Friday, December 31, 2010

Lane's Letter to Whom It May Concern

Regarding the changes to be made in the PSP for 2011. (Btw, title is link to Lane's statement.) I'm not sure there's much more to be said--but when has that ever stopped me before? Regarding Lane's statement I wouldn't have expected anything less. It's a clear, reasonably concise, logically ordered combination of explanation and intent that tells anyone who is willing to listen why Lane has made the decisions he has made. And given that I have the advantage of knowing Lane fairly well I have no doubt at all that his statement is also both sincere and honestly what he believes to be in the best interest of the PSP and the teams and players who want to be able to compete nationally.
Of course I've been convinced of all those things all along. And I hope all the fence sitters will give the changes a try and see what they think after playing with the changes.
Does any of that mean I'm going all wobbly? Not so much. I remain concerned that some of the changes won't achieve their intended goals. That doesn't make me anti-PSP. Just the opposite in fact. Look, however all this shakes out you'll find me at the first event of the season doing what I've been doing since 2003.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday's The Monday Poll

Before you start complaining remember you get what you pay for. And what you get this week is your very own prediction poll. (Next week I'm thinking of doing a resolutions poll. Don't ask how that's going to work, I've no idea.) Anyway, the idea this time around is you get one vote, count 'em, one vote to predict next year's biggest winner. Hey, it could be there will be plenty of winners next year and/or plenty of losers but you only have one chance to identify who will walk away with the largest chunk of glory. Go ahead and whine. It is what it is. And if you don't believe you can go with "nobody."
As always vote early, vote often, encourage your friends to jump on the bandwagon.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Poll in Review

No worries. There will be a new Monday Poll posted sometime today. So if you're on the verge of hyperventilating grab a paper bag--does anyone still have one of those?--and breath into the bag until you heart rate normalizes. Nice and steady. Thing is I'm traveling today so I split up the new poll and lasts week's review out of the kindness of my heart. Yeah, that right. And because I couldn't wait to comment on last week's poll; How much is paintball a part of your holiday gifting?
Do you remember that I confessed to having unconventional thoughts related to last week's poll topic? (C'mon, it was only a week ago. Jeez!) Well, I did. The tendency has been to rate the "health" of paintball directly to the sales figures of PBIndustry and while I understand the industry seeing things through that lens I don't think it's necessarily a particularly accurate assessment.
Were any of you surprised by the poll results? I wasn't. It was, in fact, almost exactly what I would have predicted--even from a self-selecting paintball active audience. (And if I had to guess I would guess some of you didn't participate because the numbers would have ended up looking even worse. You know, besides the lazy slacker thing.)
The poll from two weeks ago asked you all to self-identify your place within paintball and we pretty much had every facet covered. And yet, for 65% paintball purchases weren't a part of presents given or received. 2 out of every 3 players didn't give or receive a gift related to paintball. 15% bought themselves a paintball-related gift and 9% gave and received paintball related gifts. 5% gave a paintball gift and 5% received a paintball gift. And only 1% gave (or received) a gift valued above $500--right at the bottom range of the mid-priced markers.
So what does this poll suggest? That any minute now nobody will be playing paintball? Or something else?
First thing it suggests is that new product sales is a very important number to industry types but doesn't really tell us a lot about who or how many people are playing paintball right now. And when everyone is bemoaning the imminent collapse of paintball they are likely confusing a few issues. Is the established industry in potential trouble? Yes, but the industry isn't paintball despite the fact they seem to confuse the two regularly.
The something else goes like this; the numbers suggest there isn't a significant influx of new players and it's mighty difficult to guesstimate what the impact of the secondary market is--and whether or not there is a glut of second-hand product out there. And the poll itself might suggest that many players have most of what they need to play and perhaps even much of what they want unless it simply isn't currently affordable. It would be far more interesting and to the point to collect actual participation numbers on the ground from local fields. I don't doubt that overall the trend is down but down from what exactly? Down from the enormous (and unsustainable?) sales numbers of a few years ago? All those numbers really proved was that a lot of stuff was being bought. Was there a Golden Age of paintball or was that just another bubble in an era of easy money?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays you lazy slackers.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Lazy Slacker Re-post of the Week

This week's post was originally posted in November of 2008 and was titled, Pro Ball Blues. (Still is, actually.) It's about the state of paint sponsorship at the pro level and the toll it was taking. I thought it might be of re-newed interest on a couple of counts. Having gotten used to pro team attrition (sorta) I wonder what the numbers and teams look like if you go back to say, 2007 and add it all up. Between then and now who's gone, who is new. What teams have managed to carry on and what is the likelihood of any real continuity among the pro ranks?
Then there's the changed paint manufacturing situation with GI Sportz, Valken & HydroTec in play. Do their arrival on the scene alter anything? GI Sportz is making some moves. Valken is supplied by GI and HydroTec hasn't managed a rollout of product yet despite the hoopla. My prediction is that there may be more paint available this year but if there is it will go to the haves and won't help the have nots at all. (Although it may be GI Sportz relationship with Shock that keeps them a viable team. Just a guess.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pony Back in Harness reported recently that Chris Lasoya will be playing for Aftershock in 2011. Looks like the PSP changes are working.

(Sorry, Chris, I couldn't resist. Truth is it will be great to see you on the field again. I'm looking forward to it.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Older, Fatter, Slower, Round 2

The PSP has gotten such a positive response to their off season changes it seems the NPPL has decided to emulate at least one of them by changing their bunker set. (Link is in the title.) The U is gone as are 2 Cakes and 1 Small dorito. In their place two 5 foot cubes and two 8x8x5 foot wings (triangles). Independent of the other changes this may work out fine and the new bunkers may prove popular but I can't help viewing this with a jaundiced eye. (I wasn't always so cynical. Oh, who am I trying to kid, of course, I'm cynical.) Look, here's how the league press release reads, "The goal is to provide larger bunkers on the field making it harder to get eliminations off the break and promote longer games." What that means is hey, we want all those old, fat & slow players to come play NPPL instead of PSP. If they really wanted to make it harder to eliminate players OTB then don't let anybody shoot OTB. Simple. Or have a no laning zone around the start bunker so that no one can shoot until they are outside the no shooting zone. And seriously whose idea was this really? C'mon, the leagues are not driving these bunker changes. The manufacturer is and the leagues go along with it.
What's next? Widen the field 10 feet on each side? Allow pit-side coaching?

UPDATE: I have been taken to task for being somewhat too cynical and all-inclusive in my closing comments. In the interests of accuracy I need to clarify a couple of points. Chuck initiated the NPPL bunker changes this year as the league decided to get rid of the enormous U. The specifics were decided in a dialogue between the league and the manufacturer.
Additionally the argument was made that some modest changes are good in general in that it gives players new shapes to learn how to play and provides fresh creative inspiration. Which I think is a fair argument to make in favor of regular change. Otherwise I will stand by my claim that the prime mover in adding, changing, modifying the bunker sets is the manufacturer and I'll leave it you to decide if that's a good, bad or in-between thing.

Another Take on Sport

"But what do we mean by advancement? I think it’s fair to say we all want more of the following: players playing the game, mainstream media attention, sponsorship/financial support, exposure and better _____ to be played. While all separate goals, they’re all connected and make up overall ‘advancement‘."
Could be talking about paintball, right? He's not, he's discussing the state of this sport. But the similarity is interesting, isn't it? It's informative and sheds some light on issues paintball is dealing with--except they are a lot further down the road than paintball is--so it's a little depressing too.

Joe, who drops me a note now and again, sent this link but he also had a separate point to make. These days he's involved in club rugby and is a wrestling coach with contacts among the amateur wrestling crowd in his area of the Midwest. In American rugby the top league has lost (is losing) 4 teams going into the new year. In Joe's area recruiting new players is becoming a struggle. And this is from a pool of players who played high school and college rugby. A once motivated and active pool of players. They beg poverty but plenty of them routinely spend money in bars and on video games. (Surely the larger economy is playing a role. The question is how much of a role?) And in talking to area coaches recent freshman classes of incoming students don't have the same interest in wrestling they used to. Some schools have even had to disband their wrestling programs. Joe sees the parallels and can't help but wonder if at least part of the problem isn't simply that his generation and the one coming up really are lazy slackers. Nobody is willing to work hard. Somehow they expect things to be handed to them. If it's too demanding and too hard it's not for them. And you know, I can see where he's coming from. Undemanding parents, mediocre schools, everybody wins competitions, short attention spans and few responsibilities. Not a recipe for success.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Monday Poll

This week's poll is a query into paintball's impact on your gift-giving and/or gift-receiving plans for this holiday season.

You see, I've been having thoughts. Some might say foolish thoughts. Certainly unconventional thoughts. And I think this week's poll might help me determine just how unconventional my thoughts have become. At least on this particular topic. (The mystery topic doesn't have anything to do with giving or receiving Christmas presents.) [Or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or even Festivus.]

How much is paintball a part of your holiday gifting?

Monday Poll in Review
I suppose I'm to blame for some of these results. After all I did say all things being equal which a number of you interpreted as completely devoid of any attachement with reality. How else to explain the original xball numbers? (I miss it too but I know if the pros played it now it would be a wildly exciting brutal bloodbath--nothing like the CXBL final at Cup--and we can't have that, can we? We can't because nobody can afford the bloody paint bill anymore.) I did find the 7-man numbers intriguing as apparently more people like the idea than actually participated last year. No surprise at the nostalgia vote for 10-man either although I wonder at the 5 & 10-man woodsball numbers. Here in Florida I doubt 7 out 10 active players even know paintball used to be played in the woods. (Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration but not by much.) The other interesting comparison is run-of-the-mill 5-man versus Race 2-2--which tied for least interesting with Millennium style Race 2 Gay. Does that support my contention that the PSP could draw more (new) players with open 5-man? Naw. But it is kinda surprising, isn't it?

Final results: 5-man woodsball (3%), 10-man woodsball (8%), UWL or SPPL style event (7%), original xball (28%), 10-man (17%), 5-man (13%), Race 2-X (4, 5 & 7) (20%), Race 2-X (5, 7 & 9) (18%), Race 2- 2 (2%), 7-man (21%), Millennium Race 2 (2%), Something completely new (12%) & 7-man Race 2- 2 (Best of 3) (15%).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Final Thoughts on PSP Changes 2011

No, this won't be another rant. I think I've got most of it out of my system. At this point it rather goes without saying the majority of this debate is being conducted by the clueless, the ignorant and the moronic and that includes both sides of the argument. Here's a hint (and then I'll get down to business) to those who have been converted and are intent on "helping" the PSP. Endlessly regurgitating your belief in the urgency of the need for change is not the same thing as explaining why certain changes are appropriate to the situation. So far most of the debate reminds me of this, although not nearly as amusing.

First a quick recap of the proposed changes.

• Lengthen the field 10 feet per side (Total size will now be 120 x 170 feet)
• Eliminate Pit-side coaching and communication
• Field Layouts will not be released prior to the events
• Adjust position of bunkers to better suit a wider variety of players
• Adjust classification system for D1 – Pro, now that the Semi-Pro division is absent

The lengthening of the field alone isn't a significant issue from a game play perspective. Yes, it will necessarily alter some things. (The change is also likely to be a hardship for some local fields. And it isn't true that the size of a practice field is now irrelevant because layouts won't be known.)
However, in combination with the 'new priorities' for bunker placement [change 4] the impact will be significant--and as predicted. Slower games, slower points. More clock stoppages. (Keep in mind that field design always has an impact on play of the game particularly in the lower divisions. The reason these changes will have predictable results is because the bunker set remains basically the same. It may be possible to restore field neutrality to the new field and abide by the placement priorities but only with a larger bunker set. And I don't mean larger bunkers, I mean a greater total number of bunkers.)
The elimination of pit-side coaching in and of itself is not a big deal--but it isn't the elimination of coaching either--despite the number of numbskulls who seem to think it is. Will it make any difference? Sure, the teams that already play are used to it and the players are actively involved. With the change they will be penalised for doing what has been a part of the game from Day 1. Will it encourage players and teams that object to coaching to play PSP? I can't imagine why but I also find it hard to believe how many people seemingly can't read simple English. (Our foreign friends excluded, of course.)
No release of the event layout is a worthwhile change. It's most important to the higher divisions, particularly pro. It creates an environment where the top teams can save practice money. Lots of it and remain competitive. It also has value to all divisions of play; one, as a potential money-saver and two, as a situation that will compel teams, coaches, captains and players to learn how to play, not learn how to play a specific field.
Now about the classification system. The statement is somewhat ambiguous regarding specific changes. Which is an opportunity. If the PSP is willing to consider reclassifying inactive Pro/Semi-pro & D1 players in order to give most of them an opportunity to get back into the competitive game and provide the kind of experience, skill & leadership that will improve competitive paintball and add numbers from a pool of recently active and committed players.

I know, there was really nothing new there but I did say I wanted to recap first. So I recapped the PSP positions ... and mine.

For any who may remain confused by the mountain of nonsense posted at PBN. New field dimensions--not intended to save teams money. Intended to make game more appealing to larger group of (competitive?) players. (And when I say larger I don't mean older, fatter, slower players--and neither does the PSP. It's hoping to attract players interested in tourney paintball who, for whatever reason, aren't already competing in the PSP.
Eliminate pit-side coaching--not intended to save teams money. Intended to make game more appealing to larger group of (competitive?) players.
No early release of field layout--intended to save teams money, especially the pros thru reduced expenditures of practice paint. (Perhaps) intended to push all teams and players to develop new training and practice habits that will produce better players. [Intended or not, it will.]
"Adjusting" bunkers--not intended to save teams money. Intended to make game more appealing to a larger group of (competitive?) players.
Adjust classification system--not intended to save teams money. Probably, I'm assuming, intended to resolve fact there is no more semi-pro division.

Here's one last idea--although I don't know if this one will work or not. (It's too complicated a calculation to make without hard data but there is no reason, in principle, that it shouldn't be possible.) Okay, more than one idea. Here's the first one. (It's not the complicated one, btw.) Bring back 5-man. Call it Open 5-man and allow up to two D3 ranked players. Keep it simple, keep it as inexpensive as possible. The object is to draw from off the national track--after all, that's the target group of players the PSP hopes to attract, yes? Separated from the Race 2 format it would carry none of the preconceptions of competing in Race 2 and the league would be free to organize it however it chose.
Aight, back to the last idea. In a nutshell put Raehl to work calculating how many matches of which version of the Race 2 format can be played on a single field over the course of a day. (Like he doesn't already know.) Then, crunching operating costs, (on a per field setup basis?) calculate an optimum sized event that will, if full, operate in the black. In order to ensure max participation put limits on each event. Add scarcity to the equation and the league would be in a position to control precisely the scale of each event also allowing them to be more precise in containing their costs as well. (Yes, there are additional complications created by divisions, etc. but they can be overcome.)
Huh? What's the point? The point is part of the problem the PSP faces is a lack of control over revenue. Each event is an unknown number that only comes into focus at the last minute--almost literally. This forces the league to prepare to handle some uncertain max number of participants and this inevitably increases cost throughout their system. To get greater control over costs is the only alternative to increasing revenue but there is no reason not to work on both sides of the profitability calculus.
Is that even possible? I don't know for sure but as a concept it's sound. And I'm sure the league is busy cutting costs as best they are able but maybe, just maybe they didn't think of pushing it to this extreme.

That's it. I'm done. (Cue cheering of relieved throngs.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis the Season for World Domination

VFTD would like to welcome the most recent recruits to the Deadbox Puppet Army--and encourage you fence sitting lazy slackers to step up to the plate before it's too late. Cade X (right on!) is a long time fan and creator of the Pick 'Em game that lets y'all predict PSP event results. Next is Terrence Bowman. Hey, TJ. Followed by the Milsim Corps (a league promoting scenario style competition.) Welcome aboard, one and all.
As for the rest of you, what's the problem? You don't think we're in the world domination game all alone, do you? The Freemasons have a few hundred years head start. And don't get me started on the Illuminati. Ever hear of the Skull & Bones? That's right. The DPA needs to make a move before the end of the year if we want to see some movement in next year's Janes' Conspiracies of the World. So join now and make a difference. Slacker.

UPDATE: A very special welcome to the DPA's latest recruit, Mr. Lane Wright. Obviously somebody isn't working hard enough if he has time to join the DPA. Have you been sleeping again in your spare time? When's the first event? (Just wanted you to feel at home, Lane.) Thanks!

And last, and most certainly least, I have an new idea for VFTD's Facebook page. I've decided I don't like the LIKE button. What do I care? Did Alexander the Great need the tepid affirmation of strangers? Did Napoleon? Hell, no!
Now fear, there's an emotion that makes a real statement. I want a fear button. (If any of you computer literate cleverpants types know if I can rewrite Facebook's code let me know. Thanks.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Indian Int'l Open 2011

Okay, kids. Seems India has some hardcore ballers looking to get in on all the competitive paintball fun and to kick their party off right they're introducing the world to paintball in India with the Indian International Open. (Link in title.) (Yep, news to me, too.) A request for a review of the layout came over the VFTD transom from the UAE. How could I turn them down? It's the holiday season and I'm no Grinch. Besides, it's an international open, right? So here it is. Btw, click on the layout for a full sized version.

This is a very compact layout that is nearly square. The impact is reduced distances--and even what seems like insignificant distances--condenses the bunker placements which makes for more intense gunfighting and will prove to be, generally, a more difficult layout for less experienced teams. [And given the position of certain key bunkers will encourage a defensive, counter-punching style of play.] The up close factor is mitigated to some degree because there are few open lanes or unobstructed crossfield shots. However, that also means the field can be (and will be) played in halves. [If one side of the field breaks opportunities will exist to press the advantage very quickly and teams or players up to the challenge will be rewarded.]

Laning OTB is a straightforward task on this field. Gaps are fairly narrow and the basic, bread-and-butter lanes are simple. Guns must be up and shooting immediately. If that means practicing moving forward and behind the cover of Home while shooting an effective lane that is a practice priority. The wider D-side lane is the stock lane to shoot. The inside lane is for players delaying or looking to move out and up into the near MD. (There is also an unmarked likely obstructed lane to the inside edge of the TCK which is very likely to be a popular primary.) Shooting the snake-side lanes is equally straightforward and your choice between lanes 1 & 2 (1 being closest to Home) is mostly a matter of how quickly you can achieve a consistent lane. Normally as soon as someone runs through that lane the laner shifts his lane inside or onto the snake gap. Teams that are playing more defensively will require shifting to an inside lane and more aggressive teams or individuals require the shift to the snake gap.

Once again an MS field layout features an SD in the snake corner. (Colored green) It should normally be avoided. It is only marginally effective for snake wire control. It is isolated and under the gun of your opponent's snake-side MT and at a huge disadvantage. It may be necessary on rare occasions to go there to get wide but is a poor risk under any circumstance. The run to the SD and around it may be considered as an alternative snake run for some faster players. The orange marked bunkers (along with the Home cans) are the vision bunkers given that players can routinely play them standing. The D-corner MT controls that half of the field unless there is a mirror and the D-side TCK is a relatively safe primary OTB and has clear lines-of-sight on most of the gaps and lanes on the D-side of the field. Expect them to be played a high percentage of the time and anytime you have the advantage of an uncontested D-corner MT do not let your opponent fill your mirror. The snake-side MT doesn't have the same dominance potential as the D-corner the majority of the snake-side action will revolve the play of this bunker. [Clever use of the bricks can help defeat the MT.] Note the blue lane from the snake-side T to the opposition D-corner. This is an example of the sorts of blind or near blind shots to be on the lookout for. D-corner players are prone to checkoff the inside of the field and if they do it while standing it will be possible for the T to shoot the D-corner who is unlikely to ever see it coming. On a field like this 2 or 3 similar shots can be quiet game winners.

Looking at the green arrows on the top of the diagram snake-side; these represent running lanes and/or running & gunning lanes. Given that you know where the primary OTB lanes will be shot it becomes key to your success to understand the ways in which to avoid being hit. Given the distances involved the laner could easily miss a runner on the baseline going wide if the lane is intended to hit a runner going to the MT, for example. And the running lane that appears to be going wide but cuts back toward the MT offers two primary options. Either the MT (which was hooked past) or the Brick. And when the direct route is run to the MT it is worth diving into the bunker in order to get under the stream of paint and/or force your opponent to shoot even lower next time making a different run more effective. To take this a step further consider making these runs guns up and focus on two alternative actions; getting wider than your opponent so can shoot inside back at them or delaying in spots to add an extra gun shooting. By adding to the number of guns shooting OTB and mixing up your running lanes and delays it is possible to confuse and neutralise much of your opponent's potential effectiveness OTB.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Lazy Slacker Re-post of the Week

This week's re-post is quite timely on a couple of levels. It's from November 2008 and it was the second part of a two part posting called, Robots versus Ninjas. The old (and silly) robots vs. ninjas argument has cropped up again with the PSP's proposed change of no pit-side coaching and the post closes by framing the original debate--such as it was--within the bigger picture. A little something I like to call perspective, which always seems to be in short supply.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Monday Poll

Since this is the season of change, what with the PSP having announced a number of changes and the NPPL having announced at least one change with their move to capped semi-auto. Who knows what could be next? More NPPL changes? The MS unlocks D1? A couple of Saudi princes announce the superpro series to be held in the UAE by invitation only? Okay, probably not that last one. Taking a step back towards reality VFTD wants to know your preferred tournament format. It doesn't matter if you think it won't ever happen. This poll is about what you, in your heart of hearts, really want to play. And to make it more complicated I'ma open it up to multiple answers. Try to limit yourself to your top two (or three) choices and we'll see what happens.

All things being equal I would most like to compete in:

Monday Poll in Review
Nothing of great portent from last week's poll but then there wasn't supposed to be either. More of headcount from paintball's nooks and crannies to see how the readership breaks down, more or less. It was a very solid turnout that proves even lazy slackers can click a mouse when they are sufficiently motivated. The only surprising number (to me) was pro players as I know quite a few and the last time VFTD did this poll there were more then. Or perhaps they were VFTD burnouts or worse, former players this time around. Keep in mind too that each voter was allowed only one vote no matter how many of the options might have applied. At any rate a sincere thanks to all who participated as I found it quite interesting. The numbers broke down as follows; Sales/Occasional walk-ons (0%), Store owner/MLP promoter/Pro player/Gun whore/Event promoter/Scenario player (1%), Coach/Pump player (2%), Team owner/Ex-player/Manufacturer/Series Promoter/Local tourney player (3%), Field owners/Recreational player (5%), Burnout (6%), Works in the industry (8%), Regional tourney player (15%) & National tourney players (26%).

The Future?

It's beginning to come into focus. Still hazy and uncertain but I'm getting glimpses here and there. Some belt-tightening sees the PSP through the year but the hoped for gains in an older, self-sufficient demographic don't pan out in the numbers. Even so the league decides to stay the course. The problem wasn't the changes--the problem of too few players pre-existed (right?) The problem was the changes weren't dramatic enough. Off the mark by being too timid. So the PSP makes more changes. They lengthen and widen the fields this time and struggle with how to offer the most paintball for the money. Until it hits them--teams have rosters of at least 10 players--if all the players could play every game ... wow, it's perfect! How's that for value, dear customer? And since the fields are bigger we can add a few more bunkers ...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

PSP "Rumors" Revisited

A few more thoughts on how the latest batch of changes will affect competitive paintball and those who play the game. First, I wonder if the PSP has locked itself into these changes by confirming the rumors on their official website. Sure, changes to the changes might be viewed as the league "listening" to its customers but at the same time wouldn't it undermine the league's credibility? It seems some percentage of the current discontent is over the fact the PSP can't seem to do anything but change.
It also seems that the average internet whiner is only quasi-literate at best. (I was going to say the average PSP-playing internet whiner but then it occurred to me I have no idea how many of the commenters have actually played a PSP event. That's not a prerequisite to having an opinion but it is a prerequisite to my paying any attention to that opinion.) The inability of so many to simply comprehend the PSP's stated changes is enough to shatter one's faith in our future generations--assuming one was foolish enough to have any in the first place. No more pit side coaching is NOT no more coaching. Adding ten feet to each end of a 150 foot field doesn't make it a 180 foot field. A larger field and restrictive design qualifications have nothing to do with reducing overall costs to teams/players.
Did you miss the previous rumors post? Scroll down the page or look here. The case for saving money by not releasing the field layout in advance is made there in two additional links. If you didn't (or don't) bother to look at it there, I won't bother to go through it again here. Suffice to say every other change the PSP has made to reduce costs has directly altered the game played on the field; fewer points, less clock, etc. Non-release doesn't do that. Nor does it keep teams from practicing how and how often they want. Instead it gives all teams an opportunity to re-think what it really takes to prepare and to focus on the players' strengths and weaknesses instead of paint intensive rote repetition. Non-release may not save the lower divisions all that much even--depending on how they choose to prepare but it will save the upper divisions a lot of money and make it less costly for serious teams to move up the ranks.
As to removing pit side coaching it looks to me like more trouble than it's worth. For non-PSP players who whine about coaching it's only half a job done, right? Will they suddenly change their mind because coaching is limited to the snake side only? And I am convinced that enforcement of the no-coaching will be inconsistent or Draconian and both courses will only serve to anger and frustrate teams/players already committed to the PSP.
The players the PSP hopes to bring back to--or into--the PSP with the change in field design and dimensions aren't interested--and don't belong. Like it or not the PSP has positioned itself as the league that promotes competitive paintball as sport. To undo that now would be counterproductive. And won't bring in the player the PSP is looking for. The player they are looking for and need now is the player they pushed out of the game over the last few years by unnecessarily forcing too many of them into classifications they hadn't earned and couldn't continue to compete in. If you want those guys back drop them a whole rank for each year they haven't played a PSP event with a floor of two ranks max. All current Semi-pro players would drop no lower than D2 while D1's wouldn't drop lower than D3. Get as many of them as possible back into circulation and begin to reverse the dumbing down process of the recent past by leavening the mid-divisions with good, competent players. The player they want to draw with the design and dimensions change is the player who should be the backbone of the next generation of local teams--not a national level competitor in D3 or lower.

As a practical matter neither of the major leagues is in a position to lower entry fees. They simply aren't. With revenue from the industry reduced to a trickle almost all the money to operate on comes from entries and related fees. What the NPPL 3.0 stumbled into may be the lesson the PSP needs to learn. Perhaps the league needs to scale back and potentially restrict the total number of teams that can compete if a combination of entries and calculated operational costs provide greater certainty of profitability from event to event.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Sample 2011 PSP Layout

For anyone interested in what a longer PSP "xball" field might look like in 2011 the sample above is based off the World Cup layout using the bunker set from 2010. The new bunker for 2011 will be something on the order of a mini-A (X) so it will not effect the number of or type of larger bunkers available. I don't know if that is subject to change. I made every effort to interpret the new standards in the best way possible to make a playable field--which this is.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The New Major League Reality

For years the voices of discontent in competitive paintball have wanted to tear down the status quo--because, as we all know, anybody can do it better until they have to, you know, do it. Me included. (But unlike the rest of y'all I'm always right. It's a burden really.) Much of that discontent is (was) predicated on a myth. The myth of by the players, for the players. A hundred years ago (give or take) the pro kids and some of the ams threw over Lively Productions and decided they could run their own events better. Sound familiar? And they like to think they were serious about "by the players, for the players" but it didn't take long before most teams paid to play and a small group of teams/industry types were running the show. Until the falling out at one of the cow pasture on Poinciana Boulevard World Cups over strippers and alcohol. (Sorta. It wasn't as awesome as it sounds though.) Next thing anybody knows there's a second league and we're playing 7-man, 10-man & xball and the two leagues are chasing TV millions. Which ever way you turned industry was inextricably linked to the major leagues.

Anybody remember vending under the bigtop at Paintball World? Most everybody on site as a vendor had table space under one giant tent. Even as the bigger industry players began to set-up individually by they're sponsored field(s) the majority of smaller industry figures continued to share the big tent. As recently as the first couple of years at Disney's WWOS there were big tents with canvas dividers for the smaller vendors. As the scale of the competitions expanded in the explosive growth years so did the vendor displays--from the big guys custom big rigs to the smaller players expanded efforts to differentiate themselves and build their own brand identity. In the same way the top teams were flush with sponsorship dollars so to the major leagues with industry support and participation. And then, all of a sudden, the fat years were done. And as the cost of competition had risen for the pro teams the vendors, large and small, had justified spending more and more money to make money--until, all of a sudden, the fat years were over and the vendors were in a similar predicament to the pro teams--as were (are) the major leagues.

Various incarnations of the NPPL have come and gone. The PSP survived with some extra cash infusions. The one constant the shrinking share of support the league(s) can count on from the paintball industry. What once may have been around 50% of their income has been reduced to a fraction of that today. That is the new major league reality. And with this reality comes opportunity and danger. The opportunity is to get out from under industry influence for one. No money, no influence. To break the old patterns but in order to do that the league(s) must find ways to sustain themselves without the industry's money. The NPPL has discovered that bigger doesn't necessarily mean better or more profitable. The PSP has begun to see the scale of their operation as a very mixed blessing. Success in the new reality offers independence, too. The dangers are there's little to no room for error. It's a high wire act without a net.

For those who want lower entries and bigger prizes and are positive the leagues are flush and greedy--you are so far disconnected from reality I doubt there's anything I can say to convince you otherwise except you're doomed to disappointment. Those things aren't going to happen. For those who just can't wait for the current major leagues to crumble take a moment to consider what replaces them. What replaces them? Seriously. I'm curious. Do you have any concrete ideas or are you just mentally masturbating over how great it will be to get rid of those guys? What the leagues needed all along was independence and wise leadership. Circumstance has delivered their independence. The big question now is are they up to the challenge?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

PSP 2011: Rumor Edition

I had a perfectly good post almost ready to go and then the phone started ringing. Have you seen ProPaintball's latest? It seems the kids at ProPaintball have a scoop or a balloon, of the trial variety. Either way, it's going to raise a ruckus. (First ever appearance of the word, "ruckus", on VFTD.) Seems someone has leaked some proposed details of what the PSP may, or may not, be considering for 2011. I suggest it is very likely a trial balloon (an intentional leak) simply because the circle of people having any say in what the PSP does is a small one. The only other alternative is a legit leak from someone in the know breaking trust or else it's complete rubbish fit only for the smackbox--and since that isn't where it was posted ... A number of the rumored elements have been discussed for a long time and aren't really anything new. So what do the rumors amount to?
Beginning at the beginning rumor 1 & 2 are what I've taken to calling 'The Amodea Solution' as the suggestion was made a few months ago by John Amodea of X3 magazine to enlarge the playing fields and add larger bunkers towards the back of the field in the hopes of reconnecting with an older more affluent group of players. Despite what I know will be the impact on the play of the game I would support such a move if there was any reason to believe it will work. Does any such group of players actually exist today? Playing scenario maybe? The number of competing teams back when the PSP transitioned from 10-man to Xball doesn't hint at it unless they are some very patient ex-10-man players. Even so, it might be worth a trial period to see what happens.
It has been suggested some local fields will be ill-equipped to add twenty feet of length. It could happen but field dimensions have changed numerous times in the last dozen years and I can't recall any previous outcry. What exactly, while I'm at it, is the PSP's responsibility?
What will happen is not hard to predict. Dimension and design changes will tend to make fields more defense-oriented with wider open lanes and less middle of the field play. The result will be slower game play--potentially much slower game play. It would be a real step backwards for the pro division.
Now about that trial period. How about from D3 down? After all, what classification are these wished for older more affluent players likely to have or receive? If the PSP wants to see if there might be some advantage to the Amodea Solution go ahead and give it a try where the bulk of the "new" players would likely play and where the effects of the change will impact the play of the game the least.
Next on the list is the elimination of pit side coaching. Right now in divisional play the pit side coach is the primary coach and can roam along the net to the fifty, or thereabouts. On the pro field we can't move past the end of the pit. I'm assuming here the object is to try an attract all those teams out there deadset against coaching. Except, again, how many of them are there really? Is the NPPL full of them? Is the NPPL full? And what about the snake side coaching? What's the point of trying to turn the pit side into a tennis match when there's still snake side coaching and a noisy crowd supporting the competing teams? Is a half measure really gonna change anything beyond pissing off the regulars? And how is this going to be enforced? Are the referees going to start calling penalties for off the field actions that will penalize on field play? Really? For the six guys on the internet who will never play if there's coaching?
Finally we come to a move that makes sense--one that I've been advocating for years. Don't release the field layout early. Versions of my case in favor of no release are here & here.
Lastly, rumored event locations in Phoenix and Riverside. Cool. If the league can or will improve their bottom line with new locations more consistent with the economic realities I'm on board. Hopefully they will work out. Until we see them it's hard to offer a real opinion.

Larger field: (neutral-ish)
Bigger bunkers oriented toward the back: (poor)
Eliminate pit side coaching: (huh?)
No field release: (excellent)
Cumulative: (a step back)

UPDATE: Seems the PSP via their website and Facebook are confirming the posted rumors on ProPaintball. That has pushed me to re-write some of this post. (I left in my initial speculation so you'd know what I was thinking.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

After exposure to this can anyone doubt the superiority of competitive paintball? I didn't think so either.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Monday Poll

This week's poll is a repeat. (Settle down and no whining. You never would have remembered it from the first time if I hadn't 'fessed up. And unlike that all-you-can-eat sushi bar that left you feeling queasy and breaking out in a cold sweat this poll will leave you feeling like a proud member of the paintball community. Try it. You'll see.) Periodically, I will continue to repeat this poll as the object this week is to get some idea of where you, the reader (lazy slacker), fits into the big wide world of paintball. Some of you will fit in more than one of the available options but you will only be allowed to pick one. Select the choice that most closely connects with your interest in VFTD.

UPDATE: Whoops! Left a kind of obvious category off the list for this week's poll. Referee. Nothing Freudian about that slip. Nothing at all.

Monday Poll in Review
Was the result of last week's poll a predictable popularity contest? I don't think so. Maybe for the old 'Canes but not these new ones. I'm thinking something closer to name recognition as being the difference maker. The Hurricane name is a well established one even if this Hurricane team isn't. Then again it could be the nearly 200K views for all the episodes of their "Birth of a Storm' documentary--but that would be nearly the same thing as name recognition, wouldn't it? I also got the impression, despite a reasonable number of votes (considering y'all are lazy slackers) that nobody much cared about the result. Or maybe that was just me. The other thing the poll demonstrated was that by and large not only did nobody really care, everybody was nearly equally clueless. Only 3 teams got a double digit percentage with the 'Canes at 30%, LIFT at 17% and French pro team TonTons at 14%. TonTons? Really? All the others except Upton 187 (D2 PSP) were D1 teams in either the PSP or the NPPL. The NPPL reps got the lowest vote totals of all. Best of all, one of the teams listed really is taking a serious look at making the jump to pro.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mailbag: Gunfighting Drills

The question, what to do to improve gunfighting skills, is the first mailbag question to come through Facebook. (Thanks!) Since gunfighting is a core element of the modern competitive game I thought the answers might prove useful to a wider audience.
Before you start to moan about more drills this isn't going to be about drills. At least not like you probably think about drills. Well, maybe the one. The thing is I don't like drills either. Sure, there's a few that are absolutely necessary. The problem with ordinary drills though is that they are too often disconnected from the play of the game. It's like working out in the gym with nothing but isolation movements when what you really need--particularly if you're training to augment athletic performance--is complex movements that train your muscles to work in harmony. The same is true of the best paintball drills.

One last thing before you get started. Many players will naturally attempt to find a way around doing what they are supposed to and/or argue/complain about the goal of any drill. My favorite way of keeping everyone on point is to divide the team into groups that will stay together for all the drills. The reason is that it's important to provide immediate consequences for failure. Failure to complete a drill successfully results in running a half lap or full lap of the field. This creates an incentive and reminds the team that failure in competition also has an immediate consequence.

These are team drills (unless you're on a 3-man squad.) The minimum requirement is 6 players. The drills suggested here are given in the order they should be done in as the progression goes from simple to complex.
Begin with a one on one drill. (Yes, this one is pretty much a drill-type drill.) Ideally on a full size field even though you will only use one half (snake side or D-side) at a time. It's simple; two players begin at Home and on a signal break to a nearby bunker which is mirrored by the other player. The object is to take control of the edge, push your opponent off his edge and make the bump to the next bunker (leading to the wire) alive. (The bump should be accomplished gun up and maintaining edge control.)

Follow the first drill up with a two on two variation. The object remains the same but with two players at each end the task becomes more complicated but at the same time there are also more solutions. On the break beginning the drill one player (at each end) moves to the primary, the other remains at Home. Now the first goal is to get a player to the next bunker but it doesn't have to be the player in the primary. Besides increasing the movement options the drill adds an extra move, too. (On most xball type layouts that next move would be into the snake however the field can be set-up as desired.) The drill doesn't end successfully until two bumps are accomplished by a live player. [After the first bump if a player chooses to make a move to the corner that doesn't count as the second bump but is allowed.]

The last drill in this sequence is a half field 3 on 3 race. On either side of the field it's some version of a race to the fifty depending on the layout. Remember, the object is the race. You can either let the players play or restrict them to making their bumps the same way they did in the earlier drills--or a combination of both. Either way the basics of edge control and coordinated movement are in play and the fact it's a race with a specific goal pushes the action.

If you have the time and resources these should be repeated on the opposite side of the field and have the players switch ends of the field so everyone plays with both hands on both sides of the field. (Or, next time you do this group of drills you make sure it's different for everyone from the last time.)

Finally, one very positive way to let the players have some fun (and improve in the process) is to set-up a compact field approx. 80-100 feet long and 50 feet wide. Play it as a 3-on-3 and if you have enough players or want to share some practice with another team you can play a mini round robin-type tourney. The value in this is the dimensions. As long as it doesn't have too many props it keeps the action fast and very close. It forces players to make fast decisions and develop fast reflexes--or else. At the same time it replicates most gunfighting relationships that come into play in regular competition but is also very unforgiving of poor technique, slow and sloppy play. Want to hone your gun skills razor sharp? This is the one to separate the men from the boys (or girls.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Paintball Around The Web

I look around the paintball web some days (like today) and think if only you lazy slackers would clue your friends in on the wonder & wisdom that is VFTD it would put a substantial dent in the level of mind-numbing ignorance out there. And then I come to my senses. Like you have any friends. (No, I don't care what your Facebook says.) Besides, most of you are only interested in the pictures. Without you lot what would happen to all the paintball magazines? Oh ...

Today's examples are: Gee, what's happening to all the pro teams? & (in a tie) The PSP doesn't pay a thing for the Phoenix venue/We need the 2011 PSP schedule yesterday. It's a matter of life and death (and if the league really cared they'd get this done on my schedule.)

Anybody remember Bolingbrook? PSP finally stopped returning to Bolingbrook 'cus they kept raising the rental fee. Phoenix is on that same arc and the likelihood of returning to that location is very tiny, practically microscopic. (I don't care what your friend was told by a guy who knows a guy.) Yes, it sucks. The Phoenix venue was swell.
About the schedule; everybody would like to see one as soon as possible, from the players to the regional leagues. But here's the thing. Phoenix, if it's still Phoenix, is likely to be a new location. As will Chicago. And there are almost certainly opportunities to minimize the cost to the league while still getting an acceptable place to play. One that needs to meet a variety of criteria to be suitable. Is that an excuse? No, it's just a fact. The PSP has more work to do to get venues this season and the decisions made now may make things easier and better for years to come. Does that mean the PSP (in this instance) is above criticism? No, of course not. It's just that the dim-witted whining of the uninformed isn't really criticism. Just saying.

Now about those pro teams--hey nimrod, where you been? This is not a new phenomenon. It's not even "new" news. Go back and read the first paragraph of 'CPL meltdown?' D'oh! You know, these things aren't happening in isolation. Frakking retards.

UPDATE: Just letting off a little steam, kids. Allow me explain the pro teams thing in more detail. Last year some time Magued backed off running Joy on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, over the course of the year it was clear they were struggling with a sponsorship gap with Angel unable or unwilling to supply the support they needed. Toss in GI Sportz and a very abbreviated association with small ball and the circumstances weren't improving. Now add an aging roster with little interest in or ability to transition to a new generation of players and the outcome shouldn't surprise anyone. It is, unfortunately, a pattern being repeated over and over.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lazy Slacker Re-post of the Week

I considered calling this new weekly feature, The Lazy Slackers Guide to the Brilliance that is VFTD, but that was a bit long-winded and amongst my other virtues I'm also humble so I decided against it. This feature is intended to run during the off season as a hedge against nothing much happening--and to demonstrate the brilliance that is VFTD. That and because, like you, I am a lazy slacker (with standards) so if I can't avoid some effort by posting other people's stuff I can by re-posting my stuff. It's a win-win, particularly for those of you who haven't been around from the beginning as it will still be new to you.

(In the flogging a long dead horse category check out this link to a September 2008 post called Saving Xball.)

The official Re-post of the Week is: DIVIDED WE FAIL from August 20, 2008

It's all rubbish, of course. This industry can't seem to decide to cooperate on much of anything even when they decide (supposedly) to cooperate. See PSTA for example of latest effective cooperation in action. Now, lest you think all this is relentlessly negative, it's not. Cheer up. Don't worry, be happy. The fact is PBIndustry has been incompetent, uninterested, uncooperative and witheringly stupid almost forever--and we're still here and so is paintball.