Monday, August 30, 2010
The HydroTec paintball news made a splash at first but seems to have fallen off everyone's radar just as suddenly. Of course that's probably because there's no new news to speculate about but I've never let the lack of information stop me before--yes, that was an intentional joke--so it's time to see what y'all think the new paintball will mean for the industry and the game.
Pick the answer that comes closest to your point of view and next week we'll see what the results look like and whether or not you managed to get your Nostradamus on or not. Vote your conscience. Vote for change. Or just vote in the Monday Poll.
Here's a (related) curiosity. Earlier this summer I started to hear some 10-man chattering in the background; the usual what-ifs, how much fun that would be and even a hint or two that somebody might try to resurrect the format for real--and all of a sudden the smackbox at ProPaintball is full of 10-man ranting. Coincidence?
And a current thread in the CFOA forum at PBN that threw out the idea of introducing 7-man in the CFOA morphed into a complaints and suggestions thread. (If you are outta this loop the CFOA is in the same situation as the major leagues having peaked a few years ago.) The most common responses focus on cost, the idea of simplifying by focusing on 5-man and a return to the old CFOA divisions as it seems too many players are being classified out of a chance to compete. Regardless of the specifics or the merits of any complaint or suggestion, in one sense, the thread is really about what tourney ball ought to be like in order for the CFOA to continue and hopefully grow.
When the discussion turns towards how to fix tournament paintball the different answers tell us what the respondents think is the problem. One idea is that the disconnect from our roots in the woods isolates tourney ball from the majority of new players. If so the answer could be some transitional Old Skool type woodsball tournies to introduce the newbies and walk-ons to tourney play. For a while the hot solution was lowering the ROF as all that scary paint in the air discouraged newbies. As John's editorial, the 10-man talk and the CFOA suggestions thread demonstrate there's a group thinking that maybe returning the game to something close to what it was will bring lost players back and invite more new ones into the ranks of tournament players.
Before we try to decide what to do though let's take a closer look at what's different. How is tournament paintball in 2010 different from tournament ball in 2000, 2003 and 2006? On the national scene in 2000 there is only the NPPL. It's year 2 of the cow pasture World Cup. There's a mix of woods, Hyperball and Airball fields. (Correction: last woods year for WC was 1999. 2000 saw some woods fields still in play in Pittsburgh & Chicago.) Electronic markers are becoming more ubiquitous, burst fire capped at 9 bps. Viewloader Revolutions dominate. 296 teams compete in 5-man & 10-man formats. Each field is a different layout. The prelims feature mixed division play but the rules only recognize 3 divisions (Pro, Am A, Am B). However there are so many B teams registered Novice is added and the B's are split into 2 divisions. The whole event lasts a week.
2003 was the first year of the major league split. The PSP (old NPPL) introduced xball at WC '02 and offered 5-man, 10-man and xball. The first year NXL had 8 franchise teams and D1 xball was really a pro-am division. There are 348 teams competing. Overshooting complaints became common and the appearance of ROF & velocity ramping guns in the NXL force the league to begin examining ways to regulate marker performance. It was the first year the pros didn't ref the pros. The first time WC was held at Disney WWOS and there were no wooded fields in play. NXL xball matches were played in two 25 minute halves.
The new NPPL close their first season in Miami with 138 teams, the largest turnout of the season. (That means all you slackers claiming to have been at the first HB are also unrepentant liars. Ok, not all, just most.) The pro teams are playing for a spot in the soon to be locked at 18 team division. The format is 7-man and the league has ties with the MS that allows some ranking points to be scored playing MS event(s). The league tries to ban event sales of Ultra Evil because it stains. PMI prove other paint brands on sale are no different. The league says nevermind. Suspensions explode. Can you say (subjectively determined) major gun violations? The event is played over a long weekend; Friday through Sunday--but everyone comes in a day early to walk the fields.
2006 WC has 304 teams playing 5-man and xball at Disney's WWOS. There are three streets of vendors in the middle of the venue. 11 fields total in play--if I remember correctly. Ramping with a ROF cap of 15 has been in place since the beginning of '05 and it's the second season in the NXL for the Russian Legion. Xball begins play on Thursday with the 5-man to be played over the weekend.
The 2006 NPPL Commander's Cup event was held at the Orange County fairgrounds. There were 125 teams in attendance across 5 7-man divisions. HB opened the '06 NPPL season with 222 teams. Participation peaks at HB and steadily declines over the course of the season. It's a recurring pattern. 3 of the 5 events were held in the parking lots of NFL teams for the third year in a row. Semi-auto remained the core of the gun rules despite the wide availability of custom programmable boards and the failure of the "robot" to catch illegal modes of operation. The pros are only playing Saturday & Sunday on two show fields, otherwise the events run much as they have since the split. It was the last event with the original Super 7 promoter, Pure Promotions, who sell out just before HB '07 amid rumors they consistently lost money running the league.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
All kidding aside it's good to see a solid turn out for the final event of the season.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The premise is that major leagues (and much of the rest) of competitive paintball is in decline from its peak years in the middle of the last decade. So far so good. I think we can all agree that actual numbers of participants is down and the numbers are significant. Beyond stating the obvious and giving a nod to the bad economy--this is where things go off the track--the following paragraphs attempt to make the case for why using some dubious assertions and some outlandishly inaccurate variations of the conventional wisdom. For example, fields are shrinking, as are the bunkers and guns are going faster than ever. The last time a tourney field shrank it was by five feet and as a result of Dye buying the wrong sized carpets for the PSP's LA event in 2006. As for bunkers tall cakes and regular cakes are bigger and more playable than the blocks they replace and I don't recall carrots and wingnuts being particularly large or comfy props back in the day either. And none of those claims post date the high water marks for tourney ball anyway. So if they are contributing factors now why weren't they during tourney ball's peak?
Beyond the suspect claims the principle point seems to be that most players can't play at the highest levels. Another revelation. Of course they can't--and they never have. If he really means the majority can't compete at the national level in any division that's just plain silly. They can and they do. Offered in conclusion is the easy peasey solution of lengthening the field and making sure there's a big Home bunker for the old, fat (slow) guy. Why, do that and we're halfway home to the good old days.
Okay, maybe I am being (overly) harsh and it isn't (quite) that bad but it does seem to me that the whole editorial amounts to little more than nostalgia and a retrograde conception of what the game ought to be. It does, however, lead to an interesting dichotomy worth exploring and does lay a (creaky) foundation for asking some important questions because--despite any real editorial clarity it is observably true that the competitive demographic has skewed younger. And at least with Race 2 the game is more physically demanding. But it's also true that there are hundreds, if not thousands of registered competitors no longer competing at the national level for reasons other than the physical demands of the format.
From a practical perspective the real issue is how to sustain major league competitive paintball when the old model of tournament operation is on the verge of failing. Answering that question is far more important than worrying about who is playing and who isn't. Neither league made money during their peak years.
In addition, the fact is there's plenty of alternative tournament and competition paintball options available for much less than national level play costs and none of them show any signs of replacing the current standards. The potential exists more so today to play virtually any kind of paintball you want than ever before.
Beyond the practical the answers to the following will set the path for the future: Is the game's competitive future to be found in its past or is the answer to keep moving forward? Is the movement towards being a sport unsustainable? Is the transition into a sport necessarily going to remake the game as it's played competitively and narrow, at least for a time, the number of devoted players?
Monday, August 23, 2010
Having glanced over the latest results though I'm curious about an aspect (or two) of the methodology at work. In particular how the issue of two different leagues plays out when only some of the ranked teams compete in both. Clearly, it's a factor as the top 4 teams all compete in both but it does create some potential controversies as well. How does one reasonably compare Vicious with Mutiny, for example. Are the rankings shaded in favor of one league or the other? Can any team that doesn't play both realistically end up on top of the rankings? Would a team that plays both but performs poorly in one be penalized compared to a team that only played one or the other?
Methodology aside, nobody wins or loses on the internet, so it really doesn't matter--but, even so, I can't help but be curious.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Can HydroTec deliver? What happens to the marketplace--and the current manufacturers (of old tech paintballs)--if a new, better and cheaper paintball is introduced? What happens to Paintball? That's the multi-million dollar question.
The Players: the old guard (everybody making the traditional paintball including the return of Richmond Italia.) Includes KEE, DXS and a surprising number of smaller manufacturers around the world despite the North American corporate consolidation efforts (ZAP, X.O., etc.) and companies like GAP & Severe closing down. The new kid on the block, HydroTec (particularly with the rumored support of Kraft Foods) instantly gains credibility--though the proof is in the as-yet-unseen, untested product.
The Game: roughly speaking it's market share, at least for the big players. They have, by and large, gone the route of competing by price (and the economy of scale) although it's not even close to being that simple. Paintballs produced in Asia & India do have a production cost edge certainly on North American manufacturers and probably on Eurokids as well. But proximity matters in terms of shipping costs, currency exchange rates and even the delivered quality of the product. As does high end quality in a portion of the market and the effective reach of a manufacturer's distribution arm. What it amounts to is there are a myriad of factors involved beyond just making paint. The important thing to keep in mind is that in today's paint market there is a balance between quality and cost and the competition over sales is predominantly by price.
The Outcome: Whether HydroTec will kick off a new, hot paintball war is dependant on the quality of the new paintball--from shell consistency, breaking characteristics, marking ability, etc.--and the wholesale pricing structure. That, and their ability to deliver product in a timely manner. Let us assume for the moment the new paintball is as advertised; the functional equal of current paintball tech at something in the neighborhood of half the manufacturing cost. That would put HydroTec in the driver's seat but still leave some wiggle room for the old guard.
How would HydroTec play it? I had assumed the big players would look for opportunities to file lawsuits in hopes of delaying or inhibiting a HydroTec rollout. One source reasonably close to the situation doesn't think there's any room for legal maneuvering. I'll believe that when I don't see it. Basically HydroTec will have two ways of playing this. They can take on the established players by undercutting their best prices and still make a profit as they build a distribution network. And/or they can establish their superiority and then be open to negotiate licensing agreements, perhaps with flagship manufacturers in key regions around the world.
The Fallout: Again, assuming the new paintball is as claimed a variety of things are likely to result. It could be a real boon for competitive paintball where cheaper paint could have a real impact on a player's and/or team's ability to compete. It will almost certainly force the old guard's big players to try and match the technology. It's an open question if HydroTec can "protect" a water-based paintball--as opposed to patenting the process--but it leaves the potential for a small window of opportunity to the old guard. In the meantime even a brilliant success from HydroTec will take time to build up its manufacturing volume and distribution network which is where the old guard's big players find that window of opportunity; in the time it will take for HydroTec to take control of the market. Regardless of how HydroTec works out (or doesn't) the same basic tensions will continue to exist between wholesale cost and end user customer cost. A cheaper case of paint at the wholesale level eases some of the pressure on higher volume retailers and could allow for improved margins but as with the promises of small ball when the retailer benefits that savings isn't, for the most part, passed on to the customer. Or, if the savings are passed along to the customer the current debate over how the local field should operate will continue unabated. To say nothing of what happens to established PBIndustry giants if they can't compete with the new paintball.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
As in the past we first see signs of the next round of losses after mid-season. With Arsenal re-joining the NPPL in DC (and 3 D1 teams tossed into the pro mix) it (mostly) covered the no-show status of Entourage & Explicit. Not as well known a majority of XSV regulars didn't make DC either. Under the surface there is the reduced practice schedules of many pro teams (just like last year) and at MAO there was an undercurrent of dialogue about current pro teams taking a hard look at their ability to continue past this year. The numbers suggest anywhere from 4 to 6 pro teams may be unable to compete in 2011. And realistically similar numbers may come from the other major league although the NPPL may benefit from some two league teams opting to go NPPL only. Assuming the NPPL extends into 2011. (I'm not hinting at trouble--only that even if the NPPL manages to break even in 2010 there remains substantial debt from 2009.)
It will be intriguing to discover if the new paintball (and corresponding rumor of prices & costs) has any impact on pro team attrition or even major league paint sponsorship. Whispers suggest that some dialogue already exists sub rosa on the sponsorship prospects for the prospective new paint manufacturer and a significant cost reduction could breathe some new life into struggling programs.
The other factor that could help with pro attrition is VFTD's oft repeated suggestion that pro field layouts not be revealed prior to the event(s) which would radically reduce practice paint usage and the "need" to burn tournament volumes of paint in scrimmaging points.
(Yeah, yeah, the paint wars is coming. I didn't forget, just got side-tracked.)
It seems there is a likely explanation for Aftershock's poor showing at the recent MAO event. Just prior to the event Shock's mystery moneyman is said to have pulled out leaving the players to fend for themselves at the last minute and leaving their future uncertain.
Here's hoping everything works out.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Tomorrow--breaking down the latest in the paintball wars.
Over the weekend, VFTD restructures the penalty system for Race 2 competition paintball.
Rules are necessary. They give the game shape and substance. Violating those rules requires redress. So far, so good, right?
Here's where I have a couple of questions for you. What's more important, the play of the game or rules enforcement--or is there, should there be, some balance?
Which sort of basketball do you prefer; the game that is constantly being interrupted to send players to the free throw line or the sort that is fast and free flowing the majority of the time?
My gripe yesterday was the lack of consistency in officiating. That lack of consistency is exacerbated by the law enforcement attitude of the referees and the impact of any penalty call on the play of the game which I think is often disproportionate overkill. But current views of the game don't really have any other place to go so we are stuck with pulling bodies or doing nothing. There are no in-betweens, and the only result of official discretion is widely divergent outcomes. What I am advocating is taking a fresh approach to the game and re-prioritizing our goals. Ideally I would like to see the penalties more accurately reflect their impact on the game and focus on maintaining order and basic equity while allowing the game to be played and won (or lost) on the field by the players the majority of the time. (As we are unlikely to ever fully escape the officiated outcome.) We can do better. But first we have to want to improve the game instead of focusing the function of penalties on punishment; merited or otherwise.
Btw, there's no throwing in the towel. Tomorrow, a new system for regulating play of the game on the field by the officiating crew.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I mentioned to two or three people during the event that teams ought to be able to throw in the green flag once a match, like a challenge flag in pro football. (Green only because it's different from the yellow and red used now to signal penalties.) If you see a penalty called (or not called?) that seems an obvious and egregious violation of the rules as it currently stands there is no recourse. There isn't even much time to get clarifications on the actual penalties called. Frequently you have to use your timeout in order to argue a (non-) call. (Which is a complete waste of time and energy and effort.) Everybody I spoke to thought the green flag was an interesting, maybe even a good idea, but from the first time I said it I knew it wouldn't work. And it won't work because there is no non-subjective review possible at the present time. There is only the process we have now that oftentimes sees a clutch of refs huddle after a thrown flag and through the alchemy of proximity codify the call made. But if the green flag isn't a realistic possibility I do have a couple of other suggestions that might be helpful.
All the teams want is consistency. It could be harsh consistency or lenient consistency but the key to good officiating is consistency. Everybody knows it. No reasonable person can dispute it. The PSP commish acknowledges it and to his credit is trying to get the ref crew there. But it's not. They can't even call the no talking after elimination rule consistently. Are you kidding me?
To put a number on it I'd guesstimate that 95% of all calls made are straightforward and should be simple. There aren't multiple things happening with players converging on each other in hard to observe portions of the field, etc. And yet there isn't anything close to 95% consistency in the calls that are made. (Some time ago VFTD did a series of posts on officiating that speak to this particular issue. Check them out here, here & here. The comments are revealing as well.) I can't really explain the lack of consistency in the routine calls--well, yes I can, different refs call the same situations differently, even from incident to incident--but part of the problem is likely to be procedural and the physical act of officiating as it's currently done. Let me explain. On the break there are interior or backline officials and wire officials. If an interior or backline ref sees a player get hit he signals, via gesture or radio, to a wire side ref to pull the hit player. Seems sensible and on its face it is. It even works a goodly percentage of the time. But sometimes it doesn't. (And those sometimes aren't rare occasions.) For whatever reason wire corner refs are often deep in their respective corners somewhere out of the players line-of-sight. The call is made, the signal seen and the ref makes the appropriate hand gesture of elimination--that the player can't see. Not only does this sort of thing happen off the break but it also happens during points from positions all over the field. Refs gesturing a player eliminated from a place the player can't see. The time gap between the gesture and reaching the player often results in a by the rules violation that merits a penalty flag. Which becomes penalty roulette (including the non-call.) Would it be so hard for the refs to verbally call the player(s) out at the same time they are gesturing their eliminations? The players have numbers all over their jerseys. How 'bout the gesture plus "21, you are eliminated. Leave the field."
Next up the simultaneous wire elimination that usually sees bunkered and bunkerer removed from the field accompanied, at some phase in the proceeding, with assorted penalty calls part of the time. This single oft repeated event on the field of play is the most consistently poorly called element of the sport. Period. And the fact is it's not that hard to get right. Most of the time when the wire simo occurs it's predictable. The refs can see it coming and all they need is a second or two of advance notice. The other thing required to make the right call is two refs on the one wire. The ref nearest the player about to be bunkered watches the bunkering player and the ref closest to the bunkering player watches the player to be bunkered. The last requirement is a vocal call. The first ref to see a player hit verbally signals the hit. If both refs call it close together pull both players. If one ref called it with a noticeable gap between the other refs follow-up call eliminate the first one out and wipe off the other guy and keep playing. Is it perfect? No, but with practice it would be a vast improvement that would also see more consistent and appropriate penalties called during bunkering runs. As it stands now refs can't see all the action alone and are often out of position because they have the wrong responsibilities for the given situation and as a result they just pull bodies and sometimes throw flags as an afterthought without real clarity as to what exactly happened.
This last is merely a suggestion. And I'm telling y'all this 'cus nobody else will. When a flag is thrown and a penalty called why is it necessary to get most of the refs in a huddle? Sure, when there's been some moments of chaos on the field and nobody is 100% sure what happened I can see the value in trying to come to some consensus but only just. Even in those situations somebody threw a flag. Or flags. Is that penalty call going to be overruled? Go away? Is the new guy ever gonna say he thinks what three other refs are saying is mistaken? Isn't it all just theater? An opportunity to create a consensus of self-justification?
Look, I understand that reffing pro paintball is almost an impossible task but the refs don't do their cause any favors with all the huddles. If it's a simple call that one ref made why make it harder? If ref A throws a flag is anything more really necessary than that he signal that call to the ultimate who can communicate the appropriate details with the scorekeeper? Every time a routine call turns into a pow-wow it looks suspicious. It just does. Everybody knows calls don't get changed and don't get explained until after the pow-wow. What does that sound like to you? Yeah, me too.
I realize these sorts of posts don't garner me any friends amongst the officiating corps. Heck, for all I know, it results in some unspoken payback but I've been doing this for a long time now and things didn't begin to get better until people were willing to openly address the issues. (And two leagues began competing for customers.) There's another issue related to officiating, a Big Picture issue, given the acknowledged inconsistencies that I'll address tomorrow.
Later this week VFTD will break down where this move may take the paint wars.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The pro quarters began at 8am with Aftermath meeting Entourage. This was a first for Entourage who had played well if somewhat scattershot paintball throughout the prelims. The characteristics that make Entourage fun to watch and dangerous to play also tend, on occasion, to be self-destructive. In some respects the two teams mirror each other in style, youth, energy and capacity to harm their own cause. Given a little time and a little maturity they will both get better. This time around Aftermath came out on top only to be rewarded with a semifinal against the Red Legion who carried the only perfect record into Sunday.
In the other pro quarter Damage played Impact in a rematch of the Phoenix final. By this stage of the tournament Impact was, more often than not, playing a dorito wire heavy game and Damage, for whatever reason, continued to struggle to get on track. One of the intangible qualities of this year's Impact is a collective unwillingness to get rattled or give up. Point after point they continue to fight. It's similar to the Ironmen mantra of "bloody knuckles" which I take to mean they are ready, willing, able and determined to make every match a brawl if that's what it takes to win. Damage got two majors on the second point and started the next two points down 3 on 5 but it was only two points because they managed to burn off both penalties while only giving up two points. Down 1-3 it felt like a fresh start in the Damage pit but the penalties kept coming. In the end Damage was assessed 4 majors and 2 minors and lost to a confident, consistent Impact team.
In one semifinal Aftermath went all out to challenge the Red Legion and scored some early points. They were bold and unafraid but over the length of a Race 2-7 match they were also no match for the Legion. Beginning on Friday the Legion were playing hard, precise, fast and elegant paintball. The layout suited their talent and they were impeccably prepared and executed their game plans like the Russian Legion machine of old. For anyone who appreciates and understands what xball can be to watch the Legion play the MAO was a thing of beauty.
The other semi, Impact vs. Ironmen, was a battle; no quarter offered, no quarter given. Where the Legion was paintball blitzkrieg Impact versus the Ironmen was trench warfare. Back and forth, move and countermove, a combat of attrition. It was the kind of game the Ironmen had been playing all tournament long. Tight close matches, multiple overtimes. Frequently not pretty paintball but that's not really the point. Despite the tough year to date and all the roster moves the Ironmen that showed up for MAO earned their name and proved they will be a team to be reckoned with come World Cup. The only blemish on their semi loss to Impact was some controversy at the final call of the match which swung the point in favor of Impact. Ask any ten people what happened and odds are you'd get at least half a dozen different answers. The Ironmen protested but it didn't matter, they were out and Impact would face the Legion for a second time. First time around they'd lost 7-1 in the prelims.
We decided to call it an event and pack up when the rain started coming down hard before the pro final. After getting knocked out early it was either hang around the event or hang around the hotel and the team had split on their preference so I'd stayed with the group at the field. Those hours are among the few I have at tournaments to chat with friends and enjoy paintball. Even so I'd rather not but there it is. As we readied to leave Gary Baum of Paintball Photography asked me if I wasn't staying for the final. I told him I already knew the outcome--barring act of God or the officials--and since it's Tuesday you know how it turned out, too.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
The morning pro bracket had a few surprises. Much to the dismay of the Midwest Aftershock struggled, seemingly unable to find the quality of game that has propelled them to talk of glory renewed this season, and finished out of the running at 1-3. Entourage turned that result around and went through 3-1 as the four seed and a Sunday morning match-up with Aftermath ( 5 seed) whose strong Friday wasn't matched with an equally strong Saturday. Vicious failed to reach Sunday but played like they belonged for the first time this season taking two wins home with them. And the Red Legion took the top seed and a bye into the semi-finals with an unblemished 4-0 run and some dominating play.
After Day 1 our plus/minus put us at the top of the teams that went 1-1. It's not much but sometimes the smallest of margins make the difference between going on and going home. After the first day it looks like Aftermath is on their game and Infamous is uncharacteristically off theirs but yesterday's scores are just that, old news. And doing half the job isn't enough to get you to Sunday and nobody is eliminated the first day. (Hey, paintball has cliches, too!) We needed our first match of the day against Aftermath. All my calculations tell me we can get through with a split--though it's hardly a given--but our odds go up significantly if the win is against Aftermath. Aftermath is a good team with a developing roster, a building organization and a good mix of experience, exuberance and hunger. After splitting the first two points Aftermath gets a major, followed two points later by another. It's an invitation to finish the match before it ever gets started and that's exactly what we do by a score of 7-1. The result leaves questions unanswered but it is a match we needed to win. Those questions will be answered in the last match of the prelims when we face Infamous. All year long, or so it seems, we keep banging into these guys. In 7-man we've had the upper hand but in xball they dealt a second consecutive second place trophy. The numbers going in leave Infamous small hope of going through but of more immediate concern is winning the match at hand. It's hand-to-hand combat from the beginning as we eventually forge a 3-1 lead. Amid penalties and some brawling paintball Infamous brings it back to 5-5. A final 2 point surge leaves us with a hard fought win, a sweep of Saturday and a trip to Sunday morning paintball and a match-up with Impact.
Whatever Saturday paintball demands it's nothing compared to Sunday. All the preceding effort has done is earn us a seat at the table of those who can finish Sunday as MAO pro champion. The real tournament begins tomorrow.
Friday, August 13, 2010
In case you were wondering--yeah, it's bloody hot. The field is in excellent condition and the PSP extended our time between points to two minutes in response to the heat. More of the same tomorrow.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Latest word on KEE move to Arkansas is that Chicago area offices are most likely to be moved to Arkansas when the leases are up soon. That may mean corporate HQ will stay in New Jersey. At least more than a few current employees and New Jerseyites who are hopeful that's what it means.
The kids at ProPaintball posted a guest post from regular VFTD commenter "be smart" regarding the potential for serious heat-related issues at the MAO--after the PSP issued a warning of the possible dangers--suggesting that going one step further and modifying the schedules might be worth doing so that everyone (more or less) gets some respite from the projected heat. Which is all well and good. I don't expect the league to shuffle the schedules at this point and that's fine too. The part I didn't understand was all the animosity reflected in the comments. Heat and hydration issues have come up before and will come up again. What the hell is the matter with some people? And, no, I'm not going soft in my old age. It just strikes me as a bout the dumbest possible stand to take; screw you, drink water and anyway, heat stroke ain't so bad. Really?
Last but definitely not least there has been talk floating around the paintballosphere about a new, virtually unknown, paintball company for some time now. It's rumored to be a paintball manufacturing company. I first caught wind of it some weeks ago but have been sitting on it hoping to get some real meaty details. In the last week or so it seems the word has gotten out but so far the meaty details remain a secret--or so it would seem--as it appears that nobody knows much at this point. If you like enigmas wrapped in mystery and surrounded by secrecy this the conspiracy for you. More when I can confirm it.
The dark blue shading indicates our basic OTB primaries. For example we decided we wanted to play the snake corner SD despite all the guns that could put paint on it. We wanted to have the widest possible gun to work the edges of the snake side MT and MC as we pressed to get into the snake. (Efforts across the field to take the snake OTB failed more often than they succeeded.) The corner SD could also shoot D2 and play the gap between the U & the 50 Dorito which was important against Dynasty. With the C feeding the snake surrounded (MT, MC, SD) it provided multiple options for getting into the snake as well. Additionally we had a primary run to take the C OTB--see blue dash line--that mimicked a corner run but dipped inside the SD and used the C to block incoming paint. Our Home shooter laned snakeside, the blue circle was a floater with differing primary lanes and the last two played the carwash down the D-wire and the D-corner. Two of the primary runs had delays to allow the shooting of separate lanes. Snakeside MC shot over the carwash looking for careless over the top play as well as in an effort to drop paint on the CK, where players often delayed before taking the corner. Our carwash corner held up to shoot a lane thru the U looking to catch a player moving to the snakeside MT or someone shooting a similar crossfield lane. Home shooter immediately after shooting initial lane went upfield to the center MT. That left the floater free to seek targets and lanes of opportunity although he also had a priority to play D-side if we dropped anyone on that wire. The green arrows indicate the basic secondary moves; the blue lines most of the early shooting lanes and the orange line represents Alex Fraige's run to get into the 50 dorito or U. (As mentioned in the DC Challenge recap post a couple of days ago.)
The biggest differences OTB were whether or not to delay moves to the corners (some teams were comfortable skipping the snake corner though most everybody wanted to fill the D-corner at some point); delay the move to D1 (as everybody was pounding that gap) and whether or not to go to the U early or use the center MT to launch a counter.
Nothing real fancy. Mostly just about playing smart paintball, executing a little better than the other guy and pressing home the advantage if/when you had it.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Before I go any further you need to go here and see what JB (Junior Brown from XSV) has to say about S7. His post is most of the way down the page. He lays out the basic game and the changes so I don't have to. (Thanks, JB.) He also makes clear it's a work in progress.
So what's the point? I'm fine with trying to improve the format but I'm also curious as to why. Why now? And why like this? The obvious answer is that almost two years into the NPPL 3.0 experiment there is little evidence the existence of the league is increasing competitive player interest in the 7-man format and breeding new 7-man teams. At least not in encouraging numbers, numbers that show progress. Other than returning to 2005 what can the league do? They hold events in Vegas and on Huntington Beach. They brought back the All*Star game, offer player parties, improved reffing, offer assorted perks and very nearly ignore what passes for gun rules so all the true believers in true semi-auto have a place to compete and still they have to supplement 7-man play with pump and 5-man entries. What's a league to do? Oh, yeah, fiddle with the format.
This is problematic too however. Especially when it appears, at least initially, that the changes being considered are moving the game closer to the game played by their primary competitor, the PSP. Right now there are clear and bright dividing lines between 7-man and Race 2. Format changes that move closer to Race 2 run the serious risk of conceding the format war--in favor of the other guy. Will it benefit the NPPL 3.0 in the long run to jump on the Race 2 bandwagon while insisting their version is better? Maybe it will. Maybe no coaching, a different shaped field, 7 players instead of 5 and Wild West gun rules are what the players want--but if so there is little to no evidence supporting the idea. And none of the modifications offered by S7 address the crucial issue--there are very few places left to practice whatever version of 7-man the league might decide on even if an influx of interest suddenly appeared. The only real future 7-man has is one that rebuilds a grassroots interest in the format.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
(Is it just me or are the airlines cutting back on flights? Flying when we needed to fly we had to go to Dulles by way of Boston--which might be understandable if we weren't coming from Florida.)
There was a more modest grandstand this year, something similar to what PSP puts up for their second field but it was sufficient. The biggest turn out seemed to be for the All*Star event between Pro sessions on Saturday. With a couple of teams missing there were a few extra all*stars picked up for the match though I don't know if it was equal numbers across the board or not. Josh Davey was unable to attend so Frank (Connell) filled in as the East captain. The custom jerseys were quite nice and last I heard were supposed to be signed by the participants and auctioned off. Check the NPPL website for the details. The game itself wasn't particularly exciting as the West swept 3 straight games to take home the bragging rights. The format used was pretty much the old compromise suggestion between xball and 7-man from a few years ago. Playing multiple points within a time limit and using a 3 minute turnaround between points. The clock only runs while the game is in play. If you called it 7-man Race 2-3 that would be about right.
There was an equally modest vendor turnout with Valken, CP, the HK RV repping PBFashion, an RPS paint trailer and a few others I honestly didn't pay any attention to. Pev had a VIP area by the bleachers which did a good job of keeping the riff-raff out so I can't tell you who was allowed in and who wasn't. Usually it's vendors, sponsors, special guests and some players--let's call them FOCs, friends of Chuck.
I skipped, er, missed the party Saturday night--you know, sleepy--that was to include the Hall of Fame announcements so I don't have a clue how that turned out or who the first round of inductees was.
Our roster was a bit different from Chicago. We replaced Ramzi with Chad and Bart and the Impact kids were generous enough to loan us Warren Stojanowski, who was a standout all weekend--for a Canadian. Practice on Friday settled how we would begin play on Saturday and for the most part it worked fine as we won 5 of our 6 prelim games. (The brackets were a little different this event as we had D1 teams mixed in like Chicago but fewer Pro teams so one bracket got 6 games, the other got seven.) I was a little frustrated with our laning off the break as I thought we had some real opportunities to get some kills we mostly didn't get. Beyond that all Saturday does is give you the golden ticket to play on Sunday and if you can't step it up what you did on Saturday usually won't be good enough to move up on Sunday. Sunday morning we made a couple of changes (moved J-Rab and Alex) hoping to open up the offense and transition to offense more quickly. We also went through some breakout modifications because by Sunday if you're too predictable the other guys will make you pay. Even so we struggled. (5-2 may not seem like it but J-Rab & Jason pulled out a big game against Blast and we just weren't sharp early.) By Sunday the remaining teams had good ideas of where they wanted their initial lanes, who they wanted to kill, who they wanted to protect and how they wanted to play. In hindsight I may have dialled us back a little too much when we weren't getting eliminations off the break. Going into Sunday we had 3 runs I was prepared to use to shake things up. Runs, that prior to Sunday, I hadn't seen anybody use then what do you know, first Dynasty and then Infamous use 2 of them. That doesn't mean we won't call them, only that the element of complete surprise no longer exists.
There's a couple of schools of thought along these lines; either you show your opponents a whole bag of tricks and hope it keeps them guessing game to game or else you use your tricks judiciously to shake things up and gain an early advantage in a game when you really need it. As it turned out we never used any of them on Sunday.
The quarters shook out with us facing Dynasty and Dogs versus Infamous. Dynasty was relying heavily on Alex's play up the middle and a strong d-side push. Against us we expected Alex to want to play the 50 dorito with the U as a fallback. We decided how we would counter that, hope to contain Alex and take advantage of what we felt was our snake wire strength. First game was a war of attrition with both teams dropping bodies until the final minute when a burst of activity and some chaos left everybody gasping and the refs guessing until Dynasty was declared the winner. We regrouped, remained confident and I encouraged a more aggressive pace. We won game 2. Game 3 was much like game 2 and once Spence got Alex out of the middle we pressed our field position advantage and closed out game 3 for a trip to the final.
Facing Infamous in the final we changed some lanes and talked about what we expected them to do. I wanted us in the snake first and I wanted to keep LJ off the d-wire as long as possible and Spence had the green light to push the middle of the field. Fortunately we were playing our best paintball of the event in the semis and finals and in the second game against Infamous Spence slammed the door shut by taking Nicky out of the U and posting up in the 50 dorito to take out two more Infamous players on the d-wire.
There were big plays from a couple of players but there was consistently solid play across the board with everybody contributing to our success. And it's particularly gratifying to watch the guys prove they are among the best players in the world.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
This just in: NFL contemplating putting microchips in footballs. To be used to confirm with GPS precision whether the forward spot of the ball really crossed the goal line or was a first down. Where officials sometime fail let technology take over. And wouldn't you just know it, I have a Paintball parallel. Imagine a reusable projectile with built in sensors that correspond to similar sensors embedded on the players gear and equipment. When a projectile makes contact such that sensors in the projectile and the gear both signal contact the player is eliminated. The projectiles can be used over and over, say good-bye to paint cost. No broken paint at all. Which kinda sounds like Airsoft or laser tag. Okay, obviously the concept needs some work. Probably a lot of work. Moving on ...
One thing Paintball doesn't need is a rookie salary cap. But it could use some more rookies.
Don asks, "How many times can Johnny Perchak retire before we start making Brett Favre comparisons?"
Looks to me like you answered your own question, Don. Let the comparisons begin. Unfortunately for Johnny they begin ... and end with the fact both have done it more than once. Although you could say at least Johnny didn't go play for his former arch-rivals ... um, nope, scratch that too. At least Johnny didn't go to the Hall of Fame and ask for his donation back. Of course that would require a couple of highly unlikely scenarios; Johnny being as attached to his slider shorts as Brett is to his thigh pads and paintball would need a Hall of Fame. Oh. Here we go again.
Since Don started with the football comparisons I think we need to see how far we can go with that. Who is the LT (former MVP maybe on the downside of his career) of paintball or the Ochocinco? Is there an America's team; the team everybody either loves or hates? Let's hear what you got.
Papa Chad asks, "Do you feel we have hit the competitive skill ceiling?" and followed it up with, "If we have, do you think the skill ceiling should be higher?"
The short answer is no. If pro paintball had the resources of other real pro sports I think you'd be surprised by the result. How many baseball fans can tell the difference between the top two AA power hitters when team scouts already know one of them can't hit a major league quality curve ball? Or a better analogy would be the speed of the game difference between college football and the NFL. Plenty of great college players, signed for lots of money, can't make the transition. They work hard, have real skills but don't quite have it, for whatever reason. Sam is true of pro paintball.
Mike wants to know, "What have teams done differently this year to help them rise to the top? (ie Damage, Impact, Infamous). I want your opinion, not the vanilla answer of player pickups or whatever."
I was initially going to go with whatever but you took the smartass answer off the table. I can't speak to the Impact or Infamous situation--well, I could and I can but you're not going to like those answers. Damage opted to go with Santeria. You know, the whole Serpent & the Rainbow thing. We couldn't quite manage robots but figured zombies was a close second. And the only real downside to the Santeria rituals is the blood and chicken feathers. Otherwise I think the results speak for themselves.
Now for the "vanilla" answer. We've been working on this with the majority of our players for awhile now. This is our third year pro and we began with a plan. Each year we set goals and we work within the confines of the real world limitations we have to deal with. We are in the neighborhood of where we intended to be and we still have lots of room for improvement. In the case of both Impact and Infamous what you're seeing is a solid core supplemented by the "right" players. Both teams are among the league leaders in resources, organization, experience and excellent team chemistry. They made good decisions that have led to positive results. There are no guarantees but it's working out. Of course the league(s) are different too. With no Philly those players have upgraded a number of teams while leaving a Philly-sized opportunity. And top to bottom the PSP probably isn't as deep as it has been in the past at times.
In a similar vein Be Smart asks, "Recently we have seen several Pro teams make adjustments to their rosters (Ironmen adding SK to coach, Dynasty adding 2 players). . would you care to comment on how roster changes can affects a team's dynamic in mid-season?"
In a game like paintball it's a crapshoot. If things aren't working the way you wanted them to anyway a change is unlikely to make matters worse and sometimes it's the only option for making them better. In the Ironmen's case bringing in SK is a change in the working relationship of coach and players while maintaining the team's organizational structure. Change can often be good, shake things up a bit. On the flipside if things are good why take the chance? In Dynasty's situation they've taken on seasoned players who have defined roles who, on the whole, ought to be easier to integrate into the team. Even so, again there's no guarantee as we've slipped into the chemistry zone. You see it all the time in every sport. The big name all-star type teams frequently don't pan out and it's not because the players can't play. It's because, somehow, they are missing the intangible that makes them a team.
Be Smart continues, "Could you walk us thru the decision making process for picking up a player to play Pro ball? How much value does 'chemistry' factor in as opposed to skill?"
In our case we were short a roster spot. There was no pressure to fill it but it was open. In the background I knew the role I was looking to fill. As it turned out a young guy who fit the bill also fit with the team. We didn't go looking. In fact we held off making the permanent move until I was convinced he had what it took because he was so young.
In the off season the team was contacted by a lot of current and former pro players looking for an opportunity. We turned most of them down, spent some time talking with a couple of players where the timing just wasn't right and by the time pre-season practice began we had nine players we were very happy with and started to get ready for 2010. Don't get me wrong, we didn't turn players down because we thought they weren't capable--mostly because we believe more in team than we do in talent. We're a Florida team so our guys are Florida guys. (Yeah, I know J-Rab plays 7-man with us and isn't from Florida. For 7-man it's okay 'cus he's a seamless fit with the other players and we don't practice 7-man unless we can do it at the event venue.) Along the way Jason brought his little brother to drills practices. The team liked him. He fit. The chemistry was good. Instead of having one older brother to give him crap he's got 8. And that's important. But it's also important that Jacob had solid technical skills and that he has a great attitude and work ethic.
I guess the answer to chemistry versus skill is they are at least equal though if pressed I'd give the nod to chemistry. We can teach the right kind of player what they need to learn.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Also, I haven't (yet) forgotten about the new POA (Paintball Operator's Association) being run on a day-to-day basis by PBN as it gets organized and accumulates members--or doesn't. The introductory thread is worth reading for those who have any interest in this topic. It's potentially a big deal and a very good thing for Paintball but realistically is also probably behind the eight ball given Paintball's history. I'm not thrilled with PBN's involvement but so what? If this is what it takes to get launched then better PBN have a part in the process than not. The only thing I would suggest at this stage is perhaps they reconsider the introductory membership fees which are currently tiered by the scale of the field operation of the potential member. Right now there aren't a lot of benefits, there's a need for members and the less risk involved to those considering joining the better. Gotta have members to make it work and there is an obvious hurdle to overcome due to past failures and, in some quarters, PBN's involvement. Make the introductory fees identical for everyone and let the members decide if that needs to change in the future or not. Either way the POA deserves a chance to succeed.
Planet's blog page--later picked up by ProPaintball--is reporting Tyler Harmon from XSV to Impact. What I'd like to know, just because I'm a snoop, is Tyler bailing on XSV or did Bart or P-E do something for XSV in exchange? And how much of a player in some of these recent moves is P-E? Billy B. to Dynasty also first appeared on Planet's blog page. (July 28th)
Monday, August 2, 2010
Okay, so talkin' paintball is kinda tough but we still have the teams and the players. Sort of. Without continuity teams struggle to build a fan base and the players, most of them anyway, are virtually anonymous to much of the competitive paintball world. That was slightly less true when there were a fistful of printed mags but even then the mags tended to be starmakers or star-perpetuators and paid only scant attention to the rank & file pro.
Which is where traditional and new media have an opportunity to step up. (And have always played a role.) Although as was also pointed out in the comments it's difficult if not impossible for paintball media to act as disseminater of information, watchdog, friend of the game, etc. all at the same time when it's industry money footing most of their bills. (You might be surprised that cash paying advertisers don't like bad reviews or lots of pictures of the other guy's gear.) Of course if paintball specific media can't pull it off then maybe it's time sports media got involved. Oh, I know, easy to say but how to make it happen? (Coming later this week in the long promised league promotion post. Promise.) In the meantime part of the future is direct outreach. (Which we're seeing.) By the industry. Direct advertising & promotions. By the teams with videos and Facebook. Even by players with personal websites and social networking and other venues. By folks like Social Paintball and Traumahead. (What's the chance of the Traumahead TV shows being made available in alternative formats?) And MWAG & Derder do awesome work but part of their appeal as documenters of the sport trades on already established teams and players.
No wonder this talkin' paintball thing is hard.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
UPDATE: As the Paintball Turns. Looks like J-Rab will play on Saturday but be unavailable on Sunday as the Legion are having some visa issues and won't arrive now until Saturday late. Meanwhile Ramzi has backed out (with a sore back) and left us scrambling for a replacement. Fingers crossed its been handled. There are starving players in third world countries desperate for these opportunities.