Tuesday, October 30, 2012

World Cup Wrap-Up

As you've likely noticed I failed to post everyday of the event. There were a couple of other things I failed to accomplish as well a little higher up the priority ladder, I'm afraid. Next time perhaps. In the meantime I'd like to congratulate all the teams and players who participated especially those who came home champions. Well done each and every one. There is no feeling like it to be had in competitive paintball.
Now for the snarky part. With all the divisions of play presently available there are like, what, four or five hundred winners now? The league was rushing peeps onto and off the podium like it was the conveyor belt scene in the candy factory from the old 'I Love Lucy' show. Does the fact there is a D5 Race 2-2 World Cup champion diminish the accomplishment? I'm just asking but do a bunch of old guys who play once a year really get to claim they are World Cup champs for a once a year novelty division? I'd be cool with Masters Division champions at World Cup but when every Tom, Dick & Pietro is claiming World Cup champions status it almost makes a mockery of the title, doesn't it? Or am I just an elitist snob?
Now that I've riled everybody up let's move on to 10-man. First I want to correct the VFTD record with regards to just how the latest bunkers (inflatable camo walls, etc.) from Sup'Air found their way onto the 10-man field. Prior speculation was consistent with known facts but I tracked down the 'rest of the story' while at Cup. The PSP asked Adrenaline Games [AD] if they could make a one off old school 10-man field. AD said they could but given that the league didn't begin promoting a 10-man division until relatively late in the season the league didn't want to commit to buying a field for a division that nobody might sign up for. At which point AD volunteered they had some new bunkers they thought could work. The PSP said okay and there you have it. The truth then is that AD didn't do anything (this time) other than offer bunkers they had available and the league, looking to hedge its bet on 10-man, accepted. I remain curious about when (or if) the league discovered just what they were getting. And, as it turns out, regardless of what they expected or wanted the majority of 10-man players I spoke to liked the field and enjoyed playing. (While not a done deal VFTD believes the PSP will continue to offer 10-man play in a limited way in the future.)
One of the few places where this World Cup struggled a bit was in scheduling and one place it showed up was late Saturday afternoon on the pro field. The issue here wasn't that the schedule was wrong but that it probably should have been done another way, by divisions, even though teams within the divisions wouldn't all have played common opponents it would have produced clearer results. As it turned out with the last game played, Dynasty v. Heat, eight of the fourteen pro teams finished with 3-1 records. The problem, only 6 move on to Sunday. The top seeds--by margins of victory--were Damage and Heat which received byes into the semis. The next two, Ironmen and X-Factor had identical records and identical margins. The next tiebreaker is head-to-head but it didn't apply so their tie-breaker went to points scored making X-Factor the third seed and the Ironmen the fourth seed. Here it gets tough. The next three teams; Vicious, Infamous and the Russian Legion were all tied through point margins and since there were 3 teams the tiebreaker went directly to points scored which eliminated Vicious. (If there had been a head-to-head Vicious would have put out Infamous.) And finally there was Dynasty with the lowest margin of all so they too were eliminated.
All the pro teams played hard, win or lose, and there was a rumor going around the pits on Saturday that CEP would be playing Shock to retain their sponsorship. I don't know if that proved true or not but how's that for a strong incentive? Do you rise to the top or fold under the pressure?
In top divisional play Sunday delivered a few surprises (Florida Kings in D1) but mostly saw the consistent podium teams back on the podiums as the winners from D1 thru D3 were also their division series winners as well; T1 Topgun Union in D1, Revo in D2 and Palm Beach Venom in D3.
Despite the proximity of Sandy and some unseasonable temperatures the weekend provided some excellent paintball playing weather excepting Florida was only able occasionally to live up to it's nickname as the sunshine state. Compared to some past years when it's been blisteringly hot this was probably a welcome respite. As is often said here in Florida if you don't like the weather wait an hour.
Word on site was that while it wasn't the most teams ever (and it definitely wasn't) it was probably the most players ever at a World Cup and by the daily crush in the parking lot it is hard to disagree with that assessment. It also seemed to me--though I didn't spend a lot of time or energy on it--that there were considerably more fans, visitors, spectaters, friends of players about than we've seen in recent years--and I saw a lot more people carrying bags around like they'd been in to see the various vendors and had actually bought stuff. Purely anecdotal but reports from the big vendors will likely leak before too long so we'll see. There was a lot of new and different stuff on display.
A quick clarification on the webcast. I am told that there were points where Damage was playing and the new feature that shows which players were on the field sometimes only indicated four Damage players. That happened not because of unexplained penalties but because the PBA apparently didn't have a photo of Daniel Holliday to show so he was our mystery man all weekend. I didn't see any of the Cup coverage and haven't gone back--yet--to watch any of it so can't comment on the latest improvements.
On a personal note to everyone I ran into at Cup--especially those I haven't seen in forever (Ronan, Big Dave)--it was great to see y'all again. Friends are a great tonic for some of the nonsense that surrounds our game and helps keep everything in perspective.
And finally both last and least I was tapped for 3 interviews during Cup and guess how many of them actually happened. If you guessed none give yourself a cookie. MattyHo you can't keep dodging me forever. (Well, actually you probably can as I get older and slower every year.) If I didn't know better I'd swear it was a conspiracy of silence but as long as VFTD is here then so am I.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mr. Curious: Behind the Facade

Boys & Girls, Mr. C has hit the jackpot this time around. As I'm sure all of you know World Cup is complete for 2012--having finished up late yesterday afternoon. (An extensive review of the event is coming soon.) What you probably don't know is what was going on behind the scenes of an apparently serene vendors village. Nothing short of a full scale effort to sew discord and paranoia. This story is so big, so absurd and makes everyone involved look so ridiculous that Mr. Curious refuses to use any actual names. First, the manufactured issue: (Industry) Player A and (Industry) Player B warned that the rest of the industry should be afraid, very afraid, of a too powerful PSP (and by association, PBA) lest those entities become so powerful they can *gasp* dictate to the rest of the industry. Players A & B began circulating among the smaller vendors from Day 1 with their fear-mongering (apparently) with the hope of uniting the vendors behind er, them. (Not exactly the Barons of England presenting King John with the Magna Carta.) The effort (apparently) produced some results as members of the paintball industry aren't well known for either wisdom, rectitude or the precise orientation of their moral compass. In other words promise them a shiny bauble and you've got their attention.
What exactly a tournament promoter and a live media production company are supposed to be in a position to "dictate" or control, I'm not sure. The promoter invites industry members (and non-industry members) to sponsor the league in a reciprocal arrangement that ideally benefits both parties. And if the cost of sponsorship doesn't match the potential benefits sponsors don't show up. (And when they show up anyway it isn't because a promoter has them over a barrel it's because they're afraid of the competition getting a leg up if they don't show.) And the media production company is trying to sell advertising during its broadcasts.
On its face the "dictate" claim is nonsense on stilts but here's their argument: a single or dominant promoter can limit access to the paintballing public by refusing a potential sponsor or by pricing their sponsorship in such a way it effectively discriminates against the smaller or newer industry participants. Now this of course assumes the only access the industry has to the marketplace is through a tournament promoter--which is silly too--but let's, for the sake of the argument, accept it for a moment. The only time in memory the PSP has done anything similar is the beginning of this season when they restricted access to a would-be paint vendor. Why did they do that? Because the pre-existing paint vendors practically begged them to claiming they--the paint vendors--couldn't make any money if another vendor was allowed in. That decision cost the PSP thousands of dollars. Btw, one of the instigators [Player A or B] this past weekend was one of the paint companies that asked the PSP not to accept the additional paint sponsor. Are we having fun yet?
Here comes my favorite part; a little background on the Players. One of the Players created a format that at its pinnacle was a closed system, restricted media access, denied player movement and was designed to control the future of competitive paintball as sport and, drum roll please, make ceiling high stacks of cheddar for the few insiders running the show. [As Yoda might say, "The hypocrisy is strong in this one."]
The other Player has a history of helping smaller companies into oblivion while stripping them of their identity and assets and, as a distributor, introduced wholesale pricing through online outlets that undercut their retail customers and decimated the economic foundations of the game.
And the solution (to the foment they generated!) being considered by one of the Players is--wait for it--to buy into the NPPL and ostensibly fund a high quality webcast for them. Now you tell me, does that sound like somebody who wants to "defend" the industry or somebody who wants to compete for the role of "dictator?" What's really going on here is the big Players in this industry are used to calling the shots and this is just the latest round in their private competition to be the dominant Player.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

World Cup Friday

Go figure, it was another long day. So you know what that means--another abbreviated daily report. Hurricane Sandy--have there really been that many named storms this season?--stalled a bit off the Florida coast Friday driving bands of wind and rain inland from the Atlantic coast. Late night rain disipated by dawn but gusty winds plagued the site all day and kept the planes grounded at Fantasy of Flight.
For the most part the usual suspects sit atop the leader board for Sunday selection in the Pro division but as noted yesterday nothing will be determined until the last match is played on Saturday which will see Dynasty (2-1) squaring off against Heat (2-0). The new kids, Impact & XSV, are a collective 0-4 so far. And despite the fact they don't have a win between them the bottom third of the pro bracket; CEP, Shock, Thunder and 187 have played some solid matches and competed hard. Given the match-ups it is possible 3 teams could end up 4-0 with only two of them receiving the bye into the semis tomorrow.
Turned out the latest reports (see Facebook) of Troll's crippling injury was overstated--or else he was miraculously healed overnight as he sprinted for the snake 3 or 4 times in the XSV match today.
I watched a few 10-man games today too. (My son is playing for the first time in over two years.) Most everyone seemed to enjoy the games whatever they thought of the bunkers. (And yes, I've conducted my very own informal and unscientific poll and the majority do not think the urban inflatable walls are appropriate bunkers for tournament play--throwback 10-man or otherwise. I do think though that a 10-man division could easily become a World Cup staple that brings in up to 50 teams.
Did my bit too to prepare some of the non-Floridian UWL players by explaining what they could expect to find in the shallow pools of stagnant water within the stand of trees by the lake where the games will be played. Let's just they are now somewhat apprehensive despite the fact I assured them alligators wouldn't be a problem and as long as some beaters scared the water moccasins away the chances of a poisonous bite was quite small.
While the winds didn't tear down any netting it did take out the pro field's penalty boxes. The result was an extended delay while some field crew and refs jerry rigged some makeshift alternatives. Or, a couple of $10 dollar pvc pipe penalty boxes take a $400K webcast off the air--or at least delivered some extended dead air.
And finally a special thanks to Cap'n Roy and the gang in the Pirate's Cove for their friendship and hospitality--which always hits the spot.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

World Cup Thursday

It's late so today I'll just pass along a few brief observations.
This year's version of the Fantasy of Flight World Cup venue is, I think, a little more player and fan friendly. With the inclusion of the 10-man field and the UWL 5-man on the schedule all the fields seem a bit closer to both registration and the principle parking lot with the vendors laid out between the divisional fields and the pro field. The vendors are readily accessible without the past's compulsory hike through a maze of vendors.
Bands of gray and sometimes threatening clouds dashed across the sky all day. It rained hard in the early pre-dawn hours of Thursday morning and didn't rain again until the late afternoon when the Damage--187 match and Dynasty--X-Factor match were on the receiving end of a progressively heavier downpour.
The latest weather indicates more showers tomorrow as the tropical storm/low intensity hurricane moves away from Florida and up the Atlantic seaboard. Fingers crossed.
Scores today aren't meaningless but nor do they set a team's final fate just yet. X-Factor and Vicious went 2-0 with X-Factor having the better quality wins as one of theirs was a strong rally against Dynasty under very adverse circumstances for both teams. The new kids on the block both lost their single matches today. XSV lost to Vicious 1-7 and Impact lost to Dynasty 2-7. Shock, CEP & Upton 187 all put up good fights battling deep into their first (or only) matches of the day only to lose late, hampered by penalties. Nobody looked like a champion today but part of the process is to build and improve on each day's performance so that by Sunday teams are ready to take destiny by the throat and rip the Cup away from all the pretenders. Friday promises to put us all one day closer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10-man Trick or Treat?

Mr. Curious is already on the scene and is reporting the 10-man field appears to be using the Sup'Air "urban" props used by the Millennium at the recent Paris-Disney event for the new Classic division. If true, Sup'Air punks the PSP again. (When will it stop?) Also, if true, I predict some unhappy 10-man teams.

EDIT ADDED: PBA posted an Instagram of a portion of the field 45 minutes ago and confirmed it was the 10-man field. Of course they had to know a while ago what prop set they would be using. Why didn't they release that information sooner?

Monday, October 22, 2012

World Cup Week

Players and teams from around the world are converging on central Florida to take part in the greatest paintball competition of the year. Saturday and Sunday dozens of teams and hundreds of players flooded the fields at Central Florida Paintball including pro teams Damage, Infamous, Russian Legion, Ironmen & Vicious. Teams will continue to flock to the field for practices reps until the day the tournament begins on Thursday. Meanwhile more players and teams will continue to arrive over the next few days.
Back in the day World Cup was a literal week if you were competing in both 5-man and 10-man competitions. Nowadays World Cup manages to contain all the action in a four day span but that doesn't diminish the event at all. For one week every year competitive players everywhere turn their attention toward the World Cup as does much of the rest of the paintball world. It is the greatest show in paintball and the most coveted title; World Cup Champions.
We finished our field preparations for Cup on Sunday grinding out nearly 40 points with Infamous. On Saturday it was with Vicious and the weekend before (just after the layout was released) 187 Crew came down for a two-dayer. (There is a long and noble history of made up words so just go with it already.) It was a productive weekend and I am satisfied with where we are going into the event.
Now the sad truth is I'm a frequently jaded and cynical participant in the traveling circus that is big time competitive paintball. I go to compete. I go to win. I enjoy renewing acquaintances and friendships along the way but otherwise the tournaments themselves and their locations all began running together a long time ago. The travel stopped being an adventure and became part of the grind. I'm into my third decade of World Cups. And yet--
Somehow World Cup can still fire the imagination. It stands alone. It is the must be a part of paintball event for every player. People often ask me if World Cup is really that big a deal. Is it worthwhile to make the trip and I unhesitatingly always say yes--but don't just come to World Cup. Compete in World Cup. Over the years it's moved from the original 'Paintball World' in Kissimmee (and New York before that) to a cow pasture on Poinciana Blvd. to Disneys Wide World of Sports to a pitch of chunky grass at Fantasy of Flight in Polk-freaking-County and none of that matters because it remains World Cup.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Basic Tactics: Pit Management

Your eyes don't deceive you. Two BT posts in less than a week. (I figured the more time you had with this one the better if you're playing Cup next week.) Not that most of y'all don't have this covered already.
Let's begin with why it matters. (If you've never played Xball or Lite or Race 2--or the Millennium's bastard offspring variant--it probably doesn't seem like that big a deal. Well, it is.) It matters because the pit can very easily turn into an enormously chaotic distraction that has everyone from crew, coaches and players focusing on exactly the wrong things at precisely the wrong time. A smooth running pit is a pit that doesn't take away from your team's effort to play its best paintball.
Ideally your pit is staffed with crew led by a manager whose first priority is to make sure the pit isn't a distraction. The crew's job is to make sure every player is fully prepared to go out and play every point of each match with minimal distractions or complications. (As a team this also means planning ahead. A cooler for water--or whatever y'all drink during a match and while you're waiting between matches. Hydration isn't for just while you're playing. What about batteries? Have extras? Clean up towels? Where are they? Spare guns? Hoppers? How many pods do you have? Figure out how many a line carry with them onto the field on average and multiple that by 3. That's the minimum you're going to need especially if you're running deep into your roster and want to stay ahead. If extra guns and hoppers aren't available then pair up players in advance who most of the time aren't playing together so they can share.) The crew is responsible for air fills, cleaning paint off the players, collecting pods, filling pods, responding to the routine emergency of guns down and broken loaders and always, ALWAYS, having the next line ready to go. So what does that entail specifically? A manager to oversee the rest of the crew and make sure nothing is being left out, someone to collect the pods, someone(s) to fill pods, someone to clean paint and someone to assist loading packs and offering top off paint and at least one redundant crew member to go get extra paint if needed or run a gun to get it teched or whatever else WILL come up at the worst possible time. So 4 or 5 crew members. Extras will simply get in the way as there typically isn't enough room for more that that to improve the process.
I also want the pit to also have a consistent routine so that wherever we are playing it is set-up the same way and we do the same things in the same order all the time. (That may be a little extreme and isn't always possible. Don't let variations from the routines you establish become their own distractions.) My preference is for players to get air immediately when they come off the field. I want the players coming in out of the way of the next line going out. (Sometimes there are players going back-to-back and they get priority from the crew.) That means we arrange our tables and paint etc. in ways that assist (promote) our routines (fully aware that it seldom works out as planned all the time. Take a deep breath and let it go.) Air, get cleaned up, get loaded up with paint (if anything is amiss switch out your gun or hopper or whatever) and be ready to go. The time to start prepping for the next point isn't during the two minute break, it is immediately when you come off the field. The two minutes is for complications and getting everyone together on the next game plan.
Now I can hear the caterwauling from here. We don't have a pit crew. We're not Pros. We have to handle that stuff on our own. It's easy if you have a crew but what do we do?
First thing you do is knock off the belly-aching. As I routinely remind y'all nobody likes a whiner.
The next thing you do is address the question of how you will handle the pit as a team. This doesn't mean you will open it up for discussion or ideas but it does mean that take steps to keep your pit from becoming a problem long before you're in there trying to get organized with the clock ticking down to game start with half the team missing or still undressed. At this time it's my sad duty to inform you that whatever your team's circumstance somebody has to be in charge of the pit. Fortunately there are a lot of ways to solve this problem. If you're part of young team maybe there's a parent who wants to be more involved. (Have we got a job for you!) Or it may be one of the coaches. Or a player who won't be playing the next event. Whoever it is it must be somebody invested in your team's success because you don't have the advantages of a dedicated crew. (Most pro teams don't either if it's any consolation.)
What you do have are some options. If you can count on their participation make arrangements with some other teams in your division to help each other in the pits. Or with teams that share the same home field if you're uncomfortable with potential competitors in your pit while you're playing. Whatever the arrangement remember you are responsible for equipping your pit--not the temporary crew--and this is why someone has to be in charge. Not all pit crews are created equal and it's the designated manager's job to make sure the crew is working and they have everything they need to do the job properly. Not watching the match. Or texting their girlfriend. Or whatever else is a distraction might be. (This doesn't mean, btw, y'all get to dump all the responsibility for your pit on the fall guy, er, manager. There needs to be a commitment from everyone to do their part.)
Okay, but as a team you don't have any friends. Don't know anyone. What do you do? Remember how I recommended pairing players to share equipment if spares weren't available? You can operate your pit using a variation of that concept. Pair players who normally play on different lines and make them 'pit buddies.' (Yeah, I know.) Pit buddies are responsible for looking out for one another so that while Player A enters the pit after being eliminated his buddy, Player B, checks him for hits, spray etc while A is getting air and walks through the process with him assuring he's ready for his next point--and vice versa. It doesn't address every issue--like filling pods--but you should have a good volume of pods at the start of a match and can have rotating assignments for filling pods during the match. No specific solution is always the answer. The answer is the team preparing in advance to deal with the process of running a pit during a match. It doesn't matter how you solve the particular problems. Only that your answers work for you and that the members of the team are all on the same page.

In the end how your pit functions is a reflection of your team and the time and effort spent to keep the process humming in the background while the team competes. A modicum of preparation in advance and a plan for how to handle the pit is all most teams need. A checklist doesn't hurt either. And while you're at it try to impress upon the players--particularly the younger ones--both the necessity and value of their cooperation and assistance in a smooth running pit. (Threats of physical violence often work like a charm.)

As always if you have any specific questions drop me a line--and since Cup is coming up I'll give those questions priority for the next few days.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

World Cup Predictions

Kinda. Obviously I'm not going to upset any of the competing teams by posting what I think is likely to happen to each of them at Cup and I'm certainly not going to predict a winner--y'all already know who I think will win--and if I don't believe in my team, who will? Okay, I don't think it's a foregone conclusion, I think it is possible. I think we are capable and probably one of the favorites. And I am confident we will get it done. (All that means is I'm just like everybody competing the for the title.)
What I am going to do is predict prelim records--but without saying (at least for right now) which teams end up with which records. In checking the rules it seems the Pro division will still move 6 teams on to Sunday and that the top two (best records, highest point differential) will get byes to the semis.
Most of the time when peeps make predictions they fail to take the actual prelim brackets into account and instead pick their favorites. I have broken down all the brackets to see who is playing who. I have picked winners and losers in every Pro match to reach the following outcome.
I predict--
2 teams will go 4-0.
3 teams will go 3-1.
5 teams will go 2-2.
1 team will go 1-3.
3 teams will go 0-4.
Only 1 of the 2-2 teams will make Sunday but that team will reach the semi-finals.

Now here is where y'all come in. I want you to post your top three predicted finishers in the comments. Pro only. If we get 50 responses I'll post my Sunday predictions--who makes the cut off. If we get 75 I'll include the seeding order of the Sunday Club. But you only have until next Wednesday so I can post up prediction details before the event begins Thursday morning. And who knows, if the comments receive more than 100 predictions I might post all my predicted prelim records with teams included next Thursday morning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Basic Tactics: Mid-game Transition

The key here is to stay focused on the job at hand--whatever your individual role may be. Since it's been awhile (no whining) let's take a quick inventory of where we are before we go any further. The breakout has been accomplished. Players are in their primaries. Remember the elements that apply; strong side, weak side, the game plan, the core individual game skills and so on. At this point it's as simple as 'know your role' and 'do your job' but unfortunately that's frequently not as easy as it sounds.
For purposes of this post and as a general rule we will assume the goal is to attack the wires. (All the same fundamentals apply regardless.) Typically that means a team commits two players (at some point) to each side of the field. There is a front (or lead) player and an insert (or support) player. Depending on the breakout primaries it may be necessary for one or both players to make some number of additional moves to gain access to and move up their designated wire. Those are details. The important part is the cooperative and coordinated effort the lead and support share in that process. The core of the relationship is simple; the lead is the primary killer and the support keeps him alive and presses home the attack. (This also frequently means being able to take over the lead role as well.)
A couple of common pitfalls distract from the process. The support gets caught up either trying to get his own kills or otherwise engages in unnecessary gunfights. What is an unnecessary gunfight? Any gunfight that doesn't advance the team goal. Any gunfight that doesn't advance or protect the lead. (There are of course some gray areas. Like keeping the opposition at bay. How much effort do you expend trying to keep the opposition pinned on their side of the field? How much risk do you accept to do that knowing that at some point if the opposition is proximate you risk a bunkering attack? There is no cookie cutter answer to those kind of questions but they are questions that should be addressed in practice. For example most teams will predetermine contingent situations where they decide to bunker out opposing players if they reach certain spots on the field. Team A gets to the X, we always go and kill him immediately. The same applies, albeit in a more subtle fashion, to the support's role.
The error most common to leads is battling on the wire. (At times in some of the more traditional snakes this is a necessary distraction. The distinction is what has the lead's attention. Where is his focus?) The purpose of gaining upfield positions is to gain access to angles into and across the field that will deliver unexpected or unavoidable eliminations. Therefore engaging in gunfighting down your wire is a very high risk distraction. the normal cause of this--assuming the player has been taught basic game principles--is fear, or a lack of trust in his support. This lack of trust arises most commonly when the support player isn't communicating with his lead. It is very important the support maintains a level of communication both as a fundamental fo game play and as a tangible link to his lead.
Each different layout will dictate how and where the support player will play. There are seldom ideal spots to play. Most every position will entail some compromises and they need to be accounted for in a team's preparation. Ideally support wants unobstructed lines of sight with the ability to hose down a particular bunker (or two) or gap between props without undue interference or contesting of his edge by the opposition support player. When that doesn't exist it is now the team's job to figure out how the support role should be played given whatever limitations a particular layout may create. So the goal in practice (with respect to lead & support roles) is to figure out the team wants to fulfill those duties as they apply to any given game plan.
The learning process for 'knowing your role' can be fairly complex. There will almost always be compromises and conflicts introduced by the layout. But once the team and players are prepared 'knowing your role' and 'doing your job' become automatic and it also means there are fewer things the players have to think about as they play while maintaining their focus on a shared, team process and goal(s).
If you have any questions you know where to send them.
Next time I'ma jump ahead to pit management principles because Cup is getting close and I suspect that might be more immediately useful to a lot of teams. And finally in a bit of somewhat unrelated VFTD housekeeping if you have contacted me about team clinics please be patient as I will have details after Cup. Just too much going on right now to fit that in--and we're going to need to see next season's scheduled events in order to finalize dates. Thanks!

Friday, October 12, 2012

World Cup Layout

No analysis, in-depth or otherwise, just a few observations after spending a bit of time reviewing the layout. Snake off the break? Yes you can. Definitely worth challenging that Home gun. There are other lanes that can contest a snake runner but they can be countered. And an early snake presence can put a lot of pressure on D-side primaries. Consistent with layouts this year using the *new* technical snake that half of the field is low props and playing on your knees except for the corner TCKs. These are very important positions (as is often the case) given the very traditional nature of this layout; two dominating (more or less) wires with limited insert props feeding the wires and interior lanes [of movement] most divisional teams will ignore. The snake corners also are simple bumps into the snake or the insert T.
Home is too useful and given that it's an MT is very likely to be played by 2 players early in points much of the time. I say too useful as the tendency will be to blunt offensive play and delay the kind of aggressive push that closes out points quickly. Look for either very fast points--when bodies drop OTB--or longer more deliberate points as teams and players (particularly at the divisional level) are satisfied to with sitting in their bunkers and making cautious moves.
The A can be taken OTB and can deliver some quick kills for sloppy play. It can also deny key rotations on either side of the field, more easily on the snake side, but is also subject to a counter-bunkering as it will be hard to defend OTB as well.
The D-wire is the more complex and diverse side of the field providing a lot of options relative to the snake wire even though it too is fairly conventional. The difference is the placement of the inline Pins and blocking upfield MTs. I can see this wire being played as the strong side a majority of the time.
The most critical phase of play on this layout could be the breakout as opportunities exist to hammer the opposition early and often with fearless & bold execution.
Have at it and have fun!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 NPPL Championships: Final Thoughts

First, my apologies for not posting daily during the event. It wasn't that I was off helping to support Vegas's faltering economy in the manner it has become accustomed to by losing my shirt at some enticing but utterly quixotic gaming table--I left that to Jason. Nor was it because there just weren't enough hours in the day. Strangely Vegas has 24 hours each day like every other place--I think the problem must be too often you just can't remember a lot of the lost hours afterwards. No, my excuse is I was pondering a decision that probably should have already been made. As a consequence this will be my last post that is aggressively critical of any league a team I am affiliated with is competing in or may compete in in the near term. The simple fact is only the PSP is sufficiently professional to deal with criticism appropriately and I am convinced the views expressed here have had a deleterious impact on my team--which means I have to stop. (I also waited an extra day--to post--to make sure my comments are consistent with reality and not the result of frustration. I also wanted to review the webcast to make sure I heard and saw what I thought I heard and saw the first time around. And there was also the matter of some video offered for my use in illustrating some of the officiating incompetence (or bias) on display.)
But no matter. What's the point? I sound like a broken record to myself and since absolutely nobody else will go on the record--despite nearly universal private agreement--I'm done. Officiating remains a joke. The supposed oversight is apparently just another form of cover-up. Nothing has changed. It's too bad really because most of the refs are trying, I think. It only takes a few to taint the whole process. It's too bad as well for the teams that want so badly to compete and succeed to always have the taint of suspect officiating detracting from their efforts.
I must say though I found it more than a little amusing that one of VFTD's most vociferous haters got completely screwed in such an obvious and blatant fashion on Sunday. I wonder if I'm still the bad guy for pointing out the problems and if he still has his hands firmly covering his eyes, ears and mouth--a real feat with only two hands. (His team needed to get screwed in order to keep Damage from winning the series title--a fact discussed by some NPPLites on Saturday, including PA announcer Chris who said how bad it would be for the league, or words to that effect if Damage won given how critical the team [VFTD] has been of the league. A conversation that ironically occurred just before we lost our only prelim match on a major penalty called after we had received a point and the horn had sounded that retroactively took our point away and resulted in a swing point despite the fact the penalized player called himself out and was walking off the field and nobody saw him get hit including the ref who made the call and subsequently changed his version of events three times. But nevermind. It was surely just a coincidence.)
FYI with respect to seeding the governing rule is 25.01. I mention it because it was ignored in order to put Phoenix Contact into the same prelim bracket with Impact & XSV when, according to the rules, it should have been Houston Heat. No doubt that was simply an oversight.
In post-event news there's a rumor that the brand new to Vegas slippery as ice turf won't make a second NPPL appearance. Rumor also has it that's a $125K mistake but in looking at turf pricing I doubt that sum. Of course if one rumor is as "accurate" as the other it may be used at HB next spring too. Of course some pro teams were using metal spikes or studs to improve their footing. I was told--when I asked--that the league was enforcing the no metal rules but it was an uphill battle as more teams were attempting to use them each day.
Ed Poorman has departed the NPPL after two events. In his parting remarks (on Facebook) he took the high road but it's clear that something went wrong given how dedicated Ed was (is) to contributing to the game he loves.
The highest live viewer totals I observed on Sunday were 1583 viewers during the finals.
The webcast was the best the NPPL has offered to date. By comparison to the PSP it remained a modest effort that didn't reach the same levels as the last DPL (German league) webcast I saw. The Millennium's Paris-Disney webcast will be produced by the same crew so I expect, even with the improvements, the NPPL still comes in third among the big three.
Finally I would like to offer congrats to all the divisional teams that competed, win or lose. And I sincerely hope the tournament was a good experience for all of them. The same goes to the pro players who are, for the most part, just like every other paintball player, determined to live the dream whatever the cost.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day 1: NPPL Vegas Championships

The Vegas weather is deceptively lovely. Today was intermittently overcast but mostly crystalline blue skies with temperatures close to 90 degrees that for this Florida boy felt great. At the same time the intensity of the desert sun and the lack of moisture in the air are a recipe for unexpected sunburn, chapped, cracked lips and the headaches that are common precursors to mild dehydration. And speaking of deceptively lovely there's the new NPPL turf. It looks great, especially side-by-side with some of the old stuff but mix some water and paint on it and it's as slippery as black ice on an asphalt overpass in the dead of winter. (That's not news to any of you who watched any extended bit of webcast coverage.)
Speaking of the webcast I managed to get back to the hotel--not the Riviera--where the beds are as comfy as a hobo's straw pallet in the back of an empty railroad car clickety-clacking across rugged country--in time to catch most of the last Pro matches of the day. (I also received a less positive review from a friend who had watched considerably more of the action than I did.) I thought the webcast was okay. I thought the commentary was okay. But I have the advantage of knowing exactly what's going on because I know the field and I know how it was playing all day. Somebody viewing it cold--like my friend--found it lacking. (I'm not convinced, to a degree, that the same concerns don't apply to any webcast but I'll reserve judgment until Cup.)
The layout is an odd one. It can play fast but that's largely a property of early eliminations and/or a failure to secure the critical lanes. Most matches went to time with only a handful of teams reaching 5 points even when they were dominating play. (When does the league finally get rid of the carwash?) This event sees two new teams participating; Houston Heat & Phoenix Contact, and they received a fairly rude welcome dropping all three of their combined matches today. Heat went 0-2 and Contact was 0-1. The scheduling for 15 teams has seen a few anomalies over past events with 4 teams playing three times today (Dynasty, Legend, Uprising & Vendetta) with XSV & Contact to play 3 matches each tomorrow. Besides Heat's 0-2 start Dynasty has regained its form and some momentum with a solid 2-1 record today including a strong win over Infamous (but also including a loss to Vendetta.) Vendetta also went 2-1 today with wins over Dynasty & Heat while losing to Infamous. Legend was also 2-1. The other 2 win teams were Damage and Impact who only played two matches today. While nothing is settled yet all the two win teams have a leg up on making Sunday but as with today's play there will certainly be some surprises tomorrow.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

NPPL Awards Gold Stars

For participation. What?! Is this Tee-ball? Peewee soccer? The Special Olympics? No, wait, it's Pro Division tournament paintball. Okay, I hear you. The NPPL guys probably never thought of their nice plaques in those terms and almost certainly didn't mean to suggest that everybody should be proud, and, erm, happy just to participate--but good grief, read the plaque!
By the way, the back is almost as good. It says (and I quote) 'Provided by Arrowhead Wood Inc. The official furniture sponsor of the NPPL World Championships in Las Vegas.' What a hoot.
In actual tournament news the venue has been moved to a different portion of the convention center parking lot away from the nearest intersection (which is really okay because nobody ever noticed before anyway) a little closer to the Riviera. Otherwise the layout is consistent with past event set-ups. There is new turf, which looks pretty good, though I have no idea how it will play. It's still laid directly onto the asphalt so it's gonna be hard landings for those with poor diving technique. Three elevated platforms along the snake side appear to be the principle webcast camera positions but between them it looks like they should give pretty good field coverage--and if there are any additional cameras the results could be a substantial improvement over past efforts. The action gets started tomorrow at 7am but the Pros don't hit the grandstand field until 9:30am with Damage playing Uprising and Arsenal playing Legend. Pro matches will run from 9:30 until around 4pm on Friday. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Speed Kills

In the context of tournament paintball it is a common axiom. It is also an inspiration to ballers everywhere, shorthand for every kind of bunkering move or run thru. It is also inextricably linked to competitive paintball's most influential team, Dynasty. Beyond the wins and success it speaks to their trademark style of play. A thing of beauty to watch, fast, efficient, elegant and brutal all at the same time it drove numerous generations of players and teams to emulate them; to make 'speed kills' their own mantra, their own reason for competing, the peak of paintball perfection.
Best of all it's true. Speed does kill. Precisely timed speed sews confusion, overwhelms reaction times and reflexes and creates chaos and indecision. Except that outcome is supposed to be limited to the recipients, those on the receiving end. Too often 'speed kills' also applies to the players on the move. Unfortunately rapid movement doesn't exempt anyone from the basic requirements of team play; communication & coordination. Nor does it magically imbue players with a sudden awareness of the field or knowledge of their teammates roles in executing a close on the run. The result then is too often just chaos and confusion with the outcome of the game (or point) another roll of the dice.
Speed kills.