Monday, March 10, 2014

Half Measures

There has been talk among the pro teams for over a year now about returning, in some fashion, to the Xball standard of a match to time with halves. The halves are really nothing more than the legacy of the old Xball format which was originally conceived as a way to package (and play) competitive paintball like other pro sports. (The NXL had big plans.) Be that as it may the proponents of halves think it's the answer to the occasionally tedious paintball that gets played at the pro level. It's not. (And for the most part last season's (2013) scoring range was an improvement over the year before (2012.)
Btw, before I get deeper into this I should probably mention that full on Xball has few more enthusiastic supporters than me. I loves me some Xball. And if I thought agitating for it would help bring it back I'd be at the front of the line. But the issue today is whether or not a timed match has any likely advantages over the current RaceTo format. Will it encourage more wide open play?
What does a match to time offer that RaceTo doesn't? A chance to score more than 7 points? A chance to pull a match back from the brink of defeat with more opportunities to score? Or simply the claim that pro teams would be more willing to take more risks if the race element didn't exist? I'm not seeing it. What happens now when neither team scores 7 points in a match? The match goes to time. As for the popular if mangled stat about losing percentages when a team gets down two or three points--that was originally introduced as a rational for running RaceTo in the first place. "Once a team is down three points they lose 90% of the time"--so there's no reason to play all those additional points! Using that as justification we went from Xball to Pro RaceTo-9 and then to 7.
Reviewing Sunday results last season proves interesting; at MAO all 8 matches went to time with an average combined score of 7.5 points per match. At Chicago only 2 of the 8 matches went to time and the combined average score was 10 points per match. At WCO 4 of 7 matches went to time with a combined average score of 9.5 points per match. And at World Cup 4 of the 8 matches went to time with an average combined score of 10 points per match. See a pattern there that favors matches to time? Me either but what I do see is a range of outcomes and I'm wondering what caused them. (Not really but something caused those variations and it wasn't the format.)
Regardless of the argument a match to time just "feels" right, like other sports. Like auto racing. Or tennis. Or volleyball. Okay so maybe there are other legit sports not based on a set clock and a limited amount of time.
Whatever, but if the PSP was willing to make changes why not try it out and see? Which doesn't sound unreasonable but does have some potential consequences. The APPA folks insist the pro schedule would go straight to hell in a handcart for starters because of wildly inconsistent match times. While I frequently don't see eye to eye with Chris (Raehl) he has more experience with complex large scale tournament scheduling than anyone else, period. So scheduling is likely to be a significant problem. Am I the only one who remembers the game we were playing when Xball ran to time? Longer events. Double elimination for divisional play.
Fine but what if the scheduling complications can be overcome--or just ignored 'cus it's only the pros we're talking about? For the sake of the argument then what? Then there are the reasons the league moved toward RaceTo in the first place; paint usage and the length of the event. A few of the pro teams could handle it but not most of them. Being generous at least half the pro teams struggle to manage the season as it is now. If in fact matches to time resulted in more points, more breakouts more wide open play then paint bills would rise too and the only teams to benefit from that scenario are the ones who can afford to pay more to play.
As y'all know the league reduced the pro ROF for this season hoping (fingers crossed) it might speed up the game. [It won't.] But there are other options. Efforts to date to alter layouts to encourage faster play have delivered inconsistent results but not because it can't be done. Let's just say this season there may be a layout or two (or three) that will bring something new to the table.
Or how about this? (I looked at this option hard during the off season but wanted to study the ramifications in more detail.) If you look at the tie-breakers in the rulebook they are, in order: match wins, head-to-head, point differential & total points scored. What do think would happen if total points scored and point differential switched positions in the tie-breaker order? Suddenly teams are no longer concerned about the margin of losses they are focused on scoring the maximum number of points possible. Would this change how the pros played? I think it probably would but my larger point is there's more than one way to effect potentially positive change.
At the end of the day PSP promotes RaceTo as their event format and frankly I don't see that changing anytime soon. (They've got logos and trademarks and everything.) Would halves be a more satisfying game? Maybe, maybe not. Will Sunday games tend to slow down no matter what? Of course they will. As long as the teams are relatively evenly matched and when all the marbles are at stake teams will slow it down. The only thing that changes that equation is if or when the defensive game becomes a losing proposition.


NewPro said...

Ive played both, a team who is leading 7-2 after 12 minutes, will win 14-4 after a full match.

Race 2 favors the prepared, which most teams are after their first match or after watching 2-3 games.

You hiit the nail on the head, nostalgia, if we bring back halves, the unlimited sponsorship that went with it isn't going to return.

2 full x ball matches or 4 race 2 7 matches, get over it kids.

I would however, would like to see a race 9, especially for those initial games as it may decrease some of the gap bt those with resources but only marginally

NStoer said...

I still play both and a team who is leading 7-2 after 25 minutes, is 100% not guaranteed to win 14-4 in 50min.

I have been in / watched numerous games when the second half decides the outcome, no matter the score of the first.

I will agree with one thing, race2 favors the prepared 100%. It's what makes it so hard to adapt to that format. In CXBL you have the first half to do whatever you'd like, try different things out and really get into your groove for the 2nd half.

Race-2 just adds pressure, whether warranted or not. Every point is crucial. You could justify the same for xball but it just isn't.

I'd prefer to go to halves again but I'm biased. It feels like more of a match, and the best team usually wins since all the variables even out over 50min.

NStoer said...

I can't say anything in terms of paint consumption beyond that I'd be willing to sacrifice playing less matches in prelims if it meant longer games with halves.

Ultimately one of the biggest flaws with halves is watching a team get smoked for 40-50 minutes. Honestly though, the pro division is so tight with it's core teams, I think if they did change it (which they won't) it would be much more exciting.

Vijil said...

Nstoer here's a random thought:

Perhaps the reason sports like soccer are so insanely popular is *because* the best team often loses. If a sport is set up such that the better team will always win, results get far too predictable. In a sport like soccer the underdogs often take home the spoils. Arguably it's the ref that decides the result 90% of the time in close matches, but the idea that a match should always even out randomness and facilitate the best team winning may actually be a bad thing for the popularity of a sport.

happy2bD4 said...

"if you look at the tie-breakers in the rulebook they are, in order: match wins, head-to-head, point differential & total points scored. What do think would happen if total points scored and point differential switched positions in the tie-breaker order? "

This is the best thing i have heard in regards to pro paintball in along time. Although on Sunday, I don't see any impact and I don't care to.

Anonymous said...

Here's he thing, the fact that this has been talked about amongst the pro teams for a while should really be irrelevant.
If there was talk among the league officials about returning to 2 halves that would be different.

dan. said...

a couple of years ago - maybe three? CXBL had their championship matches right next to PSP pro field. I took the time to watch a couple games. Pretty boring in my opinion compared to RaceTo 7.

To me it seems like the team that was well ahead at some point decided to sit down and play cross up paintball. Didn't shoot, ( probably to conserve paint ) and didn't move. The other team had to come - and they took forever. And could not successfully dig the other team out. You could hardly tell there was a game in progress. Everyone talking about halves - i wonder, how many games have you actually seen played out?

Of course this is an isolated example, but i tend to think this would be the case in many games.

Anonymous said...

Its true. CXBL is boring as all hell.
Crooked too.
It's like going back in time to when the organisers fixed their own team to win events so that they didn't have to fork out the extra money in prizes. Its that crooked.
Its so crooked that a team with an employee of the CXBL organisation has won the series like 7 times out of 8. Different teams, but all with the same guy playing on them. When his team are given the option of taking cash or rings, they have always chosen rings, even though the cash option is way, way better (you could make the rings for 1/3 of the value of the cash prize option).
It's so crooked, it couldn't lie straight in bed.

Liam said...

I had a bizarre moment a couple of days ago watching the pool world championships or something simillar and looked at how the race to format (raceto 8 in fact) affected the style of play in that game. Without getting in to the technicality of how they approached the table itself, it appeared that being consistent and minimising your mistakes yielded the best result. Slip up and even if the other guy is behind, he has just as much of a chance of coming back and punishing you for those mistakes.
Comparing this to the paintball field, yes its harder to win 5 points in a row than to win 2 points and lose 1 several times over. The point is though, that the best competitors are consistent, and if they are behind, they will capitalise on any chance they get. Personally i see nothing wrong with that because performing under pressure really shows off the talent of any athlete. Both formats have their merits but a comeback in raceto is just much more satisfying to see. Anybody that watched the tontons heat game last year in paris would see just how possible comebacks are, as well as how exciting it can be. Personally this appeals to me more both as a player and spectator than just being punished for 30 minutes after the result is pretty clear cut in xball.
The way i see it, saying 'we could've made a comeback if we had played halves' often translates to 'we couldn't get the job done soon enough'.