Friday, April 27, 2012

One Crazy Game

Okay, I lied. About that last post being the last MS related post for a while. The thing is I had intended to incorporate this post into the last one--but changed my mind. (Even the title of the other post was chosen because of the content in this one. Oops.) So it wasn't exactly a lie, more an unintended consequence of thinking the assorted ideas through. You should be used to it. Happens all the time in paintball. (No, not the thinking things through part, the lying part.)
If you've been reading the St. Tropez posts you may recall a comment or two that was mildly disparaging of the Euro style of play. I want to expand on that theme. (Making friends and influencing peeps.) (It isn't all of the teams but it is an easily recognizable pattern common to many of the teams.)
While none of the major leagues have a functioning game philosophy they all have some general ideas about the direction the game has gone in recent years and what future developments they may want to institute. For example, the PSP has a not-quite-guiding principle that as much as possible all the divisions should play the same game and it is a concept taken into consideration when changes are discussed. (Except when it isn't.) The NPPL's guiding precept is solvency--despite the for the player rhetoric--hence the wholesale changes looking for a formula that will at least break even. (Hey, desperation isn't necessarily a bad thing--unless it involves giving Pev an open mike.) The MS is a bit different in that there are more voices at the table that expect to be heard, more bickering and more agendas being pursued. For purposes of this post though only one agenda is relevant. It is the one that envisions the ideal game of paintball being a fast & furious explosion of action resolved quickly and repeated as rapidly as possible. A notion that the Euro players seem to have bought into as well. (Here is where I confess I too am largely persuaded that speed is the ultimate killer. But that's not exactly what the Eurokids put into practice. Too often it looked like aggression for aggression's sake regardless of the situation or the player's awareness, or lack thereof.)
In support of that idea the MS stayed with the prior field dimensions when the PSP changed. They have also followed a tacit plan to design layouts that promote that style of play--or at least discourage anything remotely defensively-oriented. On the other hand they lowered the cap on the ROF. And introduced the 'technical' snake. Both of which are mitigating factors given the way the league seems to want the game to be played.
And what do changes of these sorts accomplish? If left in place long enough they change the way teams will practice. They reorder the priority assigned to the various skills employed to play, etc. In myriad subtle ways they change how the game is approached, conceived and played with most everyone involved seldom, if ever, giving it a second thought.
Then there is the cornerstone of the league's officiating policy; don't ask, don't tell. No, that's not it. It's no unobvious hits, no need to make a subjective call. Which should, in a rational universe, have a chilling effect on play and yet doesn't seem to. Let me explain. What situations are most likely to result in refs calling 1-4-1's? (No, not players cheating. Well yes, but that isn't a situation, that's a choice. Not the same thing.) The situation is players on the move, shooting their guns, intent on being proactive. Getting shot in that situation is practically the MS definition of a 1-4-1. Given a moment to consider then one might reasonably presume that greater risk attaches to such action compared to the likely reward. Doesn't it follow then that taking that risk should only occur when the player has a reasonable expectation they are in control of the situation? And yet point after point the Eurokids run around with no more apparent rationale than excited molecules with the refs running about throwing flags and pulling bodies. Is the outcome of points like that truly determinative of superior play or skills--or is it a crapshoot based on what the refs saw or didn't see? Or acted on or chose not to act on?
So what makes teams play that way? Are they committed to attempting a style of play they don't know how to execute? Is the reffing less rigorous and consistent than claimed making the risk versus reward balance more closely in the players' minds? Both? Something else?
Does the Millennium ever think about what sort of game they want to be promoting when they make decisions about how they will run their events?


Nick Brockdorff said...

Now THIS is a good article!

I agree with most of it.

The one thing I don't agree with, is that there is no overriding game philosophy - I actually think there is - or rather, I don't think the MS has one, but I most definitely think Laurent has one, which is then imposed onto the MS.

For many years, France has been paintball Europes version of California - look at the top 3 divisions in the MS, a 1/3 of the teams are french.

France: 24 teams
Russia: 9 teams
Germany: 5 teams
England: 4 teams
(I'm pretty sure these numbers surprise many, who have not looked at them before in detail)

This is important, because of the influence Laurent, and in turn the Tontons, have had on French paintball for 15+ years.... which naturally "trickles up" into the MS - with Laurent holding the dominant position in the MS and french teams being such a dominant force.

Actually, I think it is all Dynastys fault :D

When they hit Europe, back in 2002, and started running all over people, with a speed nobody had seen before, I think Europe got a continental minority complex, and has since tried to emulate that perceived playing style.

Add to that, that Dynasty has been the only US stable in the MS since then - the only team that is there every time... Others dropped in from time to time (most notably All Americans), but Dynasty are the only ones with true logevity - and they kept winning.

So, ever since 2002-2003, I think the french philosophy has been "faster, we need to be like Dynasty".... It's not much of a philosophy, but there you have it.

Completely irrespective of format changes, and even of Dynasty changing their playing style.... Europe has stuck with "faster", and I think that guiding one word principle, is still today the completely dominant idea of european paintball.

There were a few years, when everyone looked to first Legion, and then Joy Division, where a more methodical play gained popularity, but russia is far away from western Europe and Joy Division is no more.... so back to "faster" we go ;)

Personally I like it, I think is is exiting, fast paced and stupid, and a lot of fun.

Baca Loco said...

I agree with you that Laurent has a vision. I don't think it is sufficiently well thought out or codified to provide consistent direction in the league's development of competitive paintball.

If you went back 3 years or so would the French team dominance be as obvious? Off the top of my head it seems to me that when the MS started having to work to fill locked div spots an inordinant amount of French teams got those spots--or were encouraged to take them.

Personally I think the teams and players would have real fun if they were taught properly how to actually play that way. But that's just me. ;)

Nick Brockdorff said...

Hehe, plugging your Pro School in the Netherlands? :P - I would actually recommend anyone to attend it, coaches are always better teachers than players :)

Actually, the french dominance (in terms of numbers), has been apparent for years, the new spots in the top divisions, in recent years, have almost all been filled by Eastern European countries (Russia, Poland, Czech Replublic, etc.) - and more recently, we are starting to see some Italian teams emerge, after paintball was finally legalised in Italy a few years ago (only place in Europe it was illegal for a lot of years).

I agree there is no "master plan" written down or even talked about, anywhere in the MS, and that is is all in Laurents head.... but question is if there is a master plan in the PSP or NPPL?

Paintball has always suffered from a lack of organisation and from a lot of industry being run by people with zero business training.... people with business training would know, the first thing to do is to write a business plan ;)

Baca Loco said...

NPPL? Not even close.

PSP? In a similar situation to the MS, sorta. No question in my mind there is a vision but kinda like Laurent's split attentions--EPBF, etc.--the PSP's attention is split to some degree too.
I'm also inclined to think that both leagues might be inclined to subordinate the game to the dream--even tho it's a different dream in each case.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Well, I don't see the MS and EPBF as mutually exclusive.... but yes, for them to be intertwined, in the long term, at some point the MS owners would have to give up control of the league to the federation.

Whether they do that, all depends if they are focussed on money or on leaving behind a legacy ;)

Any large sport in existence (and the people that started them), has had to make that choice at some point.

Baca Loco said...

I take your point but you missed mine.
When I suggested either or both the MS and PSP might subordinate the game to the dream I meant very specifically that if the game needed to change in order to fit the dream that the game could easily come in second.
To my way of thinking it already does in the MS--though I know there are lots of "good" reasons why. :)