Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Big Brother: NPPL Division

The NPPL giveth and the NPPL taketh away. Or, in my case, they tooketh but are now giveth-ing back. (That was awkward.) Rumor reached the paintball public yesterday regarding plans for a monitoring chip the NPPL wants to put in everybody's marker--but just the Pros for now--5 days before the first event of the season. Oh, and the prelim schedule is now posted as well. Here's how my current arrangement with the league works: In exchange for nobody telling me much of anything I agree not to discuss league matters until they are made public through another source. Seems more than fair to me. About the chip--it's the real deal and a few pro teams have tested them (or something very similar) in match conditions over the last few months. We had them (or something very similar) in a test sample of our guns briefly last season. And there was some effort made at Galveston to have the chips installed in Pro team guns. [We had tentatively agreed but our Friday schedule didn't allow for the time as it turned out. I don't know how many teams had them installed in Galveston either. And I am hedging my assumption it's the same chip because, while it seems to be performing identical functions, it appears the two leagues are interested in it for different reasons. It is the same manufacturer in both cases however.]

UPDATE: Virtue sent the ProPaintball kids an email claiming Damage had chips in some guns in Galveston. Since they say we did I don't doubt it's true. My comments above were based on what I thought I knew--and it wasn't something I followed closely once I was comfortable that it wouldn't affect our guns.

Every indication I have seen suggests they work as advertised though I don't think we had them in long enough to judge potential impact on battery life. Even so, as a practical matter it seems to me any concerns of that sort are probably over-stated.

That said (typed) (keyed) (whatever) I do have some concerns. The timing is poor to say the least and if I were on a team that had no prior experience with the chips I would flat out refuse to accept them at this late date. I might be otherwise convinced if the purpose was purely testing at HB and I had the option to opt out if it appeared there was any loss of marker performance. But that's just me. Beyond that we have no idea how the ROF will be enforced. Let's agree the chip accurately monitors the firing of each and every paintball. So what? There is a 15 bps cap on a gun shooting in a semi-auto mode. [In the PSP with ramping guns enforcement measures the time gap between shots. A dirty little secret is most ROF violations are both unintentional and outside the player's control.] It seems to me semi-auto mode assures inconsistent gap times between shots while the cap theoretically will limit a marker to 15 bps regardless of how fast the trigger is being pulled. So my question is what constitutes a ROF violation? How does the chip monitor for that? And how does that data result in pulling the appropriate penalty? Finally there's the question of the collected data. The idea is that accumulated data has potential value. If so, who is collecting it and how does the league assure it won't fall into the wrong hands? Or is it the league's intention to make all the data available to anyone who wants it?

And what about the schedule? Yeah, buddy. At HB the league is not only beginning the 2011 season it is undergoing a critical test with a live streaming webcast on ESPN3 and chooses to go with a new format in which up to one third of all the scheduled games may not be played. Looking at the schedule there is already extra time plugged into it--I'm assuming for some extra TV type stuff like interviews and player info--but still, if those third (and deciding) games aren't routinely happening I can foresee a lot of empty air time. Fingers crossed.

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