format-formerly-known-as-xball for pansies either. Last bastion of "real" xball, that's what the AXBL was. (Yeah, I know they still play it in the CXBL but that's Canada so it doesn't really count.) Of course it wasn't exactly the same as "real" xball. The rules were a bit different and they played with a ROF limit. Everybody knows "real" xball was "real" semi-auto. Trust me, I'm the ultimate fan of true xball and I would love to see it make a come back. And who knows? Maybe one day it will. In the meantime I'm not sure if 7 or 8 "real" xball matches a season is worth it. The NXL tried that too--we played a few more matches too--but it's just more fun to win events on the way to World Cup.
I'm also a fan of local and regional tourney ball as the appropriate developmental scene for competitive paintball and the AXBL seemed to do that pretty well. And it was clever to take advantage of the Canada/America thing to have a season ending league championship in each league and then a North American slugfest. As a result a regional league played bigger than it was and promoted a certain pride of competition. But wouldn't it be better if it really was a North American championship? Or even bigger than that? If an opportunity existed to compete at a local or regional level during the year in order to earn a spot in a real championship that included the top regional teams in identical leagues from around the country and beyond?
That's the hope and promise of the new alignment between a number of regional leagues and the PSP. Okay, so maybe it isn't "real" xball. It's still pretty damn good. And a season of competition has a lot of winners and losers on the road to a local title and, who knows, a real honest-to-goodness championship that proves who the best divisional teams really are.
The AXBL will be missed but bigger and better is in sight. But it ain't all cookies and milk. Fact is there probably won't be a place for everybody. Oh, not teams and players--I mean promoters and local leagues. Making the move the PSP and the affiliated regionals have undertaken has risks but if it succeeds it will marginalize all the other grassroots series and events. Why play local without the opportunity to prove yourself on a national scale when it's readily available to anyone with the desire to be their best? Fingers crossed. It could be a bumpy ride.
UPDATE: Looking for an immediate alternative to the AXBL? Check out the NYPL.
Monday, January 25, 2010
You might even consider this the new year's first Another Cynical VFTD Game although this one cuts a little too close to home for me to be entirely flippant. I don't like to see players lose their opportunities or the list of active pro players shrink while the ranks of the ronin continue to grow. But like it or not, it's happening. It's also another step towards making the final team cuts of the pre-season. About now more than a few teams are also coming to grips with the reality that if they don't sponsorship deals in hand odds are the music has stopped and that didn't get the last chair.
So here's the game: Part One--name that cut (who's out and who's in?)
Part Two--Who is gonna be PSP pro at Phoenix? Who is gonna be PSP semi-pro at Phoenix?
How many make it to World Cup?
Bonus credit--how many teams register for HB? (And will the event happen?)
For those who want to know what it was all about I'll try to remember to re-post it when it no longer matters.
We are less than two months out and teams are making roster moves and settling in for the grind leading up to the Phoenix event. It is time to talk about this.)The thing is pro rosters are tentatively limited to 9 (as of today.) Even that hasn't been decided but one of the possible scenarios that might change a mind or two is how this 90 second turnaround works in practice. (While the PSP has done a terrific job with a very full plate this off season this is one area where we's being left hanging so if there's nothing to be done this minute we can at least talk about it--and that's what I'm doing.) [Complaint forms need to be filed in triplicate.] So best I can tell those that know are expected to see how 90 seconds works with a 9 player roster and we'll go from there. Now that may sound reasonable to some but it's really not.
UPDATE: Okay, the league made the change to a 10 man pro roster but neglected to inform--at least my team--that they'd made the change sometime during the last week or so.
There are a couple of problems with this plan. There are not a lot of practice fields that simulate a tourney prepped format-formerly-known-as-xball field with pits and dual air stations. We don't have one and I have only seen and practiced on one (er, two)--ever. (Trauma at PBC Greensboro.) (Okay, not completely accurate, the Raiders had a complete field set-up but it didn't really matter then.) Doesn't mean there aren't others but it might be interesting to ask the other teams if they will have a pre-event opportunity to actually practice on the "right" field. And, of course, this also presumes you can simulate a "real" match environment in practice--which you can't.It would be nice to think all the pro teams are so well prepared, organized and supplied with resources that they will have no problem with 25% less time between points while maintaining turnarounds, pit efficiency, player clean up, paint loading, air fills, and prepping the next point to be played in between running back and forth across the field half the time--but are they? Are they really? In a scenario where competitive paintball is struggling to keep the pro game intact where is the value in placing an unnecessary and untried additional burden on the actual play of the game. It doesn't make any rational sense at all.
Now I'm not suggesting the league keep the two minute break and whatever is decided is what we'll do our best to prepare for. What I'm actually suggesting is a simple roster move to a max of 10 players and call it a day. Any team that chooses to play with less is welcome to but 10 players allows the option of two complete lines which removes the necessity of having player(s) on the turnaround and negates the biggest concerns about the move to 90 seconds. It seems pretty simple to me. A lot simpler than discovering after it's too late that a nearly pointless rule is ruining the competition. For those wondering if the 90 second rule will affect them--don't ask me--I know nothing!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Before things get too serious I want to tell y'all a story. Back when I was wet behind the ears I was playing 10-man tourney ball in the woods. From an individual skills point of view our team had solid players. We worked hard on our field-walking, both analyzing the fields and deciding how to attack whichever end of the field we started on (as even the best woods fields were often horribly unbalanced) and we would walk through our breakouts (an aggressive run would frequently go further than the length of any modern field) know our primaries, the likely paths of our opponents, our shooting lanes and on and on. But when the games were played we often got stuck in the mid-game and couldn't close games out. In hindsight it's easy to see that our plan(s) held us back because we focused all our efforts on fulfilling the plan but the plan wasn't the goal. The goal was to win.
In the modern game that particular problem still occurs but there are lots of others that can also get in the way of success--and just about all of them are important ingredients in building a successful, winning team. For example, one of the first lessons taught is staying alive. But what happens if too much emphasis is placed on staying alive? It's easy for players to become extremely defensive as they focus too much of their effort and attention on staying alive. It becomes a hindrance to successful competition--even though it is an necessary skill. And it can be enormously frustrating sometimes to try and figure out what's wrong because everything being taught and demanded is correct.
Perhaps the most common failure is to call yourselves a team but act like a bunch of individuals. It is particularly difficult to overcome because so much of the development involved in building a team is at the player level. (This topic probably merits its own post.) The foundation of a team begins with accountability and shared responsibility. As a practical example, let's say Joe can't make snake off the break and Bob keeps getting bunkered out of the Dorito 50. To make it Joe's and Bob's fault is contrary to effective team building. If Bob keeps getting bunkered where is Bob's support? If no one is responsible for protecting Bob it's not his fault, particularly if his job is to work the cross field angles working for eliminations. And if Joe is struggling to make the snake what can the team do to make him more effective? To expect Joe to act independently of his teammates is not how a team functions.
The balancing act required is accomplished by having your priorities in order. Here's a simple order that might help put things into their proper perspective. Technique--Skills--Players--Team--Tactics--Winning. Now I do not mean to suggest that plans or plays are more important than your players--only that the tactics employed function best on a team level. Nor do I intend to suggest winning is more important than personal relationships for example--only that the first priority of successful competitive paintball is to win and that is the page everyone involved in the team ought to understand and be on. Teach technique to improve skills to make better players who function as a unit for the shared goal of winning paintball. When any aspect of the process is out of order or under or over valued it reduces the prospects for success.
Friday, January 22, 2010
The four models I want to discuss are team as brand, the club team, the coop team and the regional team.
Team as brand is really just a more sophisticated version of the traditional concept of a pro team as a high profile marketing tool that relies on the success and popularity of the team to promote and sell associated product. And while I think there's opportunity to be exploited with this concept I wonder about the longer term utility. Two aspects of the branding ethos into paintball culture strike me as problematic. In particular the tourney demographic is fickle and prone to transitory bandwagoneering. Or in this case, 'brand'wagoneering. The critical mass of wide scale popularity is usually short-lived. Once gained it can be lost for no definable reason. The other is authenticity or at least the perception of being authentic. Team as brand only has value as long as it endows the associated products with the brand's popularity. And a large piece of paintball popularity is a product of perceived uniqueness and "keeping it real." If at any time the general perception shifts to seeing a purely commercial arrangement it undercuts the brand and brand appeal. And in a team's case being successful is a necessary component, especially early on. All the successfully branded team requires is on field success, a hook that captures the public imagination, an ability to manipulate the current media environment, hard work and a little luck. So, while team branding has potential it seems to me to be an extension of the conventional wisdom and an insufficient foundation as a stand alone over any extended period. At least in the present environment.
The club team is a mega-team organization, usually (so far) of the vertical team variety--individual teams competing in different divisions (not against each other) so that there are opportunities to move up (or down) the ladder of competition and remain with the same organization. The club team's operating baseline is similar to that of the field team except the club team or its owner operate a paintball business to support the team.
The coop team is like the club team except it relies on team numbers to negotiate sponsorship deals and/or pricing discounts that reduce player costs and also probably requires dues.
In both cases numbers provide more security in terms of team continuity, a wider talent pool to draw from, a larger buying pool and depending on the structural details offers a lot more flexibility in adjusting to the changing paintball scene as well as the details of how each squad is supported. And, of course, most examples will overlap. For example, there is nothing keeping these team formulations from working the branding angle or the club team from requiring dues like the coop team. The fundamental feature these team formations share is a mega-team base structure.
The regional (or league) team is a variation on the same theme designed as both an additional incentive to participation in the regional league as well as a means of building regional pride and unity with a flagship team to represent all the players and teams in that region. There are potentially issues in pulling players from league teams but it's not particularly different from if the league promoters also ran a team separate from the league. Who knows, someone may run a league in order to support a team. A regional superteam could also have a step up in branding value as well as serve as the league's ambassadors with clinics, coaching and even reffing.
All these team types share a continuing core reliance on the commerce of paintball. More when you or I come up with some good ideas.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Instead, here's a preview of what may be coming in the clash of the bunker behemoths, Sup'Air vs. Ultimate Air. Sure, there was the recent war of words and a thread or two filled with lots of largely worthless guesswork, jingoistic bluster and a non-responsive retort aimed at winning the public opinion sweepstakes--but what else are forums for? And then everything in the public eye went silent. Silent but not over. Not by a long shot. Because whatever anybody says when comparing the two brands Adrenaline Games holds a major advantage in market share. One Brimstone is unlikely to overcome as long as the largest percentage of tournament paintball uses Sup'Air.
On the speculation front I doubt any of the parties have the resources to litigate and a decision to go that route would be the equivalent of going all in playing Texas hold 'em. You win or you lose and a good bluff can be as good as the best cards.
As a matter of educated guesswork it would seem like a better option for Brimstone to pursue breach of contract of the licensing agreement. Should it ever come to it Brimstone probably has cause to include the major leagues (and the PSP specifically) in a patent infringement suit. And speaking of infringement if commercial use of a similar bunker system can be demonstrated prior to the original filing the patent is void. But what appears to be the key to the patent is the tie down system so it may be that any inflatable bunker with a different tie down system isn't subject to the patent.
Anyway, this situation isn't finished. UA has the next move.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Kicking things off is the PSP--which I'm not really gonna talk about here because there's just too much going on, with more to come. Both the new classification system and unified format plans merit their own posts (which will be coming in the next few days.) Otherwise, the PSP appears to be grabbing necessity by the scruff of the neck and making moves for the present and the future to secure the league's position as the premier example of tourney ball as sport.
On a related subject, the recent war of words between Brimstone Enterprises and Adrenaline Games was just the beginning. It hasn't been resolved and it won't be left hanging indefinitely and retains the potential to draw the league(s) in. (More coming on this too.) And for the first time the PSP & MS share a field pack for 2010 with an identical set of bunkers with the exception of the PSP's half X and Millennium's M which, I imagine, makes things easier for Adrenaline Games.
The USPL is dead (apparently), long live the NPPL! No, the USPL didn't go anywhere (yet) it just changed its name--like if Chad Ochocinco changed his name back to Johnson sorta deal. Or if Carnival built a brand new cruise ship and decided to call it the Titanic for the name recognition value--but that's probably just me. The NPPL has dates and venues, it's teams and sponsors that are hard to pin down right now. Nobody knows for sure how many pro teams there will be yet although the league recently took the novel approach of seeing if it could negotiate some sort of league sponsorship for paint that would provide paint for the pro division. No word on the particulars yet. In the meantime United took the Rage route of ownership without participation, at least for 2010. (Does that mean they have to pay even if they don't play?) Internally the league tally of pro teams seems like wishful thinking as a number of teams being counted as in remain on the fence.
With APPA out and Frank handling registration the current website has no way (I could find) for teams to see who is signing up and registered for the HB event scheduled for April. I'm guessing they can't let that stand but then at some point we'll see real numbers and if I were a betting man I'd play the under compared to HB last year--which would be disastrous.
Over in Euroland the MS has reduced entries in the SPL, D1 & D2 by removing the prize packages in those divisions. While being counter-intuitive it is par for the Millennium course. They've also added a D3 which will be playing Race 2-2 while M5 remains an entry level 5-man format. The MS has kept its 5 event season schedule but will not be including an "open" event this year. While the MS and PSP get closer in some ways the Millennium is not following the PSP's lead regarding restrictions on yellow. The locked divisions (CPL, SPL, D1) remain locked--so far--and it will be interesting to see if the number of teams in those divisions continues to slide from the less than maximum allotted slots of a couple of years ago. One of the Euro ballers' seasonal traditions is to moan about the Millennium, its poor public relations and general greediness combined with ineptitude. (Nothing out of the ordinary really.) But this year seems a bit different and I'm wondering if there isn't a spreading apathy instead. Hard to know from where I am, but I guess we'll see.
The Grand Tour isn't quite so grand as last year with a reduced schedule down to 5 events that doesn't kick off until early May. No info yet as to whether they will be continuing a pro division this year--which is the only reason they are included in the MLP updates. If they do VFTD will try to keep up.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Even so, there are perhaps a few things VFTD can do to fill in a gap or two. In the past one of the things the magazines did was help make the pro players accessible and elevate some of the pros to star status--within the confines of the paintball community anyway. Not only doesn't that happen today but the majority of competitive players probably don't even know who most of the top players are anymore. And in an era where teams as brands and players as personalities matters maybe more than ever before VFTD is interested in doing pro player profiles as a regular feature. Once a week or twice a month maybe. As a reader if you'd like to see the profiles say so. If you currently are or recently have been on a pro roster and are willing to participate drop me a line at Baca's email. (Link at the top of the sidebar.) My idea is to include a picture, a bio brief and a short list of questions to be answered. It's not huge, it's not complicated and it's not comprehensive. I won't be doing life stories but it will be a start. If there's enough interest I have a few other ideas for ways to expand on the theme. Player (& team) participation is essential. I can't make you do it so it's in your hands.
Friday, January 15, 2010
First, while I am admittedly poking a little fun I am foursquare in favor of this move as a potentially significant step in the right direction. (Remember what I didn't talk about here?)
The basics announced today establishes the Race To format as the dominate format for competitive paintball in the U.S. and lays the foundation for the vertical integration of the format from the local grassroots all the way up to the pro division. The key to that integration will be the use of APPA and as yet unannounced modified classification system to rank players around the country to assure, as closely as possible, that everyone is playing the same game and ranked in a consistent manner from region to region as well as within the ranks of the PSP.
However, the devil--as they say--is in the details and we don't know those yet so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. (No easy task given they are short & thick and about as flexible as a kendo shinai.)
Anyway, the critical issues are how effective--without being coercive--the new classification system proves to be in delivering on the announcement's promise and how the relationship between the regions and the PSP is understood by the participating parties and what the intent is in taking this step. I think the classification issue is pretty straightforward and we should see within a reasonable window of time how it's working. And it's also the sort of thing that can be "fixed" if needed--as long as the leagues and players remain convinced it's the way to go. The issue of the relationship between the leagues and the PSP is a dicier proposition because, like it or not, today, tomorrow and into the near future the PSP is in competition with the leagues for participating teams. It's unavoidable and the prospect for ultimate success may ride on whatever the plan is for some sort of transition or shift in priorities on the part of the PSP.
UPDATE: Jumping in line today is (Matt) Miller from the Fierce Factory of teams who will be grinding for the semi-pro team this year. Welcome & thanks.
UPDATE 2: Also taking the plunge today was soutnwest.paintball. Thanks!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Last week the PSP announced the hiring of Camille Lemanski. This is a move that only makes the PSP better. Camille is capable and efficient and knows the ins and outs of organizing and staging a major league event. She will be up to whatever tasks she's assigned and who wouldn't rather talk to Camille if they have a problem. (Sorry, buddy, but you got to see how it is.) The NPPL's loss is the PSP's gain. For all the good work Keely did this is a step up. (And for those curious as to how this all came about the gossip from the rumor mill suggests the NPPL was a number of months in arrears in paying her salary. Which, if correct, adds another straw to the camel's back.)
This week the PSP released the Phoenix field layout and officially restricted the use of the color yellow on playing gear and equipment. And, in order to ease the transition, have offered the possibility of a one year exemption on jerseys that would otherwise be in violation. I'm good with the option of an exemption given the strictness of the qualifications. It is a far cry from a carte blanche to wear yellow for an extra year and will likely see no more than a handful of teams meet the qualification standards. So an exemption exists but it won't be (hopefully) a back door to getting around the general rule restricting yellow. I do have some concerns with the general rule though. I'm tempted to call it the Dynasty Exception. Is it reasonable for the PSP to try and find a middle-ish ground that doesn't interfere with sponsor logos and the like? Sure, but-- Where does it really end? Will each field have a qualified yellow ref who carries a 5 centimeter square cutout to check for legal use of yellow? Or will the application be haphazard, field to field, ref to ref, with the end result being there will be players and teams trying to game the rule. For a blatant example look at Vicious last year, black jersey with yellow print vertically on the sides of the jerseys? Really? Can anyone argue with a straight face that had any other purpose than to potentially obscure recognition of a hit? Is that potentially still a legal use of yellow? The fact that there isn't an outright ban simply changes the nature of the problem and assures that the result doesn't match the intent.
UPDATE: In the comments Karen from Vicious objects (with a straight face) to my remarks. For another view make sure you check it out.
The Phoenix layout introduces yet again more new bunkers and a rearrangement of the number of certain bunker types available; for example the 2010 set includes 5 MDs and only 2 SDs (unlike previous years) and adds 4 tall cakes. I do not oppose changes in bunkers or their numbers but I do have an issue with the PSP with regards to when, how and why these changes are made. Adrenaline Games can make, promote and sell whatever sorts of bunkers they choose and far as I'm concerned it's all good. (As a proposition separate from whatever the legal ramifications might be of the situation vis-a-vis Brimstone Enterprises.) The place where I question the PSP is when the commercial interests of Adrenaline appear to dictate part of the league's competition practices. The field matters. The bunkers matter. Their arrangement matters. It all has an impact on the way the game plays and I think the PSP has a higher responsibility to the game and the players than it does to a sponsoring company. It's like Spalding telling the NBA what size basketball to use or how big the hoop will be. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if no one had really given the issue much consideration before. (After all, I haven't brought it up before.) And that said I don't think it's a huge deal but it is an issue that will have be addressed at some point.
As to this specific layout it is very xball conventional in the way it will play. It does have a couple of features that will help separate the men from the boys (that goes for you girls too) but overall there isn't anything new here. I find it a bit disappointing but I readily admit I'm probably not the best judge of what the majority want and at this stage of the game that matters as long as we're all playing the same layouts. As for how it will play my principle objections would be in the placement of corner bunkers which will tend to produce overlapping running lanes for wide runners. Spatially it will allow the lane shooters to potentially be able to cover both a corner runner and a snake runner with the same lane of paint. (The same being true on the other side as well.) In fact the field is so condensed it looks almost like an attempt to design a field to demonstrate that 50 cal paint has no competition drawbacks (by shortening the distances between bunkers everywhere.)
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The object of lane control is to inhibit movement. One object of edge control is to retain lane control. Once gained it may be seen as a defensive posture because it appears to be reactive. After all, you can't engage or eliminate an opponent from that posture unless they act first. Which is true but only part of the story. That attitude indicates that you are allowing the how-to to dictate the why-to or that you don't have a why-to that can place lane and/or edge control into its proper context. How you accomplish lane control or edge control is not why you seek to do it in the first place. The why-to determines how you will use the advantage gained in lane control and/or edge control, it gives the action purpose.
In this particular example edge control is the key. But before we get to the specifics I want to take a step back and look at the game from a wider perspective. One fundamental of winning paintball is the acquisition and exploitation of advantageous angles. Angles that expose your opponents to eliminating shots. This is paintball 101 (or ought to be.) Move into positions that put your opponents at the maximum risk, shoot them and hang the flag. Standard paintball tactics that can be accomplished slowly or quickly; the boa constrictor style of 10-man Strange or the wall of paint, wave of players rush of 7-man Dynasty are both effective and both, in this respect, rely on the same tactic. Methods may differ but the tactic remains the same. In every case movement is the shared essential element. But movement alone isn't enough. Optimal results requires timely movement, a race to reach the critical positions first.
In the offensive game the purpose of lane control is not to eliminate the opponent, it is to deny movement because denying movement is an element of winning the position race. The purpose of edge control is to take the active role. Edge control allows a player the option to move and/or facilitate a teammate's movement. Gaining control is a first step. It is a means, not an end. By way of example download the last Legion vs. Philly game from World Cup and watch the D-wire. You will see the Legion players, over and over, working into the stand up can, using the can to take control, and using that control to push another player wide or rotate over to the wire (in which case the following player moves up into the can to maintain lane control.) None of this is about slow play or defense or boring paintball. Executed efficiently and effectively it can help turn points in seconds.
Keep in mind this a piece in a puzzle and other factors come into play to varying degrees of importance during actual play of the game.
Btw, if some of you wonder if this is the way I teach my players to play, it isn't. Those who derive some benefit from the cerebral side of things get it but only in small doses. (Although with one team I did a lot of how-to wrapped in some why-to over a short period of time because we only had a limited window of opportunity and I was trying to press a culture change. The players were receptive and willing and we came close but ultimately failed to achieve our goal.) I believe as a general rule that too much thinking on field is detrimental. There are things players need to know and understand and act on but ideally do without thinking so filling heads with game theory and playing philosophy isn't particularly helpful. It can be useful however in developing players and building teams.
Monday, January 11, 2010
With the recent announcement of the Infamous/Aftermath merger reality is beginning to bite. Nobody is immune. At this point I think (hope) everybody understands that pro paintball is about more than simply collecting the best players and putting them on the field. There are lots of ex-pro players and the list of former teams continues to grow. VFTD, in one form or another, began talking about this topic in the summer of 2004, not because I foresaw the economic situation we're in today, but because the then status quo wasn't stable for a lot of reasons. The game grew, formats changed and the demands of competition required a more professional and complex organizational structure to support the top teams. The industry supported it. Today the industry no longer supports it. No longer can.
I had a conversation this past weekend about pro and semi-pro team expectations for 2010. Who would be competing? We came up with 7 likely pro teams and 3 intent on being pro teams. (I came up with 6 and 4 but we were talking about the same teams.) The merger has taken one of them off the table. We also talked thru the ranks of the NPPL pro teams with respect to their ability to compete in the upper levels of the format-formerly-known-as-xball. It was not a purely hypothetical conversation. At least I don't expect it to have been as I do expect some numbers of NPPL teams to make the transition. A couple have or intend to and others have players that have played both. Some others simply won't be around when event registration closes for the first event. Many of those who will be around will be, to one degree or another, making the "old school" effort to pay much of their own way. Without financial backing and/or comprehensive sponsorship there will be many prices to pay for teams determined to make a go of it. One of the prices is competitiveness. In the current pro game it is very difficult to compete on the field if you can't compete off the field. No matter what else happens in the near term there is almost surely going to be a general decline in the playing standard top to bottom. Not immediately perhaps but inevitably. In a closed league there end up being the haves and the have nots but despite internet chatter about who sucks etc. the pro division has been consistently competitive with very few exceptions. At least for a time the transition, even if successful, will see a decline in the standard of play.
Overall the current trend is decline but it is also the residue of the past, not necessarily a predictor of the future. In the Big Picture it's a race to see if both the league and the teams can re-make themselves before it's too late. The PSP has taken, and continues to take steps in what I think is generally the right direction. There is a plan and a goal. (And, no, I won't elaborate 'cus it isn't my place--like that ever stopped me before--so let's just say I'm broadly in agreement. And if you're familiar with my views on what major league paintball ought to look like it may give you some idea.) The teams however are behind the curve and have been for some time. For whatever reason too many established teams didn't seem to believe the worst could happen to them and now it is. Teams dependent on the industry will not survive. For the teams it's a race to reconstruct a foundation sufficiently independent of the industry to withstand the shifting sands of circumstance. Even the factory teams aren't secure. The future belongs to new ideas.
Next time: What will the successful team of the future look like?
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Okay, it's not official and I have no secret knowledge that an announcement is coming anytime soon or ever even but come on.
There's been lots of talk and lots of questions and lots of whispers going around about the fate of the NPPL and its pro teams and all the early returns seemed to be saying business as usual--but a few press releases do not force reality to conform to the dream. Hardly ever. Internal communication has virtually stopped, actively committed teams have dropped out, others are balking at paying more cash into the league kitty, nobody is claiming the league made a cent last year, some teams are practicing the format-formerly-known-as-xball and talking openly about maybe playing both (hah!) and Camille has bailed and taken a job with the PSP. And it's worse than I'm making it sound.
Last year the league launched (re-launched?) amid a lot of fanfare and hype with the leading owners sitting around a table projecting such grotesquely unrealistic participation numbers it was laughable. And some of them had to know it. But they wanted to believe. This year that's no excuse. The numbers are in. So what's left? Outside money. The pipedream of some high rollin' non-paintball crew coming to town to drop some large on tournament paintball. And not just tournament paintball but specifically the league with a record of failure running a dying format for a fraction of the players playing tourney ball elsewhere. It's practically in the bank. (/sarcasm) Elements of the NPPL have been selling the Big Score for the whole of the league's various iterations and while there have been some minor successes the Big Score has always been around the next corner, taking the next meeting, making the next phone contact. Look, if the Big Score wasn't there when money was easy and banks were begging everyone to take out home loans what are the odds now?
So what about the teams? At a more basic level than "owning" a league paint is once again the great divide and fewer teams than last year are gonna get any kind of deal. It's extra hard to own a league when you can't afford to finance a team. A lot of teams, regardless of league, are gonna struggle to compete. My advice is if you love the game focus on playing.
Hey, it was a swell idea. Ten years ago. The opportunities to make it work have come and gone. They may come back again--but not now.
Friday, January 8, 2010
The new prize structure in the PSP seems to be a minor talking point for the disaffected hopeful who may or may not have ever actually played a PSP event. (Granted one needn't be a PSP player to have an opinion, and perhaps even a worthwhile opinion but in lieu of overwhelming logical mastery it doesn't hurt to establish a credible basis for holding a particular opinion. Anyway--) I don't have a lot to add and I'm reasonably confident the puppet army doesn't require convincing but nevertheless there are a couple of items I want to add to the conversation.
This is my second go round on this. The first effort has been ejected out the Blogger airlock into he infinite reaches of cyberspace destined to go eternally unread, lost in the void. And good riddance. The truth is I can see both sides of the prize argument (and, in the past have argued both sides) but at the end of the day I am siding with unfairness. It seems to me to boil down to two things; what is the PSP? and what is the purpose of the prize? To argue that the lower divisions deserve prizes because they tend to be more numerous makes a couple of false assumptions. One, that the PSP should reward participation instead of excellence and two, that the league is a lottery and not a competition. The PSP is the leading advocate of competitive paintball as sport and as such it seeks to provide players and teams with an opportunity to compete. Not to win and not to take home cash to help defray the cost of competing. And the obvious purpose of the new prize structure is to encourage the desire to be excellent and reward it within a context of competitive balance. One might argue about where the dividing line ought to be--is D2 too low?--but that is a different argument. For those who insist on fairness and equal opportunity in competitive paintball the only way to achieve that would be to create one big random draw for all competing teams. That way everyone would have the same relative chance to win and earn their prize. I haven't heard anyone demanding that option lately so until I do I can live with unfairness in the service of superior competition.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
For a while--until I get bored and/or sidetracked--I thought I might do a few posts on playing the game. What with everybody feeling all shiny and new and ready for the upcoming season now is the perfect time to grab your attention and put a stop to that sort of Pollyanna-ish nonsense. (Just kidding.)
Today's post will be about lane control. And, yes, I will be relating Legion philosophy as it applies to lane control because it is (in my never to be considered humble opinion) the cornerstone of how they teach and play the game. But first a brief definition: Lane control is an established position of dominance that allows a player to (ideally) deny movement through or past the narrow zone or lane actively observed by the dominant player. In this context when I say lane control I am including edge control as well. Edge control refers to the capacity of an opposing player, either a mirror or other line-of-sight position, to contest for dominance and thus, lane control. It is a fundamental feature of the modern game and happens numerous times during each and every point played.
Nor is it a static situation. It is one in constant flux and this is where Legion philosophy and training come into play. Simply put the Legion's first rule is 'Never give up lane control.' Their second rule is 'Don't die.' And that's pretty much it for rules about lane control. With only two rules it should be a piece of cake (um, cake) but it actually turns out to be a bit more difficult in practice. Let's expand on the rules some, shall we? The typical scenario is what is commonly called gun-fighting or gun battles. The term carries with it a connotation that the process is a back and forth battle for edge and lane control--with opposing players taking turns being in control--and as it is commonly played that is precisely what happens most of the time. But that is not how the Legion do it.
One of the key reasons for the Legion's rise to dominance of the NXL in the past was their absolute adherence to the lane control rules. (With a few Americans--who bring unique skill sets to the table--and a slightly less rigid team structure than in the past--the current Legion isn't quite as unyielding on this score as they used to be but if you watch them play you will still see what I'm talking about.) But more than anything we are talking about an attitude. Lane control isn't lane control if it's only effective 50% of the time. It follows that what is required for real lane control is that it be maintained uninterrupted and if or when it is contested the opponent must be eliminated or pushed off their edge. Even if you die in the process. (See rule #2) In order to do this effectively you must maintain discipline and provide the smallest target profile possible. The techniques can be taught and learned--the will can only come from within the player.
The result is instead of gun-fighting for control lane control becomes a game of chicken and technique. There is no back and forth. No snap shooting. No in and out. No lightning reflexes. No real contest of all around ability. No rolling the dice. In this scenario technique dominates--and remember, technique can be taught and developed.
But even for the Red Legion perfection isn't possible so here's a little trick that should help. Most of the time you can give up edge control and still maintain lane control. Remember, your purpose is to deny movement thru the lane or gap you are attempting to control. Too often players over adjust when pushed off their edges. If you are forced off your edge don't move all the way back behind your bunker, don't switch sides, don't move your gun out of a shooting posture. Move only as far as it is necessary to move to avoid being hit. In a mirror situation that often requires no more than pushing into your prop. But in any event the idea is to move the minimum amount necessary while maintaining a line-of-sight somewhere within the gap or zone you are supposed to be controlling. Better yet, roll your gun and get some paint going thru there. (If you're uncertain as to why we'll get to that next time.)
Now that you know how it's done--a far cry from doing it I might add--take a minute to think about how you transition from what is mostly thought of (incorrectly) as a defensive posture--lane control--and make it a fundamental element of your attack. That's next time too.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
For the most part this is all good news. The original ROF moves last year were justified by making some rather dubious claims about trickling down and saving paint. (Which apparently are no longer desirable results or else nobody believes it anymore. And why should they since neither one was correct.) The lower ROF however did have the potential to make better players faster at the lower levels. (I posted on the concept extensively last year.) Anyway, I think this had less to do with the PSP and more to do some future announcements that should be upcoming. Overall, it's a relatively neutral change (and will make a vocal internet crowd of forever D3 players happy so what's not to like?)
The new pricing and prize structures signals a change in direction for the PSP that is a very positive one. It is incentivizing excellence. After all we are supposedly playing a game with the purpose of being the best we can be, right? So why reward mediocrity? If the league wants teams to move up, don't force them, give them a reason. Give them an incentive to improve. Next step is to see if classification rule changes are adopted more in line with these pricing and prize concepts. And while I certainly appreciate the new pro pricing--after years of paying huge fees (relatively) for somebody else's decisions--I think all the prize money divisions ought to be the same. If D2 & D1 are $2750 then semi-pro and pro should not be less but should probably be a match. After all, s-p and pro already have game play benefits over D1 and D2 as it is. I'm not complaining, I just think identical pricing would seem fairer to the majority and the difference is negligible anyway. Just a thought.
UPDATE: ROF. In the original post above I allude to a reason why the PSP would make this change now--after saying no change a few days ago--and after seeing the threads at PBN it seems I ought to explain. If for no other reason than just for fun. Well, and to demonstrate one more time why it is VFTD is the only place for unique competitive paintball commentary. The decision was made yesterday at the "secret" PSP meeting in San Diego at the behest of the very guys who are busy crediting the PSP for listening to the players' cry for change. (For those trying to keep score that would be Hinman and Pauly so far.) It sounds swell and if it plays in Peoria it's a small (and harmless) deceit by paintball standards. I will explain further when more of the meeting's details are released.
I am not, btw, calling anyone out here because it's not really important. I just find it amusing how paintball public relations tends to work no matter whose responsible for it. Are you having fun today?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
It's that time of year. Everybody is starting to get back into the practice routine. Look familiar? Been there done that.
Take pity on an overworked blogger. If you have any ideas for future episodes of Ask the Coach don't hesitate to post them up in comments. (I'm not holding my breath, you lazy slackers.)
I've got a completed 'Ask the Coach' I'm trying to get processed but the animation site is currently down. Soon as it's up again the new episode, "Practice," will be ready to post.
If you're tired of waiting for the PSP's latest or word that the stake has finally been driven thru the NPPL's heart (it's a small target) I've also got another new tourney player graphic coming up--hopefully this week--so look for it soon.
Oh yeah--Baca's biz card is on the sidebar below the archives section. Check it out.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
However, I have a couple of clarifications. Nowhere did VTFD include field operators as potential end user targets of a Brimstone lawsuit. VFTD has no interest in any lawsuit between Brimstone and Adrenaline Games or the outcome. I do have a player's interest in what the pursuit of secondary parties might mean to competitive paintball in this economic climate.
On that score I'd like to point out a couple of things. Over at PBN there is a PB News thread on this topic. On page one (and elsewhere) is a copy of a statement byMr. Miller. His first point is--"1) There is NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER that Brimstone Enterprises (Ultimate Airball) would EVER consider suing all of the Game Field Operators who use Patent infringing products." If Mr. Miller meant to say that Brimstone has no intention of suing field operators it was not necessary to parse his statement by including the word all as that implies his statement may not apply to 'some' and is unnecessarily ambiguous. If Mr. Miller means exactly what he says his statement does not preclude suing some field operators. Words mean things, kids. (Stay in school.)
On the subject of potentially suing league operators Mr. Miller says on page 6 of the same PBN thread (post #109) "Our Ultimate Airball Patent for tubeless, stand-alone inflatable bunkers was granted in 2007. These things take time. We notified all of the Leagues and Competitors that we were open to an AGREEMENT." For the reading impaired that means Brimstone approached the tourney leagues as well as the other manufacturer(s). The implication is that if the leagues approached failed to enter an agreement with Brimstone they face the same liability as an infringing manufacturer. It also means by implication Brimstone foresaw this possibility to begin with and so far all Mr. Miller's statements carefully avoid specifically mentioning what their intentions are with respect to "infringing" tournament promoters and/or leagues.
Whatever the upshot of litigation against infringing manufacturer(s) if Brimstone is not intentionally reserving the right to litigate against "infringing" tournament operators and/or some field operators perhaps they ought to say so, plainly, clearly and unequivocally. Just a thought.
As always if Mr. Miller or any other official Brimstone rep wishes to respond they are welcome to do so.
Btw, anyone who wishes to quote VFTD content is welcome to do so as long as it's identified as such and adding a link would nice. Thanks.
Yes, there was a Burning Question posted late last night that has suddenly disappeared. Since it was predicated on an erroneous reading of the PSP announcement. So yeah, I blew it and instead of leaving it up and saying move along, pay no attention, nothing to see here, I pulled it. (Although I suppose everybody on the feed has it and no doubt Google has tucked the page away somewhere in a dusty corner of the cyberspace basement--over by the old water heater that doesn't work. But it's okay because I blame Lane. He set me up.)
Anyway, instead I've crunched a few numbers and I don't see more than 10 pro teams. The pro field can run 12 games a day max. If the pro prelims remain the same 10 teams need 20 games to complete a prelim. The follow-up question is what happens next? 4 teams? Best two out of three still or straight elimination? Also, will this mean the semi-pro gets their own field and will it limit the total number of allowed teams in the division?
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Mr. Curious hears that GI Milsim is working with a Spurlock brother to have GI stuff produced in a Taiwan factory. UPDATE: Since a commenter with a relationship with Geo. Spurlock insisted it must be another George and Mr. C. was unavailable I took a look around on my own. I don't know the ownership relationship if any to the Taiwan factory but Mr. Spurlock's The Alamaar Group had and continues to have a working relationship with Honjet Technology Co. Ltd. of Port Kaohsiunk of Taiwan and the apparent source of the Torque loader and other paintball equipment over the years. He also heard that prior to the (supposed) departure of the Gardner Brothers from GI Milsim they--the brothers--had a run in with Spurlock at the Taiwan factory. Apparently Mr. S runs his factory the way he wants. And even further down the rumor hole it's whispered GI owes Spurlock a big chunk of cheese.
UPDATE 2:The Ford Report has now posted a cute little piece about the Spurlock brothers insisting George is out of paintball and that Mike is in Taiwan running the show. In the past George was number one brother but hey, Mr. Curious is willing to be corrected and I'm willing to remove George's name from the post. Could be Mr. C's source couldn't tell one brother from the other. Of course it would be easier to take Dale's word for industry info if his nose wasn't so far up the industry's backside most of the time. When you follow the Spurlock link take a look at the Craig Miller piece by way of example.
Mr. C also hears rumor of a new NPPL pro team out of Canuckistan but wonders how many old pro teams there will be.
And in related rumorology it seems T4 has been out of contact with the NPPL the whole off season though Mr. C. seems to think that Tom and Lane have had a conversation or two with some folks whispering there could be as many as 3 Arsenal teams playing PSP this coming season.