Monday, December 30, 2013

Heat Making Moves

We learned over the weekend in a fairly low key quasi-announcement that Houston Heat had filled out their 2014 roster by partially gutting Edmonton Impact with the pick-ups of Timmy Montressor, Ryan Moorhead and Greg Siewers. Those additions along with the Thomas Taylor pick-up give Heat a solid 10 player roster and match experience for experience against the players Heat lost in the off season. To my mind Heat still looks snake heavy--and I still like the idea of trying Dizon out on the D-side but I'm also confident Coach Trosen has a good handle on his players strengths and weaknesses. The key for Heat will be the consistency the team gets from the players filling the Solnyshkov role.

On the flip side is the hit Impact takes. While the team retains an experienced solid core it leaves some holes to fill in the roster of a team that was consistently vying for wins last year. Word on the street has been that a number of Infamous players have been quietly shopping their services during the off season (without much luck so far.) Odds are Impact will look to replace experience with experience so expect the team to target established talent. Could they make another run at Vanderbyl or a Damage player or two? A few more player moves could shake up the status quo and create some new opportunities. Time will tell.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Is Race To Really The Problem?

Since I'm about to sound like an apologist for the PSP (again) I'ma take a moment to remind all y'all that I have a lengthy track record of favoring Xball and only acquiesced to the Race To variants grudgingly because there wasn't any alternative. Nor have I changed my mind. And Race 2-9 was better than Race 2-7 and in case you've forgotten (or didn't know) part of the rationale for reducing the Pro game from Race 2-9 to Race 2-7 was that shoddy math trick that has once again been trotted out but towards a different purpose this time around. The one that claims when a team falls 3 points behind it losses the match some enormous percentage of the time. That was originally used to justify the reduction from 9 to 7--after all, once you're that far behind all those "extra" points are a waste of time, right? This time around the claim is that in a Race 2-7 match teams and players are inhibited by the arbitrary limit on points inherent to the format and are now using the same 3 points behind factoid as proof that it's the Race To format at fault. In my book any fact that "proves" two opposing points of view isn't good for much. So what's really at issue here?
The first part of the answer is time. But there's more to it than match time. There's also time measured in matches per day (per field) and days per event. Unfortunately the logistics of time management is a necessary evil--or if not actually evil an unavoidable limiting factor. The three day event comes at a price. But then so does the total number of competition fields (per event). Keep in mind the Pro Division is Champions & Challengers. 20 teams. Not just the 10 Champions teams. But there's still only one webcast field. No matter what the Champions matches remain limited whether it's called Race To or it's a timed match. So how long a timed match is even possible?
For this thought experiment let's keep it simple and say our timed match is 20 minutes. (Which is the current time allotted to a Race 2-7 match.) This time around though there's no limit on the number of points that can be scored--just a flat 20 minutes. (The reason I went with 20 minutes is because we already know it is feasible given the other limitations involved.) Will the teams suddenly begin playing differently? What happens if a team is quickly down two points? Or even if it takes half that match to end up down 2 points? If the statistic about falling behind by 3 is accurate teams will still struggle to avoid it and as matches get close to running out of time only a close match carries the odds it may be turned around.
Did you forget about point differential? It remains a critical tie-breaker--and even more important potentially in any match that allows for theoretically unlimited points to be scored.
So even when the argument is confined to time considerations alone it is less than clear that any feasible format change will alter in any way the manner in which matches are presently played. In fact logic suggests there will be more pressure to keep matches close and avoid excessive point differentials. Are we having more fun yet?

What about the ROF change to 10.2 bps? Will that have any impact at all? The closest thing to a consensus thinks the likeliest result will be fewer eliminations off the break. Will that speed up or slow down the pace of points scored? The league is hopeful it will encourage more action, more movement but do players move randomly and without purpose? Of course they don't. Every move entails a certain amount of risk of elimination and in order to make taking that risk worthwhile there must be some commensurate reward. Does a match to time alter the risk/reward ratio in a meaningful way? Does 10.2 bps do the trick? (It may alter the risk but what does it do on the reward side?)

If the goal is to produce more exciting suspenseful matches playing to time offers no guarantees. Back in the day the only scoring orgies featured terribly mismatched teams. Remember RL vs. Ultimate. Matches like those were used to validate the Race To concept because nobody wanted to see 20-2 matches, Neither does a ROF change. Of all the factors that contribute to making the game what it is at present the lynchpin  is the event layout, the field design. The day field design offers rewards in harmony with the risks taken is the day the game takes its next big step forward.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Unofficial Word Regarding Sideline Coaching

I am four square in favor of free speech or at least your right to say pretty nearly anything you want under pretty nearly any circumstance--I would even go so far as to allow someone to cry fire in a crowded building as long as they are also liable for the harm they might do because otherwise our so-called free speech is subject to the tyranny of the majority or the coercive power of the state. What I value considerably less is the uses to which some apply their freedom of speech. Like those determined to find fault with the new regulation regarding sideline coaching on the Champions' field--and the majority of those complaints center around why wasn't the sideline coaching applied to everybody? Either because they favor no coaching or because it's somehow unfair to the two divisional teams from each division that get to the Champions' field on Sunday. (Wah wah wah)
This isn't, btw, an effort on my part to support the league's decision. Nor is it in any way, shape or form an official statement. It is simple common sense.
Let's play a little game. How is the Champions' field not like the others? (Including the Challengers' field?) If you guessed that it was isolated, access restricted and included a large set of snake side bleachers you are in the ball park. Is it becoming any clearer yet? The decision made to limit the impact of sideline coaching can only apply to the Champions' field. Logistically all the other fields are different from the Champions' field and what works on the Champs field doesn't apply to the others. The new regulation can be applied without making any other changes. The same cannot be said of any of the other fields.
I also note that nowhere in the rules is sideline coaching made mandatory so regardless of the level of play no team must use a sideline coach so if you really don't like sideline coaching you don't have to do it. That was easy.
EDIT ADDED: Haha. Now you can see how unofficial my comments really are. Seems around noon (on the 26th of December) the league decided the sideline coaching rules will apply to the Challengers' field too--but don't ask me how--unless it's gonna be bleachers for everyone!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Monday Poll in Review: 10.2

What are you gonna say about 10.2? See the comments section of The Monday Poll: 10.2. A lot of thoughtful and reasoned comments. Frequently mistaken but well above the PBN standard. Will it provide for more action or movement or whatever? Will it reduce paint usage? Frankly we've been there and done that before so anyone who was paying attention already knows what's coming. So instead of asking the boring, let's be oh so serious poll questions what I was more interested in was the general mood of you fickle slackers so the five "answers" were aimed at gauging not what you thought but how you felt about it.
The only surprising result was the number of respondents for "the PSP knows best" choice which received four votes. Let's see, Lane, Tom and raehl voted for the PSP but who the hell was that fourth voter? Joe? Cade? Camille? But seriously kids I'm actually a little surprised that choice didn't receive more votes. There's a lot of sheep out there. Of the other four choices I divided them between the "positive" ones and the "negative" ones. Your mileage may vary. I felt like the "10.2 for everyone" and "Don't care, let's play" were the positive options while Sucks to be Pro" and "Tired of the constant changes" reflected negative feelings. And here is where it gets really interesting. (Or at least as interesting as this is gonna get.)
"10.2 for everyone" got 25% of the vote. "Don't care, let's play" got 24% resulting in 49% positive responses--and, if you counted the "PSP knows best" percentage it bumps up to 53%. With all the Sturm und Drang over at PBN you'd think it was the end of the world--although it seems much of the angst was based on a widespread failure to actually comprehend the press release. (Apparently reading isn't as fundamental as it used to be.) That leaves a combined 47% for the Negative Nancys although "tired of the constant changes" garnered the most votes and totaled 32% of all votes cast. That's a number it might be wise not to ignore.
But then the PSP knows best don't you know. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Working fo' da Man: PSP style

Now it's official. I am working for the PSP in the capacity of Rules & Referees Coordinator along with Marcus Shepherd. When the opportunity presented itself it proved a challenge I couldn't refuse. Regulars here know I have had a lot to say on the subject of officiating and this is a grease under the fingernails chance to make a real world difference. I am confident I will have the support of the league and that the core of certified PSP referees will readily offer their help and assistance as we move forward. At events I will be working with Leon overseeing the pro fields while Marcus and his new assistant will supervise the divisional fields. We will also be responsible for certification clinics, their structure and content, rules revision and implementation and the design and implementation of a comprehensive system that will simplify and systematize the referees organization and ultimately create a replicable system that will maintain the league's standards into the future. (A whole lot of jibber jabber for making the training process better in ways that can be sustained.)
As the season goes along feel free to ask me questions about the refs or officiating in general here (at VFTD) and I will be happy to respond.(But not until after Christmas as I'm currently traveling.)
Taking this job means I will not be coaching a team in the PSP this year as it would be a clear and obvious conflict of interest. I don't know if I will ever return to coaching a team but I remain available for teaching clinics for the serious, experienced player and or team.
So how will this affect VFTD? It will mean a few changes. As part of the league I have an obligation to support the league and not undermine its efforts. On the other hand I'm not a rah rah kinda guy. My hope is that VFTD will remain a place where serious conversations can continue to happen for the good of the game. Expect that I will however moderate some of my comments (though the archive has a record of my views on most everything already.) Expect too that where I may forgo some content I will be able to be more forthcoming in other areas. For example, I have always limited by comments regarding teams and players, both positive and negative, because it seemed inappropriate. Now I'll be able to offer more in depth commentary on matches and events and team play than in the past.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Monday Poll: 10.2

This leaked change--lowering the Pro only ROF to 10.2 bps--has certainly got everybody all worked up but what do you really think? Do you believe the reason the PSP is giving for the change--or do you think it's really about something else? If the league is determined to lower the Pro ROF why not 10.5 like the MS? Guns are already programmed for it. Will it have the effect the PSP hopes for and if not what will the result be?
In your comments please identify the highest level you compete at; like D2 WCPPL or MS Semi-pro. I'm not interested in who you are, only in where you play.
The PSP did this once before but at the divisional level. It lasted a season and was then rescinded because it was extremely unpopular. Why do you think the PSP doesn't get reactions or solicit comments from the impacted groups before they make decisions affecting the play of the game?
Not only is this your opportunity to vote on the issue, it's also your chance to have your voice heard. Trust me, the PSP is listening.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Controversy Du Jour

Frankly I have been there done that before. None of the issues that comprise the latest rumor fodder are new ones and since my opinions haven't changed I am taking the noble slacker's path in responding to any and every query as to what I think of this latest brouhaha.

Consider the links to be like menu options.
What does Baca think of shifting ROF? See Inside Merger Talk & Rumorology. (2011)
Why does Baca hold the ROF opinion he holds? See Movement vs ROF. (2010)
When it comes to minimizing sideline coaching on the Pro field(s) I don't much care one way or the other. I don't find it to be the bane of our existence nor do I think it's an indispensable feature. It will in some circumstances force teams to rethink how they intend to protect their snake leads.
And while there is no indication that restricted paint is of any concern a rumor or two mentioned the subject so here is what Baca thinks of restricted paint. See The raehl Solution. (2012)

If those aren't sufficient I have some numbers for you to consider.
A gun shooting 12.5 bps empties a 180 round loader in 14.4 seconds.
A gun shooting 10 bps empties a 180 round loader in 18 seconds.
At 300 fps it takes a paintball approximately .5 seconds to travel the length of a Race To field end-to-end.
At 300 fps a gun shooting 12.5 bps will have a gap of 24 feet between shots.
At 300 fps a gun shooting 10 bps will have a gap of 30 feet between shots.
On the dead sprint a player capable of running a 5 second forty yard dash moves 2.4 feet every tenth of a second.
On the dead sprint a player capable of running a 6 second forty yard dash moves 2 feet every tenth of a second.
On the dead sprint a player capable of running a 7 second forty yard dash moves 1.7 feet every tenth of a second.
Keep in mind that 40 yd. dash times tend to be inherently unreliable methodologically. Practical experience with pro team tryouts suggests the average tends to be between 6 and 7 seconds. (On grass, wearing cleats and pack while carrying a gun.)
Do these numbers seem to confirm your opinion or press you to reconsider?

Friday, December 13, 2013

VFTD's Top Five Influences on Competitive Paintball (sorta)

If you've been paying attention you know the plan was to drag this process out for a few more posts. Well, you're in luck 'cus I'm not gonna do that. In fact I'm not even gonna do a top five--at least not without some hedging--although I'm comfortable with my choices and think they are defensible. The reality is the majority of the items on the original list--or any list we might create--are, for the most part, not stand alone items. They were not conceived independent of other choices or ideas and in fact most of the items on our list were dependent on other items. In other words the evolution of paintball is based on the inter-dependence (connectedness) of ideas and choices big and small each in their own time making a unique contribution (for good or ill) to the game we presently play. For example an obvious milestone was the competitive game coming out of the woods but where would the game be without netting? Not at Huntington Beach or Puget-Sur-Argens for starters. Of course no one invented netting to solve a perceived problem in paintball either but prior to moving out of the woods there was no need (in most cases.)
The fact that the influences listed had an impact on other influences in no way diminishes their individual contributions to the game but it may help identify the truly ground-breaking, direction-changing influences that have made competitive paintball what it is today.
Before I begin the VFTD Top Five countdown I do have some honorable mentions. In the Technology category are break beam eyes and thermal lenses. Even with force feed loaders there was a rof limit that could not be consistently overcome before break beam eyes were introduced and for those who played in the pre-thermal lens era you know what a big difference they have made to both enjoying the game and competition. Honorable mentions also go to the 'league wars' and Dynasty. None of the leagues like to hear it but the reality is their competition drove the tournament scene to new heights around the world and the players are the beneficiaries. Dynasty is on the list for their longevity and the inspiration provided to a generation or two of players of aggressive paintball.
Now without further ado (Who needs more ado anyway?) the VFTD Top Five beginning with number 5. The electropneumatic marker. It provided the platform for the ROF race that dominated Paintball for years with the introduction of guns like the original Shocker and the Angel. Software control and switch actuation ushered in the era of overwhelming firepower, the control of which we continue to debate today.
At number 4 is the formation of the original NPPL. Conceived and initially organized as for the players (some of them) by the players (some of them) what the league ultimately did was create the tournament series. Not unique in sports it was the original organizing impulse in competitive paintball.
Coming in at number 3 is Xball. Xball was intended to be the TV friendly, make tournament paintball a sport format and while that failed to happen--yet--Xball did change the competitive environment internationally. Even though the original form of Xball isn't universally played today Xball's offspring dominate major league paintball.
In the runners-up position (second) is inflatable bunkers. While not essential to play out of the woods inflatable bunkers are now ubiquitous and allow paintball to be played competitively or just for fun anywhere. That ability has seen paintball played indoors and outdoors, in parking lots and on beaches, virtually anywhere and everywhere someone wants to set up a paintball field. And even as there is some experimentation with the bunkers the majority have formed a standardized set of shapes and sizes used around the globe.
And the number 1 influence on competitive paintball is (was) the first Hyperball World Championship in 1997. This event captured the imagination of the tournament world and demonstrated that playing the game out of the woods on a unique concept field was a purer, more compelling brand of competitive paintball and marked the moment when tournament paintball left the woods for good. (The UWL notwithstanding.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

More Pro Team Prognostications

Last time we looked at the Russian contingent. The conventional wisdom says Art Chaos rises quickly to the Champions bracket and stays there. Red Storm remains largely an unknown quantity and RL looks to be in decline.
This time around let's talk top four. Top four from 2013. Dynasty. Impact. Damage. Heat. Will we see the same teams dominating the Champions again next season? Given that peeps likely aren't done moving just yet and some sponsorship hangs in the balance it's conceivable that some critical moving parts might change the current balance of power. But, as things stand today Heat is the most likely candidate to slide. Not that their remaining roster isn't capable--they are--but untested in some key areas when it comes to carrying the whole load. They will need to shore up their D-wire attack--can Dizon play the doritos?--and perhaps reevaluate their style of play going forward.
Damage and Impact are similar in many ways. No strangers to success neither team lived up to their own expectations in 2013. Impact has the All-Star roster and Damage has nearly the same roster that won Cup three seasons ago. Damage is more aggressive off the break while Impact's players tend to be more aggressive pressing for their secondaries. Once in their primaries Damage has developed a tendency to slow play points which, to my mind, doesn't take full advantage of the team's skill set and Impact's tendency to cautious breakouts likewise can slow their attack. Against all but the other top teams it's a recipe for success simply because they are better teams but when they match up against the other top challengers it can result in their opponent gaining the momentum. Both teams are capable of winning any and every event they enter. The question is will either of them learn to unleash their best game in the most pressure packed of situations? Even if they don't they remain top four teams.
What to make of Dynasty. Love them or hate them they continue to earn respect. Dominating the first half of 2013 they survived the back half to take the series title. While the environment is completely different I am reminded of the season Ollie came back joined by Hinman & the (mostly) ex-Aftermath kids. Dominating start that faded as the season progressed. Last year it was new players and (kinda) new coach Rusty Glaze. In recent years change has energized the team but it hasn't been sustained. It isn't for lack of desire but when the core of the team has more than a dozen years of championship level play behind them the hand writing is on the wall. They put in the work last year and will need to do as much or more again this year. I'm not suggesting they are too old. I'm saying the hardest thing in sport is to maintain the level of excellence required to be champions and after doing it better and for longer than any team in paintball history Dynasty will hit that wall too. Will it be in 2014? If Art Chaos and Ironmen have their way it might be.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Not In The Paintball News

Hard on the heels of the latest news from Millennium Land it seems the CPS will be teaming up with Shoreline (the scenario superstars from the UK) in expanding the games available at this year's Valken Big Game at the The Citadel in May. The venue looks spectacular. The intriguing aspect of this collaboration [for VFTD] is in the combining of Shoreline's scenario centric offerings with the competition oriented games planned by CPS--along with a UWL event representing the middle ground perhaps. Worth keeping an eye on to see how the experiment turns out. If the whole flourishes it might create a new kind of event altogether.  

Below (in italics) is a portion of a press release tossed over the transom here at VFTD the other day. A pair of young filmmakers are working on a paintball-related movie project they are funding on Kickstarter. While I can't vouch for the finished film I took a look at some of their other work and I can say they are legit. Their budget is modest by any standard and if this interests you at all give it a look. Such projects have a funding window. Who knows, for the price of a trip through a Starbuck's drive-thru you might be helping mainstream paintball.

North Hollywood, California (November 29, 2013) – Writer/director Andrew Kadikian has partnered with producer Ryan Stockstad to make a teen romantic comedy set in the world of competitive paintball. The two filmmakers have launched a campaign on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise $5,000 of the project's budget.
“The paintballing sport is not represented very often in film. We're hoping that this movie will change that a little bit. We're hoping that this is the kind of movie that if you play paintball, you'll like what we've created”, said Ryan Stockstad, founder of Crowned Prince Productions.

Writer/director Andrew Kadikian adds, “I'm kind of drawing my inspiration for this from my love of John Hughes movies and teen comedies of the 80s... And at the same time, my love for paintball and playing paintball and watching professional paintball.” 

Social Paintball reported a day or two ago that Damage and Impact will be participating in the WCPPL's proposed Open division in 2014. As a PSP affiliate WCPPL owner Mike Hinman has said his event dates won't conflict with any PSP dates. Of interest to VFTD is how this is likely to impact the APL's effort to regain some legitimacy for its Pro division. (Remember the APL has been trying to talk some of the defunct NPPL's old pros back into the fold.) If the WCPPL fills in the open spaces between PSP events--and with the commitment of two of the biggest names in pro ball already on board--it's beginning to look like the best the APL will be able to do is some sort of split. Will that be enough to anchor the "new" league?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Millennium Moves: The Cool War Chills

The cool war continues to chill. Soon Paintball will acknowledge its very own Cold War between the Internationalist Millennium Series and the Colonialist PSP. (Colonialist probably gives the wrong impression but it sounded good. Still, one might consider the affiliates a reflection of a larger ground-taking strategy--but I doubt they are. Or were intended as such. Anyway the PSP's principle form of outreach is really cultural as it almost unintentionally promotes a like-mindedness via its influence--as the 800 lb gorilla--and format.) If you find this description overblown then you haven't been paying attention. Sure the two sides communicate routinely. Share sponsors and even do business together at various levels but make no mistake, they represent forces that will collide at some point with resulting winners and losers. In recent years the Mills have feared nearly annual rumors of a pending PSP invasion of their home turf. Last year the Millennium ham-fistedly tried to crush the nascent CPS which thereafter turned to PSP. The extent of that relationship bestows affiliate status on the CPS according to the PSP--and nothing more. But like it or not it also establishes a potential beachhead in Europe for the PSP.
Meanwhile while the PSP was gaining a dominant position in North America U.S.-based paintball industry was establishing strong ties in Central and South America and the Millennium (via the instrument of the EPBF) was gaining traction in Asia.
One crux of contention is commercial as both leagues are tied to industry powers always looking to extend their reach and market penetration. Another is structural. Largely satisfied with going it alone the PSP stands to lose power and influence if it were ever to align with the international model of the MS. (Make no mistake that wouldn't end the conflicts it would only internalize them.)
The latest moves by the MS suggest cooler heads are at work than before. From the very first concern the MS has been making a concerted effort to provide a better product and we are beginning to see the signs of some forward thinking. Take Puget-Sur-Argens for example. In essence the MS has created a potentially permanent venue in a location capable of catering to nearly every budget and with other diversions nearby for those who want them. Consider also the new Masters events recently announced by the EPBF. Offered as low cost, high quality one off events that deliver the most ranking points outside of the MS itself within the EPBF system and conveniently scheduled to take place in the gap months between Millennium events it is a much cleverer way to address the potential threat the MS thinks the CPS may pose.
This is just beginning to turn cold--with more to come--and it's just getting started.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Monday Poll in Review: Top Influences on Competitive Paintball

One of the fascinating influences on the poll results is, I think, the point in time the respondents got serious about their paintball. From my point of view (which is of course the most important point of view here at VFTD) much of the technologically driven changes are vastly underestimated which I attribute (mostly) to a lack of awareness of what the game was like in the mechanical/gravity feed days. Anyway, the results are interesting--and that's all that really counts. They also demonstrate a distinct lack of interest in the few industry side options on the list which I take as pretty typical of a player-oriented venue (despite the fact a lot of industry peeps routinely peruse these pages.)
This review will confine itself to the top ten responses in increasing order of popularity. (That means we's beginning with # 10.)
Tied for tenth place with 17% each is the formation of the original NPPL and the modification of Xball we know as Race To. An intriguing element to such rankings is the What If? conundrum, a sort of multi-faceted Chicken and the Egg question. Clearly Race To doesn't exist without Xball so where will 'Xball' figure in the list of influences? And just what, in the greater scheme of things, did the NPPL bring to competitive paintball beyond the tournament series? It moved singular events to a series concept but that wasn't part of the original intent. It ostensibly placed the power and future of the game in the players' hands but that didn't last--despite the endless hype over the years.
In ninth place with 18% is ROF. There's a couple of ways to look at this one. First there's the explosion in the rate of fire made possible by electropneumatic marker technology, force fed loaders and software-directed operation which almost overnight created both a manufacturers war and changed a critical element of the nature of the game. (I still distinctly remember the first time I was shot with a Shocker set on burst mode. Hello!) There is also the regulatory consideration. The opening of a Pandora's Box nobody can close and has caused endless debate (at least on the internet) over its influence on the mid-decade collapse in the number of competitive players and teams and it's impact on growing and retaining players at the local & rec level.
In eighth position with 22% is HPA--my all-purpose stand-in for all the possible compressed air answers that took the game beyond CO2. Did HPA make the hyper ROF sustainable? Improve marker longevity and reduce maintenance? Did it make tournament Xball possible? It certainly provided a cleaner, lighter and easier-to-use variation on the CO2 theme.
In seventh place with 25% is sideline coaching. I'd like to say this answer, perhaps above all others, is symptomatic of the age divide but the truth is there are a lot of old hands also blaming sideline coaching for most of paintball's perceived modern ills. The truth remains sideline coaching can take the rap for snake wire trade-outs at least some of the time but everything else it's blamed for has antecedents in other facets of player development like practice.
Coming in sixth with 26% (and missing a top five spot by only 2%) is the internet. Here is the quintessential age gap answer. While I happily grant the influence of the internet in disseminating paintball worldwide it cannot do so without content. One might contend the scale and reach of the internet alone makes it a game changer--and there's probably some validity to that--but given its reliance on dedicated content does it deserve it's exalted place or does it really share that position with a longer list of content providers? (There's that Chicken or the Egg question again.)
Cracking the top five in fifth place with 28% of the vote is the symmetrical concept field. It may seem obvious today but back in the woods it was anything but. Were attempts made to make fields balanced? Well, sort of, but not in any way we'd recognize 'balanced' today so the symmetrical field wasn't an obvious extension of past practice. Can you imagine an xball field not being symmetrical? Would you even consider competing on such a field particularly after you discovered how the asymmetry would effect game play? Nor did inflatable bunkers generate the concept of symmetry yet where would our game be today without it?
In fourth place with 33% is Dynasty. Clearly the most influential team in paintball's short history a good case can be made they have uniquely impacted the way the competitive game is played today in large part because of their success and longevity as the team bridged eras of tournament play.
Making the podium in third place with 36% is the electropneumatic marker. It revolutionized the game without doubt. Yet we are confounded once again by other related technologies (like the force fed loader, "cheater board" software and fiber-wrapped HPA tank) that facilitated the potential of the electros. Of course the answer might be in the order the items appeared as in the gun begat the other related advances--if in fact it did.
In second place edging out the electopneumatic marker by a single percent with 37% is Xball. No question Xball changed the nature of competitive paintball and directly influenced the direction the competitive game has moved in recent years up to and including the league wars and changing the face of competitive paintball internationally beginning with the Millennium Series while disseminating to every corner of the globe.
Topping the list by a wide margin (51%) the number one influence on competitive paintball as chosen by you lazy slackers is inflatable bunkers. No question the inflatable bunker made the modern game mobile allowing venues like HB and Fantasy of Flight or Disney's Wide World of Sports to host an event. Nor is there any debate over its dominance of the current competitive paintball environment but even so, inflatable bunkers didn't bring paintball out of the woods even if it was at the forefront of popularizing the out of the woods game. And it didn't introduce the symmetrical field design so even an influence as important as the inflatable bunker is a product of it's own influences and time.
Next time VFTD visits this topic I will post my Top Five influences so that the debate can continue.