Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 Millennium Bitburg

This is a very unforgiving layout and I would be interested, after the fact, to watch some divisional teams try to play this. Any team that can do a halfway decent job of getting numerous guns up OTB has a distinct advantage. The shooting lanes are wide open and there aren't a lot of primary options--which means, among other things, teams will have to play the corner CKs (sometimes) whether they like it or not. (See the blue bunkers. More on them in a second.)
The giant M is intentionally offset. It is the same in the 3-D representations as well as the grid. I have no idea why but I can show you a practical application or two because of it. (The pink sections on the M indicate the approximate placement of the open space between legs of the M. The critical calculation is not whether or not the Pins close to Home can shoot through those spaces--they can--but whether or not the mini-Ms can shoot the opposing Cans on the crossfield--which it appears they cannot. If, for whatever reason, any mini-M is able to put backside pressure on an opposite crossfield Can it will change the dynamic of how the field (or that half anyway) can be played. (More on that coming too.)
Let's focus first on the principle lanes available (in red.) With a symmetrical, if slightly offset, design the same core lanes exist on both sides of the field. Additionally if you look at the orange lanes you can see that shooters at the board can turn and shoot nearly identical lanes. The ability to double up lanes creates a real challenge OTB for any opponent. The counter is to edge the Home zone hard on one or both sides. The counter to edgers is to use the Pins (on each side of Home) on the crossfield as the Pins protect the shooters and the crossfield exposes the edgers. What the offset M does is provide more protection for players floating in the Home zone--and is represented on the diagram by the extra shooting position charted between the board and the left Pin. The offset also provides more cover to the Home shooter OTB.
Once the point (game) is underway teams are going to be tempted to keep a player or players Home simply because they will be able to pound the lanes and gaps to limit their opponents upfield and wire movement. If this technique is used carry a lot of paint because a near constant stream of paint must be maintained in the gaps. (There are reasons not to do this but given the design the layout sets up repeated contests that require the players to gunfight and control edges in order to make moves and for teams that aren't proficient gunfighters will find this field frustrating.)
Returning to the blue bunkers it is necessary that the corner CK be an occasional primary. If it isn't then laners OTB will be able to focus on just a couple of lanes and gaps with likely dominating effect. (Similar discussion about spacing here in the recent NCPA layout.) Optionally a player could use the corner running lane to confuse laners and periodically hook up into an alternate prop. And perhaps surprisingly the corner does offer a couple of pluses. There are viable bumps into the T (feeding the snake?) and the snake anchor MD. In addition anytime the CK is the widest player there are a couple of good wrapping shots as well as blind shots on the upright bunkers; Can & MT. It is primarily a case of making the best out of a generally undesirable position.
Finally let's look at the green Cans. The lower risk option for playing one or both Cans is on the cross but as with playing Home to contain opponent movement it will be necessary to keep the paint coming as the Can player will not see a moving player in time to shoot them if the paint isn't already in the air. The better play, the offensive play, is to play the Can straight up where gaps can be dominated even though it is possible for more than one gun to contest the Can player at one time. It must be played very tight and with economical movement but it is more than possible. The Can is also a good launch point for inside/out rotations to the (snake) MD on the wire.
To conclude: breakout tactics will be a cat & mouse game (if you're lucky) with heavy guns up most of the time followed by lots of gunfighting match-ups and most points extended, if they last more than 15 or 20 seconds, by teams playing 3 on 2's or 3 on 3's which should turn into lose a critical gunfight, lose the point. Lastly, be careful of all the low elevation props as it will be easy for players to get buried (and blown up) in bunkers like the mini-Ms and CKs.

If nothing else this layout will help make ordinary players better or it will expose just how ordinary a player really is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today in Major League Paintball

The Grand Tour is (still) alive! Although if we're gonna talk quality of life somebody might want to call in Dr. Kevorkian--too late--he too has punched his ticket for eternity. This year the schedule has been reduced to a modest 4 events. (After the MS strip-mined Eastern Euroland for filler teams in their locked divisions.) The GT's first event this year will once again take place near Venice the weekend of May 1st. (Yes, the one in Italy.) There are currently 20 total teams signed up with 4 teams in the Pro division. (Should anyone require professional coaching assistance I am available.)

The next stop on the Millennium Series Victory Tour is the nearly fully booked Bitburg event. This year the MS has capped the number of teams it will accept in the open divisions which seems to have worked the charm for getting those registrations in quickly as they are turning away a handful of unlucky teams each event in D2 & D3. At Longchamp there was no M5 as an insufficient number of teams registered. Bitburg's M5 is closer to making a go of it. With the locked divisions and divisional caps the MS is at max capacity with 138 teams participating. No wonder they are hitting the photogs up for some extra cash.

The NPPL's Chicago event happens the same weekend as the Millennium's Bitburg event but unlike the MS it appears that registrations for Chicago are lagging. The list wasn't available until last week and despite the generally positive review from HB along with the ESPN3 broadcast of the pro portion of the event Chicago currently has 70 teams registered, including the 16 pro teams. This year's event also runs concurrently with Living Legends 4 and promises to offer a little something for every kind of baller imaginable. While there is as of yet no public word on the actual results of the ESPN3 broadcast (or follow-up) it has been rumored that ESPN found the results promising. Nor does the HB success seem to be delivering any momentum to the league in terms of building up the team base.
On a more positive note the league did request I follow-up on my offer to assist the refs and barring any unforeseen changes we should begin implementation for Chicago--and should the Powers That Be agree I'll be happy to enumerate how we're attempting to improve the process (in a future post.)

With their Chicago event still two months away the PSP had 131 teams registered as of this morning. At this point it's hard to say where the ceiling is given that PSP Chicago events routinely ran 200+ teams in the not-too-distant past. Both MLP Chicago events will be held this year at CPX Challenge Park and in the PSP's case should prove to be a solid improvement over the rain-drenched Badlandz. Depending on how serious the PSP is on getting the earliest handle on likely logistics and temp hires perhaps they might consider the MS plan for creating artificial scarcity by capping most or all of their divisions with a hard cap like the pro division. The difficulty with that is in gauging the numbers so that the caps include most (and close to all) of the teams that would have signed up anyway.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Field Analysis: 2011 WCPPL 2

On this layout the potential exists for some very fast and destructive points to be put up from the D-side. This is true despite the fact that many D-wire bunkers are in a disadvantageous position vis-a-vis the snake. The key to those fast points is to either quickly eliminate D-side players and/or deny them wide spots on the field while taking large chunks of real estate early. But instead of outlining just how that can happen I want to spend time discussing the counters and to transition from control bunkers to ignite the offense on the snake side.
Let's begin with the D-side, midfield Can in blue. The D-wire design limits the control the corner bunkers have over movement along the wire while creating an initial gunfighting lane between the symmetric pair of MDs. Home does command a couple of gaps in upwire movement but does so with partial vision at best which neutralizes Home's effectiveness unless Home is able to maintain a constant stream of paint in the gap or gaps. While the D-side Pin may be played--particularly if the opponent(s) are already on the wire--it is a very high risk position that is very susceptible to crossfield shots. That leaves the blue Can as the best (of a poor batch) of control bunkers on the D-side. It offers the option of a secondary shooting lane OTB along with a commanding position over the core primary D-side options. Of course the Can is at similar risk to the Pin from crossfield shots which limits how long the Can can be played safely and effectively.
The placement of the blue Can forces the players into a quick transition--or a quick elimination--when the Can is used to play a point with an extra gun up and inside/out. But what else is the Can good for?
First, let's look at the options available to the player in the Can. When the Can is played to the D-side the player's secondary options are bump out to the wire (Temple, mini-A) or rotate back and over to the D-wire MD. Or, up field to the orange Pin. Normally this move is reserved for situations where your opponent's wide player has been eliminated. The object is to cut off the field, deny your opponent an opportunity to reach the D-wire, pressure Home and look for quick snake side eliminations. Alternatively the blue Can be played on the cross either in conjunction with the snake side 20 MT or independently. The value here is that the blue Can can deny rotation into the snake with only the mimi-A (that feeds the snake) able to contest the lane. However, given the distances involved it is necessary for the Can to keep up a semi-constant stream of paint.
If the blue MT is also used on the cross (with the Can) it cannot put the same pressure on the opponent's corner Temple or MD but it does offer reasonable gap control for containing upfield wire movement. Ideally, like the Can, a near constant stream of paint in the targeted gap offers the most promise. Otherwise the blue MT to command the snake, contest snake wire movements & gunfight with the TCK. It is also an ideal launch point for pushing additional players into the snake. Or an upfield move to the green MT.
On this layout snake side play can easily bog down into a repetitious pattern of blazing gunfights as teams/players try to force the action to get into the snake. However I think the placement of the two MTs goes a long way toward neutralizing the snake's potential effectiveness. And when the opportunity presents itself players pushing the D-wire will bypass the most at risk (from the snake) bunkers completely. There is the potential though to make a strong play upfield along the MTs. The same applies to a move, either OTB or on a slight delay, to the snake side of the X. (I'm not calling it an A.) The upfield MT (green) blocks the majority of snake side primary positions which will allow and X-side player to gun down any move to the snake, wrap and attack Home & even bump to the opponent's forward MT and attack crossfield positions or snake side primaries. And as long as there are no snake players the same lane of movement and attack is available between the upfield MTs. Used judiciously this attack should disrupt your opponents and force them to address the possibility each time they breakout.
UPDATE: It was getting late last night and it appears I left out the green Pin. Given identical or near identical placement it should be possible to use the Pin as a launch point into the snake. The advantage over the mini-A for making the rotation into the snake is that the player is on his/her feet, is more mobile and can make the transition more swiftly. And should it prove necessary the Pin can contest edge control with the corner TCK or the mirror of the green MT.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Monday Poll

This week's poll is interested in the second hand paintball marketplace and more specifically what typical items of paintball gear are most likely to bought and sold second hand. To that end the poll will include a list of items. Choose the three items you are most likely to buy second hand. Even if you have purchased more than 3 of the items second hand in the past please limit yourself to just three. That should help the final poll numbers to differentiate between the categories of paintball stuff and what y'all are more and less inclined to buy used. Remember, please choose just three items--the top three in order of the likelihood you would purchase that item second hand.
Ready, set--vote!

Monday Poll in Review
Well, that was fun, wasn't it? It must have been because last week's pick your favorite paintball websites received more votes than any previous Monday poll. And that's with some of you not bothering to vote for your top 3 choices. (Yes, that would mean many of you voted for less than 3 websites.) Even so, VFTD has drawn a few conclusions about the data collected. PBN is far and away the most popular (and populous) paintball website [on our list.] I add the list business 'cus nobody could have (or did) vote for a website that wasn't on the list. Okay, except for the guy who would'a sorta voted for TechPB in the comments of the 'Oops, I forgot TechPB' post. But my point stands because I also forgot to include's not there--and not only did nobody write in a vote for, nobody else remembered them either. (apparently) Unlike our friends at PBLive & Paintball News Asia who put out requests to their regulars to vote for them here at VFTD. Again, coming as no great surprise, ProPaintball came in a strong second. The results I found unexpected was the strong showing from Social Paintball and the fact Warpig remains a player despite the fact it isn't particularly active and doesn't cater to any particular niche. (It remains nonpareil as resource for paintball history.) Also interesting was the factoid that none of the news-oriented sites was particularly strong--with the exception of ProPaintball which is really a hybrid site of sorts. Otherwise they all came out about the same. All in all the results mostly confirm what most of us would have guessed to begin with. That, and also like most of us would have guessed, the average paintballer has specific interests and the odds are the websites that attract their interest are the ones that match those interests. Not exactly earth shattering data.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Price Is Right

Credit where credit is due. At least the Millennium Series is consistent. Confronted with a problem they handled it the way they always handle problems--by spending (or collecting) other people's money. Very frugal of them--or was that Barry Fuggle of them? Either way somebody other than the MS end up on the hook.
It seems the proliferation of videographers/photographers looking, more or less, like paintball players on field during competition has caused enough confusion and complaints that the Millennium (after some sort of player/team/media consultation that seems to have been intentionally ignored) solved the problem by designing a short-sleeve "jersey" that is predominantly yellow and only costs (somebody else) 39 (mandatory) Euros. [The post title links to the whole silly story.]
I'd slam the MS (again) but what's the point? They are utterly shameless and the truth is all the Eurokids do is whine, whimper and complain a bit and then knuckle under. Consider the situation from the MS's point of view--what are sheep for? Shearing--and so that's what they do. Speaking of shearing the sheep check this out.

The MS makes the CPL & SPL fields available for team practice(s) the day before each event begins for the bargain basement price of 400 Euros an hour. If your team splits the time with another team it's only 200 Euros to each. Back in the day over here we used to consider playing the tourney field in advance an unfair competitive advantage. In the MS they sell that advantage to those who can afford it--and are willing to pay for it. And the sheep say, "Baa."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baca's Mailbag

Dear Baca (Most of you aren't really that polite)
I watched some of the college webcast this past weekend which I thought was pretty tight. Do you really think the experienced professional crew working on the webcast made changes because of what you said in your post? Isn't that arrogant?
a fan

Dear fan
That's two questions but since one is short ... the answer is yes. Is it possible they managed to muddle through without me? Hey, anything's possible but did you see (or hear) (or read) anyone else suggesting changes simular to the ones actually made? Or anyone else taking credit for it? I rest my case. Besides, it says on the sidebar that I'm almost always right. Who can argue with that?

Dear Baca
I see the NPPL has decided to class up the joint by having a bikini contest. As a Paintball Insider can you--or Mr. Curious--tell us what other kinds of things are being considered to add some maturity and legitimacy to our sporting events? Bum fights? Midget wrestling?
Drooling in Detroit

Dear Drooling
Good catch. After last year's topless painted chicks in Chicago the bikini contest is a big step up in the soft exploitation and objectification of women--if you buy into the politically correct conventional feminist theory--but as men of the world you and I know babes like being objectified, at least the hot ones do, so much so that the NPPL expects them to pay for the privilege. Should be a good time. And the bum fights are out. Apparently there was some concern with the event overlapping Living Legends again that it might confuse any scenario teams from Kentucky and turn into a free for all brawl.

Dear Baca
I miss the posts on major league paintball. As long as I've been reading your blog you did at least weekly posts on the big leagues. Why did you stop?

Dear Curious
That was then and this is now. The general mood was more pessimistic. Everything seemed to be caught in a downward spiral and so there seemed to be some merit in cataloguing that movement more closely. Today nothing has changed all that much but it seems that competitive paintball is no longer in free fall and may be stabilising and the general community mood also seems to be turning. VFTD keeps an eye on all the big league numbers and will continue discuss both the good and the bad as events and circumstances warrant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TechPB Oversight

The post facto brouhaha between the NCPA (represented by Chris Raehl) and the USF Bulls paintball club brought something else to my attention. The fact that VFTD left TechPB off the options list for this week's Monday Poll. No slight of TechPB was intended and in my defense nobody else suggested it either but it should have been listed. For anyone who wishes to please use the comments to vote for TechPB and I will include them in the final tally.

For the record I blame you people (Who you calling you people?) all you lazy slackers for not picking up my slack on this TechPB thing.

They've Kidnapped Junior Brown

If you missed it I poked a little fun at the ProPaintball Kidz last week for claiming that mysterious 'pro paintball insiders' leaked the 2 sample NPPL layouts. And in so doing I wondered if perhaps the insiders were kidnapping & hypnotizing JB in order to command his unwitting help in uncovering all this top secret info.
It was only posted on VFTD's Facebook page so if you aren't keeping up you're occasionally missing out. At any rate, there's been another leak--so they must have kidnapped Junior--again.
This time around the "leak" involves another format change, or perhaps unchange would be more accurate. At HB the Pros played Race 2-2 (No, they didn't call it that) in brackets of 4 teams each--despite VFTD's prediction of likely confusion and chaos. The issue with the brackets is the high likelihood of multiple team ties (4 outta 6 brackets in HB) and the resulting tie-breaker system that was poorly understood and poorly explained at HB and on the ESPN3 broadcast. All the ties gave an appearance that results were not being resolved on the field but by math geeks tucked away in a tent some place. It wasn't quite that bad but clean, simple & easy to understand is better--so the league is apparently going to return to the prior prelim practice of two divisions playing round robin with posted game scores with high scores moving on. Then on Sunday the Pros will return to the Race 2-2 in 2 brackets of four teams each to determine the semifinals.

Whad'dya mean you're still confused?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hanging with Mike Tyson

VFTD 'rumored' months ago that Facefull (Rich Telford's Wide World of Paintball) was the magazine that wasn't but publications (of Facefull & Jungle) were already infrequent enough to keep most everyone confused. (The X3 kids didn't figure it out until a few weeks ago. I'm sorry but that's funny.)
However, Facefull recently tweeted--it's okay, they're French--that the magazine was coming back. There's also an obscure notification on their website. See it here. There's a lot of blather about restructuring blah blah blah but how long could that take? The new Facefull will be published 6 times a year. (Isn't that what it was before, too, or did they end up behind?)
Anyway, the next issue is supposed to hit the streets mid-May. And in the meantime VFTD hopes they enjoyed their vaca in Bolivian, hanging with Mike Tyson.

The Monday Poll

I confess I have no idea how this is gonna turn out. The Monday Poll this week, duh. Everybody knows PBN is the 800 lb gorilla in this contest but I don't necessarily see heavy crossover between VFTD & PBN. (Btw, that would be the 364 kilo gorilla for our Euro friends.) What contest is that, you ask? The one our Euro pals didn't bother to contribute to and the one you would know about if you'd read the post, 'VFTD needs you,' last week. Yeah, that one. This week's poll question gives you three tries to identify your favorite paintball site(s) on the world wide web. I am leaving VFTD off the list since VFTD is hosting the poll and I'm leaving the other sidebar blogs off since most of them are less active than Mt. Aetna. Otherwise the list of options will include every site (and link) listed under Paintball Around the Web plus any extras y'all suggested and maybe one or two or three others. If you don't like the list, bite me, you had plenty of opportunity to help make it better. So go on and work off some of your hostility picking your three favorite paintball sites on the web--and while you're doing that I will assume you would have included VFTD if given the opportunity. This way I can continue to delude myself without fear of contradiction, after all, how could I possibly continue without your daily affirmations? (Yes, that was off the charts on the sarcasm meter.) Now quit dawdling and get to voting.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week VFTD borrowed the then budding brouhaha stirring over at P8ntballer to keep the string of Monday Polls going. Besides it was (sorta) interesting and I was making a play for the paintball geek crowd. I'm not proud, one of these week's I'll go for the gun whores if it ever comes down to that. (Please God, no.) Sadly the dust up didn't last long as it was all mostly misunderstandings and before long they were all singing round the campfire. (Frankly, it was nauseating.) The issue in question was whether or not greater shot-to-shot consistency of operation would, all other things being equal, improve accuracy. 71% agreed with the basic premise although 42% qualified their agreement by being uncertain as to how much real world impact that improvement would have. Another 20% were more or less in the same boat but were less certain of the science involved what with talk of fluid dynamics and laminar flows. The remaining 8% dissented and insisted that consistency was not synonymous with accuracy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

2011 NCPA Webcast

The live feed began this morning and was still going strong a few minutes ago as the Tennessee Volunteers were pillaging the badly mismatched East Tennessee State Buccaneers. If it was Little League or Pee Wee soccer somebody would have invoked the mercy rule by now. But no, they's playing a man's game--or at least trying to play a man's game. The field at CFP in Lakeland, FL looks good--and looks to be holding up pretty well so far--they haven't been letting anyone play on it for a while to get it ready for this championship weekend. The mostly elevated camera views of the field are generally pretty good. (I think there are four cameras in action; one above the commentators' booth, one at the southern end of the field, one at the opposite snake side corner and a roving man on the ground. Make that five 'cus there's one, probably fixed position, focused on the commentators too.) Taking turns working the booth have been Mr. Paintball Matty Marshall, the ever youthful Chris 'Pony' LaSoya, Ollie Lang & 'Catfish' Arcilla with all of them doing a solid job adding color and commentary to the action. The rough edges in their presentations are my favorite parts. Catfish making a joke that leaves Chris speechless and the guys shuffling through pages of notes and information trying to keep up with the players on the field as they give shout outs to both good and poor play. It's good stuff. In fact it's better than the paintball. No, wait a second, I take that back. It's better than the visual coverage of the paintball. The only real weakness of the broadcast has been the too frequent disconnect between what we're seeing and what the commentators are talking about when it comes to the action on field. The difficulty is with the director and the switching of camera angles. It's too late most of the time if it happens at all and the result is we hear how a point played out but we don't necessarily see more than a few disconnected details. They'd do better to stick with wider framed shots and only close in on things like tight action in the snake or the bigger moves on the D-wire or up the middle. Otherwise the broadcast quality is quite good.

On a separate note this is the third year in a row I've seen some college championship paintball--we usually have practice at CFP over the NCPA weekend--but not this year--and the level of play is, I think, improving. It's not brilliant paintball and there's still enough fundamental mistakes to make you cringe at times--make me cringe anyway--but across the board it's better and I saw a few standout individual players today. In addition the Army team (lost a tight match to Long Beach) was the most tactically sophisticated breakout team I've seen short of the pros. They were outstanding and if their individual play approaches that level they will be a very good team.

As a follow-up to the NPPL broadcast on ESPN3 it's almost as if competitive paintball is picking up some momentum, making some real progress. Or maybe an old cynic is just going soft.

Saturday Update: I'ma assume somebody is reading VFTD and paying attention 'cus the camera work and choice of shots and frames today is a big improvement over yesterday. The guys in the booth are getting more comfortable as well and doing a better job of introducing the players involved in the game action along with solid commentary and paintball conversation. Kudos to Chris and the rest of the NCPA & Fox crews.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 NCPA Championship Layout

I expect this weekend's competitors to enjoy playing this layout as it delivers all the virtues of "traditional" xball style play. This time around VFTD will focus on diversifying your breakouts and finding creative ways of responding to your opponents OTB.

Beginning with the (orange) OTB lanes from Home it appears at first glance that lots of potentially effective options exist. On the D-wire they do not and it may be worse depending on the relative position(s) of the 40 Can & the Pin closest to the A given that the best OTB lane for denying the corner or the wire has only a narrow window between the Pin and the Can. The other wide lane controls the bump to the 40 SD. The interior lanes are less useful unless your opponent is consistently trying to camp in one of the (green) zones and contest the Home shooter or a mirror opponent. And focusing on the wide lane OTB concedes the first MD and the upfield MT. Complicating the Home laning decision is the spacing between D1 (wire MD) & the corner Temple. (See blue rectangle.) The upfield distance between the 2 bunkers forces the Home shooter to choose an elevation aimed at shooting either a corner runner or a D1 runner but not both. The result offers enough options on the D-wire breakout to keep the laners guessing; the majority will try to contain movement wide and most of the breakouts on the D-wire will play short early.

The snake side lanes OTB are more numerous than the D-wire but present a similar choice. The best basic lane goes between the MT & the Brick and between the (same) MT & the corner TCK. This lane is also dependent on the placement of midfield bunkers. It is a higher value lane (See blue oval) because the MT & TCK are more closely related allowing a laner to shoot either a corner runner or a Snake or Brick runner with a well placed lane. The (blue) arrow indicates an alternate running lane to the Brick/Snake that will help "widen" the gap and potentially force the lane shooter to make a lane choice. (To enhance the width [distance] of the runners gap have corner runners run deep on the baseline as it forces a more severe elevation change from the laner and will increase the chances for all your snake side runners.)

Note the third shooter stacked at Home. I suspect many teams will fail to consistently try to suppress the Home shooters OTB and if that is the case there is no reason not to periodically keep an extra gun Home. This shooter can create numerical mismatches and/or double up on lanes by standing back behind the Home T in a stacked position. (Teams can make the mistake of getting those "extra" shooters trapped on occasion and the key to keeping them alive and effective is to focus on a specific lane and target. Once an opponent has moved thru the targeted lane it's time to get out of the Home bunker.)

Another opportunity OTB exists for teams (& players) who can execute it effectively and that is the guns up hesitation or delay using 'dead zones' or spots you know are blocked to other angles. OTB your primary concern is the Home shooter. The green & purple rectangles indicate general areas a player will be able to use. The idea is twofold. In one situation a player steps off the board and is looking to edge the Home shooter before making his/her primary move. In the second situation the delay is aimed at finding alternative lanes or gaps or zones through which the player might engage and eliminate and opponent on the move. If you can find a spot protected from the Home shooter that gives you an unobstructed lane on a corner runner for example. (It is also possible to use delay point like the ones diagrammed to shoot crossfield lanes but entails extra risk for the shooter.) The delay or hesitation also allows a player options in determining his/her follow up movement. If for example, the delay allows a player to shoot the opponents wide runner that may leave a different, better position immediately available to take as the follow up primary.

Finally the two colored rectangles up the middle of the field indicate there is potential value in playing the A or the CK (xbox) before it. On the D-wire it's possible to use an interior running lane to attempt an aggressive primary or X-side/xbox primary. Not as effective in terms of open lanes and clear angles most teams will play the D-wire as their weakside (2 players that way and three to the snake side) that an early elimination can be exploited.

VFTD Needs You

Not really, I'm just lazy but there is one thing you could do. Next week's Monday Poll is going to ask about your favorite online paintball websites--and not because I'm hoping VFTD will win--I will be leaving VFTD off the list. (Since respondents all visit VFTD at least often enough to respond to the Monday Poll I don't want to queer the result.) (Haha. He typed "queer." Haha.) (Yes I did.) What I don't want to do is leave off any other viable candidates simply because I may be unaware of them. So here's the deal. If there's a website or two (or more) you visit regularly that I don't have on the sidebar somewhere please mention them in comments so I can check them out and add them to the list for next week's Monday Poll. Hard to screw that up so I'm especially looking forward to see how some of you manage it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Monday Poll

This week the Monday Poll wades directly into an interesting conversation and seeming "controversy"--at least in some quarters. VFTD is interested in what you think of the new Ego Prime's claim to fame: Is it the world's most accurate paintball marker? (A bit of promotional hyperbole.) Or isn't it? From VFTD's point of view it may very well be the world's most accurate Ego but that's not really the crux of the "controversy." Part of the controversy is semantic and objects to the use of the term 'accurate' to describe the results of the changes made. Others have objected to the less than rigorous use of some technical terms (like laminar) as well and if the discussion at hand was being conducted with rigor VFTD might agree but it isn't. It is aimed at the general paintball playing public and the aim has been to explain the value of the changes made to an audience largely composed of laymen. (No, there's nothing dirty about that expression, get your mind out of the gutter.)
Here's the dealio in a nutshell: the valve and bolt have been redesigned to reduce the inherent turbulence created when gas is released to propel a paintball. The object of that effort was to create superior consistency in shot to shot airflow characteristics. The result of improved consistency is projected to be tighter shot clusters (all things being otherwise equal) hence, more accurate. At which point the naysayers would point out that all things aren't equal and any effort to neutralise the variables involved necessarily results in greater consistency anyway. Stuff like bench testing the marker, controlling temperature and windage, measuring and weighing the paintballs and so on will reduce the effect of the common variables but also provide greater consistency. So is it the claimed improvements or the testing process? The data released so far suggests improved consistency from the mods. So, does improved consistency lead to greater accuracy? Is it all irrelevant mumbo-jumbo?
To fully immerse yourself in the controversy look first here and then here. Once you are sufficiently soaked it's time to vote. You know the drill. This week you only get one choice to get it right so make your choice count. Settle the debate once and for all. Btw, don't let the topic this week skeer ya. Nobody, least of all VFTD, is gonna pass judgment on your personal vote. This is about opinions. And sports. Since when did anyone have to be an expert to have an opinion? You can't be loud and obnoxious on the internet but you can express your opinion--so what are you waiting for?

Monday Poll in Review
Last week VFTD (in extremis & desperation) asked you to pick your all time favorite paintball gun. Whoop-de-freaking-doo. Didn't care last week. Don't care this week either. However it also came as no surprise that more of you voted for your favorite gat than for any other previous poll question. What the poll results tell us however is kinda interesting and not unexpected. PE remains the trendy favorite; a position they've enjoyed for some years followed by the other high profile, established big name marker makers like Dye (despite my accidentally leaving the NT off the list.) Although Bob Long marker numbers were somewhat weaker than might have been expected it was easy to pick out the current bandwagon support for the Axe and the Old Skool dominance of the autococker. For all the fans Tom Kaye has AGD numbers were well off the solid support the autococker, its one time arch nemesis, received. Also of interest was the older guns or entry type makers who failed to put numbers up for their products. Like Tippmann with 2 votes or Spyder with zero. Everybody may remember their first Spyder but it remains a transitional gun, a stepping stone perhaps, from new player to regular dedicated player. Otherwise there were modest numbers for many of the current and some of the past specialty makers like CCM or AKA and Phantom. More than anything the results may say more about the diversity of the VFTD audience than anything it suggests about markers.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baca's Mailbag: The HB Commercials

Dear Baca
I loved the Huntington Beach broadcast on ESPN3, especially on Friday, but ... with all the time in between games it wasn't long before I was alternating between wanting to kill everyone and anyone involved in making those weak ass paintball commercials we saw over and over and over again and wondering if the ceiling fan was sturdy enough to support my body weight if I hung myself. In retrospect it sounds extreme, I know, but I'm already worried about what might happen if I watch a Chitown broadcast. I want to support paintball. What should I do?
Off my meds

Dear Off
I am not a doctor and I haven't stayed in a Holiday Inn Express lately but I feel confident in suggesting you reconsider getting back on your meds. If they are anything like mine I sympathise with your predicament but you get used to that fuzzy-headed disorienting sensation in time. I chase mine with a couple of beers and pretend it's the 80s again.
If that's a non-starter for you let me recommend you prepare your home in advance for next time. (It goes without saying that we will support any paintball broadcasts ...) Remove all the sharp objects, rope, weapons & give your car keys to a trusted friend or family member for the duration. That should minimize the potential harm you might do to others or yourself.
It might also help if you keep in mind how annoying and moronic real commercials frequently are and try to cut the paintball kids some slack. They are making an effort to contribute to a better paintball future--even if repeated exposure to their commercials makes you suicidal.

PS--If some of you are wondering if I know something you don't because I mention a hypothetical Chicago broadcast--the answer is yes, I know some things you don't but not about any future NPPL broadcasts.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mainstreaming Paintball

VFTD has discussed this topic at some length in the past; wisely, astutely and on occasion even brilliantly (as is the norm around here) and I would happy to provide some links but that would be borderline braggadocio and I am nothing if not modest and humble.
Also, a number of items in paintball news this week touch on the subject. Over at X3 there is news from Tippmann on their new media outreach. Along with a story on Empire's continuing relationship with the Boy Scouts & the Free Rookie Pass program. And a timely post over at Reiner's blog adds some nuance to the whole idea of mainstreaming paintball. Top the whole thing off with the NPPL's ESPN3 live streaming video experiment and it all begins to look like real, honest-to-goodness positive progress. Well, mostly.
Reiner makes an interesting case that paintball may be as mainstream as it's going to get given that the average person under 40-ish (my paraphrase) knows about paintball, more or less. It's not some quasi-secret backwoods activity that operates like the Masons or Fight Club. That the general awareness of paintball is probably about as mainstream as it's going to get simply because the realistic potential player pool for paintball is small and that's unlikely to change. He might be right but there's still opportunity there.
Empire's approach is an interesting one; a targeted approach that should deliver quantifiable data on the effectiveness of the programs. Remember the billboards? Working in cooperation with local fields it should be possible for Empire to determine if the billboard advertising contributed to improved local participation. The free passes only target high interest would be players and the Boy Scouts association is nearly perfect. Ideal demographic, middle class upbringing (predominantly), interest in the outdoors and outdoor activities.
Now Tippmann is going to try mass media using a 30 second TV commercial on assorted cable networks with a core demographic similar to paintball's. It sounds like a pretty serious campaign. It's also interesting in that it may be difficult to see a correlation between the advertising and say, increased Tippmann sales and if Tippmann isn't looking for a direct sales boost it will be nearly impossible to determine the program's effectiveness. On the plus side it's a bonafide effort to mainstream paintball, but--at least from my perspective--I'm not a big fan of promoting that aspect of paintball--yes, I know recball is the lion's share blah blah blah and at least they didn't go hardcore scenario but even so I think the competitive aspect of paintball is a better figurehead for all of paintball. (Yes, I'm biased. I'm also right.) Of course that's not Tippmann's market, is it?
Speaking of TV (nearly) there's also the recent ESPN3 live streaming broadcast. Let us, for purposes of speculation, say the project is moving forward. At this stage what's its impact on the mainstreaming of paintball? To that I'd have to say (practically) nil. However, longer term, it would mainstream (and normalize) paintball in that it would give paintball (competitive paintball) (the right kind of paintball) (yes, dammit, I said it!) a place in the public conscience and marketplace. And it would drive interest in playing paintball like nothing else.
So here we are with all sorts of mainstreaming efforts going on all of a sudden. Will they be another flash in the pan or, after the manner of the fits & starts we've seen over the years or is this finally the beginning of something lasting?

Remember those links I wouldn't give you before? I've thought better of it. Who am I to deny you the pleasure of more VFTD? If you want more VFTD wit & wisdom--and who wouldn't?--look here, here, here & here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mr. Curious has a question

In a playful mood Mr. C insisted VFTD guess what his question might be. The secret formula for KFC original fried chicken maybe? How 'bout 'What ... is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?' Does anybody really believe the popular uprisings in assorted Middle Eastern states will result in some sort of egalitarian democracy?

Cui bono perhaps? It seems Mr. Curious has some additional questions now that 68 Caliber has got the ball rolling. You know, the John Robinson interview? Try and keep up.

You see, Mr. C has heard a rumor or two. Word on the street is that WDP (or APS if you prefer) is willing to shop the IP related to the Angel--at a very reasonable price at that. If true, Mr. C can't help wondering what would happen if KEE purchased that too. It would give KEE almost every marker and hopper related patent across the industry. Would KEE (or anybody else) give up that kind of control?

Big Bullet Scores Interview

The Big Bullet has an excellent interview with KEE head honcho John Robinson regarding the acquisition by KEE of the Smart Part's IP portfolio . It also provides some in-depth background info which, unfortunately, continues to keep the lid on just who and what was/is White Hats LLC. (Not that 68 Cal is obligated in any way to disclose related info it may have--I'm just nosy like that.) Regardless, if you'd like to know more about KEE's purchase, intentions and how this might impact the PBIndustry check it out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Monday Poll

I got nothing. And I don't give a rat's ass so we's gonna do guns today. But not just modern guns. Pick your all time favorite gat--and if I didn't list it--and there's a good chance I didn't--you can do a write-in in the comments. Make your voice and opinion heard and make sure your favorite gun receives its due as paintball's all time favorite--according to VFTD's The Monday Poll. Whew! What an honor. Well, what are waiting for? (If I don't have your favorite model you might consider just going with a more generic version or at least the same manufacturer. Or not.) Some specific guns are mentioned. Mostly manufacturers. Just keep in mind I ain't putting a lot of time into this. (Yeah, I left off the Splatmaster and the Nelspot. So sue me, Grandpa.)

Monday Poll in Review
For those who managed to vote within the smaller than normal window of time allowed the consensus was very positive. 54% of the vote was outright positive predicting varying degrees of success for the ESPN3 experiment and if the toss up category (the is it half full or half empty option) is included the total jumps to 77% who tended toward a positive perspective of the outcome. Those on the negative side of the ledger were 3:1 more likely to attribute failure to the general apathy of paintballers than the lack of time to get the word out that everyone needed to watch the broadcast. Plainly the vote was a hopeful one on balance and it will be interesting to see how things really shake out in the days ahead. I only hope we (the average paintball peon on the street) actually find out what really happened and don't just get dismissed with some doubletalk press release. Regarding the actual broadcast it's hard to know how well it was received or even how accessible it really was. Word is the quality was better on Friday than on Saturday. Don't know about Sunday and I can't find any current or near current info on viewership other than to say the rumored golden number wouldn't have strained the system. Other rumors suggested some systems weren't giving access to ESPN3 even if it was supposed to be available. I don't if that's accurate or more of a user error kinda thing. What can't be dismissed is how ubiquitous the effort was or how widespread the online media effort to get viewers watching the event. At a guess I think if the numbers were good we'll probably hear about relatively quickly. If information lags it's less and less likely to be positive. Rumor on site during the event was things wee going well and ESPN execs were taking an active interest as the event unfolded. Don't know if that's accurate either--but it sounded good.

HB Day 2: Tournament Interrupted

This post requires a short preface. I wasn't at HB on Sunday. I don't know who won. I don't care. I tuned in to ESPN3 but didn't watch even five seconds of the coverage. I am not a happy camper. (I am an enraged camper.) In part because we failed to go through on Saturday--as the defending series champions--which is a [expletive deleted] embarrassment of epic proportion but mostly because of the way we failed. (Warning: cliche imminent.) A team, any team, is only as strong as it's weakest link. [This is where everything I'd like to say, to get it off my chest if nothing else, would go except it's team business and that doesn't get aired out in a public forum.] Unfortunately we only had seven players for the event including guest Scott Kemp of the Ironmen otherwise we could have and would have made appropriate substitutions. On a positive note I'd like to thank Scott for filling in. He did everything asked of him like the pro he is. And I'd like to commend Jacob (Edwards the Younger) on stepping up and playing like a man in a totally unfamiliar role because somebody had to and he was chosen. [More stuff I shouldn't post. So, as wiser (calmer, anyway) heads prevail, I won't.]
The rest of this post will be about the scoring system, the refs and the rules. I'll cover the latest TV stuff in the Monday Poll in Review post.
Let's talk chips. Apparently one is enough (despite what the old commercials used to tell us.) Far as I know they worked as intended. Everybody had one and, as far as I know, they were installed in every gun that was used during a pro game. What was also clear was that some guns reached and maintained a higher BPS average with less effort than other guns. Were any of those guns exceeding the cap? Perhaps on occasion but I didn't hear anything that sounded either obviously or outrageously over the limit. It is less clear to me how effective the chip was in the role of policing guns for rules violations. The semi-auto rule to be specific. Some guns that may not have exceeded the BPS cap may have otherwise been ramping up to the cap.
Regarding the gun rules. There was, as I suspected, no real definition or even formula for action in place for the weekend. The intent was to notify teams of guns exceeding the limit and give them a warning--with the implicit (if not quite real) threat of actual penalties "next time" or "tomorrow." I have no idea how many teams, if any, received a warning--or were penalized on Sunday. I know we didn't receive any warnings. (And I sincerely doubt any of our guns ever got close to the BPS cap.) And if any team was penalized, and objected, I don't see how the league could justify assessing the penalty because the rules are simply insufficient as they currently stand. At best this may be a step in the right direction but it is far from a done deal.
Now for the referees. This is where I gain (no) friends and influence (no) body. The layout for HB should have been a referee's dream field. Few blocking obstructions. No confluence of props in the middle of the field. Clean lines of sight nearly everywhere and only a couple of areas on the field where the action might come fast and furious--and still the refs were only borderline competent. 95% of the calls were easy and most of those were probably made correctly. (I'ma giving them the benefit of the doubt.) But the remaining 5% reminded everyone--or should have--that problems, serious problems remain, in officiating competitive paintball and those problems can be divided into two camps. Inconsistency and a lack of a standardized routine. The inconsistency is most often seen in penalties called--and penalties not called. Guy dives into bunker, gets hit but doesn't check or call for check. Ref throws flag, penalty called. Guy runs through half the field gets blown to pieces shoots somebody with no penalty called regardless of how egregious (and obvious) the playing on might have been. Or vice versa. The point is the calling and assessing of penalties continues to be as diverse and unpredictable as the number of refs on the field. And in bunkering moves or run throughs the standard call is the simo because even with 5 refs standing around watching nobody wants to make a definitive call because nobody seems to know or want to know exactly what happened. But I can help.
Since NPPL mythology supports voluntary assistance I am volunteering to fix the reffing issues, free of charge. I will come a day early to the next event if the league will bring the refs in early as well and I will get everyone on the same page and teach them how to work together to make the instantaneous calls that are sometimes required. I will even work out the guidelines for making calls to improve consistency. Trust me, it ain't rocket science. The offer is on the table.
The new format; brackets, scoring, tie-breakers, etc. worked pretty much as predicted. It was a dreary mess that was nearly as incomprehensible to the players and teams as it must have been to the people trying to follow on ESPN3. (I explained what was happening and why to more than one team on Saturday.) Also, as predicted, 3 of the 4 prelim brackets went to tie-breakers as 3 teams in each bracket went 2-1 in their best of threes versus three opponents. The score page posted by the league was also woefully inadequate as it simply showed set wins and losses and never explained why one team or another either moved on or didn't. It may be possible to argue that the new format is an improvement or at least no worse than the old format but the results, and the way they were reported (or explained) (or not explained) (or posted) (or not posted) currently isn't serving the interests of the league or, it seems to me, outreach to a new TV market of potential fans who don't already know the game.
[For those who watched how did Matty do explaining the brackets and the results?]
Lastly, the boom camera. Snake side. Has got to go or the operator has to use some common sense or have some guidelines devised for its use. As it played out over the weekend it bird-dogged players all weekend long, frequently giving away positions in the snake to players otherwise unaware. Think sideline coaching. It was effectively the same thing, except worse. The operator could, if so inclined, tilt the game balance by pointing out some players in the snake and not others. Did that happen? Yes. Was it on purpose? I don't know.
In the small frame of competitive paintball HB was a marginal event; no better and probably no worse than lots of other events. In the Big Picture of the league's future with ESPN (or TV in general) the jury is still out.

Friday, April 1, 2011

HB Day 1

Gotta keep it short, kids. It's late and I don't know much. If you've been to HB before you know what the venue is like; the makeshift plywood boardwalk that leads a sometime winding path of vendors that face the beachfront sidewalk repping the commercial face of paintball. And past the vendors the three fields; the grandstand center field features the Pro play and the ESPN3 coverage. The staccato rapid fire pop of markers keeping the cadence of competition. It was a perfect day for paintball, weather-wise. I heard mixed reviews of the broadcast. Most worrying that people wanting to watch were having problems getting connected through some the various cable outlets. Also, that there was perhaps too much down time but to all appearances everything played out on schedule so I don't know what to think about that particular complaint.
Our day was a little different. With delays due to bad weather most of the team didn't arrive in LA until around 11 pm Thursday night. Our last player didn't arrive until nearly 1 am Friday morning. His luggage didn't arrive. We rolled into our hotel around 2:20 am. Later Friday morning we were due to meet Shock at Camp Pendleton PB park around 9:30 am. Shock arrived early. We were late. We left HB around 8:30 am with our paint but didn't get to the field until around 10 am. Shock was still there and were kind enough to give us a few games. (Keith borrowed enough stuff to play as it was gearbag lost in transit.) When they were done we worked thru some additional last minute details. Scott Kemp of the Ironmen is playing with us for the event and this gave us a chance to work him in. We drove back to HB. Grabbed some lunch and went to the venue to register and watch whatever was left of the Pro prelims. We saw three games. I'ma gonna check out YouTube as soon as I post this. First thing tomorrow morning we head for the field to prep our guns. Shoot some paint. Get our chips implanted and our guns tested. (Keith's gearbag finally arrived. Yeah!) We play our first game around 10 am. That's when the tournament starts.