Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MLP on Suicide Watch: Millennium Update

Missed all the stirring and suspenseful action of the live CPL draw for Malaga--somehow it slipped my mind--but there is the odd interesting bit as a result. It seems Lisbon Benfica is now on board--having moved up from the SPL--and Rammstein Instinct is expected to finalize their CPL spot as both were included in the results of the draw. That brings the CPL back up to its original count of 16. It's all mildly disappointing as I was hoping for some phantom team inclusions like at Antalya last autumn but life goes on. Why don't they place teams by seed? Prior CPL teams from last year's results and new CPL teams prioritized by their previous ranking? It's almost as if the MS was searching for ways to screw up.

Also of some note it appears that no one is or will be a diamond sponsor this year as the category has been removed from the league's website. This amid persistent rumors the league cut various deals with both sponsors & teams to swell their ranks in recent days and weeks. (If you made a deal with the MS drop me a line. I promise not to tell anyone about it. Besides, who would I tell?)
There is even a rumor that Ulrich is going to produce something akin to an updated set of rules--but I find that one to be totally lacking in credibility--so I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

UPDATING THE UPDATE: Rammstein Instinct is a definite. One explanation is that they simply didn't get the online registration done. However, that fails to explain how a team registered in a locked division has a spot but isn't registered--especially when the policy requires a pre-payment schedule. Either the organization is a wreck or some teams are simply ignoring the policy and arranging their spots independent of policy. (Which is where some of the rumors reported come from.) I suspect the CPL teams are afforded some unofficial leeway--that's been a commonplace across all the major leagues at one time or another--but doesn't serve to explain any of the late arrivals in the other locked divisions.

NCPA National Layout

I am not going to critique the layout--which is really pretty interesting--except to comment on a couple of things. The orange square highlights what I think is poor placement of the CK as it makes it an irrelevant and nearly pointless bunker. The pink square highlights the snake side MT for a couple of reasons. Check your angles and see who can apply pressure to that position. (The answer is almost nobody including the Dorito 50.) The other characteristic of that MT is that it does very little to contain or contest a snake player and functions as little more than easy access to the snake--despite the fact you will likely have to battle a mirror.

Instead of identifying otb lanes from Home I thought I'd make it clear where you can't lane somebody off the break. (All those grey areas. Bars of grey indicate partially obstructed areas.) On the D-side the distance between the corner and D1/D2 will keep a laner guessing at the required elevation and will make one or the other spot relatively easy to take. [Hint: if you are going to play guns up, go short, or delay a rotation on the snake side breakout always lane for a dorito runner (D2) on the Dorito side because that's the position that will do you the most harm.] As can be plainly seen Home shooters will have limited effectiveness particularly if the opponent chooses to use the "blind" spaces around the pins to edge Home. [In order to get a good lane on a snake runner take a position a few feet behind Home. That would make the snake side shooter the back position in a typical two shooter stack formation. (Instead of two shooter fighting for cover side-by-side they position themselves like a two man bobsled team, one in front tight on the bunker, the other behind.)
The snake is the dominate feature of this field because of the brick placed in the 50 and the relative ease of access to the snake. While the snake 50 position doesn't dominate all or even most of the cross field shots it is also not at great risk except from a bunkering move. Only two routinely playable positions contest the snake; Home (which does it rather poorly) and D2 [in a blue circle] which does it from across the field. These factors will tend to result in slower play as it's nothing more than exchanging one gun battle--up & down the field--for another, from side to side. In addition, the green circled TCK provides better control over the D-wire than any bunker on the snake side controls the snake wire except the high risk Can. As a consequence I would expect to see the D-wire dominate only in situations where the numbers are unbalanced and even then its easier for marginal players to play defense than it is for them to attack.
I further expect most teams will leave a Home player in position. This has value but only up to a point. On this field it offers some defense against the snake and it allows a team to fill a body to a needed area but that flexibility is only partially (and often unsuccessfully) utilised if it is always used for defensive purposes. For example, corner runner is shot off the break. Home player recognizes the loss and rotates out to corner. If this happens early in point it's fine. The later in the point it happens the greater the likelihood that rotation is being made under pressure as the opponent holds superior positions on the field and is being made in an attempt to hold the opponent at bay. Can you win a point under those circumstances? Yes. Are you likely to? No. Much better to commit that player earlier in a proactive way. For example, if the snake has been hotly contested all match one high value tactical objective is to be the last man standing in the snake and/or to control that 50. Let's say your teammate bunkers out the opponent's 50 snake player and your snake side support immediately dives into the snake looking to take advantage and gain control of the 50. The Home player must commit to preserving the gain in the snake and shift to a position that reinforces that control or positions him to be the next in line to push the snake. Too many lower division teams do not have team objectives when they play and consequently you end up in shouting matches later on over who should have done what when because team goals are left to individual decisions.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

This is a shortened version of the intended post as Blogger ate the original and I didn't have the patience (or time) to do the whole thing all over again.

Over at the not so very Grand Tour the modest momentum of the last couple of weeks--not big mo, just little mo--has not realized a significant influx of new registrations. Unfortunately. Total numbers are up slightly. Bullitproof Monkey (a photo/media company, I think) will be on site covering the event so maybe they will inspire a few teams to take the plunge.

All is relatively quiet on the PSP front as the league regroups and prepares to move forward with the season. A direct comparison to HB may leave the PSP unexpectedly playing catch-up if the numbers available over at the NPPL 3.0 website are accurate but a direct comparison isn't very useful. (More in the NPPL section.)
The most interesting thing currently is the state of the affiliates given that the vitality of the affiliates will have a bearing on the state of the PSP. The new field layout releases are interesting as well and I'll get around to posting on them soon--along with the NCPA field layout recently released.

Back across the pond in MillenniumLand something close to final numbers are in. (I couldn't find a closing date for registration but given that HB has already closed and the events are the same weekend it must be soon.) As registrations stand today the league is off nearly 30% compared to last year at the same time for the same venue--which is a larger decline in real numbers and percentage than Phoenix for the PSP. Of note too is the state of German participation. (Those little nationality flags are a great quick reference.) There are presently 2, count them, two, German teams registered--both in the CPL. And that's it. (And last year only 17 German teams played an MS event.) It would seem the abundance of national leagues has given the German teams a suitable alternative to the MS. More importantly perhaps half the German losses are in higher division teams. The same is true of Belgium, for example. 10 teams last year with 5 teams D1 or higher and this year only 1 SPL team from Belgium.
Tomorrow is the CPL draw live on Spirit of Paint. I'm curious to see if the MS does what they did for Turkey and just pretend they have full brackets and go with 4 groups of 4 as in previous seasons. Fingers crossed--I think there's a real possibility.

NPPLmania is coming to HB and if the numbers posted on the league website are accurate the turnout should up better than 10% over last year. That would also mean more teams than the PSP had in Phoenix. And logistically HB ought to be easier & cheaper with fewer fields, less staff and refs in comparison to Phoenix. Balancing that out will be the unique set of costs HB incur with things like overtime for the police, etc. The other concern even with an improving HB is the fact the league's marquee venue is a loss leader and always has been. In the past the big splash HB made drew in big numbers for follow-up events. Last year that didn't happen for NPPL 3.0 and seems unlikely to happen this year. (As decline set in years before.) While paintball teams aren't a zero sum game and the potential exists for more than enough to support two big leagues present reality suggests it's unlikely to happen in the near term. While the PSP is working with its affiliates to build new teams and a new way to conceive of national level play the NPPL remains reliant on past practices. Will the simple existence of the league inspire enough new 7-man teams to make the league a viable operation?
Chicago will tell--at least better than HB. Just as the PSP fortunes for the season may rest on the Chicago turnout so too will Chicago NPPL give us a much better indication of the health of the NPPL than HB will.
Last year the NPPL had 16 pro teams/owners. The league lost 6 and have gained back 3. Are the new entries owners too? Are the past owners no longer putting teams in still owners? What will pro prelims look like with only 13 teams? Stay tuned.

Mr. Curious

Is bored. With the start of the season the rumor mill has slowed to a near standstill. Previous rumors of the TEPC (The Enormous Paintball Company, otherwise known as KEE) planning additional expansion by gobbling up (distressed?) paint maker, Procaps, has been put on the back burner for the time being. Could be management changes have stalled the plan but Mr. C hears talks are ongoing but are no longer urgent or immediate.

Mr. C also heard some time ago that the effort to reanimate SP was rejected by banks and tangible assets were sold off. Mr. C expected to hear more (and get confirmation) but that hasn't happened. Mr. C only mentioned it in relation to a couple of other related items; recent rumorology has it that SP--before the fall--was sweetening the pot trying to encourage gun manufacturers to make 50 cal conversion kits by offering reduced licensing fees for those who complied. (If so it didn't seem to have much impact or perhaps simply didn't last long enough to incentivize the industry.) More interesting is latest rumor that suggests nobody has come a knocking to collect licensing fees owed on SP's patents for a number of months. Mr. C doesn't know if that is correct across the board or not as gun makers are not unreasonably reluctant to discuss it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Monday Poll

It's time, once again, for me to climb up on my soapbox and lay the smack down on the whole paintball as war that is commonplace in much of scenario paintball. I was reminded by this post over at The Catshack Reports for the annual Oklahoma D-Day event.

I don't like it much but I don't want to ban it. I don't think it's wrong in any moral sense, it's pretend after all, but I personally find it disrespectful and I find myself concerned that it trivializes reality. (But so does Call of Duty and most people, even teenaged boys, still understand the difference even if they have no experience that drives that difference home in a meaningful way.) I also think there are degrees involved. For instance, if some promoter wants to reenact Agincourt or Thermopylae I'm fine with that. D-Day and the Tet Offensive, not so much. So maybe I'm inconsistent but even the promoters can't argue it doesn't matter. Ever seen the folks in Oklahoma (or the northern plains) try to run a game based on the Battle of the Little Bighorn? Or the folks in Texas play act the Mexican-American War or even the Alamo?

I also gotta say that ten years ago competitive paintball (and the industry) were busy trying to pretend that combat paintball was the crazy but harmless uncle living in the basement. Today industry considers competitive paintball the One Percenters while they market look-a-like AK's--so go figure. The industry will do whatever turns a buck and that shouldn't surprise anybody.

What's your take? Is the scenario or Big Game tied to actual historical military (combat) events different somehow? Is it a concern? A problem? No big deal? Vote early, vote often. (No, you only get to vote once. This isn't Chicago.)

Grassroots

Maybe it's working. You know, the whole ad-hoc campaign to take a friend to play paintball gimmick.

I've been doing my own one man anecdotal paintball field survey for the last 3 months or so. Mostly that just means I've been asking around (locally and when I'm on the road) how business has been at different fields around the country. There have been some tough stretches with bad weather a number of places around the country but decent weather has seen decent--and frequently better than decent--player turnout at most fields when I've enquired. It's not universally true but the overall result has been surprisingly positive. Of course it might be that it couldn't hardly be worse and allow local fields to continue to survive but the raw numbers reported from lots of places is better than survival numbers. And given the gloom and doom of the last couple years any ray of sunshine is blindingly bright but still... It leaves me wondering what's going on. Are the grassroots, the front lines of paintball recovering? Or, has paintball lost so many local fields and stores already that those who survived are receiving the benefit of tossing a wider net, even unintentionally? (Fewer options results in better numbers all around for those who remain. Maybe.)

Even if it's true it doesn't seem to be translating into sales--though the data wouldn't (won't) show up immediately anyway--but there haven't (to the best of my limited knowledge) been any prior indications or quiet optimism coming from any of the big industry players. Yet.

Over at P8ntballer Robbo has an interview with Billy Ceranski that touches on the topic if you want to give it a listen (and make fun of Robbo's marginal ability to function in the 21st century.) (And, yes, I'm not even going there--the whole video interview thing--so feel free to mock me as well.) Anyway, the upshot is my interest in this general topic has been piqued (again) and it will come up in the upcoming mystery interview and I'm also going to (finally) get around to interviewing Rob Staudinger (in the near future) in his capacity with the PSTA to see how he and the industry approach reviving paintball's grassroots.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pro*file: Johnny Thompson

Name: Johnny Thompson
Age: 20
Hometown: Chilliwack, its a small town so everyone has dirt on everyone.
Occupation: Trying to find a way to live the dream, and if that doesn't work then a 5 to 9 crab in the bucket forever.
Family: my younger brother Tommy, two dogs.
General interests other than paintball: going to the gym with my bro Tyler. He's a personal trainer; his knowledge and intensity has inspired me to stay in shape so I can keep improving as a player. Kicking it with friends, video games, drinking beers & the UFC. Long walks on the riverside, chasing good girls.

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?
When I was 13 my friend Tyler invited me to his birthday party at Snipers Paintball. After bunkering someone for the first time i was hooked.

2. What team do you play for now?
Edmonton Impact

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
Little Snipers, Insanity, Reflex, Vancouver Shock

4. What role do you play on your current team?
I play the snake because Justin Cornell said I could!

5. Who are your favorite paintball players?
Justin Cornell, Josh Davey, Chad Busiere, Dan Holiday, Ryan Moorhead.

6. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
PSP LA Open '07 semi pro because it was my first event with Impact. I was on the bench at the start but one of the guys got hurt during the first match, long story short I got to play the whole time after that and we won the gold in overtime.

7. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done in order to play paintball?
I missed my graduation but no regrets, I rather make a lil money and travel for free.

8. What is the single most important lesson the up and comer needs to learn?
I think we all know practice makes perfect but aside from that never forget where you came from and the people who helped you along the way, always show respect because it takes you a long way. I've made mistakes just like anybody else, just better yourself from it. Most of all be a solider out there and never give up, remember it's a team sport so never let your friends down, just keep persevering.

9. What keeps you playing paintball?
I love everything about it from diving to gun fighting, shooting people and hearing the crowds reaction, traveling with the team. But the best part is winning and seeing the smiles and just knowing you won because you believed in yourself and your boys.

10. Do you (or any of your teammates) have any superstitions related to playing paintball? If not could you make up something that sounds good?
I always listen to Eminem before I play. Thanks, Paul. And I would like to thank my sponsors; Ecplise, RPS, MRpaintball.ca, Paintball Assassin, Exalt, PBNation, NXE & Paintball Action Games.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mr. Curious

Picked up a tiny morsel of rumorology recently and while it isn't big & juicy it's interesting. At least to a certain set 0f VFTD readers. It seems GI Milsim will be manufacturing their own paint beginning in July. The timing is said to coincide with the expiration of a non-compete.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fanarchy

Today was supposed to be a Pro*file but I wanted to do this instead--sorry, Johnny. (One more day, buddy.) I'm thinking (hoping) this one might hit a nerve or two. That's not why I'm doing it but I wouldn't mind if it went that way.

I'm curious as to what makes a person a fan. I don't mean the usual stuff; schools, alma maters, hometowns, city or state pride or family tradition. I get all those. And I'm not talking about the Johnny-Come-Lately fanboys or the bandwagon jumpers. Not just any kind of fan. More specifically a fan of a paintball team. What makes a person a fan of a paintball team?

I sorta understand idolizing certain players. When they play for successful teams or their names appear (appeared) routinely in all the magazines and are featured in gear catalogs or advertisements it's easy to see that name recognition alone plays a role. Then there's word of mouth and those featured on paintball DVDs. And I suppose the same applies to teams at least in some measure but liking a player is different from favoring a team. (Don't argue with me, it is. It just is.)

But here's where I get lost. Most paintball fans seldom if ever actually see their "favorites" actually play and compete. How can you be a fan under those circumstances? And when rosters routinely change you're no longer, necessarily, a fan of the same players even if the team name goes on. How does a paintball team merit fans? I'm seriously interested in how y'all might explain paintball fandom. The one thing I know it isn't about is good paintball. (Which holds true in other sports as well.) The reason is most fans, dare I say most players, have--at best--only a passing acquaintance with the qualities of performance excellence. What I mean is most fans don't know good when they see it. They know flashy. They only see the highlight reel. How does the self-identified fan choose one team over another when they have so little to go on? How does that work?

What is the strange alchemy that creates the paintball fan?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Small Ball Chat

Had a brief conversation about small ball with somebody who knows while sitting under the refs tent at Phoenix waiting for our semi-final match on Sunday. (See? I'm getting better. I can type the word "Phoenix" today. Who knows what's in store for tomorrow.) I brought up the subject of small ball.
There were two elements to the conversation I found interesting. I enquired about release of product to the North American market and was told things were going so well in Euroland it was gobbling up everything the GI Milsim peeps can produce--but that the American market wasn't being forsaken.
I was aware that product was moving in Europe--if you mean being ordered and filling shelf and warehouse space. What I have yet to see is much indication of actual retail sales. Of course there could be more of that than I'm aware but the sales end of the equation doesn't seem to be going great guns, product or otherwise.
Of greater interest to me were comments regarding the U.S. market. I asked if there would be a presence at HB and the answer was no, certainly nothing big and showy. Tourney paintball wasn't the primary market. (Now that comment may only reflect a retrenchment or recognition of present resistence but I was pleased to hear it.) The big efforts will target some of the biggest of the Big Games looking to connect with a different (and more appropriate?) demographic where they play. If so I suspect small ball proponents will not be confronted with the same intensity and negativity they have been even prior to release of sample guns and paint at World Cup '09.

NPPL Rules 2010

The post title is the link. I've only had a few minutes to look it over and I've only got a few minutes before it's off to the airport for a flight to Phoenix, but--
I didn't get this post done last week. Obviously. Otherwise, nothing's changed. I've seen Part 2 of the interview with the cast of NPPL characters over at ProPaintball. I didn't see anything that offered any clarification with respect to the rules but did enjoy Chuck's ongoing delusions of grandeur. Now that's entertainment!

Having read through the rules a couple of times I have a couple of questions and a comment or two. (Go figure.) Beginning at the beginning and working through the rules first up is rule 4.06 (1) which deals with roster changes. My interest pertains to Pro rosters in particular. Divisional teams are allowed unlimited roster changes but Pro teams are only allowed 2 changes per event. I don't understand the distinction. If a team is playing great are they likely to make big changes? If they suck then isn't the potential of greater parity a positive? Why the limitation? Mostly I'm curious. I don't think it's a huge deal. If the concern is related to raiding team rosters this probably isn't the best way to handle it.

Rule 4.08 Changes to Player Status allows players to request reclassification. Which they have to do because it's not addressed in the rules. It's really just a $50.00 shakedown which must be paid prior to adjudication of the request.

Rule 7.02. (I confess I looked for this one first--along with other "semi-auto" related rules--as I was particularly curious to see if the latest Rules Committee had made any real progress. The short answer is no.) This rule pertains to triggers, what constitutes a trigger pull and what the result (one pull and release, one shot) ought to be. It also clearly states that initiation of a switch does not constitute a trigger pull. By this definition virtually every gun in the event will be illegal because virtually every gun will cycle more shots than there will be trigger pulls and releases as defined by the rule. Later in the rules "bounce" is mentioned (in quotation marks) because (apparently) the committee doesn't know what it is nor is it anywhere in the rules defined but you can still be suspended for 6 games (or worse) for employing "bounce", whatever it is. Can you say subjective, boys and girls?

In rule 7.12 markers (guns to y'all) may only be exposed--sounds naughty--within the players paddock or on the field (presumably). That means, I think, all guns must be put away in gear bags or gun cases etc. at all times except when you're in the paddock or playing. I'm not objecting to the this rule, btw, only incredulous that it was written and very interested to see it enforced. I can see it now. Team entering tourney area lugging gear and guns receive suspensions prior to entering paddock or playing a game. Thanks, NPPL 3.0, I'll be back for sure. Just saying. (Fortunately it appears there is a provision for a discretionary warning first, as there is for guns that might be in violation of other rules, though how the league will keep track of who has been warned and who hasn't wasn't explained.)

Rule 11.05 describes what constitutes a valid hit when making a paint check. Rule 19 (Marked by Paint) confirms what constitutes an eliminating hit. A paintball must have broken on "--and marked a player." Now I'm cool with this rule if that's really what they mean but odds are it isn't. Because what is written means a ball can break and leave no mark and NOT be a valid hit. You and I both know this happens. But you and I also both know that's not how it will be called. And rule 19 (4) appears to obligate refs to wipe off players marked by paint that isn't a valid hit. I'll be watching to see how that works out.

Rule 11.09 attempts to deal with the idea of official bias, by the refs that is, by suggesting there is some recourse should a ref be deemed to be biased. Does anyone see that happening during the course of competition in such a way that everyone (anyone) walks away satisfied? Me either. What is bias? Does everyone know it when they see it? I appreciate the sentiment but as formulated it's a can of worms waiting to be opened.

Rule 11.10 Disputing Referee's Call. Is pointless and a waste of time even if you're correct. And everybody knows it. It's Kabuki. The rule is procedural. In light of 22.07, Finality of Calls, the chances of any "resolution" are virtually nil. Always have been, always will be. The rule should be called when you think you've been screwed this is how we pretend to make it all better.

Rule 22.02 (8) I get the basic idea. No problem. But why add the bit about compressing the bunkers or altering their shapes? It's non-specific and easy to over-interpret. It could be argued it's something players do all the time without moving the bunkers, stepping on, climbing on or over or otherwise moving off their axes yadda yadda yadda. The wording seems like it's begging for an over zealous ref to start pulling peeps for pushing their guns into the props.

In a few places Over Shooting is mentioned and always includes the caveat "with intent to injure." The thing is nobody overshoots with the intent to injure. Could it happen? Sure. Does it? Seldom if ever. The problem is by the wording of these rules you can't call a player for over shooting (or excessive bonus balling) without claiming an intent to injure and that isn't why people do it. Of course this won't stop some ref making the call and when it's obvious the ref can't offer any real proof of intent to injure it makes a mockery of the rule, the ref and the league--all because of the way the rule is written.

Regarding general enforcement of so-called semi-auto this latest batch of rules is a rehash of the same old with a first round of arbitrary warnings thrown into the mix. I suppose the idea is that since enforcement remains largely subjective that a warning first allows a player (and/or team) to adjust the questionable gun but that adjustment, if made, doesn't guarantee a legal marker or one that won't be picked out again. And the warning mostly will make it safer for players to take risks with their setup as step one is only a warning. And, of course, "real" cheaters won't care about these rules (or fear them) anymore than they did in the past.

Mostly it's small potatoes. With the exception of the still ridiculous gun rules I doubt other potential problem areas will actually ever cause much of a real problem during an event. Past incarnations of the NPPL were always disinclined to enforce their more draconian rules--except in rare, usually ludicrously inappropriate circumstances--and I suspect the same will hold for NPPL 3.0. But watch out, there could be lots of warnings dished out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

There was some action this past week at the not so Grand Tour. (Could be somebody over there has been reading VFTD.) Seems they are making a big push to promote their newly promoted Pro teams; Ranger Warsaw, Kosmos Moscow & RL-Art Chaos. Also registered Pro are the Bullets and Warsaw United. Total registration is up to 17 teams including a couple of Consilium Dei teams. It's slow progress but it's still progress.
As regulars know I'm partial to this event because of the location so I'm kinda rooting for a successful event. And if anyone wants a pro coach I'm there for the price of a plane ticket and I can even kick in a tour of Venice--but only in English.

Still over in Euroland the MS is rumored to be working overtime trying to entice more teams and sponsors into supporting the league. Rumor also has it the league may be offering "incentives" to get that support. Of course that's just rumor but it's heated up a bit after last week's Suicide Watch report. From here it's hard to say but the numbers testify to their limited success.
Total registration for all divisions is at 93. It looks like most of the numbers bump that did occur has come lately from Spanish teams. It's curious they weren't in there earlier, isn't it?
I'd also like to clarify a suggestion from last week that promo & relegation were nearly irrelevant given the shrinking locked division numbers and fact that teams that hadn't earned promotion were getting it. In fact, the MS is (apparently) going down the list of last year's finishers until they get a taker. Which seems to be how Shock 2 got into D1. Everybody above them passed. Still, I don't see how it makes a whole lotta sense. Is the league still limiting "promotion" numbers? In undermanned divisions? What's the point?

NPPL 3.0 is counting down the days '24' style including hours, minutes and seconds. Registration and more importantly paying your entry remains open for 3 more days, give or take. I expect that deadline is negotiable but the clock runs out eventually. Registration is up to 121 teams but according to the league's data no more than 88 have paid in full. And the thing is even that may not be all that accurate because the Pro teams registered appear to have paid but in fact most of them hadn't as of the past weekend. I might be inclined to assume they will at some point but I'm afraid I ain't quite that naive anymore. (If anybody plays without paying I wouldn't hold my breath waiting to collect.)
I've looked over the rules and will have a separate post on them later in the week.
However registration and participation shakes out it looks like we'll be playing some paintball on the beach and since it's not my money that can't be a bad thing. But it is somebody's money whether it's cash in the bank or outstanding debt, mostly the later in the NPPL's case. And unlike the government the NPPL can't print money.

PSP Phoenix went off with only minor hitches and generally the 3-day event seemed to work out okay. I don't know any of particulars of the logistical changes that may have been needed to shorten the event but I'll see what I can find out. The 2010 rules weren't released until the last minute. The 90 second rule seemed to hammer the refs harder than the players though it was a struggle for some to adjust. The Pro field did not adjust to what I thought was rule modification with respect to signaling a flag hang but everything mostly was one in a timely manner. And it seems the new scoreboard wasn't setup to handle pro field penalties and the old scoreboard couldn't handle the 90 second break between points so it was done by hand. In practice that meant the 90 second rule was close to 90 seconds one way or the other rule. Not perfect but not horrible either. I know there were a lot of changes and the league put out notices in as timely a manner as they could manage--there's only so many hours in the day and only so many peeps available to get stuff done--but it wouldn't hurt if the league put all the changes into a single brief and promoted it to the teams and players at least as aggressively as the latest new sponsored gear. Just a suggestion.

Monday Poll in Review

I know. I'm late, I'm late for a not all that important post. Whatever. Y'all are just spoiled and it's not like I didn't post anything at all yesterday so get off my back. No, I'm not angry or hostile. No more than usual anyway. Back off.

Last week's Monday Poll was a two-parter. It asked if the announced venue for PSP Chicago, the Badlandz, would influence your decision to participate. 15% said it would. (85% said nope, no big deal.) Part two asked you to identify the level of Race 2 you play. I wanted to see a couple of things. First I was curious to try and put the "influenced" percentage into some context. As it turned out 26% of respondents play Race 2-2; 28% play Race 2-4; 30% play Race 2-5 and 15% play Race 2-7. 85% of respondents play D1 or lower in about equal numbers. So what does it mean?
Wait a second. You're jumping the gun. We're missing a piece. The difference between those that answered the question, part one, and those who identified their level of play in part two. About 15% that answered part one didn't answer part two.
What it means is up for grabs really because as usual this ain't no scientific sampling but even so--it is interesting that the percentage that answered part one in the negative is the same percentage who apparently don't play Race 2. At least that's one interpretation. Another is that 15% of respondents don't play period and the rest is coincidental.

I wanted to see what sort of results this question got because of the Phoenix turnout. I wondered if the result might give a clue what to expect next--in Chicago--but they really don't. My guess is Chi-town won't be down nearly as much. It's gonna be in the summer. No school. Plenty of time to get ready, save money--but if not at least we's got some extra numbers to add to the confusion.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Burning Question

So when does the Valken versus KEE war go hot? It's gotta happen, right?

PSP Phoenix: Some Ruminations

In the last 36 hours or so, somewhere in there, I've had an hour or two of alcohol-induced something like sleep so I'm not up for a full recap of the event (maybe tomorrow or the next day) but a few random thoughts keep popping up.
One other thing before I get started. If there's any earth-shaking paintball news in the next few days forward me a source 'cus odds are I won't see it. I am intentionally avoiding the usual resources mostly because I want to forget about Phoenix for a few days at least. Exactly how that's gonna work for posting to this blog remains to be seen. (Naw, I got plenty of material.)

There is nothing in the world worse than second place when you know you didn't put forth your best effort. (Btw, no disrespect whatsoever to the winners. They did everything they needed to do and deserved to be the last team standing.) Just an observation. (Yep, I have edited the original post)

Thought the refs did a pretty good job on the Pro field. (That, btw, is high praise indeed 'cus I'm usually not impressed. And yes, I know it's a hard, thankless job, blah blah blah and we're all grateful somebody is willing to do it yah yah yah.) The way I look at it if they're out there I expect them to do the best most impartial job they can. Nothing less. Nothing more. Call me crazy.
I did notice there were no "inside" refs--and with a layout like Phoenix they would have been advantageous--and that the refs appeared to be working not only their zones but also looking inside and cross field trying to see hits that refs on the outside of the field often can't see. I don't know if that was programmatic or not. And I'm not sure if it was that it worked very well with refs well away from the action making calls from across the field. Even so, all in all it was a pretty good job.

With respect to the Pro field action and changes made in the off season things ran fairly smoothly with one exception. The new overtime scoring rule. Seems some of the teams potentially affected weren't aware of the change and it didn't come up until the actual circumstances occurred on field. More details in a later report.

Twitter updates of the action. Okay, this one is serious nit-picking but that's where I'm at so take it or leave it. Whoever is stuck tweeting the action needs a simple roster list of players and their numbers--because they didn't know who many of the players were. (It's in the rules. We have to have them. Even though there is no webcast. And no statistics.) Mostly I'd like to see players get their due--even on Twitter--and if the league is gonna make the effort then let's dial it up a notch and do it right. S'all I'm saying.

More on the event later this week.

Friday, March 19, 2010

PSP Phoenix: Pro Field Surprises

It's Day 1 and on the pro field it's a new day. New teams and new names on some old ones. New rules; case in point, the 90 second rule (which was really 90 seconds plus or minus a few seconds here and there but it's a new day for staff, crew and refs, too.) New prelim schedule, 3 matches, new path to victory. No more best of threes, maybe for Cup? But what you really want to know about are some of the surprising scores, right? What happened? How?
If you want a blow by blow recount of the day's events probably the best you'll find is here at PBN. If you're wondering what it may mean for your favorites it's pretty simple. 10 teams start, 6 will go through. The top 2 seeds get byes directly to the semi-finals. The remaining 4 teams are seeded 3 v. 6, 4 v. 5. Winner goes on, loser goes home. With 3 prelim matches there will be some number of teams with identical records and, best I can tell after a cursory examination, there is a real possibility a team with a 1 - 2 record will go through as the 6th seed. That means nobody was determinatively eliminated today.
For the "new guys," Vicious and XSV, it was a long and probably disappointing day 'cus nobody likes losing but the truth is the transition isn't an easy one and both teams have made a number or roster changes during the off season. Another truth is that most of the time, no matter how good the player or players, this remains a team game and it takes time for a group of players to become a team. It's one of the great frustrations no matter what level you compete at, the sense of beginning again, starting over, re-building. For XSV and Vicious they also came to Phoenix with a sense of opportunity, of nothing to lose--but of course that's not true. Look for both teams to accept the Phoenix results as the hard part of an ongoing process, learn from it and come back better.
For those inclined to see the Ironmen and Dynasty losses as signs of decline, think again. Even with established teams roster changes must be assimilated and a new chemistry established. And part of that process is time together, learning the way new teammates play the game. The reality is there's not necessarily a lot separating any of the top teams on a given day and then throw in even a single untimely penalty and that might be all it takes. In matches marked with numerous penalties the outcomes in question were just simple wins or losses. Important in the here and now but no more than that.
Don't read too much into any single result. We play a season and it's the accumulation of results that tell the final story.
Look for more hard-fought lively action tomorrow.
I'll have more about this field, tournament and the pro play next week in a recap.

Enlistments for the Week

World domination is just around the corner as VFTD welcomes the latest recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army. This week's recruits expand our international brigade as we continue to see that paintball is an international language.

Thanks (and greetings) to Canarias Paintball, Tenerife Paintball & Junior Brown. (Google Tenerife, kids, if you don't know where it is. It's pretty cool.)
I'd like to use this opportunity to say a couple of things about Junior. I'm sure most of you know who he is. A Brit from Nexus who moved to Cali determined to be the best he could be among the best in the world and willing to do whatever it took. Today he's an integral part of XSV and owner of Baller's Cafe. Now I really only know Junior from paintball and truth is I've given him a dose of grief now and again (but only when he deserved it) but none of that is relevant. What is relevant is that Junior is that guy. The guy who is heart and soul committed to this game we play. He's also a symbol of what is possible and a model of tenacity for young players everywhere. For Junior and all those who aspire--enjoy the ride, the destination isn't that important.

Stay thirsty my friends

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ask the Coach

This episode of Ask the Coach is called, The Grind. I, of course, have only heard stories of similar situations. Perhaps you have too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

My efforts to keep things short worked so well yesterday with the Malaga layout I'm gonna try again today.

The not so Grand Tour may finally be getting some traction as registration nearly doubled over last week--which isn't saying a lot but it's movement in the right direction. Still no pro teams registered but I know at least one that intends to compete this season. Among this week's registrants was Empire (out of Italy) which has also nabbed a D1 spot in the MS.

In the Millennium it's becoming clear that promotion and relegation only matter when there is a demand for an artificially limited object--in this case, a spot in a locked division--as Dagnir Dae joins the ranks of the CPL, hopscotching teams that finished ahead of them in the SPL last season. (The same holds true for other teams like the aforementioned Empire buying into D1 and others.) Currently the CPL is at 13 teams, missing one "promoted" team--as neither Lisbon Benfica or Consilium Dei have claimed their CPL spot and neither CPL regulars Joy or Instinct have registered yet. Registration across all divisions stands at 80 teams. Last year Malaga had 147 teams compete. It would be interesting to know if some of the new locked division teams are paying full price to get in. The same thought applies to league sponsors like the recently signed up, Valken. With the move from 5 events to 4 it wouldn't be unreasonable for the league to negotiate fees differing from those initially given in this year's sponsorship package just as they adjusted entries for the teams. Of course no one would ever admit to it.
UPDATE: It's being reported that Joy and Instinct will be back in the CPL and that it may end up being Art Chaos Moscow making the move up from the SPL as the MS is determined to have a full CPL division.

In the NPPL 3.0 the first payment deadline passed last night. (I got my notice from the league time stamped 11:05 pm.) By my count only a couple of teams took advantage yesterday. Registration stands at 119 total teams including 10 pro teams with 91 paid (including the 10 pro teams) according to info available on the league's website. It is however unclear if all the teams identified as having paid have paid in full, including the pro teams. Additionally 40 of the 119 are pump or 5-man teams with much lower entry fees than the 7-man teams. Still, in comparison to what's happening in the PSP and the MS the raw numbers may be considered better than expected. However, given that HB is the NPPL's premier event if it turns out to represent the best the league can expect it could be another long year.
In the last couple of days the league also announced a couple of pre-HB Cali events targeting the lower division teams. One to be played at Warped and the other at Jungle Island on the same weekend of March 27,28. Both are giving free HB entries to division winners with no apparent minimum number requirements I could find. And both will be competing on the HB layout.

The die is cast for PSP Phoenix and there's no reason to expect anything other than the usual well run weekend of national level competitive paintball. There were more than a few last minute unknowns in the Race 2 - 7 divisions but those have finally been resolved with the posting of the 2010 rule book at the PSP website in the last day or so. Even so there will be a few unknowns until matches are actually played. How will the 90 second turnaround work? How quickly will the refs adjust to changes that affect them? What will results coming out of the prelims look like? With 6 of 10 moving out of the prelims it should make the prelim results less controversial but we will still see some teams move on by virtue of tie-breaking procedure rather than clear cut superiority on the field of play. Scoring has also been modified with no OT point for the loser anymore, in fact, no overtime in the prelims anymore. 2 points for a win, 1 point for a tie and zippo for a loss. Now if you need two points you need to fight for it in regulation because there's no "free" point anymore. And in a 3 match prelim a tie isn't quite as bad as a loss but especially early in an event it is not a result any team will want either. The only objection I have after a quick look at the rules is the swing point in OT for a major penalty. If OT time is open-ended there is no need to decide the outcome by rule.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Monday Poll

I gotta ask about the Chicago Open. Or more specifically, the location, the Badlandz.

It's two, two polls in one. Sorta. But not really. It's two polls but they are related. Poll number one asks the question. Will the location of this year's Chicago Open influence your decision to compete? The answer is either yes, or no.

The second poll doesn't ask any question. Instead, I'd like you to self-identify your likely level of participation; Race 2-2, Race 2-4 and so on. Between the two we'll get some idea of which group of competitive players are most (and least) likely to be put off by this year's location.

These polls don't answer themselves. If you don't participate nobody gets the answer. So, take a minute, click the old mouse a couple of times. Do it for the future of the game, do it for the kids.

Malaga '10 Field Layout

No shooting lanes otb this time, kids. There are a few obvious and excellent lanes but for this layout effective laning may depend in how teams find ways to get extra guns in play otb. Instead, I want to look at aspects of the design that I think will limit aggressive play and tend to slow points down.

I'ma try to keep this short and to the point but we both know how that's gonna work out. Neither 50 dominates. Neither 50 even delivers guaranteed kills. This is, in part, because most of the cross field lanes are blocked or partially blocked. And the lack of cross field shots will tend to push play into half field contests with the snake side battling the snake side opponents and the dorito wire fighting the opposition dorito wire. Alone this simply means there are two games going on simultaneously and if you win one of the battles fast enough (or first) there is the potential opportunity to flank the remaining opponents and close out the point. The primary defining characteristic of this divided field play is that most of the action will be dominated by gunfighting. And in play dominated by various gunfighting combinations the key is not field position, it's the relationship between bunkers. (If the best props were up field or paired with a higher risk factor; for example, can be pinched or at least attacked from multiple diverse angles, that would neutralize or balance their effectiveness.)

Continuing the gunfighting and/or lane control themes let's look at some key bunkers beginning with the snake corner SD. It's important because it's virtually useless except as an alternate primary with access to snake 1. It cannot effectively contest movement up the snake and is at a huge disadvantage in a lane control contest with the opponent's snake side MT. It is also susceptible to numerous direct and indirect lanes of paint. The upshot is that no team will want to play the position consistently and the inability (or unwillingness) to routinely risk a player in that position will strengthen the snake side MT's already dominate position by limiting the possibility of multiple wide guns battling the position.

Looking at the pink marked props we isolate the two MTs and back center Can. The Can has good lanes to both sides of the field, good visibility of the action on both sides and is the ideal early parking spot for a player given the field's tendency to play in halves. A player kept back can respond to either side of the field as needed--which is a sensible take but also a fundamentally defensive one. Snake side MT dominates the snake wire with only snake 1's TCK any sort of viable counter. And the dorito side corner MT offers a dominating wrap on most of the rest of the dorito side bunkers any time it is uncontested by either a mirror or the fifty dorito. If you have more shots, better shots from a more diverse and defensible position like the corner MT why risk moving up field to less effective positions?

The green TCK demonstrates a counterpoint to the elevation advantages of the MT's. [Elevation refers to the line of sight options and gun positions available. Tall bunkers are good.] The snake MT's forward position gives it numerous advantages without corresponding risks. The snake 1 TCK (which may be played standing, sorta) is a mixed bag by comparison. It's useful elevation blocks the corner SD behind it. And in order to make use of it's elevation potential the player also increases the risk from incoming shooting lanes.

The orange marked bunkers illustrate a couple differing qualities. The snake CK (snake 5) is the only one with multiple shots cross field. Examine the shots from snake 1 and snake 5. Keeping with the defensive tendency the field encourages there is little reason to press the snake given the available shots while the risk involved is very high, particularly with an active MT in place. The orange TCK on the other hand is an easy access prop with elevation and lanes that play both sides of the field while still allowing potential rotations to either side of the field. In comparing orange bunkers teams are far more likely to have a player in the back line TCK than they are to press the play of the game and take snake 5--until they've eliminated everyone on that side of the field.

Of course, there remain ways to effectively attack some of these prime bunkers and a player snap-shooting the MT from the snake can still eliminate an opponent despite bunker to bunker disadvantages that normally make it easier for the MT player to shoot the snake. However, my point remains, the design encourages defensive play because the odds of success clearly favors a defensive approach in the basic layout and in the placement of key bunkers. Even so, the strongest gun-fighting teams are likely to be the most successful. (The alternative is a team that gets hot laning and consistently begins points with numbers advantages.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Back to the Badlandz

A PSP press release yesterday announced that the Chicago 2010 event would be a blast back to the past, to be held at the Badlandz, OG home of the original Chicagoland tournaments. Drawing on tournament history and tradition it was one part nostalgia and two parts challenge. A reminder of past glory and a gauntlet thrown down for the younger set to prove they have the kind of heart today that the Old Skoolers had in their time. All in all a couple of steps up from the usual blather. Not that this isn't blather too but it is a better quality blather than the norm. And it probably would have worked pretty well any other time. (Heck, it may still work pretty well but there are a couple of things working against it, too.)

For those paying attention it ain't news that until yesterday there had not been an announced venue for the Chicago event. For those paying less attention the PSP has held the popular event next to a water park in Bolingbrook Il for the past few years and a return to a rural paintball field sounds like a step backwards. The real news is Bolingbrook was almost certainly not going to be the venue this year due to rising rental fees and the league was reviewing other possibilities. And personally I am inclined to think (based on zero official information) that the Badlandz is a conservative fallback option predicated largely on the significant decline in numbers seen in Phoenix. If Chicago numbers rebound the Badlandz can handle it (for the most part) and if they continue to be soft the Badlandz won't be an economic albatross around the league's throat. It is a prudent if not ideal choice.

Besides the obvious comparison players will make between the expected venue and the one they's gonna get there's also the unfortunate timing--of the NPPL 3.0's return to Chicago--prior to the PSP. The NPPL Chicago event is scheduled to be held at a paintball venue too; CPX Paintball Park in conjunction with the high profile Big Game, Living Legends, over the Memorial Day weekend. The PSP event will held end of June (as usual) and in conjunction with a UWL event. This means potential participants have two Chicago events within a month of each other to consider attending and it seems to me it's an open question as to the appeal of the two choices. Will NPPL 3.0 draw off local one time 5-man teams? Will a comparison of the venues sway undecideds? Time will tell.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Latest Recruits

VFTD welcomes the most recent recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army. (Yes, this feature is normally called Enlistments of the Week but since I missed last week--I do so have a good excuse--roadtrip to Cali for practice--I needed something more all-purpose.)

The DBSKidz signed up collectively (some are also onboard individually) with dbskidz.blogspot.com so y'all can see what they're up in the Great Northwest whenever you'd like. Thanks to one and all.
Holliday signed on the dotted line when his Pro*file appeared recently--better late than never. (What, no picture, that's not the Holliday I know.)
Next is Shon Saucedo who is playing for X-Factor Pro this season and played with Strange in the past. Thanks Shon and good luck--unless, you know, you're playing us.
And completing this week's list is tsqpaintball. It's a grand gesture as Mick is already a member of the DPA and his T-Square blog (see sidebar) is dueling VFTD for recruits. Thanks, Mick.

Until next time--Puppets Who Kill

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If Bob Says So I Believe It

No, not really--if I worked for the TSA I'd profile Jesus for extra security attention--but it sounded sufficiently jingoistic to be right for a post on small ball, don't you think? The kids at ProPaintball have posted a video of Bob huffing and puffing and blowing a plastic tray down using a 68 cal Victory and a modified 50 cal Victory for comparison purposes.
Best I could tell Bob was advancing 3 basic ideas; small ball shoots and breaks fine at short to medium-ish range (75 feet), small ball can shoot through brush, tree branches and other woodsy obstacles more effectively than 68 cal and small ball delivers less impact at similar velocities. Given those factors 50 cal deserves at least consideration as an alternative to 68 cal in some situations, like games with younger players or new players where the difference between a good time and never again is the potential pain involved.
The first idea is fine as far as it goes but it doesn't go far enough--and elsewhere in the video Bob admits the range is reduced compared to 68 cal and the paint is more susceptible to factors like wind--so kudos for being straight on the observed effects. I just didn't find it particularly persuasive, nor does it motivate me to reconsider the virtues of small ball.
I'm not buying the second notion at all. The video example was not shooting through brush. It was shooting through gaps. Back in the day the VM 68 (and later the first gen clamshell Timmy) punched holes through dense Florida palmettos. You didn't need to see your target. Just start railing and if you hit something, or somebody, you were rewarded with a satisfying yelp unless, of course, you were simply stripping the bark off trees.
But I am buying into the whole reduced impact argument though there is a caveat; breakability. The paint has to break as consistently as a 68 cal paintball, grade of paint for grade of paint. While I find Bob's concern for the children who are our future both uplifting and personally gratifying I also find it more than a little ironic given--how to say this, Bob's past association with guns of dubious legality.

On a completely separate subject one of the first things I did when I heard about 50 cal was to explore the possibility of producing a generic retrofit kit (or two) to convert 68 cal guns to 50 cal. It became apparent in short order that while not hard to do every kit would have to be gun or manufacturer specific and that if 50 cal looked good the manufacturers would jump on it. One other thing concerned me: the possibility of Dye modifying their eyepipe patent. They do have one, don't they?

Inside VFTD

All is chaos. Sorta. More or less. Today it's more. I wanted this week to be a break from the serious biz of paintball and that got derailed almost immediately with the sudden canning of Eurick at KEE on Monday and it's all gone downhill from there. I know, I didn't have to do a Suicide Watch either but stuff happened--and keeps on happening--that's hard (for me) to ignore.

I'm waiting on a few pro*files but it would seem that, like the rest of you, the typical pro is a lazy slacker too. I can't post what I ain't got. While I'm at it let me, one more time, encourage y'all (pro players) to drop me a line and get involved. It isn't hard--look at some of the guys who have already done it--and while it may seem like you're crassly self-promoting, so what?--peeps are interested. Trust me. The Pro*files are popular and you can always say you were just helping me out.

I'm also waiting out technical difficulties to get the latest installment of Ask of Coach produced. Server issues this time supposedly, all that means is (again) I got nothing. Except a list of post subjects I'm interested in, most of which are fairly serious and all of which require some thought and effort. Two things I wanted to avoid this week.

There's also a new (big) interview in the works with a uniquely placed individual who covers the gamut of big time competitive paintball. Feel free to guess who it is but I ain't gonna tell you. It's gonna be a surprise.

I was also considering doing the third annual VFTD awards (for the first time) by asking you lot to contribute categories and nominees but I can see that getting out of hand very quickly and you'd be surprised what a poor sense of humor some of the folks involved in paintball have. However, if any of you want to contribute ideas, categories and/or nominees I'm willing to see how it goes. (Winners could receive the golden pod. "And the Poddy goes to..." A universally recognized symbol of excellence and achievement in a category yet to be determined.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Watch continues...

There are a couple of items that didn't make yesterday's regular Suicide Watch update I want to address as well as some very on point questions that came up in the comments to yesterday's post.
Beginning with the MS it's interesting that the event they cancel is the Sarsilmaz Cup in Turkey. Most reports from those who attended the Antalya event were very positive and rumor had it that the local support made it a very attractive venue for the league as well. (With last year's primary complaint of late, very late, notice being a non issue. On the flipside attendance was poor with locked division no-shows and moronic pre-lim brackets but all that was part and parcel to the late notice and resultant higher costs.) Yet, when the MS decide to reduce the season it seems that none of the owners was willing to give up their events. Looking at the Malaga team list so far there appears to be a dearth of German teams in particular. Should that continue does that make Bitburg, already the least well attended event, more or less attractive? [Bitburg may not be the least wll attended--certainly not last year compared to Turkey but still only had 47 non-locked division teams last season.] (And is the German teams absence related perhaps to the new national league that is in the works there?) Of course if the MAXS peeps give up the German event once does it establish a precedent they don't want to see repeated? Possibly. Does a homegrown Millennium event serve any practical function for the owners or is it mostly a matter of prestige? (There's been talk in years past of pulling the Campaign Cup because of the dismal turnout from UK teams.) Not a lot of answers, just lots of questions but maybe it's no real surprise the MS can't seem to get their act together because they really can't manage to get their act together--even when they pay a price.
Elsewhere it's been suggested the TonTons were performing a service by checking to make sure the field actually played okay. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Everybody understands how and why the TonTons got the field and not, say, Joy Division or Lisbon Benefica. Nor is it relevant that extra practice on the layout may not show up in the results. How to tell? What is relevant is the arrogance and unwillingness of elements of the MS to abide by the rules everyone else must live by. What is also relevant is the demonstration that the MS apparently has no qualms about acting in that fashion either. And aren't bright enough not to out themselves. Okay, that last bit is pretty funny, too.

Moving on to the PSP here's the first of the comment questions: Is the decrease in teams at the PSP the results of the affiliate leagues? (WCPPL and CFPS last weekend, CFOA the weekend before and AZPPL a couple of weeks ago.)
I think it's reasonable to assume the affiliates have drawn off some teams that would otherwise have played the national event. The numbers, timing and divisions involved in a year to year comparison seem to support that idea. I also expected a continuing general decline. As I suggested before I think the Chicago numbers will go a long way to confirming the affiliate league hypothesis. There may also be something to it being the first event and the westernmost given that the reccession has been particulary hard on Cali and Arizona. And the HB event isn't not seeing any upsurge in 5-man team registrations either so the NPPL probably hasn't pulled significant numbers that would otherwise have played Phoenix.
If it is, is that bad for the PSP?
In the short term it isn't good. In the long term it's part of the plan. The difficulty is going to be the balancing act the PSP will be doing during the transitional period. They need enough participation to see them through from here to there but they also want to see the affiliates succeed.
Yes, less team, yes, less revenue from entry fees, but could it be compensated by 1 less field, therefore less refs and all the expenses that comes with it? I have hear we would have 6 or 7 fields in Phoenix, so my theory goes down on this one... but isn't it the thought behind that affiliate program? Smaller and more selective national events with a larger base to support it.
Yes, and in the longer run we may see that happen. However, there are some factors for Phoenix conspiring against an optimal event. One, the shorter duration event means the same x number of games need to be played in less time equals more fields and refs, not fewer. Two, the new rules. Their effect isn't known yet and the PSP needs to err on the side of caution until they have a clearer idea what the impact will be. Again, in the longer term, yes, the goal is smaller more selective national events and a more fully realized World Cup where championships are won--and lost.
I also wonder if the lack of clarity entering the season hasn't had an effect as well. There have been substantial changes and I'm sure that nobody knows how will play out. Teams dedicated to playing the series suck it up and play anyway--but teams, particularly in the lower divisions, that are far more likely to play one or two events are also more likely to be put off--and the availability of a ready, cheaper option in the affiliates could have also played a role.For example, at this point, right now, today, I have no idea what our post-prelim round(s) will look like and I would probably believe you if you told me it wasn't decided yet--and it does not make me a happy camper even though I believe in what the league is trying to do. Bottom line is most peeps just want to play some paintball.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

Lots of news to cover today and time's a-wasting. No change over at the not so Grand Tour so I'ma skip them this week.

At NPPL 3.0 things continue apace. It's hard to know what the actual state of the league is but registration keeps growing. There are currently 109 registered teams, including 70 7-man teams. Registration has now surpassed last year's participation number of 103. And while I could'a sworn the league sent out an email blast about a full pump division at 16 teams it's no longer listed in the news and pump registration is up to 18. In the news a change to the field layout was announced today--seems a modest fix to the fifties was in order. (Perhaps they discovered the snake side snake was otherwise virtually unplayable.) 5-man registration remain soft with the majority being in the "new" D4 division. Finally, this week Kingman officially signed up as a major sponsor of the NPPL 3.0. In keeping with recent nomenclature changes around the leagues Kingman is not a gold, silver, platinum, etc. sponsor--they are a major sponsor. Kinda like the PSP's new generic master sponsor.

In the MS this week registration has increased by 10 teams over last week to bring the total number of registered teams across all divisions to 60. That's it. Despite the SPL additions of All Russians (who won D1 last season) and Manchester Method in their return to Millennium play. (You must read the announcement at MS website. It's on the home page. Are they models? Are they ballers?) In the face of dramatically reduced registration numbers the MS announced a reduced season schedule by pulling back to 4 events and canceling Turkey. The change reduced the cost to compete and saw Campaign and Mill Cup switch places on the schedule with Campaign playing over the 4th of July weekend and Mill Cup moved into early October. The MS has also updated their sponsors list for 2010 and the list of official sponsors is short and lonely. Stako and Kartel Prime are display sponsors, Paint Xtreme is a gold sponsor and Kingman Group, GI Milsim and Dark Sports are platinum sponsors and--that's it. This leaves a clear opening for somebody to jump in and scoop up the opportunity to place their logo on disposable trash bins.
On Feb 27th the TonTons released a video showing off their new private label NTs. In the background is the Malaga layout--which wasn't officially released until March 5th--and enquiring minds want to know how long the TonTons had access to the layout before everybody else. Oops.

With registration officially closed last Friday today's number for Phoenix is 109, 79 of which are playing some variant of xball lite while 30 teams, mostly D4, will be competing in a Race 2-2 format. That's 13 fewer xball teams and 21 fewer 5-man teams that last year's total of 143. That's approximately a 24% decline over last year in total numbers with the bulk being a 40% drop off in 5-man. Not good news. No telling the impact yet as Chicago will either begin to balance out a weak Phoenix or set a pattern of further decline.
The PSP is still without a 2010 rule book and it's beginning to show as are some of the complications that arise with significant change. Over at PBN this thread highlights a potential problem. Given the new classification rules the PSP (via APPA) intend to seed teams based on some cumulative player ranking formula--which doesn't sound unreasonable. Instead of attaching a ranking value to a team it is possible to do a more precise seeding using player classification values. Unless a team purposefully delays identifying who will be on their roster. (Or unintentionally alters their seed number by adding or removing players at the last minute.) In either case the seeding is skewed. I don't know how aggressively this issue might be manipulated or to what outcome but what I do know is if someone thinks they can gain an advantage by manipulating their seeding place they will try to do it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mr. Curious

Mr. Curious just got hit by a brick coming through his living room window. He's got a large knot on his melon but that isn't what's got his head spinning. It seems the anonymous note was a copy of an email announcing the sudden departure of George Eurick as Prez & CEO of KEE. It's not clear according to Mr. C whether he was cut from the roster or quit--but cut is getting all the betting action. It's also rumored that a guy named Robinson will be replacing Eurick. Robinson's got a paintball past as he was (apparently) the guy at the helm who ran the K2 paintball division into the ground. So exactly what the overlords of KEE have in mind is beyond Mr. C's ability to guess.

UPDATE: the latest rumorology suggests that Mr. Robinson has some supporters inside JT and that opinions on his past performance vary considerably.

UP-UPDATE: clairvoyant or just dizzy? Mr. C hears that more heads may be on the block and as long as the axman is in town... Guess we'll see when we see. Mr. C also hears that Gino over at Valken got word of the KEE goings on within minutes of the ax falling.

On Sponsorship

I was asked yesterday what I thought of an opinion piece posted on the website over at Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball. (Title is the link.) You may know it better as Facefull. The comments were made by, who else, Rich Telford. It is after all his wide world of paintball. And instead of simply answering the question it seemed blog worthy.
If you're hoping for fireworks you're going to have to set off your own or settle for disappointment. I was asked if I'd seen the piece and if so, what did I think? I have now read it. And it's hard to argue with. Most of it sounds like stuff I've been saying. It offers a suggested path. What's to criticize?
What I will do is piggyback on a couple of points. (I'm also assuming you've read Rich's comments so don't be a lazy slacker and take a minute to check them out.) There are 3 items I want to riff off of here. 1--Rich generously passes responsibility for the current state of the game around and while it's certainly true the facts is that some are more responsible than others. 2--Rich suggests the players need to support the members of the industry that support the pro teams and ignore those that don't. Some might read that as advocating a boycott of sorts--which is how I read it--and while I am agnostic on the utility I'm not shocked by the idea. Collective action in the collective interest (where it can be ascertained) is perfectly reasonable. (But is that in the collective interest?) 3--And finally Rich suggests if times are tough for the pros, and they surely are, it's also no picnic for the lower divisions. Which is true too, as far as it goes.

1--the current state of the game is the responsibility of an industry and major league promoters who have, at times, largely been one and the same. Did some high profile players have input at times? Sure, did their vote count for anything at all at crunch time? When the nature and direction of the game were on the line? Not so much. Without some control there isn't any real responsibility. The only responsibility teams and players bear is the result of an unwillingness to become embroiled in the politics of the game, either individually or collectively. In the present that's neither here nor there, I just want to be clear.

2--if the players and teams have proved incapable in the past of acting in concert in their own self-interest--and they have--I doubt much of anything will convince them to act individually for the collective good--even if they buy into the boycott idea. And then there's the disconnect between the pro teams and the not pro teams. Does the average player see a connection? Other than that's where some of them hope to one day be. It's not that I oppose a boycott or something like it, it's more that I've never seen any evidence to suggest it could be organized, formally or informally.
One reason the needed dollars aren't there is because they can't be justified. Budget cuts don't necessarily dictate which parts of the budget the cuts come from. When sponsorship dollars are targeted it means the value received from those sponsorship dollars is less certain than dollars spent elsewhere. Perhaps one thing teams need to do is figure out a better way to make their case. (Ironically, not unlike what Rich and XSV have been working toward for years. So who would know better what is possible in this environment and what isn't?) One good question for teams is how do we go about building value in our team? And an equally good question for sponsors is what do we lose if we fail to support the pro teams?

3--which kinda leads me to a comparo between the pro teams and the divisional teams. There are a couple of relevant differences. What passes for sponsorship in most divisional situations is really differing sorts of discounts. Are the basis for these discounts tied to pro sponsorship, or the lack thereof? Not so much. Any company that has a product line targeting the competitive part of the game probably offers some sort of discount options to teams, either directly or through retail stores and field shops. Are players really going to ignore those options in order to encourage other parts of the industry to give stuff to pros? Again, not so much, it seems to me. One place (among many) where the pros and divisional players share a common cause is in the costs both incur in order to compete. As divisional players move up ranks the costs of being competitive increase as well so for those players with dreams of playing pro must begin to confront the reality of what it takes off the field as well as on it.
Lastly, while decisions made by industry and promoters have brought us here I'm not pointing fingers and insisting on placing blame--the point is to accurately assess what is so we can all hopefully make wiser decisions as we move forward.

Monday Poll in Review

Last week's question (Where do you get the most satisfactory competitive paintball experience for the money?) garnered some not unexpected but nonetheless interesting responses when taken as a whole. The same percentage voted local as voted national (29% v. 28%) while nearly 40% voted regional. The part I found most interesting was the strong preference at the local and regional level to compete in a series. And that the trend did not continue at the national level with a majority voting event instead of series. This suggests a couple of things to me. Competition players are competitive (d'oh!) and the option that provides the greatest challenge is the preferred choice except... Except when? Except, for example, when the cost becomes prohibitive; ie: the national level. (Or, the level of competition is deemed to be to good?) (Are there D2 teams that won't play national level events regardless of resources because it might be "too hard?") I want to say competition players play to the level they can attain based on the resources they can muster--but I'm not altogether convinced that's true.
So, as usual the Monday Poll is intriguing but inconclusive, being unscientific and all, but don't let that put you off. We learn daily that much of what is called science these days isn't particularly scientific either.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Greetings from NorCal

Just a quick update, kids. We's been in Sacramento at Capitol Edge and flying out at the crack of dawn in the morning. We thought our flights sucked--we left Thursday evening at 6:30 pm and arrived at our hotel 10 hours later. The Russians got in around noon on Friday after around 27 hours on various planes and stop overs. Ouch! You'd have to pay me the big money too just to put up with the travel. Weather was great. Better than expected or forecast. The paintball is always good. Otherwise practice went well but it does interfere with my blogging schedule.

PSP registration for Phoenix has closed. Final numbers aren't confirmed yet but could be off 20% from last year. What's going on? More on Tuesday's Suicide Watch. The Millennium has also made some sudden and unexpected moves in the last few days. What's up with that? A temporary flash of common sense or is it every day garden variety fear? Is the NPPL 3.0 holding its own in a shrinking major league paintball universe? (I'm still curious as to what the paint dealio is gonna be.) I don't know about y'all but I need a break from all this seriousness so expect a couple of posts this coming week on the lighter side--like a new animated Ask the Coach.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pro*file: Daniel Holliday

Name: Holliday
Age: 26
Hometown: Dirty Tampa
Occupation: I'm not exactly sure of what my title is but I work in sales currently
Family: 2 kids, one girlfriend, 2 brothers.
General interests other than paintball: I love to look up lavish things on the internet, be it: cars, homes or watches and just imagine that I actually have the ability to purchase such items. I'll click " add to cart" go all the way to the final process and then cancel the transaction, that is typically when the depression kicks in. It’s a vicious cycle.

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?
My first paintball experience was on easter day, I'm not very religious and my buddy jared had always played paintball so I suggested we should try it out, we went out on easter morning, I borrowed a Vm-68 and me and about 8 other guys all went out to the woods field, I dont think I shot anyone but it was really fun

2. What team do you play for now?
TAMPA BAY DAMAGE! And the Republicans

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
Strange, Jax Raiders

4 . What role do you play on your current team?
Publicist, player, activist. I have many roles in the 2010 season

5. Who are your favorite paintball players?
Favorite players to watch are Chad Busiere, Kirill, Alex Spence, and, of course, CJ Botsolas the best kept gem in Pro paintball.

6. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
Recently it was when we won Chicago, but thats played out so much, Im ready for some more though. Im tired of everyone talking about the chicago win, it was over a year ago we need to make some serious moves in 2010.

7. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done in order to play paintball?
Paid a hundred and twenty five dollars for a case, lost jobs, ruined myself financially.

8. What is the single most important lesson the up and comer needs to learn?
Just that reality isn't father knows best anymore, it's a kick in the face on a Saturday night with a steel toe grip kodiak work boot and a trip to the hospital bloodied and bashed. or that consolidating all your credit bills into one bill is much easier to manage, but what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

9. What keeps you playing paintball?
The fact that I'm still getting better and better as the years go by, haven't really hit a plateau yet.

10. Do you (or any of your teammates) have any superstitions related to playing paintball? If not could you make up something that sounds good?
I really don’t believe in superstitions or even luck for that matter but I'll make something up.
Before any big day of paintball.. When im in the hotel room bathroom,for about 7 minutes I remove my boxer briefs multiple times in front of the mirror while listening to "return to innonence" by Enigma. I repeat this ritual until I feel the fit is just right.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

After Action Report: PBLive

If you watched you know Guy Fawkes made an appearance. A minor miscommunication meant I ended up wearing the damn thing the whole segment but at least Guy is a much jollier fellow than I. And think of it in terms of the mystery. Who was that masked man? Everyone will be talking. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Besides, I confess there's a little anarchy in my heart, too.

I'm told the program will be up on YouTube soon and I'll post a link for the masochists among you as soon as I have it. I'd like to thank host Ryan MacDonald who was terrific. I thought my Steven Wright delivery was an intriguing counterpoint to his lively style. Beyond that I wouldn't hold the PBLive guys responsible for anything other than being duped. Of course, if they bring me back that one is on them.

I enjoyed it other than the mask part--which after about 5 minutes was hot and claustrophobic--but I'll own that one. It sounded like a clever gimmick until I spent a half hour breathing my own stale breath and resisting the urge to rob a 7-11.

If you listened in, thanks, I hope you enjoyed it. And if you catch the show later on YouTube I make no promises. What I can say is when that cabal of owners was busting their piggy banks for NXL franchises this is probably not the TV they had in mind.

Suicide Watch: Special Update

In Tuesday's regular weekly update I questioned whether or not the new affiliates, AZPPL & WCPPL, might have an impact on PSP Phoenix participation given that registrations in the Race2-2 divisions is down compared to last year while the registrations for the format-formerly-known-as-xball is closer to last year's numbers.
First thing to take note of is very little crossover, a handful of teams are playing both, and most of those are out of the AZPPL (unsurprisingly.)
Also, the WCPPL has a very solid D2 Race2-5 division set to play the weekend of March 6,7 and 52 Race2-2 teams in D3 & D4. That's a lot of something where there was nothing before.
The timing and the numbers and the lack of crossover might suggest the PSP "lost" some teams to the affiliates but even if it cost the PSP a few teams this time around growth like that exhibited in the WCPPL certainly portends a better future.

Euroland Seminar Concept

Aight, this one's mostly for the Eurokids and I could use your help. No, you don't have to do anything--much. What I'm looking for is feedback, info and opinions.
I'm looking into the possibility of organizing a seminar (or two) for experienced teams and players designed around teaching the European player secrets of the aggressive American style of play. Most clinics focus on making the individual a better player. (Which is a good and necessary thing.) The purpose of these seminars would be to help equip team captains, coaches and whole teams with the knowledge and means to optimize their training, learn how to function more effectively as a team while at the same time learning the practical drills and procedures that will give teams the confidence and know-how to play the aggressive game.
Nothing is set at this point though I have a few ideas. I'm looking at the last couple of weeks of August in terms of a time frame. And I'm thinking 2 seminars back-to-back. The first might be a Monday thru Thursday and focus on bringing in teams (or at least a representative sample) who would also receive the benefit of actively participating in the team building and training activities. The second seminar might then be Fri - Sunday aimed more for team captains, coaches and trainers as the level and amount of actual on field training activities would likely be reduced. Alternatively it could be back-to-back weekends instead. The first weekend a Fri thru Sunday for mostly individual team leaders and the following weekend Thursday thru Sun targeting more team participation.
That's the rough concept, a possible time frame and the target participants. No prices yet but one possible venue would eastern France, proximate to Germany, which would be reasonably accessible to large number of Euro teams. The team seminar would have to limit participation while the team leaders seminar would be more flexible.
Any and all comments, particularly from Euro players, is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Practice? We Talkin' 'Bout Practice?

Since it came up in the Monday Poll comments (tangentially) and since I've suggested this to the PSP a few times (and given how much I enjoy repeating myself) I thought I'd mention it again. Mention what exactly?
Only the most obvious means of saving teams playing the format-formerly-known-as-xball some potentially serious green. Do you remember when the league used to release the field layout a few weeks ahead of each event? They thought they were kinda splitting the difference between the haves and the have nots by limiting the amount of time everyone had to prep the next event layout. Turns out all they were really doing was turning local practice fields around the country into ghost towns when the layouts weren't available. Once that was realized the league went looking for an alternative. And as should be expected by now I didn't wait for an invitation but offered a couple of suggestions; either release the next layout immediately after the prior event or don't release it all. (I'm sure I wasn't the only one who made those suggestions but since this is my blog we're ignoring them for purposes of this post.)
Given that the league's concern at that time was how their decisions impacted some tourney-oriented local fields they went with immediate release--which usually means nowadays within a week or two. Where before all the tourney teams were swamping their local practice fields when the layout was available they are now able to schedule practices over a more extended period. What hasn't changed is the nature of that practice. It is almost universally scrim grind scrim which eats paint at the same voracious rates as actual event play.
However, the other suggestion--don't release the layout at all--would have (and still could) perform a couple of very valuable functions. The same window of opportunity to practice would exist as with the early release and the nature of that practice would (eventually) change dramatically. Practice would be forced to become about learning how to play and not about how to play a given field. Teams would be forced to train the mental side of the game again and that doesn't require skids of paint. Team preparation would change. The nature of the events would change as divergent styles clashed in early round matches and teams began to learn how to adjust and change from match to match. It would also add a new dimension of excitement to the play as you would be far less likely to rote play--at least in the higher divisions.
None of this would happen overnight and it's probably too big a risk to take in such uncertain times as I have no doubt lots of teams would squeal but it would save smart teams real money and begin to see a resurgence in the mental side of the game.

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

Nothing much new to report for the not so Grand Tour. A couple more teams have registered for the Venice event but no "pro" teams yet. And no 3-man xball yet either. No field layout--probably because they are waiting for the MS to release a Malaga layout which they will also use. Nothing else is new. I'm hoping this event actually works for the GT as I can't get over the venue--Grand Tour & Grand Canal--together again for the very first time. It's spectacular. Now if they can only put on a successful event.

Right after last week's Suicide Watch report the MS released the names of all the registered locked division teams for the first time this season. So far the CPL has 8 (16), the SPL 14 (28) & D1 7 (27). And in the case of the SPL and D1 the original division size was 32 teams and the 28 & 27 numbers indicate last year's max. The 3 unlocked divisions share 20 registrants between them to date. That puts total event registration to date at 49 (+1).
For a related but different perspective if you follow the league's team registration procedures you will get to a page that allows you to look at previous locked division teams on a pull down menu to see who was once a locked division team. First identify the division and then click on the separate team list.
On the plus side a few empty spots has allowed Boost Air to jump right into the SPL. Boost Air's claim to fame is they will be shooting 50 cal and are principally sponsored by GI Milsim & Paintball Distribution (the French distributor for GI Milsim.) The news is on the Millennium website's home (news) page. No word on whether or not Boost paid the licensing fee for a locked division spot or whose spot they're taking. Lucky for their sponsors the team didn't have to work its way up the ranks.
And, as noted in the GT section, the MS has not released a field layout for Malaga yet.

NPPLmania sweeps Huntington Beach! Not really, but, you know, it could happen. The NPPL also released their team registration list last week after the Suicide Watch report last Tuesday and, frankly (no pun intended) the numbers were surprising in a couple of ways. Not all the pro teams/owners were listed and there were 60+ teams listed. Today registration stands at 85 teams including 16 pump teams and 11 5-man teams. According to the list the majority have paid--something. It will be interesting to see what actual participation numbers end up being at the event. It would seem the league intends to go full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. HB is the most costly event of the season and last year the league was rumored to have taken a substantial loss at HB with 103 teams paid including 18 pump teams.
According to the live webcast the rules were supposed to have been released yesterday but I think a little leeway is due given that the PSP hasn't yet released their 2010 rule book either and the Phoenix event is less than 3 weeks away. Of more immediate interest is the paint situation for HB. No confirmation of prices yet or whether or not RPS will be the exclusive paint provider as has been rumored.
On the retro front Angel Heaven returns to an NPPL event and is likely the most anticipated Angel sighting in years. Angel owners get in free and if I were a betting man I'd be inclined to put the over/under close to 10.

Last official day to pay a Phoenix entry is this coming Friday, March 5th. There is a little leeway built into that deadline but not much. Registration numbers have been virtually static for a couple of weeks and all registered teams will need to participate in order for the 2010 season opener to equal last year's turnout. By this time next week we will have a final team list. What we won't have yet is more than a guess as to why if the numbers show any significant decline. As mentioned before one place to look is Race 2-2 participation in the AZPPL and WCPPL to see if the affiliates are pulling teams that might otherwise have played PSP. (With the current 5-man NPPL registrants it's clear the NPPL isn't pulling away PSP teams.)
We also still don't have the new set of rules. But there is a new classification for sponsors called master. I wonder how master equates to past practices. Perhaps they've pulled their new tiering order from the plumbing profession and we can look forward to journeyman and novice sponsors as well. (But probably not.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Monday Poll

The question I want to ask this week is: Where is the line that competitive paintball can't cross? The line between value and competition. When does it cost too much? Or when are you getting too little for what it does cost? Obviously there's no way to formulate that into a poll question but those are the questions I'm asking myself and those are the questions behind this week's Monday Poll.
The competitive game has been all over the map in recent years. A dozen years ago we paid around 2 grand for 6 prelim games of 10-man in the woods. Initially divisional xball teams played double elimination. 25% of a division only played 2 matches for their entry fee. 2 years ago the pro teams paid 5K (6K) for Race 2 - 9. In a couple of weeks it will be $2500 for a 3 match prelim Race 2 - 7. 7-man once had a 10 game prelim in Euroland. Many local events have entries in the low hundreds. Others charge seasonal fees. In some respects the price of competitive paintball is always changing.
What keeps teams and players coming back? What drives them away?
Since I can't figure out how to ask the question I want I'm going to pose a somewhat related question: Where do you get the most satisfactory competitive paintball experience for the money?
I'm not differentiating by format and I'm not giving you a price range. I want you to take into account your personal priorities, preferences and resources and vote accordingly. The distinction between "compulsory series" and "series" is in the former there is an upfront fee and commitment and in the latter just the intent to play a series.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll wanted your opinion on the introduction of 50 cal to competitive paintball. A sizable majority viewed it in a negative light; a commercial flop (23%), demonstrate inferior performance (43%). That's 66% compared to the 4% who think it will revolutionize the game and the 14% who expect small ball to be a viable alternative to 68 cal. The remaining 14% didn't expect it to make any difference. The poll question was asked within the context of competitive paintball but I wonder how many of the voters took that limited context into account or if the poll tends to reflect the general opinion that is out there regarding 50 cal paintballs. No way of knowing of course but one thing is fairly clear--the backlash against small ball has connected with players across the paintball spectrum.