Friday, August 30, 2013

VFTD Slacker Repost: Xball: Gunning & Running

With WC (both of them) on the horizon it seemed like the right time to begin reposting the 2009 series on running & gunning. Here's the first one.

Aight, Sunshine, it's that time again. (What time is that, you ask?) The time when I take all your hopes and dreams and dash them on the rocks of hard work and practice. Unlike Allen Iverson you need all you can get.But before we get started I'm gonna tell you a story. (See, I can be nice, too.)

Many moons ago I was a gym rat, working out 5 days a week, powerlifting and for the simple pleasure of it. One of the things the regulars always enjoyed was the response of most new guys coming in and being given a rudimentary workout. Usually, after a half hour or forty-five minutes they were exhausted and kind of proud of themselves for enduring such a brutal workout. It was with great satisfaction that we then got to tell them that for at least the first three months their workouts were designed to prepare them for real workouts.There are two points to that story. One, chances are you ain't nearly as good as you think you are because you have a largely untrained conception of what "good" is. And, Two, learning the fundamentals is what prepares you to become a player, not what makes you a player.Did you notice anything odd about the title of this post? That isn't a mistake. If you are not proficient at the gunning part of running & gunning you might as well be a soccer player. This week's How-To focuses on the basics of learning to Gun & Run.

Functionally you need to be able to run laterally (side to side) and upfield (end to end) in both directions. This means you also need to be able to run & shoot with either hand and also be proficient at switching hands while running.
The basis for all those elements is the shooting platform; how you hold your gun. The fundamental doesn't change just because you are moving (and your gun may swing through a wider range than normal.) Many of the how-to videos cover this (and generally do so with reasonable precision) so all I will say at this point is that the two keys are a fixed base and a dominant guide hand. A fixed base is a firmly planted tank approx. in the area where the collar bone meets the shoulder. And a dominant guide hand should be the hand on the grip frame (or thereabouts.) So it isn't enough to be able to pull a trigger with either hand.
The next step is beginning to develop accuracy while moving. (This is where gun & run comes into effect.) It does no good to be lightning quick if you can't hit what you are shooting at. There are a couple of tricks that should prove helpful. Slow and steady. Always make sure your paint is on target as you attempt to move faster and faster. As soon as you lose accuracy, slow down. Only go as fast as you can accurately shoot. The speed will come in time. You can also try the heel and toe technique. Short steps planting the heel first--but softly--and let the lead foot plant gently. It is standard combat shooter technique which may prove useful for some players as they gain running & gunning proficiency.
Running & Gunning can also be further broken down in OTB, in game movement and making a bunkering run.
Ponder that awhile, Sunshine, and next time we'll go over a few of the drills that will help you at least look like you know what you're doing. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Get Your Tickets Here, er, There

The Millennium kids have just announced--or is the EPBF kids?--I confess I'm daily having more difficulty keeping the assorted alphabets (of paintball) sorted. Anyway, somebody over there in a position to make it so has just announced the Millennium grandstand of the CPL field has just gone pay-per-view. 20 Euros for the weekend or less for a single day. But wait, there's more! Taking their cues from both the PSP and the old NPPL they've assembled (in some ways) the best of both. Like the NPPL there will be an extra special VIP section above the VIP grandstand with shade and "free" snacks and beverages for the bargain basement price of 99 Euros. Unlike the PSP however the MS will be setting up some grandstands at either end of the CPL field to provide free seating to all those in possession of a player, pit or sponsor ID card. And to ensure a full panoply of animated faces the VIP grandstand will be free for watching the first ever actual factual World Cup competition comprised of players from a a bunch of countries mostly there competing for their regular team as well as incidentally for their country.
Frankly I'm kinda surprised it took the MS this long to try tapping into another revenue stream but to be fair they aren't forcing anyone to pony up or miss out. The live experience is still available albeit from an endzone but even so, kudos to the Millennium for providing the "extra" bleachers.
That said I wonder if it will last or if the free bleachers are just for the transition period and will be phased out sooner rather than later. After all, it will complicate the CPL field set-up and I'm not sure that venues like St. Tropez or Bitburg have room to accommodate the space required. I guess we'll find out soon enough. In the meantime get your tickets here, er, there. While you still can.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Riverside Breakdown

I apologize for interrupting your downward spiral into self-loathing as you endlessly watch a loop of Miley Cyrus demonstrating that degradation and celebrity have become synonymous terms. (What do you mean you don't know what I'm talking about? Last night's awards show?) And here I foolishly thought years ago Jerry Springer was a sign of the coming Apocalypse. Best revel in your ridicule while you can as it won't be long before having an uncharitable opinion is deemed "hate" and even a whiff of thoughtcrime will get you ostracized from what's left of society--if you're lucky. And now back to paintball ...

First it ought to be noted that the Riverside layout isn't unique. In fact it's the result of an obvious trend that began in Dallas. It's just that Riverside proved to be the most successful effort to date--based on the assumption the goal is to promote fast paced, exciting action and minimize long drawn out points. In comparing the four designs that comprise this season it should be relatively easy to note their similarities and after we review the key features that came together in Riverside to more fully understand the elements at work or those characteristics that might not have worked quite so well.

Key #1: Open shooting lanes OTB. Peeps gots to die, and the mo' da better. No better way to speed up points than create mismatches of numbers and field position--and no better time than off the break. To be fair I do think an effort was made to balance out those open lanes by moving Home upfield and reversing the TCK to make it harder to live behind, especially for more than one player. However the upshot is that actually helped free up the OTB laners by opening the area where a laner could set-up. [The pink cones are visible lanes and the red arrows are additional narrower lanes that illustrate, in part, the variety of positions shooter could take up OTB.] But we've seen this before, haven't we? Or something quite like it? Well, yes and yes. Sorta. the key here is that the wide open zones expose areas where everybody runs regardless of primary. (You may recall that in past breakdowns we've discussed spacing between corners, wires and inserts as the critical relationships in devising running paths that avoid or limit laning opportunities. Well, here the best lanes catch everyone. Whether you are running snake or corner the open zone allows you to be targeted before the two paths diverge significantly.)

Key #2: Limit the inserts inside/out contain utility. Traditionally both the insert bunkers that feed the wires and other interior bunkers allowed players to try and control movement wide by being able to either counter wire positions or control gaps between the bunkers feeding the wire or making up the wire. Hence inside out contain. Bunkers positioned inside the field shooting wide and able to contain or control movement on parts of the field. On the Riverside layout--not so much. For example not the bunkers in green. Normally these would the basic contain position. Here the green 'cones' illustrate areas a player in those bunkers can't readily see or shoot at. (On the D-wire elevation comes into play as the blocking bunker is only a Temple but even so the contain MT cannot stop movement up the wire until an opponent has reached the fifty construct.) [Note: the two green bunkers can cross up and cover the other's usual zones but as the distances stretch out the contain value is reduced, short of a constant stream of paint.] See the blue Temple and intervening blue Mini-race. (Here elevation, low props with players on their knees, block the gap but still expose the Temple player to the opposing corner Can.) A player has partial visibility but must gunfight his mirror in order to control movement.

Key 2A: The intend or unintended end result is that most early in the point match-ups and movement promote gun-fighting along mirrored positions and up and down the wires. Which in turn promotes more eliminations or gives up critical field position that often as not resulted more and faster eliminations. Note the D2 in yellow. Without a strong support position to help keep the forward player alive he must protect himself and you can see that as a player moved up the D-wire so too the number of positions to be contested.

Key #3: Draw action into the middle (center) of the field. The advanced forward position of the Home TCK invites a center player to continue the move up the middle and making it almost automatic is the fact that each of the mid-line positions offers contain and control lanes that largely don't exist anywhere else on the field. The quicker the normal tactical play of the game pushes a player upfield the sooner the standard counter is employed--somebody gots to go bunker out that fool. So either one side takes control of a point by pressing the center in coordination with their initial laning efforts or counter action creates faster eliminations.

There you have the 3 keys to promoting some trainwreck paintball. Now go back and watch a match or three from Riverside looking for how the keys influenced the points and games and in no time at all you will be able to predict the action as or before it unfolds because you will more fully understand the dynamics at work.

Later this week breaking down the MS World Cup Paris-Chantilly layout.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

PSP Riverside Open: Final Thoughts

I want to comment on a handful of things, two of which have already been covered, the Riverside venue and the Ton Tons' hot guns. I was perhaps too dismissive of the venue. The fields were more consistently level than lots of place the PSP has been before. The set-up was compact and accessible with paint trucks close by and a shady tree-lined boundary between the fields and the vendors. The only real downside, beside the expectation of late summer heat, was the hour plus drive from LAX--and that was at night when there was not much traffic. Bottom line, the Riverside venue was better than average--by a smidge. (FYI, a smidge is more than a pinch and less than a dollop.) Among past Cali venues San Bernadino had the best grass, perhaps ever but the rest was worse across the board. The Pomona events had good grass but uneven fields, long walks, parking fees and, oh yeah, a deluge (or two) of Biblical proportions. Then there was the Home Depot Center with its unpadded, ultra slippery turf looking to steal a little of that NPPL NFL parking lot panache. Okay, so by comparison Riverside was pretty legit.
Have you read the "apology"? (The Ton Ton's official statement regarding their hot guns at Riverside.) VFTD paraphrase: 'We're sorry y'all have blown this outta proportion and did we mention how hard it has been for us to compete around the world at the pro level?' Spare me the crocodile tears and emotional appeals. Bottom line the problem occurred on a Sunday, not on Friday. Despite the PSP's statement the refs got involved because opponents complained and PSP officials observed "peculiar" conduct which led to the discovery of 4 hot guns three of which merited major penalties or worse. Guns that were apparently hot all weekend--until they were penalized. There was (apparently) no proof of intent but there is circumstantial evidence. For example in the Ton Tons statement they say the gun that eventually shot 350+ originally received only a minor penalty--and if you watch the video you will see Tony (the ref) pull the trigger more than once. Then, after the other guns were checked Tony retested the first gun and it was hotter--and he tested it a third time and it exceeded 350 fps. The claim was made this was reg creep caused by a nicked or damaged o-ring--except that ain't how reg creep works. Every time you pull the trigger everything, naturally, resets starting the firing process all over again. Reg creep requires time to builds up the excess of pressure that results in a hot shot yet the '350' gun got hotter with less time between checks.
On the plus side I fully expect the PSP to once again maintain a more rigorous standard in regulating guns during events.
Did you notice the penalty boxes on the pro field at Riverside? The three wall, two door inflatable box from Chicago was still in use on the Challengers field but the webcast (Champions) field was reduced to an inflatable wall with a painted box on the grass behind the wall the penalized player(s) were to serve their time within. Is this another "improvement" or just an improvement over Chicago? And why another change? The rumored reason was that it helped improve the view for the folks in the VIP but nobody seemed to know for certain. One thing I know is that while the new "box" is supposed to offer the penalized player a better chance--which way will he exit the "box"?--the one place nobody goes anymore is the back center bunker--if there is one.
Finally a remark or two on the entertainment value, for lack of a better expression, generated by the play at Riverside. (Along with a prediction.) Admittedly there were lots of exciting back and forth matches with the great majority going to score instead of time. And I'm sure this is being viewed as a very positive outcome after the concerns of the recent past about slow, drawn out points and dull to watch matches. But--in a very real sense the results were manufactured or manipulated by the field layout. (In my next post we's gonna break down the Riverside layout to demonstrate how and why it played the way it did.) So while this was exciting this time--and the design principles are easily duplicated--will it remain exciting time after time or eventually come to seem predictable if in a different way than the slow point matches? (My prediction is that without additional changes this form too will become "boring" in time.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

NPPL Opens Pro To Fill The Division

And in the process continues the downward slide of the once important league by trashing what remains of their own reputation. In order to have 15 teams competing in the Pro division at the NPPL "World Championships" in Vegas in a few weeks the league has invited teams, any teams, to make the jump and "test" themselves at the Pro level. Hard to believe, I know, but it's right there on the front page of their site. What's next, a ringmaster? See how many refs can be stuffed into a clown car? The whole thing is rapidly devolving into a circus. A circus of Shawn Walker's making. I confess when his name came up I had my doubts based on past NPPL history but this is just a pathetic joke.
First, when D1, D2 & D3 collectively only field 10 teams between them (at the Windy City Open) adding pro-in-name-only teams isn't a priority. The fact all those teams made Sunday in Chicago has already made a mockery of any pretense of real competition in the NPPL and adding more pro-in-name-only teams only diminishes what little standing the NPPL pro division retains. Just because the league calls them "pros" doesn't make it so--and everyone--the teams included--knows it.
Here's some free advice if Valken continues to support the NPPL next year. Change the pro division to open. Eliminate semi-pro and restore D1. Schedule as far from PSP events as can reasonably be done. The league can't compete against the PSP and the goal ought to be to draw as many PSP players (and teams) as possible to NPPL events. That will only be accomplished by making it as easy as possible for players to participate in both.
And Valken, sponsoring the laughing stock league of over-sized pretensions is not a net positive. If anything the league's flagging rep will only reflect poorly on Valken and Valken products. Which brings me Valken Cup. Great idea, lame execution. The number of paintball players who don't know what it is or when it's supposed to happen or even what the format will be are legion. It only serves a real purpose if it creates some serious buzz and gets the competitive paintball community excited. It has the potential to be a great flagship event for Valken but it won't be this year. Maybe next time. (If you need a marketing consultant give me a holler.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Lane Wright Statement Regarding TonTons' Guns

Originally Posted by Lane Wright (on PBN)
A few real points --
1. Teams claimed TonTons were shooting hot on the break.
2. If PSP took the word of every team that claimed another team was doing something illegal (after they lost to them) and PSP went and looked into every claim, we'd A) have to make the events 8 days long; B) have to hire a team of forensic investigators to swing into action 46 times a day at the events C) have to raise entry fees to $8600 per team to pay for the CSI unit to patrol the events
3. At some point enough people gave credible info for PSP to consider the fact that something may be going [on] plausible
4. Two separate individuals on the PSP staff watched the first 2 points of the TonTon Shock game and independently felt there were peculiar activities regarding the way the TonTons were handling their guns during chrono and prior to game start
5. The guns were spot chrono'd by surprise and 4 TonTon guns were indeed shooting hot. 1 slightly hot, 2 extremely hot, and 1 unbelievably hot. Aftershock also had 2 guns shooting slightly higher than 300fps.
6. Some TonTon equipment was confiscated and checked by techs.
7. There's no evidence that the guns were intentionally set up to cheat. Nothing about the guns and what they were doing would have given any real advantage to the team using them.
8. That doesn't mean it was just simply a accidental mistake however.
9. The chrono's were not malfunctioning. The issue had nothing to do with temperature change or paint size.

(A) The TonTon's are not dirty cheating bastards - or at least the facts of this situation do not prove or even lean toward that conclusion.
(B) The PSP did not knowingly let them play games with break out modes because we were too lazy to do anything, have no regard for safety, or any other of the ridiculous reasons people have surmised.
(C) Additional penalties will be forthcoming. There is no evidence that the TonTon's engaged in intentional acts to gain advantage over teams and no evidence that malice was involved. (D) Knowing the actual facts about what the guns were doing and/or not doing - there's no reason to believe the issues gave them any actual unfair advantage during competition.
(E) Be that as it may, what they did was unsafe, irresponsible, irrational and outside of the conduct expected from any team - especially a professional team. It is conduct that we do not take lightly and conduct that will not tolerated.
(F) PSP will release an official statement regarding the penalties and future sanctions imposed once we can get everyone home from the event and have the time to give the situation and sanctions proper thought.

The above (in italics) is a complete copy of the statement Lane posted yesterday on PBN in a thread discussing the Ton Tons' hot guns. While ambiguous in places and downright contradictory in others it still makes clear what the PSP believes happened and, broadly, what they will do in response.
Taking the statement point by point we begin with 1. More than one team claimed the Ton Tons were shooting hot OTB. 2. Boilerplate and bushwa you can safely ignore. The facts are that the league at one time routinely implemented the means to have caught these hot guns almost immediately but do not do so anymore. 3. Despite the disclaimer in number two the league eventually acted on "credible info." 4. In acting on the "credible info" two independent league officials observed actions that were characterized as being "peculiar" but were also, obviously, suspicious otherwise further action likely wouldn't have been taken. 5. Action was taken however and the guns, both team's guns, were spot-checked and Ton Tons were discovered to have 4 guns in violation of velocity limitations.

At this point we know what the PSP claims happened and we also know independently that the appropriate on field penalties were assessed at the time of the infraction(s). Now it gets a little murkier.

6. Additionally some [of the Ton Tons] equipment was taken for further examination. 7. First we have two separate statements. The first states there is no evidence of intentional cheating. The critical word being  "evidence." The second statement claims that anyway there was no advantage to be had by either constant or short term velocity spiking and that, of course, is simply wrong. At some point in excess of 300 fps paint tends to become squirrely and lose accuracy but there isn't a particular velocity that marks a consistent boundary and a handful of extra legal shots OTB could prove advantageous. 8. Well, if it wasn't accidental and it wasn't provably intentional, what's left? Intentionally accidental? 9. And any or every excuse about defective chronos or swollen paint etc. is not relevant.

Which begs the question; how much maneuvering room is there between not purely accidental but not blatant cheating either? Talk about your grey area. Maybe the closing statements will help clarify.

A.) The facts lean toward something though, don't they?
B.) True, but the PSP was once better equipped and more diligent in its efforts to regulate markers.
C.) If additional penalties will be enforced then the league must believe the Ton Tons weren't simply unlucky or completely innocent. It wasn't accidental but there also wasn't evidence of intentional cheating, so--what if the Ton Tons knew their guns were hot for a few shots and chose not to do anything about it except try to hide that fact from the chrono judges--who (apparently) weren't aggressively checking guns coming on field.
D.) This is simply incorrect. A handful of hot shots OTB is an advantage. Full stop. Period.
E.) & F.) Fair enough though I remain unconvinced it was irrational. It was certainly unsafe and a clear violation of the rules.

In the end we are left with a little league CYA and an inability to make a factual determination of intent that doesn't completely mitigate what the league does know and can prove. We may also surmise that whatever course the league follows there are ramifications beyond simply playing the game. For one this will set a precedent that will narrow the league's options in similar situations in the future so cool heads and wise counsel needs to prevail. (Unconfirmed rumor suggests that initially the league, at the highest levels, was ready, willing and almost determined to throw the proverbial book at the Ton Tons but without proof of intentional wrong-doing thought better of it.) And, like it or not, there are political elements involved as well given the ownership of the Ton Tons, competing international leagues and the vision of a unified international paintball federation.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Art Chaos makes it official

Rumored for months (as far back as last off season) it seems Art Chaos has formally made their desire to compete in the PSP public. Left unanswered are questions of roster, division and confirmation from the PSP. Rumors have suggested the roster is intended to be consistent with their Millennium line-up but just how that would be accomplished remains to be seen. Considered one of the best teams in the world it seems the PSP will likely find a way to make it work as such a move can only enhance the PSP's reputation as the world's premier competitive paintball league.

The War in Riverside: Initial Thoughts

It's Sunday night. I'm at LAX waiting for my red eye flight home to Florida. If you're a fan--and given that you are reading this right now you probably are--you know the results. But if you didn't watch the action on the PBA webcast you missed out big time. Dynasty missed the top four when they tied Heat in the final prelim match-up. Event winner Tampa Bay Damage dropped both their matches on Saturday but came storming back on Sunday. And in between the extremes there was more drama, excitement and suspense woven into three days of competitive paintball than I've seen in many years. (Doesn't mean it was perfect but it was spectacular paintball nonetheless.)
Riverside was an acceptable venue. The fields were a notch or two above some of the venues the league has used lately and while it was hot it was not debilitating like some past events where the heat was just crushing. The city of Riverside was also an improvement over the similar location of San Bernadino used a few years ago--although not up to par with places like Phoenix it was certainly adequate. (That doesn't mean I can't wait to go back there but it does mean if I were to see Riverside among the venues again I wouldn't slit my wrists either.) Parking was, shall we say, congested (much like LA traffic at rush hour) and must have resulted in a lot of minor damage--hopefully to insured rental cars.
Additionally the fact I'm not commenting on a few topics that this blog has been critical of lately doesn't mean everything was swell, only that I'm taking a break from tilting at windmills for a bit.
Will the real X-Factor please raise your hand. If nothing else let our performance be a reminder that success is more than X's and O's, raw talent and superstar players. It is about conviction, confidence, and a gut deep determination shared by teammates that believe in each other and play like it. We came into Riverside off the best practices of the season under our belt and an outwardly positive attitude that proved in the crucible of competition to be misplaced bravado. To their credit though the boys refused to roll over and with their backs against the wall played on Saturday the paintball we had prepared to play. Sure there were other contributing factors like penalties but the decisive difference came from within.
For those who missed it in one of the Challenger semi-finals the Ton Tons were found to have 4 guns spiking velocity. The result was three majors, a match misconduct and a minor penalty the totality of which resulted in a point for Aftershock and three Ton Tons in the box serving two minutes each. On site rumor suggested the league confiscated the guns and/or boards after the match to determine if the velocity spiking was intentional or not. At this time VFTD hasn't heard whether or not a final determination has been made yet and I have no idea if this was an intentional act or not or an isolated incident or not but your humble correspondent has suggested that this issue and others like it were going to reappear given that the league has gotten lax in its efforts to enforce the gun rules. (I did not post about the likelihood on VFTD but rather spoke directly to a PSP honcho or two last year.) Hopefully this will, if it does nothing else, serve as a wake-up call for the PSP. (Btw, don't take my use of the term "spiking" to assume I'm suggesting the Ton Tons acted  purposefully, I'm not. I'm simply trying to be brief--but it doesn't look good.)
UPDATE: seems Lane has commented on this over at PBN. At first glance it doesn't make a lot of sense. Perhaps more comments tomorrow.
A bit about the layout, slow play versus fast play etc. The relevant characteristics are open shooting lanes OTB and minimal defensive or control bunkers. I'll talk about both this layout and the new Paris-Chantilly field layout.
VFTD would like to wish Kirill Prihidni of the RL a speedy and full recovery as he sustained an apparent achilles injury over the weekend though the full extent of the injury wasn't certain Sunday.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Day Before The War

in Riverside begins. It's Thursday. The team arrived in LA over the last fifteen hours or so. A few Wednesday night and most of the rest Thursday morning. My travel day is best forgotten, a fourteen hour hole in my life of delayed flights, stand-bys, mystery maintenance, changing flight crews, middle seats, downpours and two hours curbside at LAX listening to car horns and choking on exhaust fumes. Golly, I love paintball or else I'm just dumber than a box of rocks. Or maybe both.
In a few minutes we'll all be at our hotel and ready to roll for a final practice session with Heat at Action Star Games Paintball in Colton, California--wherever the hell that is. (Less than 5 miles from the tourney venue as it turns out.)This is our last chance to finalize our rotations and fine tune our game plans. It gets done now and it gets done right--or it doesn't. And you don't ever know until the first squad steps on the field for that first point and either executes--or doesn't. But even if everything goes to plan tomorrow the wars start in earnest. Everyone mindful not only of what a win means but also, and for some, more immediately, what the elevated price of failure will be. Missing World Cup--at least in the Champions division where most of the teams have competed for years.
The team has been doing real work in practice and we're feeling pretty good. Another reason this practice with Heat is important. It will reveal the truth--and it does. Early on the accuracy and precision Heat bring is a sharp reminder that competing against Champions is never an easy road and if we want to compete we nee to step it up. But this isn't really news. We needed the slap in the face to wake us up and remind of us of the effort required. Thanks Heat. We didn't enjoy it but we appreciated it. Between two hours with Heat and walk through on the event field we are ready to play some ball. Tomorrow is a day of waiting, waiting most of the day to play and then when the matches come, at 3 pm and 4:30 pm it will be a whirlwind of activity and effort. Realistically we need one win tomorrow to have a chance of competing for a Sunday semifinal. And like the old cliche we need to play one match at a time and see what happens.
Catch all the action live from PBA as the best division in all of paintball go to war in Riverside--and don't forget your umbrella and sun screen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Not In The Paintball News: SPECIAL REPORT

In a freak roller disco accident suffered at his high school reunion Saturday night X-Factor star player Grayson Goff broke both his legs. Determined to "cowboy up" Grayson was one of the first to arrive for practice Sunday morning. (See photo.) When asked if he expected his injuries to affect his game he said, "It only hurts if you let it. This is a huge event for us and I will not let my teammates down. I may be a step slow but not even two broken legs will keep me off the field come Friday."

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Monday Poll in Review

Before we get to last week's question I'ma use this opportunity to explain why there's no new poll this week--and comment on the latest from the world of big time tournament paintball plus the NPPL. (Oh snap!) Sorry, I couldn't resist.
There's no poll this week because it's a short week given the PSP Riverside event coming up and because I couldn't think of a good question. (And after the perfunctory queries of the last two weeks I wanted something good.) The truth is I couldn't come up with a poll question that fired the imagination so I did what y'all would do, I bailed. I've tried polls in the past featuring lower divisions and you people just don't care. We could'a had a tiny bit more fun at the NPPL's expense but at this point that's just cruel. The only people who care about the MS trying to take proprietary claim to World Cup are a bunch of Eurokids. I suppose I might have tried how many participants at Riverside will suffer heat stroke during the event but honestly that just seems mean. And it didn't occur to me until just this minute I could have tried an O/T poll--which might be fun--so be looking for that option next week. If you have a favorite non-paintball topic let me know and I'll consider it.
In NPPL news 32 of 43 teams made Sunday--which is some sorta record. What's next, everybody receives a plaque for participating?
In the latest from the Millennium kids a *special* layout is being released 4 weeks in advance for this event. And added to the list of new features there will apparently be staging tents (other than the pits) and an opening ceremonies hosted by the EPBF with a parade(?) of national teams(?) I added the question marks because it's no altogether clear just what the EPBF/MS has in in its collective (hive) mind. It almost sounds as if national teams will be competing--again. Of lesser note but of some interest is the turnout--to date--in the open divisions, 2 and 3. So far there are only 13 D2 teams and 18 D3 teams registered. The season averages are 28 and 34 teams respectively so it will be interesting to see if those numbers catch up or stay well off the season pace by the event.

Monday Poll in Review
Last week The Monday Poll wanted to know which Challengers would join the Champions for (the disputed) World Cup. Predictably Ton Tons received 69% of the vote, more than twice as many votes as the next closest team, Upton 187. (33%) Texas Storm came third (21%) no doubt based largely on the pick-ups of LJ and the Odells, Dusty & Devin. Rounding out the top five were XSV (12%) and Royalty (11%). All the rest managed single digit support at best except Jesters who only received one vote.
One question that might have been interesting is whether or not the Challengers moving up will be better than the teams that get relegated in Riverside. Or, is there any real chance any team besides Ton Tons, 187 or Storm will be promoted?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Unconventional Millennium Set Layout

Seems some of our friends in Scandinavia have a tourney upcoming and no Millennium layout to use so will be taking a flyer on an unconventional offering. (See on right.) I was kindly sent a copy and since it is an unconventional approach I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at what competing teams may encounter in playing the layout. The following is not a critique so much as simple observations of how I expect the layout to play.

The most noticeable change is the placement of the giant M(s) on the dorito wire and subsequent opening up of the center of the field. (Or at least the appearance of opening up the center.) Then there is the concerted effort to create a unique snake--which may not play quite as expected.
The placement of the Cans that far into the field creates a bit of a dilemma for teams OTB. If the Cans were to be played conventionally there are sufficient blocking bunkers to allow very aggressive runs to both wires. However as soon as the Cans are crossed excellent lanes appear on both sides of the field. The issue will be one of timing and precision. The Cans are far enough up field that some teams and players will have difficulty gaining the open lanes quickly enough OTB. After that the Cans can be played relatively safely until opponents reach the wire fifties. The first decision then becomes whether or not to contest the laners hard in the center or simply attempt to beat them to the spots. Either way expect the Cans to be played consistently by everyone expect the most aggressive teams--and even then they will play one or the other much of the time early.
Regarding the snake: placement of the insert Cakes creates a spatial crunch that will allow laners to hit both corner and snake runners in the gap between the Cakes. Mitigating that factor slightly is the fact both TCK and corner T are usable inserts directly into the snake. The corner T's (in green) cannot control movement in the snake, especially if the positions are mirrored, but can battle snake 1, 2 and 3 if the snake player chooses. The corners can also put paint on a lot of other positions on the field--and should carry enough paint to do so. Now look at the orange zones within the snake(s). Given the convex (concave?) shape it will be easy for the opposite TCK to put paint into those zones and control movement up the snake. Additionally almost every time there is a hard break or large gaps at the fifties it normally means it will be hard to move beyond that point into the opponent's end and that should play out here unless there is a mismatch in the number of live players.
Despite the limited number of props the D-wire can be played very actively with big moves readily available if the crossfield Can is under control or unoccupied. Unfortunately I expect the giant M(s) to be as much of a barricade as a bunker in game closing situations.
As to the center of the field the clutter will promote more wire play, open up the potential for big runs and allow inside out rotations; for example, from the Cans. Overall I expect the average team will tend to slow play this field. Most of the mid-game play will be gunfighting and snap-shooting from positions of mismatched bunkers but intensive and determined field-walking will reveal some secret shots and clever angles that may catch the unwary.
If you play this field I'd be interested in your feedback. Thanks--and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Tale of Two Leagues and another Cup

Remember when the CPS (Champions Paintball Series) garnered PSP affiliate status after Chicago PSP? (Well, they did.) And if you've been following the travails of the upstart CPS you know the Millennium kids tried to cut them off at the knees to begin the 2013 season and have since chosen mostly to ignore them. Well, if rumors are true that may be harder to do next year. (And might, just might, have something to do with all the positive changes coming claims we're hearing from the MS of late.) The rumor is the CPS will undergo a name change in the off season and return next Spring as PSP Europe. I don't know how much credence to give the rumor but I guess we may find out sooner rather than later. There are reasons to think it could be accurate for example the CPS's final event in Milan will be played to PSP standards and is being promoted as a feeder for Euro teams playing PSP's World Cup in October. If true it will put the PSP and MS more openly at odds and may also play a role in the recent MS announcement that their final event will be the first real World Cup. If true the kids at the CPS will have a lot of work to do reaching and maintaining a PSP-like standard--and that prospect should make the MS uneasy.
Moving on ... With registration closed last weekend and the event due to begin on Friday (in two days) it appears we have some solid numbers from NPPL Windy City--and if you are a fan of 7-man the count isn't encouraging. Total registration across 6 divisions is 43 teams and that includes 24 teams in D4 & 3-man Young Guns. Pro has slid to 9 teams, semi-pro (D1) to 4 teams, D2 to 2 teams and D3 with 4 teams. All that despite an entry reduction for early payment and 10, count 'em, ten teams entered supported by TMG (Trade My Gun.) While numbers are roughly similar to the last event team counts in the upper divisions are declining and in the largest division, D4, there are more teams registered to play 5-man than traditional 7-man. Overall the new Shawn Walker/Valken effort to carry on with the NPPL is treading water. Nor has there been any announcement yet as to the venue for the Las Vegas championships--or if that event will even take place. Which brings us to another Cup.
The Valken Cup. Ballyhooed as the search for the world's best all-around team with open competition in 3 formats over three days with the top teams taking home top prizes one would'a thought the whole shebang would have made a bigger impression on the paintball community at large--yet it doesn't seem so. (Admittedly, in these days of internet-based promotion it's sometime hard to judge the effectiveness of a promotion but if this thing had gone over big time there would be a lot of related forum chatter, etc.) Part of the problem has been lack of concerted aggressive effort to get the word out. There is a Valken Cup website but I couldn't find a link to it on the Valken Sports site or nary a mention--at least not a prominent one. And there is a Valken Cup Facebook page but it's in Russian mostly and appears to have been done by supporters of the event, not the promoters. And then there's the lack of information. The event is scheduled for the weekend of the 21/22 of September, in between Millennium's Paris-Chantilly event and the dates for the uncertain NPPL Vegas but few details are available other than the location. It's by invitation only but if you and your team are interested what harm could it do to send Valken a query? More thoughts on this tomorrow or Friday.

UPDATE: Seems that Valken Cup FB page in Russian was for a feeder event that between 2 and 4 teams competing. (I was given two different team totals from normally reliable sources.) While I understand a perhaps limited interest in Valken Cup from your average tourney team--in Russia!--what I don't get is why the only dedicated FB page is for a feeder event halfway around the world. If Valken is going to pony up some serious prizes in an effort to draw serious teams where is the promotion? Why didn't the push start months ago and why isn't every baller on somebody's email list being inundated with mail bombs? Not that I want any more in my mailbox but you see my point, right? Nothing wrong with the idea--but the execution is decidedly lacking--so far. May I suggest next time also work out a system to handicap teams based on their division of competition of the APPA ranking of their roster or something that will potentially broaden the pool of teams excited to compete. I am hardly a Valken mark but a dealio like Valken Cup if done right could make a positive mark.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Will the "real" World Cup please stand up

May I have your attention please.
Will the real World Cup please stand up. Will the real World Cup please stand up.
(We're gonna have a problem here ...)
Seems the Millennium kids are at it again. Or maybe it's that alphabet federation gimmick of theirs (along with the acronymic empty suits of the other imaginary federations.) Anyway, Paris-Chantilly is being touted as a preview of the coming "new" 2014 MS. (Among other things.) Why, they will have the teams in the CPL shake hands in front of the grandstand after each match from now on--er, just like it's done in the PSP. But this next part is really exciting; D1 & D2 finals will be played on the CPL field so they will be seen on the webcast--er, just like it's done in the PSP. So okay maybe it's not completely new but it's new to the Millennium. Like that used car your dad once bought, not really new but new to you.
The really big news however is that this event (Paris-Chantilly) will be the first ever really truly honest-to-goodness legit World Cup. You read that right. A World Cup event! Pretty exciting. As opposed, I suppose, to that pretender that's been called World Cup for a coupl'a decades now (or thereabouts) every October in Florida that draws 300 plus teams from around the planet. If you're like me and struggling a little bit to understand what's happening you can get the scoop from the EPBF's Facebook page and/or this timely YouTube video. Should clear everything right up--only it doesn't really.
One must admire the EPBF's determination to be relevant as they (apparently) attempt to usurp all paintball authority on a global scale but simply saying it's so doesn't actually make it so. If it did the Millennium might--here I go again--have a rulebook.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Monday Poll

We's back in bidness--the Blogger poll is working--and it won't matter soon anyway--but in the meantime let's wear it out. This week's The Monday Poll wants to know which Challenger(s) you think will be make the Champions bracket for World Cup. One would assume the teams that have been there after Dallas are most likely to regain Champion spots but you never know. Will TonTons and Upton 187 jump right back into the Champions bracket or will somebody else make the big show? Will it be a true Challenger like Royalty or the revamped Texas Storm or will it be a past Champions bracket team like Thunder or XSV? As always the results are completely unscientific and in no way reflect the opinions of this blog but are nevertheless entertaining--and sometimes pretty accurate. Do you your paintball teams? Let's find out. Get to voting, slacker.

Monday Poll in Review
It sounded in my head like it would be a good poll. It really did. But in thinking it through a bit more the outcome was entirely predictable--with a couple of tiny exceptions. As expected Top Gun Union got the vast majority with 82% expecting them to be relegated back to the Challengers. Next highest was a percentage tie (33%) between X-Factor & Ironmen but X-Factor received more votes so call them second and Ironmen third. Given that X has been flirting with relegation off and on all season it's not an unreasonable choice and I think it's safe to say that the 'Men haven't lived up to the preseason hype--whether that's fair or not is a different question--and with injuries and roster moves their Riverside became highly unpredictable. Next up was Vicious at 20% followed by Infamous at 11%. Sure, Vicious has been relegated once already and as a practical matter part of the equation is a comparison with the other teams. It isn't really about who is or isn't any good, it's about who is perhaps better. Having also been on the brink the last two event Infamous skated a bit perhaps but did have the win in London to bolster their image. Honestly the result that surprised me was the Russian Legion coming in with only 7% of the vote. Sure they swamped the Challengers pretty thoroughly, though Royalty gave them a game in the Challenger semis, but what does that mean in the Champions bracket? Did y'all think it was fluke the first time the Russians were relegated? And since the Legion and Ironmen are in the same half do you really believe the Ironmen are nearly five times as likely to be relegated as the Russians?
However it turns out we'll all know the score soon.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dateline Dallas: Three Goes Into Two

As in three practice sessions in two days. It's Sunday night and I'm sitting in DFW waiting for an o-ring--or so the flight's captain tells us. Since the total waiting is gonna be at least 90 minutes--more--half the passengers have deplaned to wait in the relative comfort of the lounge at our gate. It's been one of those weekends. My flight from Houston into San Antonio was delayed Friday night too. Some numbskull broke the connector where the ground starter connected to the plane so they couldn't start it until the piece got replaced. On top of that the forecast for the weekend was triple digits. (Are you really gonna be ready for Riverside? Expect hot, hot, hot.) So what's a team to do? That's easy--run two practice sessions on Saturday. Start early and run until the midday heat begins to build. Then take a break. Grab a meal. Maybe a short siesta and then around 4:30 get back on the grind and go until dusk. Sunday was start early and power through given that a few of us had flights to catch starting around 6 pm. I think it's safe to say this was the toughest weekend practice the team has put in all year and we're gonna do it again next week. It was hard but it was good. Just what the guys needed. (Borderline heat stroke.)
Everybody always wants paintball to be fun but sometimes the fun is found in stepping up and meeting the challenge. Less than two weeks until the War at Riverside.

Friday, August 2, 2013

VFTD Is Moving

There is no cause for alarm however. Everything should proceed smoothly and I expect the transition to be relatively painless. All it should ever require from you is saving the new location as a 'favorite' and perhaps resetting your RSS feed--if you're into that sort of thing.
After five plus years here at Blogger you might be asking yourself why now? First, it won't do any good to ask yourself as you don't have any idea why. Second, allow me to explain. The move was necessitated by my intention to seek sponsors and advertising for the blog. In order to control the blog without interference from the host it was necessary to move. (No Google AdSense!) The new site is up and running but until all the kinks are worked out I won't be switching all the links over just yet. In the meantime I will be keeping the Blogger version up to date so there won't be any down time nor any loss of content. After the switch is made I will maintain the Blogger version for some period of time with a link to the new location. No one who wants to follow VFTD will miss out.
Regulars knew this was coming and it is a necessity in order to keep the blog up and running. The basic format won't change and neither will the content. The site will remain a single column with sidebar. All the features currently available will be duplicated. The promotion of sponsors will appear in a full size banner above the header along with column wide banners above and below the latest post. A special feature, should any sponsor choose to use it, will be the video spotlight which will make available a sponsor's latest video production.
The move will be accomplished during August and I'll let everyone know when I switch all the links (at places like Facebook & Twitter) over to the new location.

Any interested potential sponsors should use Baca's email (link on sidebar) to request additional information and/or a pricing sheet. Monthly, quarterly & annual rates offered along with some very limited Premium package deals.

Have a good weekend and go play some paintball. I'll be in Texas with X-Factor getting our grind on for Riverside.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A VFTD Slacker Re-post: So You Wanna Play A Big Game? Part 2

So You Wanna Play A Big Game? Part 2

Each game is different (at least in theory) but I guarantee you will recognize some stock characters. For example, there are two kinds of sniper wannabes. The guys with ghillie suits, goggleflauge and night vision scopes don't even get serious about the game until nightfall. The other kind of sniper is more imaginative. The clothes don't matter and neither does the marker. What matters is the prospect of crawling through the underbrush, finding a concealed blind and waiting motionless for hours for a good shot. Scenario teams whose members are identified by their custom matching T-shirts with nicknames like, "Booger," "Stone Cold," and "Super Dave." To the aging guys with golf-ball sized wads of Redman stuffed in their lower lips and faded tattoos who aren't allowed to strap their black anodized survival knifes to their thighs. And the smaller than you'd think clique of combat-would-be-so-cool dipsticks living the dream while applying camo greasepaint to their faces with custom CAR-15 replica markers tucked in the crook of their arm. Along with the pseudo-tourney dorks wearing the latest stylin' fashions, clean and pressed, but can't figure out how to load a hopper or turn on their supergun. Despite the oddballs and the weirdos most of the players will be, more or less, regular Joes and Janes. The one thing they all share in common is an unwillingness to actually leave the game when hit. Not to suggest that cheating is rampant. That would imply that the rules remain in effect, even when large numbers attempt to circumvent them. The usual standard is the rules are only in effect as long as a referee can see you.
At this point you might be wondering what happens should a player actually leave the field after being hit. The logistics are simple. Eliminated players can return to the action from outside the field of play through re-entry points on the half-hour or on some similar pre-set arrangement. Additionally, many games feature medic characters who are allowed to "heal" players one way or another. If the medic feature exists it is routinely abused more aggressively than police violations of the Fourth Amendment.
Now we come to one of the unique features of scenario gaming; the aforementioned mission. The missions propel the scenario storylines forward and allow members of the competing teams to accumulate the points that will ultimately determine the winning team. Depending on the complexity of the scenario there can be all manner of special events or circumstances played out by the more zealous competitors. Stuff like night landings via submarine, artillery barrages, infiltrating the enemy base, the race to recover the downed satellite, abductions by UFOs, air insertions performed by mysterious black helicopters, dismantling ticking nuclear devices and conga lines of Brazilian beauties dancing on the beach during Carnivale. Sorry, that last one is one of my fantasies. How, you might wonder, are such deeds accomplished by guys running around with paintball guns? Most of the time it's done by using 'action' cards or the like wherein a player or team that possesses the requisite skills plays the card to perform the action. (Playing the card usually requires confirmation from a superior officer and notification of a referee who either confirms the action was performed or else adjudicates the results.) The realism might be heightened by loading everyone in a Jeep, calling it a helicopter, driving them out to the drop area and announcing something like; "Listen up. We are approaching LZ Alpha Delta Bravo. The LZ may be hot. We're going in hard and fast. Hit the ground running and good luck." Or maybe; "Stiff upper lip, Triple Zero. It's likely a suicide mission but we're counting on you to save the world. Tally Ho."
Meanwhile, everyone not partaking in the missions gather in various sized groups and run around for the duration shooting as many people as possible. Inevitably, as the game winds down the final outcome is too close to call. No matter what has happened in the preceding 24 hours the game invariably comes down to the final missions and the point totals are incredibly close though exactly who scored which points when and how is never clear. (I'm pretty sure these results are achieved by Fortune 500 accountants moonlighting on the weekends.) Anyway, a winning team is declared, the victorious general takes his bows and the organizer thanks all the little people who helped make the gala event possible before the awards are handed out and everyone goes home to take a very necessary shower.
No matter what part you played, when it's all said and done, what's important is that you can go home and lie to all your friends about the cool moves you made, the daring attacks you led and the heroic stands you made against all odds. Perhaps lie is a bit harsh. Let's just say embellish the truth a little, shall we? After all, if you've spent the weekend saving humanity from an invasion of alien insects what's some gilt around the edges? Half the fun is in the telling and the re-telling ...