Monday, January 31, 2011

The Monday Poll

This week's poll is going with a more generic paintball topic; the local field. This is a poll that probably needs to be run two or three times a year to see how the numbers may or may not fluctuate with the seasons, weather, etc. Keeping it simple y'all only get one vote this week. Pick the option that best represents your local field. If you have any additional observations please post them up in comments. For example I'm curious about the impact of location in a tighter market. We keep hearing so many different stories about fields doing well, or beginning to come back while others continue to decline, etc. I'm wondering if location (among other variables) is having an effect. Are the regular rec players less inclined to travel distances to play at specific out of the way fields? Are urban or suburban fields more likely to be doing well in the current climate? This poll won't tell us that but who knows, the answers may be a surprise nonetheless.
Get to voting.

Monday Poll in Review
It seems last week's poll strained the limits of your collective abilities. Even the non-handicapped among the VFTD audience struggled somewhat (apparently) probably due to the fact that being lazy slackers nobody bothered to read The Monday Poll post before participating. The poll consisted of four pairs of questions to be compared and contrasted. I know, I should have known better--and I did--but I took the chance anyway--so I'm not really put out at the result or the inability of some to get the poll right. But just for record with 99 respondents--low for recent polls--'cus it was hard--there should have been 99 votes total with each pair of questions. There isn't, which tells me that most voters voted for two or three options at most and may or may not have considered the questions in their proper context.
The goal of the poll was to review some of the key changes in the PSP and see if any or all (or even none) seemed to be contributors to a diminished interest in playing in the PSP. Has the latest controversies put some teams and players off? The first pair set a baseline as it concerned what percentage of voters had previous PSP experience. That result was 2.5:1 min favor of having played the PSP before. The second pair focused on whether or not the voters believed the PSP needed to make changes based on economic necessity. The vote was better than 6:1 in favor of believing the league's explanation. The third pair of questions wanted to know how voters felt about the specific changes proposed. Here the results were 5:1 in accepting the changes being made. The concluding pair of questions asked who would (or would not) be competing in a PSP event in 2011. That result was less than 1.5:1 in favor of playing a PSP event.
What the poll as a whole suggests is that despite a large majority who accept and understand what the PSP is doing and why that some percentage are still unlikely to compete in a PSP event this season. In a direct comparison between those who have played PSP in the past and those who plan to this year the drop is around 10%. And it seems fair to conclude that the changes made were not decisive if and when season participation does decline.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Latest on PSP Classifications (& the UCP)

Some of the weaker among you will have shut their eyes tight, begun whimpering incoherently and rocking quietly unable to read past the title. Like shell-shocked soldiers they know only too well what another classification post will likely bring. There have been so many. It's not fair. They tried to read them all but somewhere along the line it became too much. (Because I can't leave not well enough alone.) Ground zero for classification posts begin here. Followed by here, here, here & here--for a sample. And last year around this time there was this one, and then this one. More than that and we approach a threshold that should not be crossed.

Fortunately, none of this year's changes are a step backwards so I'ma dispense with most of the UCP and focus on the (one) remaining issue. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the same concern I had last year (after the otherwise excellent progress of the improvements leading into 2010). Moving down. Oh, sure, the issue was addressed. Both last year and this year. Which is progress (and I'm not complaining), it's just not enough. Last year it was possible for a player's ranking scores to eventually drop 50%. (Which effectively meant a single division reduction, for the most part.) This time around it is possible for ranking scores to be reduced up to 75%. But it takes too long and the conditions (in part) are counter intuitive--to put it politely.
Let's go Big Picture for a second. The issue isn't the mechanics. The issue is how fluid are the skills required to play competitive paintball? Once you've worked your way up to say, D1, is the average competitive player legitimately going to remain a mostly D1 player? Keeping in mind there is a distinction between talent, skills and experience the answer is player specific. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. From my perspective the answer is far more often no than it is yes. With that a given I am convinced organized competitive paintball needs to more accurately recognize reality & be willing to be more flexible--despite the possible sandbagging complaints--and potentially keep more active tourney ballers playing.
The latest rule for reducing ranking points is initiated by either time passing or events played. I understand time passing, particularly if the player is no longer competing at his (her) highest level. But what I don't get is equating events played with time passing. The new rule means is that if a player plays enough events they can accelerate the rate ranking scores reduce. Need two years to drop to a 70% value? Play 12 or more events instead. But don't additional events played equal more opportunity, more experience, more competition? If it isn't helping to make a better player it's certainly contributing to maintaining whatever level of skill they do have. Even more nonsensical, to reach the lowest reductions in ranking points possible (65%) (75%) the rule is time & a minimum number of events played. For example, a player last competed in a PSP event in 2006 but until he competes in at least 3 more events his ranking points won't drop? That's how it reads.

This latest version is an improvement but it's not enough and the rules, as they appear to read, are in part contradictory to the concept being dealt with. Why not a simple formula? I recommended one last year. You'll find it in the last link above.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baca's Mailbag

"Dear Baca,
I have been playing paintball for as long as I have known my g/f. She never showed much interest before but lately she's been hinting she might like to play too. What do I do?

Okay, he didn't really sign his question 'confused' but he plainly is and besides, it's kinda a standard advice column gimmick so I'm going with it. Now you might think the answer is obvious--a no-brainer even--but it's not. Everyone says get more people into paintball. It's practically a duty these days and, well--girls are people too. And can paintball really afford to ignore 51% of the population? Ipso facto encourage the girlfriend to play paintball and you will have an activity you can enjoy and share together. But that wasn't the question. So while you lot congratulate each other for being sensitive, enlightened New Age males I'm going to answer "confused's" question. And tell him the truth.

Dear Confused,
There is still hope. The fact that you are uncertain is the proof. A few added details would have been helpful but we'll make do. The practical answer is to give her the Sting Test if she has never been shot before. Everyone who gives paintball a try either passes or fails the Sting Test so that's the place to start. Either the thrill of the game outweighs the occasional pain--or it doesn't. If she fails the Sting Test your worries are over. Here's what I suggest: Explain to her that while almost everyone enjoys playing for some people the pain overrides their pleasure and it's important to discover which type she is as soon as possible. This means you intend to shoot her once. Assure her it will be over quickly. Preferably in the thigh. Do not recommend she wear baggy clothing. Did I mention you want her to fail? Trust me, you're doing her a favor--and yourself one, too.
If she has already passed the Sting Test you are at a crossroads. Before you make a decision it is important you realize that there are a limited number of outcomes and most of them are bad. For you. Are you already on the defensive? Does she already have something of yours--hint: usually comes in a pair--safely tucked away in her purse? If yes this is also an opportunity. The secret to understanding the situation is that she has changed her mind. Nothing unusual in that. But by now you need to understand that means it's test time. For you. Remember, paintball didn't change. You didn't change. She did.
I know what you're thinking. What's the big deal? I hear you, dude. To you and me it isn't a big deal. You go along to get along 'cus most of the time you don't care enough one way or another. Sure, babe, whatever. But that, confused, is the wrong answer. I can't tell you what to say. (Okay, I could but this is something you need to do for yourself.) One last thing: remember, the key isn't trying to figure out what she wants, it's deciding what you want.

(VFTD looks forward to your comments and emails. VFTD cares.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Monday Poll

This week's poll will test your lazy slacker bonafides. (Google it, slacker.) Now that the PSP has opened registration for Galveston peeps are getting their first look at pricing and prizes which have changed--and not unexpectedly--and some are sounding off on the internet. Here are the PSP prices & prizes. Check it out. You can go further and compare the new pricing and prizes against any other PSP or you can believe Raehl who does his own comparison here. Or you can take my word for it that the overall result is a mixed bag. Prices are mostly up, but mostly not as much as NPPL and in the key divisions where one might expect the most registrations for new teams it is down a bit. Prizes more or less follow a similar pattern; down for most but up in a couple of places with entries or partial entries in lieu of or along with cash.
Now that the final pieces are in place we can see all the things the PSP has done to prepare for the 2011 season. What VFTD wants to know this week is what you think of the whole package and in order to delve a little deeper this week's poll is really a series of paired answers (you pick one from each pair.)

Given what I now know about all the PSP changes I ...
Have played PSP before
Have never played a PSP event

Believe the league acted out of financial necessity
Still not buying it

Can live with the changes (may even like some of them.)
Struggling to get past the changes

Will play a PSP event this year
Won't play a PSP event this year

You will have the option of multiple choices but please read and answer once for each pair of choices. Otherwise you negate your own vote and skew the result.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's poll was dead simple. Which league would have the better first event turnout? Galveston or Huntington Beach? If we learned nothing else we now know the HB mystique is no longer in effect. Once upon a time the original HB was like Woodstock, a whole generation of ballers lied about being there. Not anymore. The vote broke 53% to 47% in favor of the PSP and Galveston over HB, one of the most iconic venues in paintball history. Of course the vote was also a realistic one if the NPPL hold to their two field formula. It limits the number of teams that can compete but is a (near) fixed control on costs as well. If I recall correctly the NPPL claimed a full (ish) event at HB last year with numbers around 110-120. The PSP registration for Galveston is currently limited to 164.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On a Positive Note

Despite the doom and gloom and general air of desperation surrounding major league paintball positive things continue to happen with all the leagues making moves. (If everybody started to say competitive paintball was okay, doing just fine, we're all happy to play; would it make a difference?) Once again I have something positive to say about the Millennium Series. I know, it's weird, right? But I can't help it. Have you seen the Paris venue for the first event? It really is a Paris venue. If the surface is flat, which it ought to be, it's nearly ideal. On the other hand there remains the questions surrounding all the empty CPL spots and licenses for the locked divisions and far those numbers may (continue to) decline. Camp Carnage (fourth last season in SPL) have agreed to go CPL and the MS is also attempting to be proactive behind the scenes but no word how that's working for them yet.

The PSP announced yesterday new affiliates league(s) under the resurrected banner of the AXBL--which was discontinued in the Northeast a year or two ago. It returns under the leadership of new commissioner Steve Rabackoff playing in both the Atlantic Coast region (Maryland, etc.) and in Texas. The new AXBL leagues will play some version of Race 2 X (apparently), use the PSP rulebook and APPA registration. It wasn't announced if the AXBL will continue as in the past as competitors for the Richmond Cup.
What I'm curious about though is taking a peek behind the curtain. In the press release Steve does mention working with Louis Dalesio, commish of the CXBL (and owner of PBL Action Sports in Canada.) It used to be the CXBL & AXBL were DXS sponsored series with, if I remember correctly, distribution thru PBL. Since Steve now works for GI Sportz I expect GI will be the AXBL paint sponsor. Will the CXBL follow? If so it's another blow to DXS as GI Sportz continues to make inroads with high profile distribution deals.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Champions Bacaball

The long, dark night of the Bacaball series of posts is coming to an end, my friends and fellow sufferers. If you're still reading you're a glutton for punishment and my kind of people.

The unique to Champions Bacaball (along with the larger field, four flag stations and 6 players) is an additional field modification that allows players to insert as "live" players during the play of a point as the clock is running. On the Champions field diagram. The orange area is the insertion zone where "inactive" players await an opportunity to enter the active field of play dependant on the elimination of teammates. Netting suspended like a curtain at each end creates the insertion zone. Player(s) may insert from either end or at quarterly increments. There is no restriction on which insert point a player may use. Part of a team's strategy in Champions will likely revolve on which players begin a point and which ones insert based on specific losses, either of players or positions on the field. Players in the insertion zone must place their marker in a rack and are not allowed to pick it up (if they are the next insert) until the eliminated player has passed into the insertion zone (and is returning to the pit.) Players in the insertion zone may coach.

Points play out as normal excepting that the duration of each point may be extended by the potential to insert additional players. At no time will the number of "live" players in the "active area" of the field exceed 6. The max roster is 10 so no more than 10 players may participate on one side of a Bacaball Champions match during a given point. It is, however, possible for fewer than 10 to participate if, for example, a player receives any form of suspension or a suspension should carry over from a previous match. Each suspended player will reduce the maximum number of available players. If a team begins a Champions match with a suspended player they may not have more than 3 available insert players for any point while the suspension is in effect. Any additional suspensions would continue to reduce the available number of insert players. Keep in mind time in the penalty box is not the same thing as a suspension and the penalty box would function much as you are currently used to it.

The intriguing aspect of Champions play is that the insertion option allows for an ebb & flow to each point as which team has the upper hand can shift back & forth as players are whittled down with the possibility of changing strategies unfolding and different players bring different skill sets into the points. The player advantage to Champions is that everyone may get an chance to play every point depending on how a match unfolds.

Conceptually Champions is designed and intended to be that full scale format that transforms a game or a point into a full fledged sporting event. In Bacaball scoring changes the nature of the game completely. In Champions the introduction of insert players adds an additional level of strategy & suspense that encourages players and teams to compete according to their various strengths as they avoid their weaknesses. And despite the occasional complaint to the contrary it should take the Average Joe about 15 minutes to figure out how to watch Bacaball and understand enough about what's going on to (hopefully) find it entertaining.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Who Pulls The Trigger First?

Will it be the NPPL or the PSP? And why the hold up on opening up registration for each league's first event? What are they waiting for? The NPPL has a little more maneuvering room with their event scheduled for April 1-3. The PSP launches March 11-13. Are they each concerned that slow early numbers might dissuade some fence sitters? Are they playing chicken with entry fees? Waiting for the other guy to post theirs first? Narrowing the window of opportunity may build some tension. It may create an artificial scarcity or at least the appearance of limitations on available opportunities and pressure teams to sign quickly once registration finally does open up. But if so every day delayed heightens the importance of every day remaining in which to register. Of course the usual rule of thumb was to give teams as much time as possible and incentivize the decision-making process by offering the cheapest entries to the earliest registrants.

UPDATE: NPPL announces registration for Huntington Beach will open January 26th.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bacaball: Big field, more players, more bunkers

This is the next to last Basic Bacaball post. (The last will cover Champions in more detail.) Otherwise I may, on occasion, continue to expand on one feature or another as the urge strikes--or until somebody is willing to give it a live test. At that point it would probably be wisest to focus on the format without also trying to incorporate the modified rules in order to see what happens. Besides, if you people are any indication that will be the hardest part of the process to realize.

More bunkers is just a function of more field along with the removal of a jumbo-sized signature prop. 50 is just a guess but I would be surprised if the final, optimal number went above 55. So 50 to start out with and game experimentation to finalize a bunker kit.

The larger field takes into consideration a couple of new factors. (It is possible a smaller field could still provide satisfactory spacing to meet Bacaball's requirements in which case the smallest field that will deliver the necessary playability is the one I want. The suggested dimensions of 180 by 150 was the next increment up to maintain the same ratio as the old xball standard of 150 by 125.) The new additions are the sixth man and the multi-flag scoring system. The larger playing area accommodates an additional player and the scoring system requires a different spacing in order for the full strategic and tactical effect to become evident. (If everything is too close together it becomes too easy to cover multiple positions from key props which would tend to defeat the purpose.) A larger field will also (typically) make reffing easier as long as the refs remain active and diligent. As a practical matter both the recommended field size and bunker set are open to change although I think they will probably prove to be pretty close to ideal.

The sixth player isn't just a change for changes' sake. (Bacaball could also play with 7 on the suggested field size. Probably not ideal. Just saying you could.) Even so I think 6 is better than 7 as it will compliment the new scoring but also put a premium on live bodies as the new scoring alters the core risk/reward judgment equilibrium. The more complex set of decisions and risk assessments has greater opportunity to play out in practice with an extra player on field and even numbers offer the possibility, for the first time, of a balanced breakout to disguise a team's intent initially. And given the different ways it's possible for both teams to score 5 players simply aren't enough to allow teams to implement more complex strategies as they play out individual points in a game or match.

The goal of Bacaball is to create a fast-paced, action-filled paintball game that provides an easy to understand (hard to accomplish) competitive dynamic that is both fun to play and watch that will reward any and all styles of play if they are executed with sufficient skill.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Monday Poll

While we await the opening of registration for both the PSP's Galveston season opener and the NPPL's Huntington Beach event the obvious question is which will be the bigger event? Galveston isn't Phoenix but Phoenix was in decline in real numbers and there seems to be mostly positive buzz about the new Texas venue. Of course HB is a legendary venue--and isn't it just a little sad that a significant percent of current tourney players only know what they've seen the last couple of years--or that I can call HB legendary and everyone acknowledges my meaning even though the first HB was less than a decade ago. Anyway, before real registration numbers start to skew our results swish those tea leaves around or grab that Magic 8-ball as you vote this week on which event will have the largest turnout. PSP or NPPL?

More teams will play--
Huntington Beach

Monday Poll in Review
Last week VFTD wanted to know, in a roundabout sorta way, what if any impact the presence of a pro division has on the average or likely divisional player. The question was: Imagine there are no more pro divisions in the major leagues (PSP, NPPL & MS) would you be ... More inclined to participate in a major league event; less inclined or it wouldn't make any difference. More inclined finished a distant third with 7% of the vote. Less inclined received 30% of the vote and wouldn't make any difference was the overwhelming choice with 62%.
I had expected going into the week of the poll that the less inclined & wouldn't make any difference votes to have been the reverse of what they turned out. Nor am I sure I believe the voters. As I pointed out in the comments it wasn't too many years ago that the main draw for divisional teams was a chance to play a pro in the prelims. And for the more competitive teams playing the series in one of the am divisions isn't the goal to succeed and have a chance to move up? Move up to what? And what about a team like Vicious? Sure they've been cleverly marketed but isn't a chunk of their popularity the result of living the dream, working their way up, and reaching the pinnacle of their sport? Hard to do without the pinnacle.
On the other hand, if these numbers are to be believed, maybe the PSP would be better off without a pro division and those CPL losses might be a blessing in disguise.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bacaball: Scoring

As previously noted there are four designated flag hang locations on a Bacaball field. Three flags are placed randomly at 3 of the 4 locations prior to each point. The "free" flag serves the same function as the flag used in (xball) Race 2 in that a team must hang the "free" flag in the opponent's start station in order to score a point. It doesn't matter when the "free" flag is pulled nor what the on-field conditions may be. Each of the other two flags are team specific flags and may only score for a specific team. The team flags score a point when successfully pulled. A successful pull is one that occurs with live opponent(s) on the field when a referee signals possession, a clean pull. The traditional rule for flag pull possession has been pulling the flag and moving some minor distance, 5 feet, with the flag, without being eliminated. The point is scored as soon as the referee signals a clean pull. On any given point it is possible to score 2 points maximum.
The only other team flag result possible is if a live member of the other team successfully pulls the opponent's team flag. This results in a dead flag that cannot score for the duration of that point.

Under current rules the flag is a relatively meaningless afterthought. Teams play to eliminate all their opponents before they pull the flag and frequently don't even need to hang it if the opponent wants or needs to save clock time. Otherwise the only uncertainty with a current flag hang is the possibility the player hanging the flag is determined to have a prior hit.

In Bacaball the current scoring strategy will continue to exist along with the added complications presented by the opportunity for an additional score during the play of any point. Deficits can be made up faster. Strategies and tactics become truly demanding. Do you play for flag pulls? Play to take away your opponent's pulls or do you play standard strategy of scoring after the opponent is eliminated? Or do you wait for certain flag arrangements on the random draw? Additionally, spectators can see from the breakout what each team is likely looking to do as the addition of team flags provide a focus for understanding what each team is attempting to do as each point unfolds.

Next: Why the larger field and six players?

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Stop the madness. Many's the time VFTD has looked in vain for an answer to the flagging interest (and participation) in competitive paintball. And no matter how positively received initially each time every "new" answer leaves something to be desired. Somehow doubt creeps in leaving each momentary certainty ultimately unsatisfactory. Frustration builds and hopelessness sets in making the struggle that much more difficult. And then it came to me.
It was an epiphany. Totally out of the blue. Nothing a conscious mind would have ever considered. It's the damned acronyms. Competitive paintball is suffocating under an immense pile of acronyms. What's a PSP? Or a NPPL? Or a WCPPL for that matter? A CFOA or BCPPL or a CXBL? A CFPS or a MSXL? MAPL? NEPL? PBC? PALS? And I'm just getting started. How the hell is anyone supposed to know that all those and more represent competitive paintball? I say enough with the acronyms already. Support VFTD as we work to get the message out. No more acronyms. It's time to put the "paintball" back into competitive paintball. Whose with me?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lite, Bacaball & Champions

This will be an easier post to follow than yesterday's, Officiating Bacaball, as it's pretty straight forward. It will also be (hopefully) shorter but I often start with the best of intentions and it all goes wrong from there. Today I'm simply going to distinguish between the basic variants of Bacaball and follow-up with more detailed explanations of the changes in future posts. By all means, feel free to ask questions, offer suggestions or call my sanity into question as you please along the way.

Lite: The idea for Bacaball Lite is to simply adapt and incorporate some features of Bacaball into any version of tourney style ball from recreational speedball games to local events played on out of date 7-man fields. The core component is the use of the Bacaball rulebook and officiating guidelines. It is perfectly acceptable to adapt those rules as may be needed to the specific game being played. For example, if the format isn't a multi-point match style game the process of accumulating flag demerits might need to be adapted in order to fulfill the rules' intent. The long term goal is to universalize the rulebook and its philosophic perspective. Granted that's a substantial goal but if no other element of Bacaball is taken seriously competitive paintball would benefit from a new perspective on rules and enforcement. As stated yesterday it's not just the rules but the consistency with which they are enforced and the temperament of the refs (and something worth another post some other time.) The alternative to incorporating the rulebook for a game of Bacaball Lite would be to incorporate the scoring system. Or both. So that Lite is either the Bacaball rules or scoring system or both adapted to a non-Bacaball format for the play of competitive paintball. (More on scoring coming.)
Bacaball: base Bacaball is played on a field 180 ft. long & 150 ft. wide. (Yes, this is bigger than either a NPPL standard field or the new PSP standard field though it retains the proportions of the original Xball standard field.) The bunker set is bumped up to 50 props and does not include any large, one-of-a-kind brand identifying bunker like the old X, current A or M. Penalty boxes remain consistent, more or less, with current practice. The same with pits--although in Champions they are positioned differently. The games (matches) can be played to time or score or the current PSP variant in which time takes precedent over score. First to seven or 20 minutes of non-running clock time, whichever comes first. Four flag stations are placed approx. along the 50 from wire to wire. Placement may vary to some degree based on a specific layout. Three flags are place prior to each point, a flag designated to each team by color and the up-for-grab flag. Each point one of the four flag stations will be empty with the others assigned a single flag based on prior random draw the Ultimate has on his (her) person. Lastly, each point of Bacaball lines up 6 players back center waiting for the horn or whistle to begin the point.

Bacaball Champions: Field dimensions, bunker set, flag numbers & placement, scoring and starting number of players remain the same as base Bacaball. The key changes in Champions is the placement of the pits and player insertion. (You read that correctly. Player insertion.) See the diagram for a view of the modified pits and ends of the "live" field of play. Any inserted player may enter from one of five entry points and immediately becomes a "live" player. However there can never be more than 6 live players on the field per team. Players insert from any insert point as soon as an eliminated player exits the "live" field area. In Champions it is possible for the complete active roster to play in every point. Scoring remains the same.

Next time I'll begin filling in the details on features like scoring, insertions, etc.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Officiating Bacaball

This post will not be an all-inclusive look at a new rulebook. For starters I have no intention of working that hard (right this minute) on behalf of a hypothetical format. What I intend to do in this post is explain the practical changes and the philosophy behind those changes. Think of this then as the early stages of laying a foundation. The rules themselves are largely in place and that part of the process would simply take into account the differences between Bacaball and the current iterations of various tourney formats along with some minor tweaking consistent with the new philosophy.

In my view there is too much emphasis on the punitive elements and too much of that is overkill given the nature of some of the infractions the current rules enforce. More simply put the penalty often doesn't fit the crime. While the rules necessarily define the game so too the way they are enforced. Too often a penalty assessed and justified as redress is in fact a method for altering an outcome. Don't get me wrong. Some infractions deserve harsh penalties but many do not if our singular purpose is to regulate a "fair" game and a final result based primarily on the abilities of the competing teams.
Here's how it will work. Each referee has four flags; white, yellow, orange & red. Unfurled they need not be any larger than say, 8 in. by 5 in. (Any size that is easily seen.) When there is an infraction the ref signals that infraction by briefly waving the appropriately colored flag and making the call which is duly noted at the scorer's table. The first thing the four flag option does is communicate more precise general information to the competing teams and spectators than occurs now. And in providing for more precision it becomes easier to make distinctions between infractions and their corresponding penalties. While removal to the penalty box remains a component of enforcement the focus is altered somewhat by more tightly tieing infractions to the violating player. This is done in a manner similar to soccer (futbol) officials handing out yellow & red cards. In Bacaball it's the accumulation of white flags and/or issuance of a red flag. The result is immediate player suspension(s) lasting anywhere from the duration of the current match to an event suspension. The rationale is that about the worst thing you can do to a player is deny him the opportunity to compete. And that the major impact of assessed penalties should fall on the player(s) responsible for violating the rules.
In current formulation there are a large number of (perhaps) necessary calls that are also, in my estimation, overkill simply because nobody has proposed a reasonable alternative. In Race 2-7 talking on the field after being eliminated is a minor penalty (when enforced--which is perhaps 50% of the time.) In the Bacaball system a first time infraction would merit a white flag in which the white flag denotes a warning that doesn't otherwise enforce an additional penalty--although the accumulation white flags over the course of a match would eventually result in an additional penalty when the limit is reached. Similarly Bacaball would assign a white flag in the first instance of a minor hot gun (along with the elimination of the player) instead of the current minor penalty assessment. The white flag concept allows for more nuanced calls than exist today and more accurately reflect differences in how an infraction more or may not have significant impact on the play of a point.
The goal is to moderate the impact of regulatory rules and/or minor infractions that may not merit the currently assigned penalty while still allowing sufficient deterrence to encourage "fair" play and ultimately apply the steepest penalties to repeat offenders pushing the limits (even in small ways) and those whose infractions unambiguously merit severe penalty. Additionally Bacaball hopes to limit the subjectiveness often perceived in current officiating with the extra tiers of potential calls provided in the two new penalty options. (If you'd like to debate the subjectivity inherent in the system please look here, here, here, here & finally here for the 2009 post series called 'Name That Penalty.'
Additional issues remain like how are the officials trained. How do they most efficiently coordinate on field and in making calls? What are individual responsibilities depending on how officials are working a given match? As a practical matter, for example, I have problems with refs making calls from behind players with hand signals. Or Ultimates gathering the refs for a midfield pow-wow before announcing the most recent penalty called. If ref A calls a penalty and the Ultimate finds the explanation unsatisfactory for whatever reason he should dismiss ref A and call over ref B to determine if ref B saw anything that can help clarify the original call--and so on--until the Ultimate is clear on the call. But at no time should the refs gather prior to a call being made. It looks bad. It looks like CYA and the number one complaint everywhere in the tournament world is poor officiating. This is magnified at the major league level because of the cost and it only makes sense to incorporate procedures that will likely help reduce the incidence of complaints.

That's it, kids. Sure, there's still lots of details to be worked out but the guiding principles are simplicity, transparency & the minimal necessary interference with the play of the game to retain good order and fair play.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Monday Poll

The pieces of the 2011 major league season are beginning to fall into place. Sure, there's a few pieces still missing but with the most recent PSP and Millennium announcements it certainly feels more like something is happening. In trying to keep track of the pro divisions for 2011 the numbers are uncertain--last I heard the NPPL was hoping for a baker's dozen while the PSP wonders where 8 teams, 10 would be better, are going to come from and CPL losses continue to mount. Even if the MS doesn't relegate the two lowest ranked teams the shake-up will be profound with perhaps upwards of 40% of the 2011 division being new teams or else a reduced division. Bullets are out. Menace is done. Joy are finished. The league has scheduled the second event on top of the previously announced second NPPL event which presents Dynasty a real rostering challenge at best. (It's almost like the MS wanted to handicap Dynasty or something.) And yesterday rumors leak that Chilli Peppers Riga may also call it quits and that Syndicate have suffered a severe roster shake-up. As the pro ranks everywhere continue to dwindle it brings us to this week's Monday Poll question about the merits of a pro divisions and what makes a major league series major league.

UPDATE: What we have here is my failure to communicate. When the set-up question proposes no pro divisions in the current major league series I didn't mean there were no pro divisions period, only that they were no longer a part of the current major leagues, ie; PSP, NPPL & MS. Does that clarification alter your response?

Imagine there are no pro divisions left in any of the major league series (PSP, NPPL & MS) Would you be ...
More inclined to compete in a major league series?
Less inclined?
Wouldn't make any difference.

I'll be very interested in the reasons why you voted the way you did if any of you can bothered to respond in the comments. What is a major league series if it isn't about the pros and representing the best the game can be? Or is the value enhanced if the focus of attention spreads further down the am divisions?

Monday Poll in Review
Last week's Monday Poll wanted to know how much tournament paintball respondents intended to play in 2011. I don't know that the responses were either encouraging or discouraging but the way the concentrations of votes spread out didn't suggest any particular trends--like a strong move towards regional play, for example. The largest vote getter at 27% was the somewhat non-committal "as much as I can but probably not as much as I'd like." It would be interesting to follow-up on that in comments and see what people think will be the major factor in playing less events than they would like. The second most votes (20%) went to "will be taking some time off." Likewise, why will you be taking some time off? 9% said they would be getting back into tourney play this year after some time out of the game. Is that due to PSP changes perhaps or is it more likely those returnees will be playing local or regional instead? 13% specifically identified their regional series as the one they wanted to compete in while local series (or events) pulled only 3%. 7% expect to play some local events plus one major league event and a comparable 7% intend to play in both major leagues without committing to each complete series. Another 7% will play some local events plus World Cup. 1% will do more reffing. 3% are going to switch formats though from what to what is unspecified. And lastly (in something of a surprise to me) nobody voted for playing NCPA with their college team.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Millennium 2011 (so far)

Just when you begin to believe there are things in this world you can count on, like police brutality, that lowbrow celebrity culture can't sink any lower and that the MS will find a way to screw up (again) something happens to turn your world upside down. The Millennium announced their latest changes for the 2011 season and--and (I can't believe I'm saying this) it doesn't look half bad. Regular readers know I enjoy taking shots, cheap or otherwise, at the MS and while it has often been like shooting fish in a barrel I have no shame. The easier the better. Of course I could say something about the pompous know-it-all members of the board who think Paintball owes them a special debt of gratitude or about the interpersonal skills of Obersturmbannfuhrer (Ulrich Stahr) Klinkenhoffer but what would be the point? Okay, other than a cheap laugh. Which is its own reward. While I might have done some things differently the MS's moves this time around merit a real discussion. (The post title links to the press release.)
I like the concept behind the longer term additions, the assorted Cups (Ladies, Youth & Nations) under the auspices of the EPBF & national federations. And I'm looking forward to hearing more about how it will work. Given the way the majority of sports are organized in Europe this move looks like a sensible, progressive measure aimed at helping build the essential structures of a recognized sport while laying the foundation for continued cooperation between the MS and developing federations.
The relative centralization of events with a second Paris-area event makes sense and could be a real plus if it measures up to the claims being made about the location.
Regarding format and game play changes it's kind of a mixed bag. Removing the designated coach from the spectator sideline doesn't remove "coaching;" it simply moves it into the crowd. Maybe that's enough but if it isn't the MS will need to consider some means of enforcing whatever it is they're trying to accomplish. On the other hand, unlike the PSP, it allows the players to remain actively involved from inside the pit area.
EDIT: [Widening the field ... ] For no reason I can fathom I assumed the stated change in field dimension widened the field. (I didn't even check the math.) It doesn't. It narrows the field marginally, from 125 ft. to the current PSP 120 ft. Given the actual nature of the change it's not a particularly consequential move. It probably could have been implemented with no one the wiser. Unlike the changes made to D3's format which will better serve as a Race 2 transitional format between M5 and full on Race 2-4 than the quasi-Race 2 played last season. And lastly there is what the league will continue to do; release the event layout 4-5 weeks in advance. My argument on this issue stands; it will force a battered CPL to continue scrimmaging the layout while driving the pre-event demands down the divisions just like it has in the U.S. With similar results, declining numbers of lower division participation. It will also, in time, prove advantageous to the ongoing development of U.S players over Euro players just as the gap was beginning to close. Even so, agree or disagree, it appears that across the board the MS has taken a thoughtful and measured approach to change this off season. Still the devil is in the details and we don't know some of those just yet.

Finally there are a couple of items that haven't been addressed yet. The May MS event overlaps the May NPPL event. Does that mean the MS doesn't expect a Dynasty team to compete this season? And if not that would be a sixth CPL team loss between the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Is there a chance the MS won't relegate any CPL teams this year because of the extra openings? Will SPL & D1 remain locked divisions? And on a related topic does the MS plan to do anything about U.S. pros filling roster spots down into D2? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dates, Puppets & Other Observations

If you are gnawing on your knuckles because you were anxiously awaiting the next Bacaball post, relax. By the time I'm done with Bacaball you will be bored to tears and contemplating the least painful ways to die as a means of escape.
It seems the PSP has settled on a first event location and dates. Even though the official word has yet to be released I think it's safe to say it will be Galveston TX in mid-March. Galveston has been on the short list for a while and looks like a good place for an event. An easy run from the airport the area is, among other things, a tourist center & spring break mecca. And it saves on a Left Coast flight. (I'm too old for this and cross country flights make me cranky. Crankier than normal, that is.) The only downside I can think of is the prospect of a sandy playing surface and on that score I'm only guessing it might be a concern. Along coastal Florida the ground can be very sandy and while grass grows it isn't the sturdiest of stuff. Guess we'll find out.
It's Friday and I've been remiss the last couple of weeks in welcoming VFTD's latest recruits to the (DPA) Deadbox Puppet Army. Over the last couple of weeks it is VFTD's great privilege to announce the recruitment of Ryan Gray, Pat Smith & Tom. (I didn't forget you guys.) Welcome & well done. World domination is that much closer to being within our grasp. If the purpose and potential of the DPA remains unclear look here & here for a fuller explanation.
And I wanted to take a moment to recognize the slackitude y'all display in measuring up to my expectations. Voting once a week. Joining the DPA & clicking on the damned Facebook 'like' button. There are more peeps signed up for the RSS feed than could be bothered to click the 'like' button. Way to go, kids! That is the true slacker spirit, well done. Or not done as the case may be.
I also noticed reported the possible move of Tyler Harmon from, er, Blast or was it Impact or both, to Infamous. If it works for Tyler that's swell. It only caught my attention 'cus I was under the impression Infamous already had like 47 guys on their roster--and it got me to wondering. Suddenly it's that time of the year again when I'm actually getting curious to see who is gonna end up where and who the new or up & coming teams will be. Will the PSP manage 8 pro teams this year? And who is the new NPPL team? (That's what I heard but I'm so far outta the loop ...)
While I'm at it Baca's Mailbag is getting a little thin. If I don't hear from you I might have to answer Joe from Peoria's question about paintball and his girlfriend and you really don't want me to do that. Not a threat. I'm just saying.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bacaball, the Teaser

While not quite ready for unveiling just yet I've actually been working on this nonsense to the detriment, at least time-wise, of other projects but if I won't make the effort to perfect the game, who will? That kinda makes it a duty. Then when I object to one thing or another and some idiot says, why don't you do it yourself then, I'll say, I already have, you moron. Besides, there's quite a lot to this and if I can drag the revelations out over a few posts I can rationalize the enormous time-waster it's turning out to be.
My goal with this exercise was to "fix" the aspects of the game I don't like and to try and realize a variation of the game that might prove more easily appreciated by non-playing spectators by offering clear focal points and more obvious suspense as points play out. As it turns out those changes will alter the tactics and strategy of the game rather dramatically. (So much so I'm not sure whether I like it or not. If anything it puts a higher premium on communication, teamwork & thinking on the fly. There's only so much of the game play I can project without seeing it played for real.)
Unfortunately Bacaball isn't going to be any more economical to play than the current xball derivatives in Race 2 when played in its purest form. But there are elements of Bacaball that can be easily incorporated into simpler variations of competitive paintball without any real difficulty. Bacaball can, for example, be played on most any sort of field from Race 2 to 7-man to whatever the local field operator has set up for speedball. As presently conceived there are three variants of Bacaball; Lite, Bacaball & Bacaball Champions.
At the core of Bacaball is a simplified rulebook and a change in both methodology and intent when handing out penalties for rules infractions. The other key element is the scoring system. Bacaball optimizes the playing environment and Champions incorporates the ultimate variant of Bacaball, one that might, just might, be ready for prime time.
More coming soon in Officiating Bacaball.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

(Another) Lazy Slacker Re-post of the Week

Man, I wish I'd thought of this repost gimmick a long time ago. What a racket. Thing is there's not really much happening. Nothing making me angry. Nothing exciting me with new possibilities. So instead of cranking out some lame crap I'm recycling some not-so-lame older original material. (Another WELT piece.) Besides, there's new readers everyday--there are so--and just because they're new doesn't mean they should be deprived of past VFTD wisdom. And for all you whiners out there insisting on fresh VFTD material I am finishing up on Bacaball--the ultimate in tournament play--which should be ready for posting in the next couple of days. I steal the best ideas from the world of paintball and kick in a couple unique elements.

Lastly, a brief disclaimer: No, I'm not contributing to the anti-social, punk ass behavior of pint-sized tournament wannabes. It's their current default setting. And the only thing worse than them thinking they've earned the right to anything is you people whining about it. So shut up and read.

I'm not a Hater

I'm not a hater. Really I'm not. Just misunderstood. Oh sure, if you're at the other end of the field all I want you to do is die. I know it sounds bad but it's not like it's permanent or anything. But if you get blown up, lit up and pissed off I'm okay with that. Something for the next guy in your place to think about. But it's nothing personal. Honest.
Seriously, I'm really not a hater. Off the field I'm a swell guy. Ask anybody. Well, almost anybody. Just because I don't smile, offer to shake your hand or wish you good luck before we play doesn't make me a hater. It just means I'm not a hypocrite. I don't want you to have good luck even if you're gonna need all the luck in the world. On the field we're not enemies but we aren't friends either. On the field you're the guy who wants to take something away from me and I'm the guy who is gonna do his best to see you fail. But that doesn't make me a hater.
After the game I may apologize for those shots to the neck but I'm not really sorry. (That's not completely true. I am sincerely sorry if you're a friend of mine but I ain't sorry I did it.) Doesn't mean I'm a hater. You got bunkered. Live with it. If you're gonna be mad be mad at your guy who didn't back you up. Truth is I'm coming over the top as up close and personal as possible and that patch of bare skin is just begging for it. It's screaming shoot me and there's no way this guy tries to spin–so that's what I do. And you know what? It usually works.
It ain't my fault if the referee doesn't make the call you wanted or even the one you (and half the peeps watching) are positive was the right call. Did I get that second kill after I was hit? Could be. But it is what it is. Doesn't make me a hater. If it happens fast enough who can say exactly who shot who first? And if you haven't figured out yet that the refs favor the aggressor consider this a necessary lesson learned. While you're at it ...
Quit your whining. You did not get overshot, you didn't stop coming. What do you expect if you try to run my boy down and don't stop when I shoot you? When you stop running I stop shooting. See how that works? I'm not a hater, it's your own fault you look like an avalanche of paint fell on you. If you didn't know the score before you do now. You were determined to make that move count and I was determined to make you pay the price. That ain't hate, that's paintball the way the big boys play it. And the extra five or six to the back? You earned those too.
What's a few bonus balls among competitors? If that puts you off your game then it did what it was supposed to. It ain't me being a hater. It's intimidation–and maybe even a little bit of respect. Not that I'll ever admit it.
Look, I know this brand of paintball isn't for everybody. But when the stakes are high, when the competition is tight, when the difference between winning and losing is razor thin this is the way the game is played. It ain't about hate, it's about winning.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Monday Poll

Time to pretend to put your money where your mouth is. It's one thing to read a poll question and pick an answer. You could do that with your eyes closed or after consulting the Magic 8 Ball. What VFTD is looking for this time is the answer that comes closest to what you actually intend to do this season. Not what you'd like to do. Not the most popular answer. Not the answer you think will make me happy Nothing makes me happy except 100% give-until-you-puke effort. No need to go that far this time, just an honest answer. What's your commitment to tourney ball this year?

When it comes to tournament play this year I ... (complete the sentence with one of the optional answers--which will constitute your one and only vote in this week's poll.)

Monday Poll in Review
This week VFTD reviews the results to last week's poll question: Paintball's Big Winner in 2011 Will Be? (If you were wondering the answer is yes, it was a trick question. Winners in 2011. Now that's funny!) The actual results are a mixed bag. Think gourmet nuts where you really get a tasty mix of quality nuts and not the usual assortment of mixed nuts where most of them are peanuts, cheap bastards. Yeah, I'm talking about you, Planters.
You know how many owners the NPPL 3.0 has? Check the votes for NPPL. Apparently there are 19. (Does Rage still have a share? No way. Really?) And the NPPL gets 15% of the vote while the PSP only gets 9%? Of course the PSP has struggled with some controversy lately, too. Beyond the major leagues--oh, yeah, almost forgot, the MS got a slamming 1%--the other significant vote getters were regional leagues (13%), bigtime scenario games (10%) & the obvious if somewhat cynical response, Nobody (19%). My favorites were the categories with actual votes cast that didn't amount to even 1%. Somebody threw PBIndustry a sympathy vote and, curiously, tourney players also received a solitary vote. If some votes went to local and regional tourneys along with the MLP votes aren't all those votes also, at least in some respects, votes for the tourney player, too? The rest of the votes were all over with a few percent for local fields, rec players, everybody & the paint manufacturers. How do the paint manufacturers end up winners when they've spent the last few years consolidating only to have new competitors jump into the game. And of course our friends at PALS got a pair of votes tossed their way and those votes have as much chance of being correct, perhaps more, than any of the others as the league is newer and still growing in a part of the world where paintball is still growing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Lazy Slacker Re-post of the Week

The following piece was written for and previously appeared in WELT digital magazine, the short-lived project from the folks who brought you PGi.

Moonbats, Drillbits & Semiauto

There is one subject that drives me to the brink of gleeful homicide--the blindly willful utter nonsense spouted by the "semi-auto" advocacy crowd. This includes a few friends of mine so y'all please feel free to delude yourselves that little bit more and believe I mean everybody but you.
It started when I was skimming a long thread at the Nation–yes, I realize I brought it on myself-- devoted to speculation about the (then) upcoming changes at the PSP. A few posters just had to toss in the opinion that what the PSP needed was preferably uncapped semi-auto. Everybody is entitled to an opinion–even an idiotic one–but this particular brand of paintball superstition is like being a member of the Flat Earth Society and really believing the Earth is flat. Or participating in Renaissance festivals because you are convinced you really are Richard the Lionheart reincarnate.

Hey Tulip, you're nutty as a fruitcake!

If you've been living in a cave maybe I better explain. Like Knights of the Round Table (or in this case, Empty Head) there are some die hard fantasists forever chasing the semi-auto Holy Grail of one pull, one shot. True semi-auto (as if such a beast existed in the era of the micro-processor and electronic gun) is a swell dream but fails to correspond with reality. The truth is the majority of diehards don't actually understand how their guns work even if they can use the right words to construct a coherent sentence. If they did they wouldn't be Knights of the Empty Head. For starters their trigger pull doesn't actually discharge their marker. The proprietary software in the micro-processor on their board 'reads' a signal from the switch – which can be any one of a number of different types of switches – and decides what to do about the received signal and the result can vary as widely as the parameters of the software allow. And, of course, within that process the micro-processor tells the gun when to shoot, not you. Then there are the assorted forms of actuation that are 'mistakes.' Stuff like bounce, both mechanical and switch. Every software package in the business has filters designed to minimize, to varying degrees, the 'mistakes.' But guess what. All you semi-auto is a skill clowns set your filters to the lowest possible 'legal' setting because, miraculously, your skill improves when the filters interfere as little as possible.
And it's even worse than you know because there are manufacturers who swear on your mother's life that their software is pristine and innocent and would never intentionally add a shot or three or six. After, of course, offering the standard pious disclaimer about user error. Yet it does–and many of you like it that way because you've worked ever so hard to develop your "skill." Still, these disciples of the true semi-auto continue to insist that semi-auto is pure paintball and that ramping is an evil corruption despite the indisputable evidence that all electronic guns add shots and the only real quibble is over the definition of intentional and unintentional.
One thing we can agree on is that if such a thing as true electronic semi-auto existed in the modern game it would be better than capped, ramping guns. But the place you gotta start to see that happen is with sufficient standardization across the manufacturers so that the gun you're shooting is essentially identical to the one Joe Bob is shooting. At that point you can reintroduce the idea of skill again. And trust me, most of you semi-auto worshipers wouldn't like that one little bit.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

NPPL 2011

I don't know about you but I'm (temporarily) tired of talking about the PSP--so it really doesn't matter whether you are or not. I'd like to have something to talk about when it comes to the other guys, NPPL & MS, but they are both laying low right now. I do have a pdf from the fevered imagination of the Millennium's marketing collective that couldn't be more disconnected from reality if it had been written by a long-time opium addict. (Yes, it's the 2011 sponsorship package.)

Otherwise all I've got is the NPPL capping "semi-auto" at 15 bps & the new bunkers, cubes and big wedges. Whoop-dee-freaking-doo. Oh, and the NPPL has put out hard dates for their complete 2011 schedule of events. The locations are the same as last year's but there's nothing wrong with that as the season opens with the now traditional Huntington Beach, Chitown at Challenge Park outside Joliet (IL) Pev's in Aldie (VA) and Vegas. The one thing I do notice is that none of the events occur during the summer. April, May, September & November? What? There's almost 4 months between events two and three. I'm mildly surprised that the can't-wait-for-the-new-NPPL-season-to-get-started crowd--yes, that's sarcasm--hasn't uttered a peep about the weird break in the season. Of course the NPPL crowd are pretty laid back. PSP changes one bunker and all hell breaks loose with local fields across the country practically bursting into flames with the news; the NPPL changes two bunkers including the "new" family-sized wedge and a couple of stoners notice and go, "Whoa. Cool, dudes." Then again there are so few NPPL fields around the country the impact across the paintball community is negligible. Regarding the capped gun thing nobody seems too put out by that one either. Oh, sure there's a few lamenting the loss of their trigger pulling skill 'cause they can pull 18-20 easy--but if it helps the league with enforceable gun rules--well, okay. We don't yet know how the league intends to enforce their cap but they'll get around to it. Right?

There is one other thing that interests me. Could too much success put the NPPL in the PSP's predicament? Part of the PSP's current problems are a product of scale; how many teams must play in order for an event to be profitable? The NPPL 3.0 has, from Day 1, been looking to mimic some of the elements of the PSP like the regional affiliates. They are also making an effort to expand their reach but what if Huntington Beach registrations push the league beyond two fields? To three or four even. Is that necessarily a good thing?
If NPPL 3.0 were to go to a best of 3 (Race 2-2) format that would put the two major leagues that much closer given the changes in store for the PSP in 2011. (From what I hear it may happen for the Pros but is unlikely for the lower divisions which may have something to do with the logistics of running Race 2-2 on two fields. It hasn't been easy to run the Race format as a 3 day event for the PSP.)