Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is scenario in trouble now, too?

Okay, maybe the title was unnecessarily hyperbolic but it got your attention, didn't it? I had a chat in Chicago with a friend who was at Oklahoma D-Day for the duration and he said the total number of players was down, perhaps as much as 25%, and that daily numbers were down as well. Turns out the D-Day event covers a number of days and in the past a lot of the players played more of the event days than they did this year. So if that's an accurate report what does it portend? If one of the most popular, well known scenario super games is down this year does it mean scenario is slipping too? And will gear and gun sales soon follow?

PSP Chicago: Wrap-up

I've opted for a wrap-up post instead of the (day late) weekly update of the MLP events because the weekly update would mostly be about the PSP anyway. There's a handful of teams signed up for the next not so Grand Tour event, wherever it's being held. The NPPL is not yet making registration info available nor is there any follow-up info on the All-Star affair or Hall of Fame in the works. Does anybody, even those who have participated diligently in the NPPL 3.0, have the slightest idea who all the possible All-Stars are? I know I don't and I try to keep up to speed. How often does somebody watch an All-Star event and go "Who the hell is that guy?" during the introductions? The only piece of new data is the total numbers participating at the Millennium series' Campaign Cup this weekend; 49 teams in the 3 open divisions which makes for similar, if slightly down, numbers to the two previous events.

As far as this wrap-up goes it's really just an assortment of odds & ends I haven't commented on already. Like the UWL tie-in. I know they were there somewhere. I was invited to drop by prior to the event. It didn't happen 'cus I'm busy (and single-minded) at events but it would have liked to--except I never once thought about it after our event got started. All I heard post facto sounded like an Old Skool nostalgia tour with lots of high profile players from the past and resurrected team names meeting once again to do battle under the branches. Which is actually kinda awesome but maybe doesn't bode so well for the future of the UWL? How many regular teams attended?
Opinions have differed regarding the league's efforts to pull this event off. That's partly what the The (Tuesday) Monday Poll is all about. That and the general public perception. Most of the divide falls into two camps; the PSP did all it could with a bad situation versus maybe they shouldn't have put themselves in the situation to begin with. There's also a few who seem to think the league could have done more, somehow been better prepared to deal with the weather. When I lived in Phoenix there was a big housing boom. Surprisingly for those unfamiliar with the desert one of the things builders were required to plan for was flooding. (There's a monsoon season, Phoenix is in a valley, and the normally rock hard dry ground is unable to soak up lots of water with the result of occasional flash floods.) The flood standards were described in terms of their likelihood; the twenty year flood, the fifty year flood up to the 100 year flood with each describing a scale of flooding. The 20 year flood was one that was statistically likely within any 20 year period--and so on. Builders competed, in part, on the level of flood security they offered. In terms of dealing with the weather the real question for the PSP is what is a reasonable level of preparation for the unexpected?
The league also introduced some new stuff at Chicago that has been in the works for a while; the new scoreboards, pit scoreboards and so-called Easy buttons for conceding a point. There were a few kinks in the rollout but by and large it worked as intended. My only "complaint" is that spectators can't see the blue numbers from the grandstand very well at all. Otherwise it seemed sturdier and better suited for outdoor use than the old equipment.
And now for the shuttle system. It worked but only just. I'm left wondering if the league planned on using that Balmoral parking lot the whole time, rain or shine, because I don't know where all those cars would have gone on Badlandz property. I also wonder if some of the delays Friday and Saturday had as much to do with the the inability to get players on site in a timely fashion as anything else. And if the shuttle was always part of the plan why we weren't told about in advance with the suggestion that extra time be allotted to the process of getting to your matches on time.
At the end of the day I also think this venue poses a problematic question for the future: What is the tourney baseline today? What is the minimum acceptable venue for a major league event? Everybody understands the current climate but realistically the majority of participants are everyday paintball enthusiasts who aren't so driven they will do anything and accept anything in order to compete. They are competitors but they are also customers and most of them have much cheaper options available to them at the local and regional level.
Which brings me to perhaps an even more vexing question: With the decline in Race 2-2 participation what can the PSP realistically do? (Or, how long can they keep doing Phoenix?)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The (Tuesday) Monday Poll

This week's poll is interesting as an attempt to gauge the paintballing public's opinion of the PSP Chicago Badlandz event. Was it a success? A set back? A good event marred by horrendous weather? A poor event made worse by horrendous weather? It doesn't matter if you attended or not. It doesn't matter if you know anything at all about the event. As long as you have an impression of how the event turned out VFTD wants you to vote.
This week's question is: How would you rate the PSP Chicago Badlandz event? You will be given numeric options one thru ten. One is hurricane Ike wiping out the NPPL Houston event and ten is your favorite WC or the first Huntington Beach. And if you'd like to expand on your vote you know where to comment.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week I gave you the 12 teams in the pro division and asked which six would play on Sunday. When the final votes were tallied the choices were; the Red Legion, Damage, Impact, Infamous, Dynasty & Aftershock which turned out to be 5 correct. The lone mistake was putting Dynasty in the top 6 instead of Aftermath and it wasn't so much a mistake as a surprise really. Based on past performance it wasn't unreasonable to favor Dynasty over Aftermath but as the cliche goes--that's why they play the games--and congrats to Aftermath for making a big splash in the deep end of the pool.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

PSP Chicago: Sunday

Up at 5:30 am and off to the field before 6 am for our first match of the day; a rematch with Aftershock. Weather reports are constantly changing--and not for the better. Rain is expected sometime during the day, the duration uncertain but in the early morning everything looks good. We arrive before Shock, the refs and PSP staff. The match ends up being similar to the one the day before even though Shock made some adjustments and tried to shake things up. I like Shock because they are young, passionate and never quit.
Before our next match there is (another) rain delay with about a half hour downpour. The schedule is set back but not badly and the field becomes muddier and spotty with puddles.
Next up is the semi-final versus the Russians. The condition of the field is affecting some of what teams can and cannot do OTB. Saturday the Legion spanked us and we expect them to employ a similar strategy. One we're better prepared for this time. As before the early points are combat with the first point resulting in everybody eliminated and no point scored. After that things got ugly as the penalties piled up. By the end each team received three majors. We came off our first two down only 2-4 and then it was the Russians turn. We began to turn the tide and pressed to score as quickly as possible and despite another late penalty we reeled off 5 straight points for the win and a trip to the finals.
We watch to see who we'll play; Impact or Infamous. It turns out to be Infamous. We talk about unfinished business from Phoenix. We review what Infamous has been doing throughout the tourney and talked about how to counter them. We talked about the penalties--how we were confident the only thing that would beat us was penalties, so let's knock it off, play smart, play aggressive & make it happen. It's our third finals in the last 3 events. We want this one, badly. (Heck, I want all of them but I'm a greedy bastard.)
Once again it was not to be but it is not as tough a blow as Phoenix was. (My son insists I didn't answer my phone for 72 hours after Phoenix--but then I didn't have anything to say. Am I taking this too seriously? Probably.) The difference is this time despite everything the team refused to give up, refused to lose whatever the score, refused to give in to circumstances no matter how impossible. So while there is always room for improvement I am hopeful we have learned that even if we lose we will not be beaten.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PSP Chicago: Saturday

A short post today as we have an 8am match with 'Shock in the morning. Unfortunately the way the seeding worked out the same teams that were in each division are playing each other some more in the quarters and semis tomorrow. On the other hand if we get past 'Shock again we get an opportunity to play the Russians again. Which we relish. To be the best you have to beat the best and one modest result (in Phoenix) never meant the Russians were on the downside--despite the perpetual bandwagon hooting of the internet crowd.
Field conditions continue to be poor as it rained hard again over night. Pro field matches were delayed 45 minutes while divisional play was delayed as much as a couple hours and ultimately pushing some divisional play over to Sunday. The pits are as thick and sticky as peanut butter spread inches deep. The mud in the corner of the field by the Home side entry is worse. Nobody is running the corner and it's more fatiguing to get out of the pit than it is to play a point. Where the snake was slick on Friday it's churned up & slow now. Field conditions are influencing play and turning most points into tiny wars. In a sense it's the essence of primal paintball and demands heart, will and determination.
In today's match with the Legion early on it was the slugfest I expected with a few drawn out technical points and the teams tied at 2. At that point the Legion kept the pressure on and we didn't handle it well once the score turned against us. Credit the Russians as the well-oiled, well-prepared team they are and for their immaculate execution. We wanted the bye into the semis but we didn't get it. Other than that the only match between us that will matter in the final standings is the one we get to play tomorrow if we get past Shock.
In our last match and the last match of the day we played Shock. The winner earned the higher seed and the last of the teams thru to Sunday would be determined. The match was close early but got on top, maintained our focus and tried to up our intensity, and pushed hard to close them out. It was a solid win against the crowd favorite home town team and a tough loss for the Shock kids but just like our match with the Russians the one that will matter when the record of this event is written is the one Sunday morning.
The tournament starts tomorrow.

Friday, June 25, 2010

PSP Chicago: Friday

Today was the first day of pro prelim matches--and it didn't rain. The fields are still in ragged shape but we're still playing paintball. I heard today the league actually contemplated calling the event. Now that would have been a real nightmare but if true it helps explain how overwhelming the circumstances were. And I think if asked no one would prefer to not be playing paintball this weekend.
In our first match we played X-Factor and things did not go as planned. Was this the match I came to Chicago worried about? I don't think so. X-Factor is a solid team that seldom gives anything away and we also had an (unacceptable) number of penalties to overcome (including two majors.) So while it wasn't pretty we did what we needed to do and eeked out a win. We also need to realize that while we used to be underdogs we're not sneaking up on anybody anymore. And nobody is immune from the so-called upset. Take a look at the rest of Friday's scores. Every event offers up a few surprises and the mark of the best teams is consistency.
We played Vicious in our second game after having an opportunity to scout them in their first match against Entourage. Vicious does a good job of executing their game plan and they commit to their effort as a team. Today it wasn't enough as we took advantage of a couple of patterns we saw and dialled up our intensity determined not to repeat our earlier effort.
In our half by the end of the day our two wins were matched by the Legion's two wins while both Shock and Vicious went 1 and 1 (with Shock holding a substantial edge in point differential.) Tomorrow we play the Legion and then Shock and the odds are nothing will be settled until the score is final in the last match of the day. Good luck or hard luck, today didn't decide anything. It just made the road to Sunday either easier or harder.
Tomorrow is the qualifier; winners go on, losers go home. The tournament begins on Sunday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PSP Chicago: Thursday

What can I say? The place is well named; the Badlandz. Word today was that the immediate area has absorbed 15 inches of rain in less than a week. Although absorbed isn't a hundred percent accurate as there is standing water in a few spots and lots of mud--a thick, sticky, gooey clay-like sort of mud. Efforts have been made to minimize the impact but it's almost been two steps forward, three steps back as the rain continued to fall day after day. But it's not the last Pomona (yet) which was the PSP's Waterworld event.
I talked to a few of the PSP staff over the course of the day and I almost felt sorry for them. (Almost, but I'm maintaining a journalistic distance.) They were uniformly worn down & worn out by the daily repeated efforts to make the venue playable. We were booted off the pro field this afternoon--something about an email last night to stay off?--as there was still work to be done even as the other fields were hosting matches. And those fields weren't pretty, they were uniformly muddy and beat up and the tournament is just getting started. The pro field still needed the pits and the scoreboard set-up and there was an effort being made to even out some churned earth and drain off some water.
Parking is problematic as well with little viable parking on site and the overflow redirected to a Balmont Park lot on higher, dryer ground. Shuttles are shifting peeps from the lot to the venue--slowly--and in the early morning tomorrow it could put every schedule behind. But again, it is what it is.
While conditions are less than ideal there is no point in complaining. The league has done the best they could. Rennick & the Badlandz staff also worked prior to the PSP's arrival to prepare the venue and it won't matter. People will complain during the event and continue to complain about it afterwards, too. And in one sense they are entitled but it won't help anybody win. Complaining never does and right now it's time to play ball. And excuses are for losers. Time enough after it's all over to look back and evaluate the results.
We registered, spent some time on the field (we weren't supposed to) and waited for a Facefull photog as the magazine has scheduleda future feature of some sort on the team. As the day dribbled away it turned out the Facefull guy was running late (too) and we decided to reschedule and get out of the heat. The next two days will be long ones. Two matches a day for the players but 6 or 8 matches for me as our prelim opponents and other likely opponents need to be scouted and charted. Rain or shine I spend my time under an umbrella in the grandstands.

For those of you who wonder what Old Skool competition was like--there were times when it looked very much like this. Tomorrow, match reports & results.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Promotion of Competitive Paintball as a Commodity, Part 3A

A-ha. Admit it. You've been completely taken by surprise. That's because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Or the continuation of a series of posts from back in May. (Part 1 Part 2) But that's how I roll (and the Post-It notes are working as advertised.)

Today's post sets the groundwork for how the major leagues might improve their promotional efforts. To begin I have a few questions. What is it the leagues are promoting now? Isn't their primary effort aimed at promoting themselves? And if it is, is that wrong? Or a mistake? A missed opportunity or a misplaced priority? The reason I ask is because I want to start with a clean slate. No automatic assumptions. No beginning where the leagues left off. It's important to question everything initially. And it's important to come to some baseline conclusions. Before we decide how the leagues might go about their promotions we need to have a firm grasp on what and why.
My view is the leagues have mostly been promoting themselves. Now don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with that as it is a necessary part of the process--but it's only a part--particularly if the Big Picture goal is to raise awareness and interest in competitive paintball as sport. Of course you've got to survive before you thrive but it's unclear to me at this stage if any of the leagues have a conception of how to move past (the oftentimes mediocre) self-promotion that is what passes for promotion at present.
So what else should the leagues be promoting? Do I really have to ask that question? (I hope not.) Even so, in a sense, it depends. If the leagues are content to be the temporary arbiters of format and the means by which the rest of us currently have an opportunity to compete then they don't really need to do anything else--except wait to die when something (and somebody) else comes along to replace them. If they intend to be in this for the longer haul they will have to both adjust and expand their thinking about just how they go about staying relevant in the world of competitive paintball.
The fact is the best way the leagues can promote themselves is to promote the sport and there is potentially so much more to be done than simply try and convince more tourney players to play your events than those who play the other leagues events. It is both helpful and hopeful that the U.S. leagues (at a minimum) are aware and concerned about some current deficiencies but so far there is little sign they have any ideas for dealing with today's problems much less the vision to imagine tomorrow possibilities. (This is, btw, purely from a promotional standpoint and not aimed at the nuts & bolts of actual operation and/or ongoing survivability. That's another topic.)
The way forward for the leagues is to promote competitive paintball as sport. And the target audience isn't limited to other paintball players.

Next time, in Part 3B, I'll highlight some specific ways the leagues can begin to promote not only themselves but the game we play. (And, no, it won't take another month. I hope.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Major League Paintball Weekly Update

I'm dropping the suicide watch and I'm not moving the MLP into an ICU ward. It's been a tough year and everybody knows it. That, and I'm going all soft and mushy in my old age (too many pizzas) so I'm knocking off the gratuitous negativity. (At least for this week.) But don't worry, I'll still be kicking the leagues around when they deserve it--which is much of the time.

No report from the not so Grand Tour on the weekend's Lviv event yet but scores are available at You'll need to register but it's relatively harmless and not terribly time consuming. From the quick look I took it appears first round pro leaders the Carpathian Bears missed this one. Could it be without their Russian Legion players they didn't bother to show?

Cut off for registration for Campaign Cup is tomorrow so today's numbers are likely to be close to the final total. The open divisions have a total of 41 teams registered with 14 in D2, 13 in D3 & 14 in M5. Right now D2 is down a third from Malaga & Bitberg. D3 is also down a bit but M5 is up a couple. No great surprise as 12 of the 14 teams registered are UK-based (and we all know most of the Brits will go for the lowest div they can squeeze into--excepting of course all those UK ballers who are also VFTD regulars. Hey! Where'd y'all go?)
There is an interesting video on YouTube showing Joy Division competing recently in Sweden with some GI Milsim logos on their jerseys. Of more interest however are the guns some of them appear to be using. Watch it here and see what you think.
Word has also come in recently that a well known industry personality will soon be leaving Paintball for, hopefully, greener pastures in the very near future.

Looks like the team list mentioned last week posted at the NPPL website may have been a link to an old team list page as it's no longer available in any form. Registration for the DC Challenge is open and it will be interesting to see if the special features planned for DC build some East Coast team interest beyond the Chicago turnout. Unfortunately the timing is poor, especially for those of us committed to both the NPPL & the PSP. Scheduled for consecutive weekends one event will certainly undercut the other to some degree and the NPPL event makes final prep for the PSP event very difficult despite the fact it's summer.

Nothing much new on the PSP front. The Chitown event hosted by Badlandz is this coming weekend. We're flying in a day early as it turns out because we needed to confirm our travel plans well before the league announced our playing schedule--which doesn't begin until Friday. I know it was tough trying to calculate necessary fields, likely turnout, collapsing semi-pro bracket and all the rest but wasted days cost everybody time & money. 154 teams will be competing in what early weather reports suggest might be a wet & muddy event. We'll see, and if our hotel's internet connection is willing I'll have daily reports to post.

Social Media & Paintball

All social media (except blogging--d'oh!) get the big thumb's down official badge of disapproval from VFTD. (Trust me, I do so have the big foam thumb in a closet someplace. Along with a few foam fingers and I have a particular finger in mind for some of the more egregious offenders.) I have tried to be understanding--no, not really--but it's getting out of hand, going too far.
It seems Paintball discovered social media about a day late and a dollar short, as per usual, but is desperately making up for lost ground--and I don't know about you--but it's beginning to piss me off. Okay, I lied again. (I lied the first time about all those foam fingers but that doesn't mean I don't still have one, a finger, available for you.) It's not beginning to, it's been pissing me off for awhile now but I wanted to be the kinder, gentler VFTD and show some paintball solidarity but .. but ... I've had enough.
If the idea of social media is easy-peasey interactive communication networked via shared interests, friendships, etc. the reality is Paintball is using it like a bludgeon to beat me senseless with their (mostly) commercial messages or like a home invader intruding through every portal to inundate me (and you) with time-wasting rubbish. Knock it off--or at least dial it down a notch or two.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trench Warfare: Pre-Chicago PSP

It's Sunday. (Father's Day, as it turns out.) Day 2 of a weekend scrimmage with the Red Legion in preparation for the PSP Chicago event coming the weekend of 24 - 27. The action on the field is a continuation and extension of the points played on Saturday. Overnight both teams reviewed their own efforts and those of their opponent. Part of the calculation today is to confirm effective tactics. To test final adjustments. To pare away all the choices, options, actions that don't quite get the job done. Eventually it comes down to who executes more effectively. Sure, you can win a point or two (or lose a point or two) with your breakout choices but this is an unforgiving field that only respects power paintball even though it will tolerate alternative choices. The Legion's biggest change over Saturday is their D-side breakouts, their experimentation at locking down the snake wire and the coaches encouragement that they play more aggressively, faster, faster, faster in the early phases of the mid-game. It's brutal, and to my mind, beautiful paintball with each point a slugfest of attempted knockout shots. (That doesn't mean there isn't any subtlety at play. Far from it. It's only that we're both looking for tiny advantages in the small distinctions that might provide the slimmest advantages. It doesn't change the basic nature of the paintball being played.)
I'm less focused on what the Legion is doing (I'm satisfied with our counters and more importantly our basic scheme) and more intent on our frame of mind as a team and I am pushing the guys harder than usual, being less understanding and more demanding. I also have in mind ways to follow-up on lessons learned this weekend as we meet to prepare for matches and do our usual post-match assessments and talk thru the next opponent.
I am concerned about one aspect of the field layout. The enormous wide open lanes on both sides of the field. A clumsy 8 year old who doesn't know one end of a paintball gun from the other can shoot these lanes and when teams are on and the paint is good--unlike practice--some teams will be very surprised at their sudden inability to do much of anything on this field.
We have to be prepared to play a game we don't want to and we have to be committed to making it work. At least one match somewhere over the course of the event will require us to grind out an ugly win and that is the match I have tried to prepare us for this weekend.

I'm going to try and post regularly throughout the event on the process and matches as they unfold and follow-up next week by breaking down the field and how we played it.

The Monday Poll

Here's your chance to get it all wrong and then lie about it afterwards. Vote for the six teams you think will be playing on Sunday in the pro division. The top 2 seeds will get a bye to the semi-finals and 3-6 will match-up in a quarterfinal to determine who moves on to the semis. Phoenix dished up some unexpected results; will Chicago do the same or will sanity and the status quo return? Is the power in the pros shifting? How will the new kids on the block do?
The poll will only be open until approximately the start of the first game on Friday so don't delay--get your votes in today. Or at least before the poll closes. And if you want to go on the record with your picks you can go here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In the trenches: Pre-Chicago PSP

It's been a long week. I was on the road most of the week which made posting difficult--(that's an apology for those of you jones-ing for more posts)--and my flight home last night was delayed. I didn't get home 'til after midnight. This morning we had practice scheduled to begin at 9am with the Red Legion. (My drive is around an hour.) Lately, afternoon temperatures have been running in the high 90s.

The PSP released Pro game schedules yesterday (or maybe the day before.) (See how out of touch I've been?) With the collapse of the semi-pro bracket and subsequent inclusion of Entourage & Aftermath the Pro bracket is up to 12 teams for Chicago. And we get 4 prelim games (again!) after getting only 3 in Phoenix. Thanks, PSP. (Though I gotta admit I find it a bit perverse to be grateful to get back what was arbitrarily taken away--but even so.) However--there's always an however, isn't there?--as a result it turns out we play the Legion in the prelims so it made for an interesting day of practice what with each team getting our last pre-event reps in and at the same time not wanting to give away too much.

We've got a ten player roster but CJ tore up an ACL prior to Phoenix. (He might be ready by World Cup.) And Jason Edwards, who injured some ribs working out this past week, is unable to practice and his availability for Chicago is uncertain. He'll be there and he will want to play but given the doctor's report I'm pessimistic. And Carthy missed practice today for a wedding so we ran with seven. That meant guys had to play out of position some points with everybody playing back-to-backs or three in a row. But it was a good thing. When a match is tight and the points are going back and forth and there is little discernible difference between the competing teams--it doesn't come down to tactics, famous names, popularity or past successes--it comes down to who wants it more, who can will themselves to compete despite the fatigue, pressure and expectations, who can execute.

The Legion coaches usually aren't too concerned about "giving away the game plan." They are interested in their players executing the game plan and you can see the fine-tuning as they make adjustments as the points unfold. The other thing they do is chart their opponents looking for patterns they can use in game-planning. Mostly they want to determine the lanes they will shoot for a given opponent and otherwise they are confident if they can get a good "read" that will help them OTB and prepare their players pre-match for tendencies to consider as the points play out they can (and will) out execute everyone. And history has demonstrated it's hard to argue with the way they do things.

I confess I'm not adverse to trying to make things a bit more difficult to discern. In this situation I have a variety of things I'm trying to accomplish and limiting what the Legion can feel confident about when it comes to what to expect from us is one of them. I'm also interested at this stage in our mental preparation more than I am in our execution but it's always valuable to prepare against the best. (With the shake-up in Florida paintball we've been scrimmaging TK--a very solid team--but it was easy to see in the first few points against the Legion this morning that we needed to dial up our intensity and it could have been a rude awakening to show up in Chicago only to realize we weren't where we needed to be.)

If any of y'all find this kinda stuff interesting drop a comment or ask a question and I'll post on tomorrow's practice as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tipping Point

As I'm enjoying the format discussion instead of adding comments I'm going to focus on a couple of items of interest and see about extending the dialogue with some additional related posts. This will, once again, delay the regularly scheduled posts including the series posts you may or may not have given up any hope of ever seeing. I haven't forgotten them--I've gone high tech with Post-It notes. So as long as the adhesive lasts I'll have colorful reminders decorating my computer.

While I'm all for talking new formats and debating ways to "fix" or "improve" the existing game but no change occurs in isolation and every change needs to be examined with respect to the other parameters of the game. The idea of a "tipping point" suggests there is a harmony or balance in the status quo (otherwise it would be in a state of constant flux) and the tipping point is reached when some aspect of the existing balance or harmony shifts sufficiently to change the status quo. Fo purposes of this post and in a game application the Tipping Point is reached when a change, any change or series of changes sufficiently alters the nature of the game so that the game itself becomes something different. I bring it up because one tangent in the comments is discussing the various virtues of Hopperball and/or other measures of limited paint. (Of course the current game also uses limited paint but what the restrictionista mean is even less paint. And along with the cost savings being promoted less paint will mean more movement--both of which are viewed as good things.

Since VFTD long ago pointed out the correlation between ROF (volume of paint) and the potential for movement I have no objection to the concept. Same goes for cost savings. (Who would oppose making the game more affordable?) But--

It's more complex than that. The current relationship between ROF & movement as the game is played now is a function of field dimensions (and field dimensions are tied to effective marker range, more or less.) Imagine a field three times the current xball dimensions with everything else being the same. In the game on phase movement isn't inhibited at all and that doesn't change (much) until the proximity between players closes to ranges within our current field size. And now you may have the issue of bunker relationships--did we begin with the same number on a larger field?--how close together or far apart are they? Too far apart on the same dimensions we currently play and we've altered (again) the balance between ROF and movement.

Once upon a time (I think I've used this illustration before but I like it so you're getting it again) at team practice we decided to play 5 on 5 on a speedball field with pump guns instead of our regular markers because, you guessed it, we wanted to limit our paint usage, save some money, focus on accurate shooting and so on. However, our best laid plans didn't survive the second game as the team that lost the first game realized a couple of things and thought they could take advantage. The first thing they realized was that OTB everyone took up primary positions that covered lanes but also restricted visibility. The other thing they realized was that the dimensions of the field in play meant that a pump's ROF was too slow to control movement. (Given they were old field rentals.) With the next game on one team broke out normally--given they way they were thinking about playing the game--and the other team simply ran them down using speed to counter the pumps ROF and the other team's conception of the type of game they were playing. Once it became clear that the size of the field created an insurmountable imbalance between pump guns versus foot speed the plan for practice fell apart.

The rather long-winded point is twofold; sometimes there's no telling exactly where the tipping point is until you experience the result and when you start making changes in the parameters of the game they cannot be made in isolation without risking running full speed ahead into the nearest tipping point--and who knows how many unintended consequences. By all means let's keep the dialogue going but maybe try to keep the Big Picture clearly in sight during the process. (Of course, the notion of new formats at a minimum implies new, or at least different games from the one(s) we play now.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

Looks like the not so Grand Tour will be competing in Lviv, Ukraine this weekend with 24 teams across 3 divisions, including 8 pro teams.

In the Millennium Series registrations for Campaign continue to trickle in for the event scheduled for the weekend of July 4 which leaves less than two weeks for interested teams to get registered and paid. To date there are 27 open division teams registered; 8 in D2, 10 in D3 and 9 in M5. 14 of the 27 are UK-based teams (as I'm assuming the two U.S. flagged teams are likely made up of American military personnel--though it's just a guess.) Those aren't encouraging numbers but pre-Bitberg the open registrations were also soft until the closing week.
News on the mysterious Millennium Asia affair from a few weeks ago has gone very quiet as no official statements have been made by any of the involved parties although apparently PALS had promised a comment, however principles from PALS and Skirmish (Malaysia) were seen in a heated conversation at last week's MPOC event.

Early NPPL registrations for DC can be found on the website and while there appears to be some duplications (and repeats of/from Chitown?) this would represent some pretty positive numbers given the event isn't until August.
The real news though regarding the DC Challenge is that the NPPL is bringing back some sort of All Star game--no clue on exactly how that's gonna work except it's East vs. West and voters are restricted to recipients of the NPPL newsletter--and if that wasn't enough (and who says it isn't?)--the league is planning on establishing "the world's first sanctioned" Hall of Fame complete with an initial round of inductees, though again, I'm a little sketchy on the details. And, who exactly, is responsible for sanctioning this Hall of Fame? Don't get me wrong, I like the idea, somebody has to start the ball rolling but...are they gonna wheel out Bob Gurnsey (again?) to cut the tape and declare this Hall of Fame official? (Was that too cynical?)

Looks like PSP Chicago is set around 154 total teams. Race 2-X teams total 93 of the 154. Last year Chicago had 95 Race 2-X so those numbers are comparable despite the fact there were over 110 Race 2-X teams registered at one point. This year Race 2-2 numbers topped out at 61 while last year there were 125 Race 2-2 teams. Much has been made of the Badlandz throwback location and diminished prizes as possible reasons for the drop in Race 2-2 teams but it's hard to be certain. VFTD has also wondered if the affiliates are impacting big league turnouts in the lower divisions--as it appears was the case in Phoenix--but otherwise Midwest affiliate turnouts aren't even suggestive much less conclusive. Truth is nobody really knows if it's mostly the economic climate, the collapse of the competitive grassroots, no prizes, the Badlandz or some of all the above and, of course, it's the Year of the Rat.
The PSP has updated their website and it's a big improvement--How could it not be?--with new features including banner ads for the league sponsors along with at least the promise of greater future content. The event begins next Thursday though the Pros don't begin play until Friday.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Format of the Future?

Maybe, maybe not but an excellent beginning point to talk about the evolution of competitive paintball formats--and, according to player testimonials, it's great fun to play.

Are you drawing a blank? Hit the title for a link to the official Formula 5 website for more info--or just keep reading. I stumbled across this on the P8ntballer forum and was intrigued. In part because I've been, now and again, noodling over possibilities for the Holy Grail of tourney paintball, the spectator friendly format. Which isn't to say I'm dissatisfied with the current situation--though in a perfect world I'd rather play "real" xball, but then I'm not footing our paint bill so I grit my teeth and accept certain compromises. (Except 3 damn prelim matches an event! Never! A line has to be drawn somewhere or eventually we'll be paying our entry and flipping a coin to see who won. But I digress...)
I do tend to think however that future changes or competitive alternatives are more likely than not. And as an example Formula 5 has some good things going for it. Played on an airball field larger than the current standard the center of the field has two buttons, one for each team, that set a clock ticking. Pressing your button begins to accumulate time for your side, scoring one point every six seconds until your opponent can reach his button and turn the clock in his favor. That's the focal point and the results are immediately visible on the scoreboard as the two team's scores either get closer or further apart. You also score a point every time an opponent is eliminated or exits the field (having been removed as the result of a penalty or to refill air and/or paint. The other big feature is that players re-spawn (thus also attracting the scenario crowd. Or not.) Fresh players enter as others exit so long as no more than 5 live players are on the field at any one time. The game action is non-stop as there is a constant battle over control of the clock.
That's it in a nutshell. Sound good? Bad? Crazy? Not sure? If you want to know more check the title link and/or P8ntballer for more details.

And, as I said it's a good way to begin a discussion on future formats--do we need them? Want them? Or is 7-man or Race 2 the final frontier for competitive paintball? Later this week I'll see if I can keep the conversation going with Bacaball 1.0.

Monday Poll in Review

The poll was precipitated by ongoing periodic rumors that the PSP has some interest in bringing their brand to Europe. I don't put any real stock in those rumors despite the fact they have some substance. Beyond that the results were utterly predictable. So why did I do it, you might reasonably ask. Mostly on the off chance the league might pay some attention. And, of course, because a little more Millennium bashing is always fun. It's not sport (rather like most of paintball) but it's still entertaining.

When current or former Millennium Series players were asked if, given a choice, they would play PSP Europe or the MS the overwhelming majority chose (95% to 5%)--no great surprise--the PSP. However, the result was not the sort the PSP (or anyone else) ought to assume is an implied promise or even an invitation. The poll was really no more than a referendum on the MS and a reflection of the general dissatisfaction of the player base with the way the league has been operating lately. Chances are the numbers would have been similar if the option had been the MS vs. Another Pan-European league more like the PSP. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It wasn't very many years ago when everyone held up the MS as the standard of excellence. Have they gotten worse? Or the PSP that much better? What if better (by anyone and everyones' definition) really does cost more?

Any change would also be a change to the established order with much of the industry, particularly in Europe, tied to the MS in a variety of ways. How simple would a move away from the established order really be? How many teams are tied by ownership, affiliation & sponsorship to elements of the MS that would fight to resist any new league incursion? It's easy to express general unhappiness. Another thing altogether to do anything about it. Nor have we given any consideration to larger economic factors that at present are, and will continue to, make high level competitive play difficult for many. Bottom line, if the Euro teams want different or better they need to stop waiting for somebody else to act.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

MS London 2010 Layout

And now for something (not completely) completely different. (But not the same either.) There's some basic Home breakout lanes identified. And some key bunkers that will help illustrate how & why this layout will play the way(s) I am about to suggest. The reason I'm not picking out a couple of keys for playing this field is because this layout has some unique qualities and the way I would prepare to play this field is not what I expect to see from the majority of teams and players. It is predominantly a high risk, low reward, technical field. It will encourage teams to be cautious as it penalizes careless or sloppy play. (And by that I mean anything short of superior individual technique will suffer harshly--except when both teams are technically weak.) It is also likely to be a counter-punching field in that it will be possible to close out points very rapidly once one team gains a numerical advantage. Fast points will (mostly) be the result of guns up breakouts. Teams that can effectively run & gun OTB will have a significant advantage--and I mean effective, not, gee we think we're pretty good--but that only marginally mitigates the risk factors that apply to everyone. What multiple guns up OTB does do is increase the reward potential. Given that, there is a good chance CPL teams will also tend to play conservatively.

There are excellent shooting lanes from Home on the "snake-side" of the the field (Left side of diagram.) and with the less than stellar primary options, and the fact Home is an MT, I can see teams going high/low with laners OTB doubling up the snake-side followed by the low shooter ducking into one of the midfield MDs. On the "D-side" the Aztecs are only partially effective lane blockers and there are some creative running lane options; for example, a run toward the D-side corner cutting up to the wire Can. Alternatively, rounding the corner and taking the wire Can.

One of the key complications (see props surrounded by orange squares) is that the majority of the stand-up bunkers are between the 30s. The effect will be to further limit visibility to many of the primary bunkers. On the flip side that should make movement easier but without the ability to confirm positions on the field added to the fact there are lots of "sneaky" shots all over the field the net effect won't facilitate aggressive play. (By sneaky I mean lots of blind shots, available gaps when players work their bunkers, etc.) The placement of the Cans in particular will test players' skill. They can be played, particularly the D-side Can, but they are also very susceptible to inside angles and staying alive in them will often require a compromise that neutralizes their utility. The other props that can be played standing (in orange circles) are the TCKs and the Home MTs. Given the rest of the layout most teams will automatically keep at least one player at Home. The center field TCKs are playable during close-outs while the D-side TCKs are playable anytime but very high risk without the same measure of reward.

The blue props are the Maginot Line of defense (along with Home) and as such will be occupied more often and for longer periods than most of the rest of the bunkers on this field. Fortunately they will prove to be somewhat more effective than the original Maginot Line while sharing some of the same deficiencies. It won't be ideal. It probably won't even be comfortable--not much on this field will be. (Some teams will also prefer the CK or corner Aztec to the risk posed by the wire Can but they are isolated bunkers with poor vision and will invite the opponent to take territory.) Much of what I expect is teams taking up mostly defensive positions and then trying to move the numbers in their favor with an elimination or two before pushing upfield. (A Euro tendency anyway.) Which brings us round to the snake--such as it is. With this snake there can be only one. Either one or the other team controls it, or nobody does. Both teams will not be able to "share" this snake and since it delivers so few "guaranteed" kills access is unlikely to be a high priority until numbers favor one team or the other.

Those are my predictions regarding this layout. If you have any specific questions I'll be happy to give them a go. There is no doubt that this field will separate the men from the boys but I don't know that even the winners are going to enjoy playing it very much.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Commemerating the first paintball game ever played

The Big Bullet crew recently found themselves lost in New Hampshire and decided as long as they were there they might as well look around for the site of the first paintball game ever played. (New Hampshire, who knew?) It proved to be a wee bit more difficult than Mapquest and you can read all about it in a 5-part series. (Yes, it includes pictures as well.) It's an interesting read which is likely to surprise more than a few of today's ballers to see how far the game has come in just 30 years.

But it's more than that. Along the way they also discovered that it's possible we can have the state place an historic commemorative marker on the roadside near the site of that first game--like the photo mock-up. That's right, we can. The paintball community. If it's something you want to be a part of go here for more information. Or, if you're too much the lazy slacker but want to contribute go here to donate. You can even be a Facebook friend and keep track of the progress being made by going here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More on Edge & Edging

This post is about defining terms in an effort to help clarify yesterday's Playing the DZ post. I'd like to thank Mike for the feedback that prompted this post and encourage the rest of y'all to consider doing the same anytime you have a question or comment; good, bad or indifferent. (Just no whining. See blog rules.) And this isn't just for Mike. Since I failed to fully communicate the concept for him I know there must be others as well--so here's hoping I do a better job today.
One thing paintball seems to lack is a generally accepted lexicon of terms for ways to describe the game. Sure, we've got plenty of names for things associated with the game. many of which are more or less universally recognizable, but even so there's also lots of regional idiom at work. For example, if you're from one part of the country you say bucket while the nest guy, from someplace else, says pail. Happens in paintball, too. And then there are ideas and concepts about playing the game. Are there even words for most of them? I don't know. All I can tell you is what I mean when I use certain terms.
That's where edge & edging come in. Let's start with what the "edge" is. It is the imaginary line that separates the visible from the not visible in a straight line-of-sight. Imagine two players dueling, each in stand-up cans. If they are snap-shooting at each other they are using the edge for cover and only crossing the edge when they offer a minimal profile while shooting before ducking back behind cover. In that situation neither player has control of the edge. In a gun battle the players are using ROF and volume of paint in the air to force one player or the other back behind the can, "off the edge," in order to control that edge. See the Secrets of the Red Legion post for the related topic of lane control.
Edging is two related things. It's using an edge to maximize your security while attempting to eliminate your opponent and/or force them off their edge. For example, I use the term mostly when talking about the breakout. When I ask a player to "edge" Home OTB I'm requesting two things. First I want them to use the X by shooting a blind stream of paint over the angled X-side and maintain that attempt as the player moves away from the board moving wither forward or laterally (and usually some of both.) As the player clears the edge (and can see exactly where their paint is going) hopefully it is already sufficiently on target that no adjustment is necessary. The initial "edge" was the line-of-sight where Home was first visible to the moving shooter. But as the shooter continues moving so does the edge. Effective edging gains the shooter an advantage that leaves the opponent no recourse except to continue to seek cover or break cover in a desperate attempt to gain edge control. Edging also includes a situation where one players gains edge control and continues to roll his gun while making a move that alters the edge line to the shooting player's advantage; ie: widening the angle in an effort to expose and/or eliminate the opponent.
So "edging" is both the effort to push an opponent "off the edge" and actively moving the "edge" in an effort to gain advantage or elimination.
I hope that helps and if there are any further questions don't hesitate to ask.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Watching so you don't have to

I'm talking about the broadcast today (in some areas around the country) of the 2010 NCPA A Championship featuring Drexel vs. Long Beach State. You got the email, right? Did you DVR it? Are you curious? Do you feel like you sorta have to watch in order to be supportive of paintball? I feel your pain. Take a deep breath and relax. I watched it so you don't have to.

Here's the thing. It wasn't horrible. It even had some good qualities. It integrated some paintball education in bite-sized, easy to swallow nuggets. It provided enough basic information without being deadly boring to give non-ballers a framework for watching. It had big name stars like Matty (the voice of paintball) Marshall, Ollie, Pony and Florida's own Rocky Cagnoni behind the microphone(s) and in front of the cameras. It even had Patrick "Monkey with a Gun" Sporher doing his best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. (The production didn't have the resources the PSP used to make the hopefully-only-on-hiatus webcast.) The problem wasn't the production values (slim as they were), it wasn't the talent, it wasn't lack of expertise, it wasn't a failure to put the pieces together. Good, smart, creative people did their best with the available resources. The problem was it was a paintball show and despite the best efforts of all those creative people presentations of tourney ball have yet to capture the intensity, grit & action of the game. The fundamental weakness remains the struggle to put the play of the game into a suspenseful and recognizable narrative that tells the story of a match, point by point. Even so, if you're a fan of past paintball programming this will not disappoint. It just doesn't advance the ball any (not that it was supposed to.)
Here's a suggestion for next time. One I don't think will add great expense but might help improve the game vibe. The sounds of the game. Loud. Let's hear some blazin' guns. Players screaming info across the field. Refs shouting for eliminated players to leave the field. Coaches on the sideline. I know, it's there now but it's mostly background noise. Not a part of the play of the gun.

End result: the show is a worthwhile primer of tourney ball for those already interested but inexperienced--and even then, the sooner they get on a field and play the game the better. Oh, and congrats to Drexel. NCPA A division champs for 2010. And runners-up Long Beach State who did it the hard way.

Playing the Dead Zone(s)

There are a number of ways to look at DZ (dead zone) play. This post will offer a (relatively) brief overview while trying to put the various options into context. Included are a number of illustrations that hopefully will help clarify (and not confuse) players unfamiliar with the concept--though most every experienced competition baller (and even woodsballer) employs the concept and has done so since tournaments were played in the woods. Back in the day when (and where) I learned it we called it 'walking the tree.' By keeping a tree, or other blocking object, between you and an opponent it was (is) possible to move without being seen, to be "under cover" out in the open and to use the blocking object as a means to disguise your intentions. The same principles apply in numerous situations like closing out a game (or point). Imagine the last opponent is in a corner. A teammate is on the same wire as the opponent and another is x-side. When a player makes his bunker run between the two pinching guns the bunkering player is using the opponent's bunker to block his vision and close the
distance. And in a breakout situation, either 7-man or xball, it's routine to use the bunkers in the design of a field to limit the wide open spaces available for laning or to use intervening bunkers in order to limit the risk of attempting longer primary runs. For this post the focus is on the use of a DZ for offensive purposes during the breakout. This has wide application in xball but can also have 7-man utility as well.

In illustration 1 (red) we see the zones that are safe from a Home shooter. (All shooters positions are marked with a dot in the appropriate color.) This allows players coming off the board in the first seconds of a breakout to hesitate or delay in order to shoot an additional lane. The lane options are inside out (wide for a runner), cross field, or outside in (edging). Edging employs one of the blocking bunkers to provide an element of the unexpected as the shooter clears the edge in order to lane the chosen target. OTB that's usually Home and is frequently done in conjunction with a wide runner to neutralize (suppress) the effectiveness of the Home shooter.

In illustration 2 (green) the DZs have shifted. The green shooters are in DZs relative to a Home shooter but not necessarily to anyone else. It is important to understand both sides of the DZ coin. Not only who can't see a particular DZ but who can as well as what new lanes and new DZs are in play as all the players on the field are taking their primaries.

In illustration 3 (blue) the shooters are wide. While it is basically correct to say that areas you can't see can't see you need to keep in mind a couple of related factors; how edging works and the proximity of the blocking bunkers. The edging principle focuses on the boundary between what can be seen and what can't and depending on how close the critical blocking bunker is to one player or another that boundary tends to a) get a bit fuzzy and b) can offer opportunities for blind shots. For example, the checkered area emanating from the snake brick reflects two things; the brick is a low bunker which makes it possible to shoot the corner cake either coming off an edge or blind into the deeper area away from the brick. The same applies to the blue area between the widest snake-side pin and the TCK that feeds the snake. Level changes and bunker position can modify effectiveness of a DZ.

In illustration 4 (all colors) any place where all three colors overlap represent DZs that are blind to all the positions illustrated. To expand on the primary utility of the DZ it can be; 1) a secondary laning position when you need to find more effective ways to put paint on your opponent with reduced risk, 2) offers all the benefits of playing behind your gun with dramatically reduced risk when shooting specific lanes or zones whether attempting to contain movement or suppress shooters, 3) gives the experienced player time to read & react to how any given breakout is unfolding and aggressively push the play.

Next time you walk a new field spend some time with your teammates identifying the DZs you think you can play and make a specific effort in practice to try them out and get comfortable playing them and before you know it you're playing a whole new game.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

The weekly update.
Beginning with the MS let me suggest that no one take this week's Monday Poll too seriously. While rumors have been floated regarding a PSP move to Euroland VFTD doesn't believe there is any real chance it will actually happen. The poll should be viewed more as a referendum of opinion on the MS than anything else and is unlikely to tell us anything we don't already know.
There is nothing new on the short-lived brouhaha of a new MS-supported Asian league although I'm hoping to hear more soon.
For the moment put this one in the category of gossip. Not quite rumor but... Euro sources have claimed that there are an undisclosed number of CPL teams that have not yet paid an entry fee this year. If true, it would further undermine the standing of the league. Unfortunately no numbers were forthcoming though some have suggested it may be as many as half. Some of the names are known but VFTD received this info on the condition no names would be included. It is important not to assume such conditional info is necessarily accurate or true or to fail to take into account who could benefit from spreading false gossip. As a rule VFTD judges the quality of the info received in part from the source(s) themselves and in part from the ability to confirm details with other sources. When the subject is as sensitive as this one it is especially difficult however I've included this item because I think there is something to it.
The unlocked divisions have a total of 17 registered teams including 7 UK teams. It remains relatively early days and if Bitberg was indicative the numbers of registered teams will jump as the event date gets close.

Staying in Euroland the not so Grand Tour scheduled for Lviv Ukraine saw registration climb to 22 teams this week with the event less than 2 weeks away. The organizers have put a Saturday night party together at a local nightclub and posted a color vehicle border pass to be placed in the window of any car, bus or van transporting players to the event. From here it all seems rather mysterious and Cold War but I imagine it's just routine and the pass is a convenience to facilitate the border crossing.

The NPPL returns to Pev's the weekend of August 8-10. Unfortunately for some pro teams that is the weekend before the PSP's MAO and will complicate preparation for both events for the teams that play both leagues. No specific information is available yet but VFTD expects the NPPL to try and have a field layout confirmed and released the end of June, first part of July. Word is last year's event was well received locally so there is an expectation of bigger and better this time around. To date only general information has been released. No team count or early registration numbers are available.

PSP Chicago is rapidly approaching as is the final date to register and pay entry fees. Race 2-X registrations have fluctuated in the last week trending down around 10 total teams as crunch time gets closer. There are always more teams registered than eventually enter but the past tendency has been to see both late registrations and entries. I don't recall seeing teams remove themselves from the list of registered teams but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. Currently Race 2-X total registrations stand at 99 and there will be at least a couple more appearing prior to the deadline. Race 2-2 has held steady the last week. VFTD isn't going to hazard a guess on final results based on past history because I'm not sure past results apply anymore. The official deadline is this coming Friday. We'll all find out soon enough.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Monday Poll

This one is for our friends from greater Euroland (or anyone else who has competed in a Millennium event in the past.) I'm asking because it's an interesting question that everyone thinks they already know the answer to and because it ties into tomorrow's MLP weekly update.

Here's the question: If the PSP began running a Europe-based series which would you play?

Obviously the details are uncertain but let's assume, just for fun, that a Euro PSP would be as much like the current league and series as possible. That might mean slightly higher prices but also bigger prizes. Along with a legit player classification system, an actual rule book and generally consistent officiating.
If you haven't played a Millennium event please don't vote. If you know some peeps who aren't VFTD regulars but should participate in this poll please take a moment to encourage them to do so. The more votes the better. I can't guarantee that your vote will make a difference but with your lives entrusted to Brussels y'all should be used to that. Come on and vote. Let's see what happens.

Monday Poll in Review
The poll question was: How old were you when you joined your first competition paintball team? And the optional answers included both an age range and a time reference spanning the 1980s thru the present. I confess to being surprised by the results--at least given my expectations. I expected fewer kids as a relative percentage in the early years and that expectation was nearly reversed but the numbers were never close. No doubt the poll itself served as a filter of potential responders (abusing Heisenberg and all that) in that it's appeal is limited but in a paintball context less so than a blog dedicated to gardening. More likely some percent of Old Skool types just aren't into paintball anymore, particularly competitive paintball, which may (or may not) have skewed the numbers. Or, the numbers are what they are, and serve as a reasonably accurate reflection of reality--because of their consistency.
60% of all votes were in the under 21 age category (including votes for under 18). And maintaining that trend it's interesting to look at the 25 & under numbers versus the 26 & older within the offered time frames. In the 1980s 77% of respondents were under. In the 1990s it was 88% who were under. The 25 & under continue to dominate between 2000-2005 with 70% and between 2006 & 2010 with the smallest margin at 68%. I had expected the over/under numbers to skew older, at least percentage-wise, in the game's early days and show a movement toward youth the closer the voters came to joining a team in recent years.
Do the poll results suggest the conventional wisdom has been wrong all along? I don't think so but maybe, just maybe, the differences aren't as starkly drawn as many seem to think.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Does Small Ball Still Have A Future? (or) Rise of the Evolt

I heard a story this past weekend. It sounds like science fiction. I'm unwilling to even call it a rumor at this point so let's just say it's speculation. But I give it credence for a couple of reasons; the technology exists and it comes from the same source that gave me the original 50 cal story--which nobody believed at first--and the JT Sports for sale story--which JT denied vociferously until the deal was done.
For the VFTD record on small ball type "50 caliber" into the search box and you will get a good selection of past posts going all the way back to the original post from May 15, 2009, 'The Ultimate Paintball Conspiracy.'
With a vocal element of the paintball community suspicious months before the official release and a firestorm of competing claims and "scientific evidence" as samples of 50 cal became available the mood of the marketplace did not (and does not) appear to be particularly receptive to small ball. Add industry resistance from companies like Tippmann and what we know of real world pricing where 50 cal paint is available and it's easy to conclude the whole effort is a likely bust. But that could be a very premature assessment.
VFTD is on the record as suggesting the only market that matters is the recreational rental market. If small ball can make real inroads there the Caliber War will be on. But that too seems unlikely when a company like Tippmann won't play ball and the current economic environment isn't encouraging when it comes to refitting rental markers and carrying additional inventory for two sizes of paintballs. But even so...
Take a look at this. Do you remember what it is? It was called the Evolt. It used an 18 volt battery to generate an air pulse that fired a paintball without an air tank. A production model was never released. Probably because it was bulky and slow.
But imagine a streamlined, up-dated version of the Evolt. One that no longer has to propel a 68 caliber paintball. One that has taken advantage of advances in battery technology. One that only needs to be able to shoot a projectile a fraction of 68 caliber paintball's weight and mass. One that can be delivered to the marketplace at a price point that suits the rental market. Would a rental gun that needs no airfills grab the attention of the rental market? Would it be enough to overcome resistance to the small ball?
I don't know but we may find out sooner rather than later. Is it a hoax? Could it possibly be real? I'm told it's release may only be months away.
I know how this sounds but I'm told the Evolt project was never shelved and that the development work continued. And between the marker's potential and the significant weight & mass savings of the small ball that the combo is a reality and coming soon. If so, will it change everything or prove to be only a niche oddity?

Enlistments for the Week

It appears my friends we are in a race for world paintball domination. The good news is that our competition is organizations like the Millennium Series who can't seem to orchestrate a simple Asian coup without screwing it up or write a rule book when they are (ostensibly) in the business of promoting tournaments. Meanwhile the Deadbox Puppet Army continues to grow.

VFTD welcomes our most recent recruits; Keegan Wong, Jumbu., Jay Hill and aparson. Thank you one and all.

Fight the Power

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NPPL Chicago Wrap-up

If you cared you already know the results and about the thunderstorms on Monday. (Lots of scary lightning & thunder but the venue temperature dropped 15 degrees or more and lasted long enough that it never got ugly hot and humid.) And if you follow the MLP weekly updates you know what the turnout was, more or less, so I'ma focus on the venue, the vendors, the Big Game tie-in, the guns and the Dogs Silver.
What about the Dogs Silver? As one of three D1 teams they got tossed into the pro prelim mix and got trampled. Without complaint--they were right next to us in the pits--they made the best of it and focused on learning and by the time the event was finished on Monday they were the D1 winners. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
Initially the venue was a bit of a disappointment because you can't see any of the cool custom rec fields and because it's way out in Children of the Corn country. Once there everything was easily accessible with plenty of parking. (Seems the CPX folks don't normally charge for parking but thought $5 wasn't unreasonable (as an auxiliary parking lot was part of the preparation)--until the scenario kids cried foul--after which it was announced parking fees would be donated to the fund of money raised for paintball co-founder Bob Gurnsey who is battling cancer. The tourney fields were next to the parking lots as were the vendors--though there were other paved lots for the park further away. The daily drive was 20 minutes plus from a league recommended hotel and Joliet is a few minutes further down the highway than the old PSP Bollingbrook venue. Neither of which was a big deal unless you were planning on spending time in the big city.
It seems however that there is accessibility and then there's accessibility because the word on site was that the vendors weren't getting the volume of traffic they'd hoped for (expected?) from the scenario crowd in part because of the distance from the main park entrance. (The vendors were set-up right by the NPPL fields.) Apparently it was too far to walk or maybe they were counting on a CPX transport to deliver them to an insertion point. At least that was the word I heard and that was consistent with the way it looked to me. I don't know who was there primarily for LL3 and who was there sponsoring the NPPL but the big DYE rig & tent was there for LL3 for sure. The other bigger players were Valken, Empire & Tippmann. There were also quite a few smaller companies repping the event too like Trade Your Gun and First Call. It also looked like Ninja ponied up a few bucks to get a banner and have one end of the grandstand field named for them; as in Dynasty heads for the Ninja end of the field only to get rained out. I'm not picking and choosing who to mention--I just don't pay that much attention.
I liked the idea of the scenario game/tournament tie-in and it was a nice perk that the pro players got to play on Saturday if they wanted to--and I'm sure everyone enjoyed themselves but beyond that there didn't seem to be much interaction between the two groups. Don't know that I expected anything different--didn't really think about it--but if I were to pick a group that seemed more resistant to mingling with the other I'd pick the scenario crowd. But the truth is how much do the two sides really have in common other than the tools of the game?
Okay, it's time to talk gun rules for a second. Look, I'm not going to get into specifics because there's no point in pointing fingers or arguing over who did what intentionally or mistakenly or whatever. What matters is that the rules work and are consistent. And they aren't. In the NPPL they weren't before and they still aren't. For whatever reason the NPPL guys can't seem to give up on their uncapped semi-auto and in an attempt to not be overly harsh in enforcing gun rules on the lower divisions where intent is viewed as less likely--rules are still rules. So it would seem the real intent is to cut the lower divisions some slack, not give the pros carte blanche but at the end of the day the enforcement remains subjective and haphazard and under those circumstances there will be no satisfactory outcome. At a minimum the league ought to at least consider capped "semi-auto" so they have a standard to judge against.
Next stop DC.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

The not so Grand Tour's Lviv event is less than 3 weeks away with 20 teams currently registered. At this rate they may reach two dozen. Fingers crossed. Whatever else can be said it's excellent practice for cross over Millennium teams as they will be competing on the MS Campaign Cup layout.

Having released the Campaign layout and getting the scores and results up to date on their website the league is back in wait and see mode for open division registrations for London the weekend of July 4th.
It also seems as if there may be more to the curious announcement commented on briefly last week tying the MS to a new league in Asia. A press release from the new league was denied within hours and the presser pulled but some follow-up from VFTD contacts in Euroland indicate there may be more to this than has reached the paintballing public. It seems there was some sort of contingent deal as long as certain conditions were met and the Asian side jumped the gun. As time permits further inquiries will be made.
It also recently occurred to VFTD that no word was coming from Euroland regarding televising this year's Millennium action. Despite the approach taken in the 2010 sponsorship package that offered space on tent flaps and cardboard trash cans--visible to cameras that might, just might, pan across the venue to segue into the next high voltage match. To say nothing of branded field opportunities etc. Far as I can tell there is no Mill TV this year.

The NPPL Chicago event occurred last weekend and I will have more on the event itself in separate upcoming posts. Until then I have a question and a comment. The question is--Does anybody know what the dealio was with the more or less topless painted chicks? Was that a NPPL thing, a CPX thing, a Living Legends event thing? Granted, the grandstand wasn't filled with 12 year olds but it struck me as inconsistent with the notion of being "family-friendly." (Not that I complained to management you understand.) Without knowing anything about the bottom line for this event it is clear to me, and has been thru 2 or 3 versions of the NPPL, that every not HB event suffers by comparison particularly when you're selling an experience and not a competition.

Final registration and payment deadline is (an early) June 11th for the PSP Chicago event at Badlandz. That is 13 days prior to the start of the event. As usual I imagine a few teams will be allowed to squeak in past the deadline but I'm also guessing the league may have pushed the deadline back a bit in order to help them pin down the logistics more precisely. Or maybe not. In the past the logistics have been planned on the basis of projected numbers but given the location it may be the league can avoid unnecessary efforts with more lead time built in. There are currently 107 Race 2-X teams registered and it looks like a couple of Phoenix's semi-pro participants will drop down to D1 while as many as 3 others may bump up to pro. Perhaps not an ideal solution--what will happen at World Cup?--but if the numbers aren't there the PSP almost certainly don't want to risk damaging D1 turnout by pushing legit Semi-pro teams and players down even if there is some resistance to pulling them up into the pro bracket. And does this mean pro will be back to a four game prelim? 3 games sucks and there's no good reason not to if the schedule will work, right? (And it will easily with the extra day in Chicago.) Race 2-2 team registrations is up to 68 for a total of 175 teams registered. Seems unlikely that the league will break the 200 barrier but the Race 2-X numbers are solid and a few more Race 2-2 teams should make for a successful event.

The (late) Monday Poll

Better late than never, right?
This one's gonna be tricky so please read carefully before voting. Don't let the question fool you. How old were you when you joined your first team? That's only the beginning. The poll will give you 16 possible answers but I'm not trying to get your exact age. I'm trying to get an age range and (A BIG AND) a time frame. For example, one age group option is: Under 21. Now here comes the tricky part--the Under 21 option will be repeated 4 times because it also includes different time frames. Under 21, The 1980s means you joined your first competitive team when you were under 21 in the decade of the 1980s. And if you were under 21 but joined your first team in 2002 there's a different answer that will fit your specific situation. Got it? I'm curious to see if any demographic patterns will emerge related to when you (and all the other respondents) began competing.

Rock the vote. VFTD will fight for your right to par-tay!

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's turnout was way down but the voting criterion was also narrow; past MLP event players who haven't played an MLP event this year. I was looking for the reasons why and to see what the numbers suggest. (As always none of VFTD's polls are scientific and should not be considered statistically relevant but they're still interesting.) Three numbers stood out. 30% indicated events were too expensive. Of course "too expensive" is relative--what is too expensive today may not have been last year--particularly in the case of players who have shelled out in the past to compete at the major league level. It's no great surprise money is tighter or that "too expensive" was the top vote getter but 30% is a significant percentage. 34% quit playing competitive paintball (with a third quitting paintball altogether.) That also means two-thirds are choosing a different brand of paintball participation but in either case there is a degree of burnout involved when it comes to the competitive game. That suggests nearly two-thirds of all voters are either burned out or can't afford MLP competition. And given the other choices available the remaining vote casters find themselves in one sort of team limbo or another--and I think most of us know what that's like. Teams break up, players move on, it's hard to find like-minded teammates and the struggle ends up not being about competing but about organizing an opportunity to compete consistently.
While the numbers look bad keep in mind it was a tiny sample and the nature of the question pre-determined the negative turn the results would take because it was about why players aren't playing. I don't know that there were any surprises but I do think the burnout numbers merit looking into further. It's not a new phenomenon in paintball--I remember articles about it in the magazines back in the 90s when paintball was kinder & gentler--but if the nature of the game is turning players away who had previously chosen competitive paintball and made a commitment that's a problem. The next question might be: How much of a problem?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

If I'm back from Chicago it must be Tuesday

First, apologies for the long, empty weekend. The wireless at the Fairfield Inn was mostly connection-less as well. And our scheduled return last night resulted in missed flights due to a combination of bad weather and on field success--so I'm not complaining, just explaining. Over the next couple of days VFTD will be catching up on the regular stuff & I'll do one or two posts on the NPPL Chicago event in combo with Living Legends (of which more than a few were in evidence. Living legends that is.)
Second, I'd like to thank Rodney, the Entourage kids and their entourage for their generosity and kind words last night after the event at the restaurant and hotel. And for keeping some of my boys company while they all took turns making nuisances of themselves and generally having a good time. And here's hoping that little video starring J-Rab finds a spot on the internet.
More soon.