Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Pendulum Swings

Tired of the 3-2 pro scores that sees players sit for endless minutes in the same bunker controlling the same lanes until somebody gets dinked or the team that is down bodies is forced to concede the point? No need to answer that 'cus I know you are, as am I. In the off season the league returned to its traditional field length and Adrenaline Games talked the PSP into adding bunkers (in order to shorten the gaps between bumps leading out to the wires [which they did not follow through on in this season's designs]) (and that have had zero positive effect on play) and the league is now going so far as to organize a layout committee in order to do, er, something about these long slow points and dull matches.
But even though I am not a fan of slow play I have a warning for y'all--this is a scenario that is ripe for the law of unintended consequences to smack everybody hard upside the head. It is a truism amongst trial lawyers that you never ask a question you don't know the answer to already in order to avoid being blind-sided, caught unawares and unprepared. And while I respect the committee members the PSP has chosen I have yet to see a solid indication they have a comprehensive understanding of how a layout will play short of playing it. So far we have had three layouts that either minimize or delete a back center position. One made the snake hard to reach, the other made it easy. All the dorito wires have been aligned, more or less, within a single grid column and now we have one devoid of a back center and with the barest minimum of feed bunkers inserting to either wire--and a clutter of Pins and TCKs in the middle. (O/T: should the playing surfaces be elevated at one end of the field compared to the other it will provide a significant advantage to the team shooting down on their opponent. Just saying.) Along with open lanes wide (and restricted primary options) the objective is to facilitate eliminations OTB. The layout also clearly hopes to encourage play at the X. Let's for a moment consider the results if this layout plays as intended.

Imagine it's the fourth event in a row where the odds are your team or the other team or both teams will lose one or two players off the break every point. (I know we haven't actually had any like that recently but play along 'cus I'm trying to make a point.) How many events in a row like that would it take before the divisional teams and players started to complain about the unfair manipulation of the layouts? Why, you ask, would they do that? Simple really. Race To is played either to a point total or a time limit and if nearly every breakout results in losses between 10%-40% that's a lot of not playing paintball. If you're a 1 you're risk for getting shot OTB is higher than the rest so how many points are you really playing if that many bodies are dropping OTB? Or you have some older players who are the backbone of your team but have fewer to no places they can play effectively anymore? Will teams used to playing to time begin to resent playing half the time because the points go faster? And when it's random players getting shot does the skill factor go up or down for trying to pull back those sorts of points or do teams mostly get steam-rolled depending on how many and which player(s) they lost OTB? If the norm becomes fast points and lots of quick easy kills how much actual paintball will teams end up playing in Race To 4 or even Race To 5? And will the luster wear off that style of play just as quickly if (or when) it becomes the norm?

Nobody seems to know how to design a layout that can be played either fast or slow while staying sufficiently neutral that it rewards the better team--or to even shade an advantage perhaps to the risk takers as it is fundamentally easier and less risky to play defense. Instead we are getting these experiments in brute manipulation and while it might force play on the pro fields, it might not, and I doubt any consideration was given to what it might do to divisional play at all. It will certainly be interesting to see how this latest experiment plays out.


Anonymous said...

Millennium had such layouts in the past (06-07?), combined with 15pbs CPL teams were not able to make it to the corners.
Teams have adapted by going only as far as it was safe. I remember Joy usually staying three players at back center and sending two to nearest bunkers OTB.
No matter what you do, Pro teams will adapt and play it safe...

Anonymous said...

You're correct (as usual). I feel like a good way to help resolve the "sitting" issues is to 1. Not release the layout at all before the effect, and 2. Change the layout all 3 days. Crazy? Well, the manpower would be. But you wouldn't have time to "learn" a field.

Bryan Parks said...

@2:52 Anon. I do believe that's an interesting idea. It plays on the past , back when layouts were not released prior to an event and teams showed up early to walk the field. Watch videos of these and you will see teams played the field differently because no one knew the "correct" breakout/secondaries. But as to the logistics of 3or4 different layouts per event.... I think it just seems unreasonable for Adrenaline and the PSP field crew... Also the balancing of bracketing...

And honestly... I like being able to practice before spending hundreds to travel somewhere. I think practice is leading our sport down a more professional path than just random "good luck" and quick learning at the event

Anonymous said...

Why is tournament paintball trying to kill itself? This is a slow agonizing death we are watching.

Nick Brockdorff said...

The layout being released on Thursday would definitely help.... but, the whole reason the MS (and later PSP) started releasing layouts a month prior, was that there used to pop up videos all the time, of the Tontons "testing" the layout well in advance of events ;)

The key to making a layout that can be played fast, is to again make the centre axis of the field playable (which it has rarely been the last 5 years).

When opponents can only move forward along one grid axis on either wire, it becomes incredibly easy to just "guard" the gaps they have to move through.... or in the case of the snake, dedicate a gun to keeping the snake fronts head down in the dirt.

But, if you have a clear path of (workable) bunkers down the centre of the field (end to end), it becomes a lot more difficult to control opponent movement up the field.

However, it will take a changed field kit to perfect. We have to get rid of the pins, and replace them with bunkers that are playable (which pins rarely are, except in the rarest of circumstances).

Anonymous said...

Give the old snake back and we will play faster .

Don Saavedra said...

If what you really want is the fastest points possible, remove all bunkers.

Bryan Parks said...

Nick. I agree. When people play the middle of the field it is only on one of thoes "lets throw a wrench in their game plan" plays. Where you expect that body to be an O rather quickly, contrary to them actually playing the middle of the field. Snake and Dorrito wire have been pretty much the only ways of access to the 50 and beyond(and staying alive) . I also agree with the pins being crap, a waste of bunkers that add into the bunker count....

Reiner Schafer said...

"U" and/or "L" shaped bunkers in the middle to make it playable?

Nick Brockdorff said...

Exactly - the way fields are designed today, you can take the centre 50, but you have no where to go from there, which makes it a passive move by default - and thus, one people only use when they need to shut down a wire.

Ofcourse the centre will always be more risky to play, for obvious reasons, and the wires will always be king - but we need to make the centre viable in our designs again.

- It will make paintball faster

- It will put a bit of creativity back in the game, instead of the current mindnumbing wire wars droning on and on, point after point

- It will give coaches more options in terms of game plans

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute I thought it was established the tontons receive no benefit from millennium and adrenalin associations...

Nick Brockdorff said...


The U-shapes used to be part of the Supair kit (way back when), but went out of commission pretty quick because we players didn't like playing them..... the thing is, that to be able to fight out of a bunker, you need to be able to play the edge of it, and then it might as well just be flat, instead of U-shaped, as you are exposed to both sides of the field when gunfighting anyway :)

However, more flat (instead of round) bunkers would be a plus... the Mayas are way safer than cans (in the same position), simply because you are playing a broad flat surface, instead of a curving one.

Cans take up a lot of space (and block out a lot of spectating), with 80 % of the space it takes up being unplayable.... where as a Maya, despite being a "bigger" bunker, blocks out less of the field and is better to play out of.

Bringing back the good old "tall bricks" would be great - though they need to be reformulated with a broader base, as they were terrible in windy conditions.

All in all, Supair need to start working on innovation a bit more, with focus being how bunkers and fields play, instead of being so concerned with "looks" (case in point being the Millennium Mini M, which is the worst bunker ever - but yeah, it looks like the Millennium M..... ;))

Nick Brockdorff said...

Come now Anon :D

Ironmen benefit from being DYE owned, Infamous from their close Kee association....

We can't have it both ways - either we want industry to support teams - or we don't..... starting to pick and choose what part of industry can support teams and what part cannot, is close to impossible.

Reiner Schafer said...

Nick, doesn't a "U" shape bunker make it playable right up to 180 degrees and even past 180 degrees? It would seem that a "U" shaped bunker could be used just like a flat bunker, playing the edges or corners, but with the option to step inside to make it playable longer and stay alive longer. Doesn't that make it easier to play the middle, or at least give you more options? "V's" would be similar.

Or would the ability to stay alive longer slow the game down even more?

Anonymous said...

Here is the truth most players don't get and I guess the field designers don't either. Back in the day it was common to zone up when things got ugly near the end of the game. Losing teams would zone up and the advancing team either knew how to break the zone or got chewed up as they ran into it.

Now everyone zones up all the time because we have these field diagrams we can draw lanes on and/or even better we watch how the pros do it on the same field. Except to be successful at it you have to still be a Damn fine technical player so the best teams still win the zone battle.

The way to beat the zone was to always move into it from the center wedging your way into it, blocking one of the opposing zones with bunker positioning and engaging the other.

We seem to have lanes and bunkers that often prevent just that. A more playable center and perhaps more importantly a more playable 40yard line would do the trick.

There... No need for a committee.

Anonymous said...

This is the result when technical skills are very high and all the elements of surprise have been eliminated from the game. Sideline coaching, early released layouts, 10 pods/player will get you modern, boring, tournament paintball.

No matter what the field designs are, the current format enables teams to lock & zone the fields.

NewPro said...

All of these elements would be figured out after 2-3 points or 1-2 games. Field release of lay-outs , carrying 10 pods, whatever lay-out is designed. Those aren't skills directly attributable to the player as a good player will overcome those...what a good player can't overcome is someone directly pointing out where he is, wheres hes shooting and when hes preparing to move (bunker)...what seperates the good from the bad or pro from non-pro is intuition, which unfortunately is defeated by anyone coaching. Ask coaches, ask players, D-side destruction is pure skill, snake side bunkering is a combination of luck, coaching and intuition.

Eliminate coaching altogether and players have to communicate, listen to the guns and defend and attack on their own. Im an Xball/race to faboy but this is what has to be done

Anonymous said...

Malarky. Even a chess game can be fast despite both opponents having all the information as long as you limit their "paint" to 5 minutes.

And coaching isn't telepathy. No coach can communicate where 5 opponents are and are shooting at once.

The idea that good players can't overcome coaching is silly on it's face. If it were true, the superstar on every team would be the coach, and it wouldn't matter which players you put on the field.

Unknown said...

Homogenization leads to this.

Everything is the same now: people play the same, they shoot the same, and they move the same. The layouts have very little variation.

Xball turned a more tactical paintball game into a formula; repetitive and minimized variables.

Paintball has naturally progressed to this stage - it's always been a money based game. However, now that it has blurred the lines of athleticism, the potential pool of players has naturally regressed.

I do think it is a Pandora's Box though: nobody wants to make the changes necessary to allow the game to go back to a non-athletic format. The fat players would rather play COD. Considering the obesity rate in the US, can you really expect the sport to grow when the game itself is naturally constricting the potential talent pool?

In the past you could get away with being a wealthy bro who could dump paint through a gun from a big bunker in the back. These were the whales of the sport, and they were sent packing because, well progression I guess.

Nick Brockdorff said...

That is actually really insightful!!!

Anonymous said...

"The idea that good players can't overcome coaching is silly on it's face."

Field awareness is the most awesome skill on the field. While sideline coaching doesn't nullify the skill, it can seriously reduce the advantage the really good players have over the good ones.

Nick Brockdorff said...

I hate coaching in paintball..... but I accept it as a necessary sacrifice, if we want to keep spectator participation.

I'd love if someone found a way to keep the spectator participation but limited the coaching..... but it's a hard, if not impossible, nut to crack.

be smart said...

In the Pro game there is a VERY limited number of individuals who actually impact the game from the spectator side.

Most are calling out G counts and bunkers (if they even have the code names down well enough to be fluid with it).

Since 2006 I can count on one hand (in the Pro ranks) persons who can consistently set up moves and have an effect on he outcome of the game from the spectator side. The argument is overblown IMO.

Yet it generates a level of participation and excitement for the fans. It also eliminates the possibility of cheating from the sidelines.

The alternative is a tennis/golf gallery for the fans. In addition, the seven man game has clung to the no coaching moniker like its the last bastion of the 'pure game' and its popularity has dwindled to mediocre regional significance.

The field layouts are where an adjustment needs to be made as Baca and others have aptly pointed out on numerous occasions.

Mark said...

What's the old saying, A camel is a horse designed by a committee?

Nick Brockdorff said...

I agree very few coaches can set up moves consistently (it always seemed odd to me, that there are so few good snake coaches around), but at least most can orchestrate a bunkering move on the snake side.

However, even if that was not the case, they can all call out positions and counts, which makes it very difficult to play a creative game.

NewPro said...

to anon who posted "malarky"

You train all year, field, gym, video, you're in the best shape you can possibly be, you've drilled, drilled, setup to take your shot..and whammmmmo...the s'side coach yelled S3 cheeseburger to your opponent and you get run down like a B^%$#. Need I say more. You're absolutely right, coaching affects a very small percentage of the players on the field..but the ability to "joystick" that one individual is priceless..and with the pro teams skill level only being marginally better than their opponents, the joystick makes a difference.

As i said, im an xball/race 2 fanboy, love it...could give two shits about 7 man. But there is no debating a fact, as posted by someone else, a players hardwork/skill/intuition is somewhat nullified by a robot.

be smart said...

Everyone on the Pro level should be working hard and be prepared. That part of their responsibility.

The thing is . . . you talk of sideline coaching and any results from it as if it’s a one way street. You are never on the beneficiary side of being given information?

Coaching on the spectator side (I use that term loosely for the vast majority) is in fact a two way street. If they have a better coach than you, that’s on the team not the rulebook. There is also a noticeable range of coaching acumen in the pit to be sure.

The move to eliminate pit side coaching/talking was a sound one. It is NOT the spectator side and it’s definitely helped calm pits down during a match.

The other side however is where the fans and observers are. If they feel like they had a part in the game by yelling this or that to their favorite player or team . . . that is a good thing.

Listening or choosing not to listen to what is being yelled from the sideline is part of a player’s skill set, comes under communication skills. I did laugh at the ‘robot’ and ‘joystick’ comment. Intended or not it’s straight up seven man lingo.

Frankly if my snake guy is that worried about how the other teams coach is going to get him run down, he is probably not getting many reps from me.

NStoer said...

I didn't read all of the comments but as I see it, Chicago layout looks quick and that's because

1. Straight basic snake
2. Dorito bunkers aren't all aligned along the tape
3. All of the dorito bunkers are playable (no mini-races in the ladder, and the only small dorito is D1 *Perfect*)

I believe SupAir did a great job this time. If the laners are always shooting out of a big tower vs someone stuck in a mini-race, it's going to be slow; they've stayed away from that for Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Releasing field layouts later would result in teams that perform well being accused of getting the layout leaked to them by someone they know on the layout committee. Problem is, you can't put together a good field without people who have some clue about paintball and what they are doing. The people with those qualifications are invariably going to have connections to some of the teams.