Tuesday, August 30, 2011

NPPL DC registrations

I realize there is some tension (and uncertainty) surrounding this whole NPPL/PSP business and today's post isn't about the merger or the format or who thinks which league is better. Y'all can argue that stuff forever. This is about the numbers--and nothing else. I know, I've done stuff on the numbers recently but it's like nobody is paying any attention given the amount of made up or just plain misinformation being bandied about.
Today (August 28) the official registration of 7-man divisional teams competing in DC is 34. That's for D1, D2 & D3. Sure they still have a week or ten days or so but the numbers haven't changed significantly in a couple of weeks and the total is ballpark for the last two DC NPPL events. Does that mean the NPPL is bad? Or second rate? Or whatever negative you want to apply? No, but it does mean that in nearly 3 seasons of NPPL 3.0 no real progress has been made in expanding the 7-man base. Or demonstrating that 7-man has any real popular, widespread support. Because it doesn't. Simple as that.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Inside Out Game

The Inside Out game is the default strategy of most defensively oriented teams. It can also be a very effective tactic for any team. Conceptually the Inside Out game is a low risk, lane control, rotation denial strategy that follows up the initial breakout with staged bumps to secondaries accompanied by moves from further inside--out. For example, (using the PSP NJ layout) the widest player OTB on the pitside takes the MT. Two players remain at Home. When the MT player makes his next rotation--to the pin, the corner or the MD feeding the snake--one of the Home players fills the spot in the MT. (And if the gameplan dictates or circumstances allow when that player moves the remaining Home player may also fill the MT.) In this way the movement risk is lowered and the key lanes maintained. There are of course also various options that can be played out from the Inside Out formation like delayed breaks to the corners, etc. but those alter the risk involved. So one aspect of the Inside Out game is about player positioning and sequential and matching rotations to work players into outside positions. The other standard characteristic of the Inside Out game is the basic shooting lanes, which are also typically inside out, as the goal is to deny the opponent wide positions OTB and an Inside Out breakout permits 5 guns up laning. (And, if one or more opponent is eliminated OTB the Inside Out configuration can easily transition into offense with attacks up the center that cut down angles & distances in order to keep remaining opponents contained. It is in the transitions, and the time it takes a team to react, that you can see whether a team is defensive or offensive in their orientation. (And in the pro game every team will opt for the offensive transition but one of the distinctions between pro teams is how quickly and universally a team will effect the transition.) The object of the Inside Out game is to limit risk, control wide rotations by the opponent, get eliminations OTB & take early control of the field with the intention of progressively building on that foundation to get wide and/or work upfield and consolidate the initial advantage with superior angles as the mid-game transitions into the end game.

Okay, but what can you to do counter a team playing Inside Out? Or, what are the risks of playing Inside Out?

There are 3 basic counters to the Inside Out game; get wide, mirror the breakout or press a strong center attack. Inside Out's effectiveness is typically a direct corallary to how effectively it keeps an opponent from getting wide. Once the opponent is wide Inside Out becomes a disadvantage as it cedes all the best angles to the wide players who in turn play to contain and fix the positions of the team playing Inside Out. (This still devolves into gunfights initially but wide guns also make it easier for the opposition to push the wires too.) If the Inside Out team gives up the wires too easily it's time to switch tactics. A mirrored breakout ought to be self-explanatory. (If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.) And the strong center attack hits the Inside Out team where they are weakest as the basic strategy is to stay inside and shoot wide. A center attack is relatively easy to execute--or at least move players into position--and then its effectiveness depends on the element of surprise and the boldness of the attackers. Of the counter options getting wide is best--if it can be accomplished.

Conversely the risks of playing Inside Out are ineffective lanes OTB, ie; letting your opponent get wide early, being unprepared for a center attack and weak gunfighting skills and/or edge control. No tactic or strategy can overcome poor individual play and inferior skills. Playing Inside Out is a good option to have available but no single strategy is always going to be a winner.

Next time; Kaos Theory: How & Why Pure Offense Works. (Yes, I know I spelled "kaos" wrong.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Defense vs. Offense

The PSP NJO field layout is ideal for the purposes of this discussion because it's relatively easy to understand the characteristics in play--especially if you've played on the layout at some point, either at the PSP event or a local or regional one or even just for fun.
First let me suggest that more often than not people confuse the pace at which something happens for the style of play involved. Let me further suggest there are fundamentally three styles of play in competitive paintball; offensive, defensive & tactical or conditional play we can call counterpunch paintball. Finally let me suggest that teams can also have tendencies toward different styles that aren't the style itself. Few teams are truly defensive and only defensive. Fewer teams are only offensive. Most teams are counterpunchers with either an offensive or defensive tendency.
A breakout that eliminates 2 opponents can turn into a short point if the team recognizes and responds as a group (or a, ahem, team) to the opportunity 2 quick eliminations present. That doesn't make a team an offensive team. It probably does mean the players have some aggressive tendencies and have learned (and/or been taught) how to capitalize on such opportunities. However, that same team on a breakout that leaves both sides 5 up is likely to play a very different point from the one played with the 2 early eliminations. Is that a style change--or simply the result of different circumstances? (Hint: it's not a style change.)
Now consider our hypothetical team on the PSP NJ layout breaking out 5 up. As we saw this result was not uncommon particularly if the teams stayed inside and played the "safe" primaries; Home, either or both the show side MT & Can, the pit side MT and/or midfield Temple. Variations on that set-up allowed teams to cross up their lanes or play them straight up and offered movement in stages for getting wide. One might be excused for considering that breakout to be fundamentally defensive--but that would be a mistake. Any breakout, wherever the primaries are, is a tactic. What happens after the breakout is your style or tendency indicator--most of the time. (It does little good to try and force "big" breakouts if the aggressor continues to lose bodies, and points in the process. Better to take up positions that can be used to take control of the field in order to then execute a gameplan consistent with a team's strengths and abilities.) At NJ even Dynasty routinely took short positions on breakouts--and frequently do anyway--as part of a larger strategy and because they have the players and talent to execute aggressive play from any breakout formation.
Take a moment to consider the NJ layout. The show wire had limited bunker options countered by decent Home shooting lanes, excellent dead zone lanes and two stand-up bunkers the taking of which made wide rotations difficult OTB. There were better Home shooting lanes wide on the pit side along with the midfield Temple and close by MT. The layout encouraged short, safe breaks that also allowed for having 4 or 5 guns up coming off the board. (The weakness of any short or inside breakout is heavy pressure up the center--because, in part, there are no wide guns able to counter a center push. As a practical matter the only consistently effective center attack was the show wire side of the X even though teams routinely tried to use the fifty dorito and lockdown the pit wire using the upfield Can. That option was sometimes effective but usually only as part of a larger mid-game push and a numeric advantage.) Given a layout like NJ what is a team to do? To a larger than is usually acknowledged extant any given layout will strongly influence how every team plays regardless of their preferences or tendencies.

To be continued. Next time we'll take a look at the inside/out game in more detail.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vanity Photography

There's an amusing thread over in the PSP section of The Nation--I'm not intentionally dissing the NPPL by mentioning the PSP so lighten up--posted by an erstwhile "professional" photographer informing his potential customer base how to be proper customers. I have in the past commented (at least briefly) on this whole notion of vanity photography for paintball players and wondered aloud more than once what possesses any man--or future man--to pay somebody for "action" shots of them playing paintball. (It's okay if your Mama wants your picture taken playing the game. That's what mothers are for, embarrassing their offspring.) But I struggle with how self-respecting members of the Man Club find vanity photography appealing in any way, shape or form. Perhaps it's a generational thing but I'm not so sure. Sure, I pretty much hate everything and everybody and am the proud three-time winner of the silent loner award so maybe I'm not the best judge of this sort of thing either. But then I think, what about other non-professional and/or youth sports? Or even organized school sports? If this is perfectly normal, acceptable behavior where are the photogs at Little League games around the country? Youth soccer matches on Saturday mornings or high school football games from Cali to Miami. I've never seen a professional photographer at a Parks & Recreation adult basketball league game either. Or at a men's or women's softball game. Now maybe I haven't been looking in the right places and God knows I don't habituate Pee Wee sporting events as a rule but even when my kids were younger I just don't remember for hire photogs working their games.
Maybe one of y'all can help me out. Does vanity photography happen in other sports? Or is paintball all alone in this? And if so what does that say about paintball players? Just asking.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Poll in Review

I heard from a reliable source this past week that powers in the PSP weren't exactly thrilled to see last week's The Monday Poll. (And given the results I suspect the NPPL kids liked it even less.) So let this be a teaching moment on why Baca is always right. The point of the poll was a) to give voice to you, the competitive player, and b) to make painfully clear that whatever reasons may be offered in favor of the 7-man format widespread popularity isn't one of them. (More on this coming later.)
(Reason a is also why I am on occasion frustrated at the lack of participation. Outlets for expressing your moods, views, opinions and general thoughts are relatively few and far between and trust me, participating here, at VFTD will get you a lot further than bitching & whining will over on PBN. On the flip side your apathy is a green light for the paintball powers-that-be to do what they want, when they want.)
Allow me to demonstrate. (We're talking about the poll again.) Given all the different options let's add up the percentages that favor any form of 7-man. That total is 16% of the vote. The total favoring some form of xball or Race 2 is 73%. In the debate over what format a unified major league ought to offer the answer seems pretty clear, doesn't it? Also of interest 18% voted for the current form of Race 2 while only 2% voted for the current form of 7-man. That, my friends, is 9:1 in favor of xball. (7-man collected most of its votes [14%] in the S7 category of Best of 3 competition that I am certain most of those voting for haven't actually played. Largely because it turned out to be a confusing pain in the --) And of course there is no way original Xball , despite receiving 24% of the vote, makes a surprise return because a) nobody could afford to play it (unless the PSP turned into the CXBL and nobody is gonna commit major league resources to playing two matches or whatever per event) and b) divisional teams would scream bloody murder if they were forced to return to a double elimination format or something similar. (I'll believe there's a real market for 10-man [5%] when somebody offers a 10-man tourney and anybody shows up.) For better or worse Xball Lite is where we're at. That is what has the majority of the grassroots support. That's what most of the regional leagues are playing. That's what Euroland is playing. That's what the developing paintball world aspires to compete in. The debate is over. For better or worse xball is the dominant competitive format.

NPPL Owners Extra: Sorry, kids, you got nothing. Stick with the claim of marketing superiority. Minus the revolving pro teams merry-go-round your events have averaged less than 70 paid teams per event in your first two years. Take the 5-man & pump teams out of the equation and the number of teams actually competing in 7-man drops noticeably. There's no real debate here, only your delusions. While I'm at it here's a prediction for y'all: Any format decision that isn't basically Race 2 will, within about ten minutes, spawn a new competing league or some cooperative competing national championship among the regional Race 2 series.

Edited for accuracy: I changed the number of paid teams on average in the above paragraph after double checking my recollection. More data can be found in the post Buy The Numbers. And if you remove 5-man & pump the number of divisional teams competing in the 7-man format averaged 40 teams during the first two years of NPPL 3.0.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To Ramp Or Not To Ramp

How stubbornly obtuse and dim-wittedly backwards are you people? Okay, not all of you people. You know, only the ones who insist that there is any difference between ramping and so-called semi-auto in today's electronic markers. You people make my eyes bleed and the ends of my hair frizz and smoke as if my head had just been shoved into an industrial furnace.
Look, it's very simple. You can debate until you're blue in the face the relative merit and skill of shooting semi-auto but the simple fact is you aren't shooting semi-auto. Ever. A tiny fraction of you may honestly believe you are--in which case you took great care to set up your marker to ensure it only discharges one shot per trigger pull. (At least as best you can tell.) Except of course you're pulling the trigger isn't what shoots your gun. And at least two of the major gun makers factory software is coded to add shots. (I'm already skirting the boundaries of my no gear talk rule so don't bother asking which gun makers because I have no intention of responding to that question. Nonetheless it's true.) The rest of you semi-auto fans set up your markers to give you a bit of an assist. Nothing special, of course. Just a setting in the sweet spot where suddenly your "skill" is optimized--and blazing fast. The lowest debounce you can go without bouncing like a bucket of Mexican jumping beans on a hot skillet. You might even admit to noticing the occasional bounce but ... ramping is the devil's handiwork. Give it a rest. The effects are identical and the only actual distinction is how efficiently your marker adds shots.
Seriously I'm fine with you semi-auto rampers. Live and let live, I say. But please, for the sake of my sanity and the common good, enough with the holier-than-thou attitude and the endless hypocritical caterwauling. I would recommend you educate yourself but I honestly find it hard to believe that more than a handful of y'all don't know exactly how your gun works and you spend way too much time lying to me in the hopes you might come to believe your own horseapples.
And if that doesn't do the trick I invite you to a NPPL event--for as long as they last--and you can come and listen and watch as players using one finger turn their semi-auto markers into instant machine guns in the blink of an eye. Time and again. The skill on display is positively breath-taking. The only reason the league capped their "semi-auto" guns is because it was the only way to pretend to regulate rate of fire. This way nobody shoots over 15 bps and nobody cares how they get there.
Grow up, smarten up or simply shut up. I don't have that much hair left.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Post PSP Jersey Open Report

Yes, we're thrilled with the win in Jersey. The guys played great (for the most part) and we now have the rest of the season to live up to our standards. Thanks too to all the well wishers. Now to the rest of the story.
The venue was somewhere in north/central New Jersey and continued the by now well established pattern of hiding major league tournament paintball in plain site, er, sight. There was a giant Howdy Doody-looking figure out front but nary a sign for paintball or a PSP logo large enough for anybody not trying to find the place to notice. (I'm also not sure such efforts really make much if any difference anyway but I continue to hear about it from some peeps who consider it a failure of both imagination and to adequately promote events.) There was some talk prior to the event that the area we would be playing on was heavily overgrown and would needed to be cut down (or cut out) of the lushly wooded and verdant countryside. If that's what they did they did a good job of it. The fields weren't pristine but then they never are. (The NXL played a couple of years at Disney--yep, Disney--House of the Mouse--with green mats covering drainage grates on the field.) Our field was fine and the paint trucks were close. What else do you need? The vendors were arrayed in lozenge-shaped semi-circles around the entrance and I, for one, appreciate the fact the PSP didn't create a maze of vendors we were forced to walk through to get to the fields. (Can you say, Phoenix?) They were handy if you wanted to check them out but we weren't driven like a herd of cattle past them one by one. A good--and fair--impression of the venue can be seen in the Gary Baum aerial photo PSP events is using on their front page--oops, they've substituted that photo--(which you can probably see at PaintballPhotography)--with a photo of the winning team. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Once again the PSP provided a live webcast hosted by Matty Marshall & Friends and once again--except for some occasional weather-related difficulties--was a smashing success that enabled fans from around the world to tune in and watch the action. Always a good thing for competitive paintball so thanks to the PSP for making it possible--along with Patrick S. and the rest of the technical crew. Which is all well and good but I'm curious about a couple of things. Even with a reduced presence and fewer cameras, etc. it must still be a significant expense, right? Is it being underwritten by any particular sponsors? If you matched up the co-hosts with their employers or primary sponsors it seems to make sense--with one glaring exception. As I said, I'm just curious.
How 'bout a breakdown on each of the pro teams? (I know, I'm just asking for trouble but I want to make a couple of specific points. Players should be less fans and more students of the game when they are watching the pros play--and maybe it's just me but that seems to be lost on most of y'all. Why aren't most teams more consistent? A lot of what's going on is influenced by factors other than simply playing the game. And of course the field layout can have an impact as well. More later this week.)
Let's begin with CEP. I like this team and I like the kids playing for them. It's a positive organization focused on learning and improving--which they are doing. It hasn't shown up in their match results yet but they are a better team than the one that began the season. Not unlike Vicious in their first season but I think CEP is a more versatile team.
In their first outing without Greg Pauley Vicious looked on Friday like they were lost and demoralized. Somehow overnight Friday they turned it around and came out and played much improved hard paintball with an intensity they didn't have the day before. That is the kind of resilience teams & players must have in order to be successful at the highest level but the jury is still out on whether or not the team has the horses to really challenge the top teams.
In the case of Infamous I think a number of factors likely played into their unexpectedly poor performance. It was a difficult bracket regardless of the Russians misfortunes. It was not a layout that played to Infamous's strengths. Some bad luck and a penchant across the board to gunfight hard. While never a bad thing the team had some difficulty locking things down when they needed to and, so it appeared to me, tended to engage in some battles they didn't need to fight and lost more of them than they usually do. Given the layout of key positional loss frequently started the dominoes falling on a given point.
What to say about the Russian Legion? A very uncharacteristic performance punctuated by very poor performances from some of their best, most experienced players. Have they had poor events before? Yes, but I can't remember anything quite like NJ. I consider this an aberration and assume the "real" Russian Legion will be back at Cup. (More below in rumorology.)
X-Factor is a tough team to get a handle on. Any given day they are capable of being world beaters and other days they beat themselves. Fundamentally they don't make many mistakes and they tend to mix conventional tactical play with bursts of wild unpredictability though less so on this layout as it didn't provide those sorts of opportunities really. They played a lot of close points and at the end of the day they simply lost more of those than they won. Always a dangerous team to play.
It seems that almost every event one team or another falls foul of some rules arcana and unfortunately that's what happened to 'Shock in New Jersey. (If you were interested I'm sure you know by now how all that worked out from other sources.) Of more interest to me was the turnaround 'Shock made in Jersey over the first two events of the season. This was the first event the team played under the leadership of former Aftershock legend Mike Bruno and it was a telling change for whatever reason. (It may be as simple as providing active support to a group already gung ho.) Shock always plays hard and is always aggressive but can sometimes be scattershot in the process. In Jersey they were also an effective team playing with no pressure to perform and no where to go but up. It will be interesting to see how things progress for them up to Cup.
I had some doubts about Impact leading into the season. Not so much about their talent, which is first rate, but about their chemistry given the roster changes the team has been making over the last couple of years. Even so the team continues to contend event after event with great consistency and I think they remain capable of winning any event they enter. I tend to think of them like an X-Factor but less prone to extremes as their temperament and style matches that of their coach, Jason Trosen.
The Ironmen have done a remarkable job this seasons without Ollie. The mix of experienced pros with some young, hungry and coachable players has produced solid results. And the team has bought into the system and it allows them to play smart, aggressive and controlled paintball. It may coaches vanity but I tend to attribute much of that to SK's efforts and the fact he clearly has the support of the team's vets. They don't beat themselves even when battling through penalties. I'd also like to take a moment to suggest to all young divisional players you could do a lot worse than emulate Kyle Spicka. For those who have known him in and around paintball for a few years his determination, dedication, will & perseverance ought to be a model of the right way to overcome obstacles and achieve success as a player.
The mark of a truly great team is the ability to consistently perform at a high level and by any rubric that is Dynasty. Most teams can only dream about Dynasty level success and most players would consider it a great career to achieve the kind of success Dynasty has often managed in single seasons. Before this year Dynasty looked like they might be on the wane but the return of Ollie and the addition of Mike H. & the youth movement has proved to be just what the team needed to reinvent itself. While they don't have weaknesses in the normal sense on the NJ field there were a couple of elements we had some success focusing on. Some of the younger players tended to be impatient and try and force certain rotations and as a team Dynasty perhaps lacks some team speed and if they can be forced into situations where they have to get wide a disciplined team can make them pay. (Or anybody else for that matter, D'oh!)
Despite the lack of household names Damage has world class talent in a mix of experience and youth. Damage's only significant fault is the occasional loss of focus that at times leads to a sudden loss of confidence. When they play together, play in the moment, they are capable of contesting with the very best and being one of the best.
One ongoing discussion over the course of this season has been long points and paint usage. (We shot nearly 20 cases in the final match.) Heck, it's a subject VFTD has commented on numerous times. Within the context of the NJ event there are a couple of additional things to be said. The rain may have contributed to some long points on Sunday but the rain didn't cause them. Nor did the rain alter the way most teams chose to play the field. Everybody I saw was playing the same ways on Friday and Saturday. The field did not encourage fast play though it was sometimes possible to press a power point if it was timed correctly or executed in concert with a key elimination OTB. But what I want to address in more detail is this notion of defensive paintball versus offensive paintball because it comes up when there are a lot of long slow points. A key element of competition is the imposition of a team's collective will on their opponents and paintball is no different except we do it with paint and position. (I'll be discussing this in more detail in a separate post this week.)
In the rumorology department there was lots of Legion talk at the Open. (This is not Mr. Curious material, just the on site scuttlebutt.) There was curiosity about the apparent name change--the word being that Sergey was unhappy with the old NXL nomenclature of "Boston" and wanted Russia back front and center. Then there was also the rumor that the Legion had lost its backing from Sergey and was scrambling to reorganize. And this is where Bear D'Egidio fits into the picture. (There has also been a fair bit of discussion on how Bear got a spot on the Legion given the majority opinion seems to think he isn't a pro caliber player.) The dominant rumor being that his dad (a partner in a number of large Cali paintball operations) greased the skids, so to speak. Even if the rumors are accurate it wouldn't be the first time such things have happened in prime time paintball. Whatever the truth is the Legion struggled mightily at NJ and it seems to me there must have been more to it than missing a couple of players.
(Rumor segue: Remember when Mr. Curious told y'all HydroTec would begin producing paintballs in mid-August? Facefull confirms. Sort of. I know, but still ... would you believe HydroTec?)
In closing a VFTD shout out to all the Florida players and teams that performed well in New Jersey. Way to go, kids. Okay, that about covers it from my perspective. If any of y'all have any questions post them up in comments and I'll (probably) try to answer them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Monday Poll

This week I got you. Against your better judgement you (yes, you) will vote in this week's The Monday Poll. You won't be able to resist. I am in fact so confident you will vote this week I'ma challenge you not to. Don't do it. Continue being a taker. Continue to enjoy VFTD without giving anything back or sharing your point of view with the rest of us. It's cool. But you will vote--this time.
As you may know--unless you're like totally out of the loop or tragically unhip--there has been real (legit) major league merger talks going on with all reports (leaks) suggesting things are progressing positively. One of the issues unsettled to date is the final format a merged league would offer to the hardcore tournament playing public. (Yeah, I said it. So what? They can deny it. They can ignore it. Whatever. It's true. I didn't violate omerta first, they did yo.) So what better question could the world's only dedicated to competitive paintball blog ask: What format would you like to see a single merged league offer?
VFTD will be listing a variety of options that have been bandied about in both conversations and on the web. You pick your favorite and let the league powers know what you want. (If one or more have features you want pick the one closest to your ideal choice. Trying to put all the options in the list would be ridiculous.) If none of the choices meets your approval post up your ideas in the comments. I don't even need to encourage you to vote this week.

Monday Poll in Review
I have reconciled myself to your (yes, you) intransigence--at least when it comes to The Monday Poll. A miserable 75 votes? You should be ashamed of yourselves for the embarrassment of riches you eschew but it's still okay. I'm good with it but I must say I worry about y'all. It's a sign of weak moral fiber--not that I'm judging 'cus I'm not--just saying. And if I won't tell you the truth, who will?
For those who did vote the results fell within the range I expected and which mostly corresponds with past event turnouts. (For those familiar with recent NPPL event attendance. Not those hoping to hype the numbers.) (Over the two plus years of the current NPPL's existence the league has averaged under 70 teams per event.) The voting majority (34%) chose the 51-75 team category which would be consistent with the norm, particularly as this is not an HB or Vegas event. 22% went with under 50 and given the DC event has been the least well attended in the past that's no necessarily a bad call but with 15 Pro teams guaranteed to end up under 50 is expecting a pretty miserable turnout. 26% went with 76-90 teams. Again, not unreasonable but perhaps a wee bit optimistic given past performance. Could happen but it seems unlikely. Above 90 but under 120 received 14% of the vote and represents actual NPPL attendees apparently--or perhaps it's the BizzaroWorld crowd chiming in. Above 120 received 1 vote and it's a toss up whether that's Chuck or Pev. You decide.
On the whole it seems the rumor talk has bolstered the general opinion of the NPPL. Odds are however it won't translate into an unexpectedly large number of actual teams showing up at Pev's place. If it did they'd probably be hard put to figure out where the extra field would go.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Paintball Miscellany

One quick additional word on the errant story Facefull posted yesterday and then pulled at the NPPL's request (apparently). Seriously, the sources must have been either NPPL people or bigwigs at KEE 'cus none of the primary PSP movers were present. Missed the story? Facefull was claiming the merger a veritable done deal until told their "facts" were mistaken and they should post haste pull their story. Which they did.

ProPaintball has a follow-up today on the latest rumorology regarding a merger and given the information in their latest missive VFTD will be doing a pre-merger analysis next week after the NJ Open as ProPaintball's sources are sufficiently well-informed (and willing to talk) that I no longer feel under any obligation to keep things under wraps at least in a general sense because plainly some NPPL sources have been talking.

Regarding last weekend's Paintball Festival I am hearing it was sparsely attended pretty much across the board. A couple hundred scenario players--maybe. A dozen teams competing in the UWL event--which is pretty typical. And perhaps as many as three or four dozen of the bread-and-butter field & store owner types which must have been a huge disappointment--but was readily predictable. And I'm not sure you can legally call it a trade show if there are fewer than 10 vendors present. The same people who ran the once mighty cash cow of the IAO into the ground show up a few years later trying to run a variation on the same theme and it is somehow supposed to magically fill up as the little people come from far and wide grateful for the privilege of attending? Really? Debra Dion Who? Oh, sure, apparently there was a decent turnout of bigwig types prepared to be seen and pontificate but it's easy to get them to come. They'll gather faster than you can say open bar. And it seems they were all a-twitter over airsoft which makes absolutely no sense to me at all. (We got into this a bit last week but it's back!) The fact is plenty of local fields already accommodate airsofters but how exactly does that help paintball and the paintball industry? Airsoft isn't a gateway to paintball play, it's a direct competitor to a (supposedly) strong element of paintball. And inviting airsoft in now only provides another non-paintball alternative to the new or occasional player. Unless the paintball industry is looking to morph into the airsoft industry--and last time I checked there already was an airsoft industry--none of their enthusiasm makes any sense. Unless Tom Cole is a master hypnotist too.

Did you see the new Tippmann multi-purpose Tippmann tool? (Designed specifically for Tippmann markers.) It's blunt, sturdy, nearly indestructible and fits in your pocket like a stubby, fat wrench. Am I the only one disappointed that it won't attach to my pickatinny rail system?

This last item is about the sold out, over sold even, final MS event of the season and more specifically about the size of the D2 division. For the 2011 season the MS cleverly disguised a shrinking base and incorporated scarcity into the mix by limiting the size of each competing division. This also helped in determining well in advance the scale of each event, fields required, etc. Consequently each event maxed out in all the divisions except M5 which has been discontinued. (And that one London event division that came up a couple teams shy.) Anyway the demand for Paris-Disney was apparently such that the MS has oversold D2 by 75% and D3 by 20%. In actual team numbers that means there will be an additional 30 teams competing, 24 of them in an enormous D2 of 56 total teams, on the same number of fields as an MS event intended for 30 fewer teams. (Or so I'm told.)
I have no idea if the days are long enough in Paris in early October to avoid playing under the lights or if there was enough scheduling time leeway that fitting an extra 30 teams in won't be an issue but what I do know is there are some teams and players who are concerned about how it's all going to play out. Unfortunately there is nothing VFTD can do for them so I hope they also mentioned their concerns to the MS. (haha) And I further hope the MS doesn't screw up what has proved to be a very good season for them at the last minute because they got too greedy--again. VFTD will wait and watch and see what happens.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Facefull Scoop

Kidding. Seriously, kids? Is Facefull no longer Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball? Surely a call or email to Rich would'a gotten the insider scoop long ago. (The link to their reportage is in the title.) Oh. Wait a sec. The story is gone. Pulled, apparently.
Here's the dealio. It seems Facefull was reporting earlier today that there was merger talk (and another recent meeting at the Paintball Festival) and a number of sources were confident it--a merge--was likely to happen. Among those sources Chuck Hendsch was named specifically.
I have two questions. How is this news exactly? Didn't VFTD report weeks ago that a meeting between the leagues was gonna happen? Didn't ProPaintball then tell you about the meeting after the fact? Didn't VFTD (kinda, sorta) confirm the rumors and just finish running a poll about the rumored impending merger? Okay, more than two questions. So Facefull finally catches up, talks to some peeps in Pennsylvania, posts a report--and then a few hours later pulls the report.
I was gonna ask if the Facefull story meant the wraps were off the merger rumors and Mr. Curious could unzip his lip--but I guess not. Did anybody save the page before it disappeared? Can't Google regurgitate that pulled story?

UPDATE: Check out this link to NPPL on Facebook. What a hoot! There's also a thread about same on PBN. Didn't Facefull get their story from NPPL sources in the first place?

The Monday Poll

A little better. Poll participation last week, that is. Not the aftermath of the historic, or should that be histrionic, congressional brinkmanship that did nothing but dig the debt hole deeper. Since I'm in a foul mood a) I told y'all no default was imminent, b) the downgrade would occur anyway and c) the projections S&P are putting out after the downgrade are all laughably optimistic, including their worse case scenario by 2021. (Probably because they are likely based on the Pollyanna-ish fiction being disseminated by the CBO.) But then I'm just a paintball coach. On the good news front Scar Jo and Ryan Reynolds may be getting back together. Fingers crossed!
Fortunately for you lot I'm the new, kinder, gentler and chill-er Baca Loco and your abject failure to make a go of the latest poll is cool. No, really, it's okay. I know you're busy (yes, you) and the demands of the day can be a real burden so if you don't always get a chance to participate--I understand. Maybe next time. In the meantime enjoy VFTD pressure-free. That's my new policy.
This week's poll could have been one of those run-of-the-mill who is going to win in New Jersey but just the thought of that almost induced a bout of narcolepsy--which isn't good for timely posting here at VFTD. So instead this week I'm asking the (slightly snarky) question: How many teams will the NPPL's DC Open draw? I'll include ranges of numbers and we'll see how well you do at prognosticating the final tally. I was also tempted to ask what the over/under on the D1 finals match would be but that seemed even nastier somehow. Maybe because I was thinking 3. Maybe 4 points. Another good one would have been--Will teams shoot more or less paint than normal at Jersey? (The answer for most will be more, btw.) Given all the possibilities I went with my gut. There you have it. Vote. Don't vote. It's cool. Whatever works for you.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll asked the evergreen question, Will the two major leagues finally make a merger happen? Or something quite like that. Voting was up around 20% so I thank those of you who participated. Those that didn't? You're missing out but it's cool. Live and let live, I say. By the narrowest of margins--one actual vote--the yeses captured the day. The difference was less than one percent. Among other things that means 50% of y'all aren't having any. You've been down this road before and all it brought was failure and heartbreak. Okay, that's probably overstating it a bit. But who can blame the naysayers? They have history on their side, after all. We've seemingly been here before only to have everything fall apart again and again. Why should this time be any different?
Although, truth be told I'm almost tempted to think a 50/50 split is actually a pretty positive result considering the number of past failures. Either a good sized chunk of the yes votes are unaware of the past or hope really does spring eternal. (Rumor has it everything remains on track to get this done before next season so I imagine we'll find out soon enough and in the meantime there's still paintball to be played.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GFOA Event #6 field layout

Aight, this is the last one of these I'm doing for a while. And trust me, I wouldn't have chosen to do this without a special request. It was a Facebook first--and maybe last. This particular layout is quite narrow, around 25 feet narrower than a standard xball layout. I don't know if that's normal for the GFOA or not but since they allow 15 bps the reduced distances will help players get wide. If this narrow layout is not the norm expect players to wide with greater consistency than usual.

The OTB Home lanes are much better on the snake side and it will take a quick post and a tight lane to shoot peeps off the break on the D-side. The lanes are there but they are narrow. And on both sides of the field the spacing between the corners and the initial wire props should force shooters to pick the prop they are trying to deny. Additionally the lanes from Home provide some opportunities to deny movement upfield and in the case of the snake to also to contest shooting positions so expect teams to keep a player Home for extended periods of points. On the other hand this layout presents real opportunities to teams and players that are willing to be bolder and more aggressive. Instead of waiting for the play to come to you this field let's you take the play to your opponent with that Home player if you're willing to push the envelope a bit. Either TCK is a viable early option as they can play both ways. The snake side TCK competes with the whole wire and feeds the corner, snake 1 & the Can. And the Can is a reasonably safe play until your opponent reaches the D-side 50 which means the Can can be played well into the mid-game and used to make the bump into snake 2 or even up into the Pins or X-side. The larger point is in strong side play (3 or more players) a Home gun is a neutral play but the lanes available are mostly defensive. Swinging out the Home player puts a extra gun into your offense.

This layout will play very much like a slightly small traditional xball field and that's a good thing as the narrow field also brings the center into play more easily. Looking at the lane options (blue & green) from snake 2 & D2 you can see they are well balanced in terms of targets of opportunity. The difference is D2 will be easier to reach on a regular basis. That will prove true for most D-side props. Snake side will be contested more hotly prop by prop and playing from an MD is much easier than a MR. (The angle on the MR will expose a careless shooter to angles the player can't see so be careful.) The blue squares not only indicate options for a Home player to maneuver but also indicate the primary gap control positions on the field. (Bunkers you can play that allow you to contest an opponents movement along one wire or the other.) The snake TCK will be difficult but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be played. Snake corner will also be important as it's a fortress on the back line and can contest movement up the snake on the wire side. (The only weakness of this layout is the MTs in the four corners given the likelihood of having to close points by digging those ticks out after they've crossed up. Practice doing it.)

Lastly there are opportunities to attack using the D-side inside Pins--the ones closest to the X (A). Walk them carefully and you'll see who is blocked and the quick kill shots available.

Should be a fun field to play--enjoy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tom Cole: Hobby Traitor?

Who'd a thunk it, right?
Right what?
Didn't you hear?
Apparently not.
It seems Tom Cole--
The Tom Cole?
Yes, of Bad Company fame. And creator of the UWL. Long time promoter for Kingman & Spyder. Original NPPL guy even. Now works for PALCO. Makers of an enormous line of, ahem, airsoft products.
Yep. And they are a major sponsor at the upcoming IAO, er, Paintball Festival where Tom is going to show paintball field owners how to supplement their income by encouraging airsoft play.
Wow! Okay. Let me see if I understand. Tom wants to sell paintball fields on the benefits of providing airsoft at the same time the industry is trying to disassociate paintball from airsoft and its look-a-like toy guns.
In a nutshell.
Wha'dya call that?
A hobby traitor?

H/T to the Big Bullet. Here's their story.

Festival vs. Extravaganza

Now that we've all enjoyed the latest political charade performed almost flawlessly by our bi-factional ruling party it's time to get back to paintball. Besides, I know many of you prefer the feel of nice warm soft sand to bury your head in and don't want to be inconvenienced by reality at a silly paintball blog. That way when your masters come along your ass will be elevated waiting to be kicked but at least you won't see it coming. Don't worry, be happy.
Has Extravaganza been so successful the folks who brought us the IAO just had to come back? Well, the Festival will also feature a scenario game & a UWL event. And, of course, the requisite party. And there must be plenty of paintball execs left who remember getting blitzed at the Sheraton bar on the old expense account back in the day. Good times.
What am I talking about?
Where have you been?
For the last couple of years (or more) Paintball Extravaganza has been bringing sellers (PBIndustry) together with (reluctant) buyers (local paintball retailers) in the guise of a conference designed to help the "little guy" make a go of his (or her) paintball field and/or store. The Paintball Festival promises to be about the same with the value added of actual paintball being played at Three Rivers during the festival period along with a laundry list of paintball celebrities. If you're a geezer like me you might consider it the reincarnation of the old IAO which featured an industry conference to coincide with the International Am Open paintball tournaments of years past. It's even scheduled for about the same time the IAO used to be.
Haven't years of dueling major leagues taught paintball anything? Now we have dueling conferences committed to helping field owners--or at least facilitating selling them something--like attending a festival or extravaganza. Is that too cynical? Is it one conference too many? I'm thinking it probably is.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Monday Poll

VFTD brings back The Monday Poll--from a brief hiatus--and you people greet it with a collective yawn--except those intrepid few who actually, like, you know, voted. Still it wasn't enough and The Monday Poll is herewith being placed on super secret double probation and could easily lose its status as a regular VFTD feature unless you (yes, you) step up to the plate and vote this week. Your vote will be a vote in this week's poll and it will be a vote to keep The Monday Poll around. (What do you mean how can it be super secret if I'm telling you about it? Shut up.)
To make it easy for you this week's poll question has always been a high interest big draw question in the past so I'm doing my best to rig the game but you still need to vote. This week's question is: Will the major leagues merge in the off season? Yes, they will merge or no, they won't. Doesn't get any easier than that and the question revolves around perhaps the single biggest ongoing drama in competitive paintball. Will the third (or fourth or fifth) time be the charm? Will this finally happen after years of failed efforts? Your vote decides. Vote. Vote often. (You can't but I like saying it.) Your vote counts and it doesn't matter where you are, who you are or whether or not you've ever played a major league event in the U.S. Make your voice heard and save The Monday Poll.

Monday Poll in Review
Talk about a rough week. A tiny dose of negative reality and VFTD loses Facebook likes. How harsh is that? It's a good thing I'm not Sally Field. (Some of the oldsters might get that one.) Not to mention another weak turnout at the poll again. Oops, I just mentioned it. I'ma give all you slackers a pass this time though 'cus I didn't make it easy for you with a limited post week that was, admittedly, kind of a downer. I am however gonna take your apathy and consider the accumulated number of un-votes from the silent majority (code for lazy slackers) as affirmative interest in paintball website reviews. The actual vote came out 53 - 47 against but the tidal wave of un-votes put the yeses way over the top. Hey, at least I'm honest in my disregard for your view--if you voted against--and not that many of you actually did so I don't really feel bad about it.
And just to show you VFTD isn't going to take this opportunity to pick on easy targets or the small fry the first review, when I get around to doing it, will of the 800 lb. gorilla of paintball websites, PBN. (No worries, John, the review might even turn out positively. Stranger things and all that.)