Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Can Any Webcast Survive If Spectators Are Paying To Watch Boring Games?

I wanted to call this post, 'Hello Pants.' And open with, 'Find Gary Busey!' but decided that was probably too confusing--so I sorta did it anyway. Just because I find it terribly amusing. Otherwise this is a Baca's Mailbag sorta post. From the cheap seats of blog comments: Baca, I'd love to read your thoughts on the layout in Bitburg. I recently used the webcast to go to sleep as the games were so long and drawn out. Are we going to see major changes to the layouts (both Millennium and PSP)? Paint sponsors cannot be happy with field layouts that cause all 5 players to shot over 7+ pods a game. And it just seems that the games are really boring spectators. How can it be corrected if at all? Good teams will find a way on most layouts to lock up lanes and just wait, but what if the field layouts actually gave a reason to move up? Watching the Bitburg event, it seemed like there was no advantage to moving to even the 50 snake as you still didn't have many shots available. Can any webcast (think PBAccess) survive when spectators are now paying to watch boring games?

That's a lot to chew on so let's get started. I'ma answer the questions posed in order.
Re: Bitburg layout. This year's kit added some more lane blocking type bunkers but seems to have lost some utility props in the process which may be limiting what can be done design-wise a little bit. It also seems to me that the M, regardless of configuration, is generally less playable than the A but I honestly haven't paid much attention this year.
I can't speak to what the MS will do but I expect the PSP to make an effort to try and keep things exciting. Of the layouts I sent Damien recently I tried to retain some balance but made sure certain elements were present that should provide more entertaining paintball. The question of course is how do you do that, if it's even possible, without becoming too one dimensional. The layout can (and often does) have a dramatic effect on the game play.
Paint sponsors are also paint sellers so it's a mixed bag. Do they want to give away as little paint as possible? Sure, but they are also selling considerably more in those situations as well. I don't know which side of that equation they come down on.
'Corrected' is kind of a loaded term but I think there are ways to encourage movement and more aggressive play. Ideally I'd like to see layouts that are relatively neutral so teams can play their style and compete. Unfortunately since the tendency in recent years is to tailor style to layout there are some elements that need to be avoided in creating a design.
Giving teams a reason to move up is half the answer but I suspect it will also be necessary to limit a team's ability to effectively deny their opponent's movement as well. That doesn't mean no lane control or lockdown opportunities but it will mean limiting their effectiveness so that between the enticement of superior position it also becomes somewhat easier to accomplish. And of course it will need to be nearly impossible to live playing defense alone.
The factors I focused on were: making the 50s (or near 50s) effective killing opportunities; making it harder to deny movement upfield; make the whole field playable; make a back line defense very difficult if not impossible. At the same time I tried to make some spots hard to play; retain gun-fighting situations and deliver lots of options for how a player or team choose to accomplish a winning strategy. None of this is a science however, it's an art.
On a PPV basis I think it will be very hard to sustain the webcast without exciting paintball to watch. There is already resistance to paying for what was free before and in order to overcome that hurdle the closer we get to must see paintball action the better. At the same time though I'm concerned about too much tailoring of the game simply to satisfy a webcast--even if it's the best in the business.
It's really uncharted territory and everyone is learning as we go.

25 comments:

Misty-Q said...

You had better check with Nick to see if he deems you qualified to design field layouts, otherwise you're just wasting your time.

There's like 2/3 capable guys in the world apparently, and he's one of them (if you can believe it?)
Remember the Tomahawk field in Amsterdam MS in like '01 or something?
No?
Well that was him.

Come cry for me Nick..

Nick Brockdorff said...

I was summoned by a worshipper? :)

Layouts are actually not that hard to do fairly well, if for instance you get former pro players to do them... someone like Chris Lasoya or Tood Martinez - the people that used to play the utility role, will usually be the ones best suited for it, because they are used to reading the entire field and making plenty of options for themselves.

Or, as it were, a top line coach used to doing tactical coaching who also has a deeper understanding of players.

All you need to do (in a 5 man format) is make certain the centre line (the centre third lengthwise) is playable end to end, so that the A does not just become a place you lane from, till you do a run through... but actually a stepping stone to the next bunker, across the 50.... just like on the wires.

As soon as you do that, while maintaining 2 playable wires, the layout becomes much more versatile, because it's no longer just about getting to the wires, and then winning gun fights down the wires.

As long as we keep doing fields where reason dictates teams to only push the wires, we get just that, wire pushes - except for desperation moves.

Allow for a third avenue of attack, you will see people like Berdnikov, Markowski, Rabackoff, Damian Ryan, Margott, Montemayor, Lang, etc. shine... and that is good for the sport all round.

And you Owen, can keep defending the establishment all you like... your core skills were never playing, field design or coaching.... so irrespective of your years in paintball, you are talking out of your rear end in this particular instance IMHO.

Anonymous said...

While certainly more difficult to ref, the older game style of points for flag pulls was more interesting to watch for me. The flag nowadays is fairly useless. Points for flag pulls/caps gave a central focus point for viewers (like most televised professional sports), gave an incentive for aggressive play (more points for a pull/cap than an elimination), and partially opened up team strategy to something other than just straight "death match." In its current form, I find PSP style games fun to play but only ok to watch.

The PSP will need to make some hard decisions in the future. I believe they will enjoy the current level of success if they continue to appeal to the niche we have now content with this play style. I, however, believe they will never go "mainstream" with it as it stands now. They will need to decide if they're fine with that.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Paintball is not going "mainstream" for at least a generation..... if ever.

Nothing to do with paintball really, it's just that the world is a very different place, with a lot more entertainment/sport options, than when football, soccer, baseball, basketball and hockey were invented..... so becoming a part of mainstream culture is much more difficult today.

The big potential strength paintball has, and the strength we should focus on developing, is that what you watch on the Internet today, you can go try yourself tomorrow, at your local field, without needing to commit to the sport, training for an extended period of time, joining a team, etc.

It's a great flexibility, that makes paintball very easy to try, and which hasn't really been tapped into yet, because the is too large a gap between what the sport is and what is offered at local fields.

As for the central focal point people always talk about, it's never gonna happen in paintball. The game simply doesn't lend itself to that kind of thing, no matter how much we try to create it.

The simple fact that people spend a good deal of the game avoiding to get shot, makes it impossible to create a constant central focal point.

Let's say we put a ball in paintball (stupid idea, but just for the sake of argument).... we still wouldn't be watching the ball carrier most the time, because he would be covering himself in some bunker getting hammered by the opponents, so quickly, eyes would be drawn to something else, and more interesting, in the game.

Anonymous said...

A big change would be to FORCE movement. Make a zone of the field (say the back 1/4 of each side) unplayable after a certain amount of time each point. 10 seconds before time is up, a signal blows to warn players to move up. 10 seconds later, a 2nd signal blows and if they are still in that zone, they are pulled. Perhaps call it "offsides" like other sports. It would act as a 2nd breakout. Or perhaps a turkey shoot for players that moved up to good secondary bunkers earlier.

Reiner Schafer said...

If you are going to develop a game that forces movement (which I think would be a good idea), you would have to also change other aspects of the game A LOT, mainly the rate of fire. A game that forces and movement and played with pumps for instance would be much more interesting to watch, but it’s a completely different game with considerably different skill sets. It would be attractive to a whole different set of players as well. Since most of paintball’s competitive players fall into the category of pumping high levels of testosterone, a very extreme version of competitive paintball (high volumes and high ROF) will always be “the” way competitive paintball is preferred to be played.

We used to run an annual pump tournament that drew players from quite a ways away, considering there were no prizes to speak of involved. Many of them were players playing “regular” tournament paintball as their choice for paintball. Every year I would hear many of them say that this event was the most fun event they play all year, the one they look forward to the most. It was also watched from the sidelines much more than any other tournament that I have been to. Yet, I bet that most players would not choose this type of competitive play over “regular” competitive play. It’s not that a pump tournament with forced movement would require less skill, less strategy or less tactics (they would be quite different skills, strategy, and tactics), but it would not have the same chest pounding attraction needed for the main demographic involved in competitive play.

NStoer said...

Random thoughts on a neutral layout.. This might be a long one

1. Cross-field props (as laners)
Limit this to either a can that is around the 30 line, or don't have any at all. Heads-up paintball is the fastest paintball.

- Can is easy to pinch out and kill
- Moving it up decreases the distance between the laner and the pusher, making it easier to be flinched in
- Moving it up also makes it a bit more riskier to make, and many times this bunker becomes an island with no where to go

Layouts that encourage cross field laning is easily the number 1 cause of a slow field


2. Ladders (D-side)

- Should be staggered so it's easier to get into, and so you can block out people on the other side as you move

- Bunkers should start from small to large. D1 is harder to live in when being closed on, and the 50 is more effective

- Do not put any unplayable props into the ladder; mini races, cans, cakes, etc. Doritos, towers, and aztecs are usually fine. Nothing that players would choose to wait for the chance to skip around rather than play and get stuck


4. Ladders (snake)
Let me break down the issues of the Dallas and MAO snake

Dallas
- Pretty easy to break
- One option in it, go to snake 50 (basically free move)

Too aggressive, pretty lame all around

MAO
- Way too hard to make anything wide off break
- Snake 1 was meh
- Snake 50 was meh

Too slow

Bring back the snakes where snake 1, 2, and 3 are all viable and get steadily better shots. Do not allow free moves to the 50. Every bump should be a fight down the tape, and some should also be a fight on the wrap vs a laner to get through a gap. Ladders without gaps are also fine on some layouts.

Right now the snake corner player is there just to get wide, bring it back to when they were there to control the tape / that half of the field



4. The A

- Use a damn X-box PLEASE, let people play more loose in it and search for kills / game breaking moves

- An A player who does not shoot the wide guy should be put in a bad position. If the opposing team is wide on both sides of him, he should be easy to fish out. The A is the worst laning bunker if they're wide on you, vice-versa it's also the best bunker to lane at if you've shot their wide guys. As long as the layout is heads up, a good A player will find the holes for a game breaking move, regardless of the props


5. Back bunkers

- Majority of back bunkers should still be playable even when they're on your side of the field. However, make it so that to do this, they're playing too tight to be properly effective. Meaning their snap shooting is weaker, it's really tough to wrap, and sometimes it's just a matter of living behind your gun


Lastly, bring back the home bunker. It's a nice standard position on a field. Example MAO, instead of off-setting it on one side (and putting together the perfect can/tower cross situation), make it into a home and put that damn can farther up.

Longest post I've ever wrote, understand the TLDR peeps

NStoer said...

Oh and one last thing

Don't put in stupid bunkers around the 50D. No more weird cakes or mini races, and no more surrounding it with pins. Just a simple, standard, nice and big medium dorito that pinches out every bunker on the snake side


Whoever is making these fields needs to stop trying new things and just go back for at least a year to the simple standard layouts

Nick Brockdorff said...

I nominate NStoer for field designer :)

I agree with most of it.

I'd amend item 1 to "30 line and another bunker in front of it"

- I like the centre to be a third avenue of attack on a good field.

Anonymous said...

Examples of "extreme" sports would run contrary to the idea that a new sport cannot establish itself today. Snowboarding achieved Olympic status in 30 years. Now with that being said, lacrosse has existed with its current rule set about the same age as basketball, hockey, etc. and its star pro players only earn $30,000 to $40,000. I think it's safe to say the age of a sport cannot be tied to its success.

I agree with Nick in that paintball has a great opportunity to link the webcast to field promotions. As to how that would be done, I'm not sure. It does have the most potential IMO.

I disagree on it being impossible to have a single focal point. I believe it failed previously (ie. ESPN coverage) partly because of the setting. The woods made broadcasting extremely difficult. I still believe the original NPPL ruleset has merit.

However, let's say that it wouldn't work. There are still other options. One could do something as simple as "touchdown" zones that teams get points for when a player crosses the line (ie. Team A player crosses into the zone of Team B behind Team B's breakout station). I'm not saying this is the necessarily the answer. I am saying that if the PSP wants to go mainstream, they will need to find a way that someone can singularly focus on an aspect of the game to the point that uneducated, non-players will pick it up quickly and watch it over a beer for the hell of it. Quick to learn, yet hard to master. As of now, the "deathmatch" is too chaotic for the uninitiated. There are 100's of balls flying around, the streams can't be seen, and people (seemingly) get eliminated at random. I also think that pump presents an easy option to stress movement, but (as Reiner said) I don't think it's a possibility unfortunately. If you thought Maxx was controversial, wait until you try to change the game that much. The big question is whether the PSP would want mainstream acceptance to the point that it would try to do so.

Sidenote: if something like the Valken Cup could be broadcast (ie. a tournie of pump, woods, and airball) I think I'd be in heaven.

The only way I could see the current webcast appealing to a general audience is by further breaking down the matches. In its current form, the idea of playing is simple. Conveying what's going on via webcast is difficult. Whiteboards ala football on replays would probably be the cheapest/easiest way to do so. Ie. arrow showing what player shot who, team strategies off the breakout, lane crossing, etc. This almost pains me to say as I was opposed to the "blue pass, red shot" attempt applied to hockey. I don't think it was necessary there for the general audience; I do think something like that is needed for paintball.

Side note: I've personally found player commentators such as Ryan Greenspan to be the most interesting (ie. MAO Friday). Rather than just explaining the differences between a minor and major penalty, he explained shot placement, team strategies, field nuances, etc. It was relevant information instantly applicable to the game being broadcast.

"Whoever is making these fields needs to stop trying new things and just go back for at least a year to the simple standard layouts"

Well, at least you're commenting in the right spot ;) I agree that classic layouts are nice. But variety is the spice of life. Part of the excitement of the broadcast is seeing the different strategies teams bring to a field. I think MAO was panned simply because everyone eventually started to use the same basic strategy.

Nick Brockdorff said...

I'm sorry, but I fiercely dislike any attempt to complicate the sport, with rules on different zones, movement clocks or whatever, in order to achieve something (movement) that could be achieved with much simpler solutions.

Not because I am old school and against creativity.... but because we always need to keep in mind the sport has to work top to bottom, if it is to grow.

If we make the pro game complicated and has it require specialized scoreboards, multiple refs monitoring zones, movement clocks, or whatever.... we make it impossible to translate the game to average local fields and their walk on customers. It simply becomes too complicated and costly to run the format for field operators.

The game the kids see on TV (i.e. the Internet), a local field operator should be able to offer with 1 dude manning the field.

So I say keep it simple, but introduce changes on gear or paint or layouts, so that players are animated to move - not forced to.

Lower the ROF (again) or limit the paint players can carry - or change the layouts as described ad nauseam - and we are getting somewhere.

Problem is, lowering ROF or limiting paint will create an outcry amongst the paint manufacturers, who are arguably the biggest sponsors in the sport AND the companies with the biggest top line.

So, short term, we are really only left with doing better layouts.

The "right" solution would however be lower ROF or limiting paint, as it would make the tournament game format much more viable, as a product for local fields.

Michael Brozak said...

I agree that the biggest sponsors are the paint companies, but if we are only trying to pacify them then our sport wont grow but to the limited few. If we want the "Mainstream" to get involved the you have to make paintball appealing to the masses. What would it be like to have our sport broadcast on national television? with major name brand sponsors? Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Coke, Pepsi, Progressive Insur, Geico (give the little lizard a paintball gun and a mask, tell me that doesn't bring a smile to you face). If we keep it a fraternity then this is what we will always have. This discussion will continue on and on, because no one is really willing to institute a major change and keep it for awhile to make it better. Those involved want to tip toe around and not make any waves. Come on take Maxx for example. Run it one event then shelf it for the next? Run it and get the bugs out, make it work if its the future. Most folks are to some degree resistant to change, but its going to happen, it has to happen, so lets embrace it. Why doesn't PSP contact local fields in various regions through out the country and test some of these ideas on a smaller scale, see how it works before going to the national stage.

Patrick Smith said...

Anon 9:46 and 2:46,

I'm assuming you are the same person so I'll address you as one person.

Nearly everything you ave listed is in some way being implemented in the NSL. And it works despite what Nick claims as over complicating factors.

But success of a sport/league/business is not only about having structural efficiency. Look at how low of an adoption rate the NSL has had.

Nick,

Seriously get off the dead horse. Paint speed and limits are for Raehl to rail about. And Pan Am died on limited paint and as Paul has pointed out, lowered ROF has not shown significant negative correlation to per play time. If I remember correctly, he even went so far as to suggest there was a positive correlation(ROF decrease => point play speed decreases).

Michael,

PSP has no incentive to test run at local fields. There is actually a disincentive because of how talkative and aversive to change the community is as a whole. On top of all that, show me a field that has a customer base that provides a strong sample group that can be used to generalize results to the megalithic tournament model.

They(PSP) already have contact within the largest fields to gather anecdotal evidence and the additional cost versus profit for more structured testing doesn't really pencil out.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Patrick:

Sorry, I do not know what the NSL is?

As for per play time, if you are basing it off the layouts we have seen so far this year, it makes sense.

The wider the gaps you have to cross to make a bump, the lower a ROF it takes to control..... people can still shoot straight you know ;)

If you are actually advocating that lowering ROF - with all else being equal - will slow the game down, I recommend you invite 2 pro teams around for a game of pump, on an X-ball field ;)

Change said...

Limit the Paint.
Posts have touched on the topic already but this simple step is needed to grow paintball as a "Sport"

Players no longer see themselves as Paintball Players they see themselves as Consumers or Customers.

Ask yourself. "who has played for a length of time and has NOT become jaded towards paintball"

I Love Paintball but HATE the Industry.

Anonymous said...

Just food for thought - with lower rof, could that translate to less g's on the break? Five alive slows the game quite a bit at the pro level. As for carrying less paint the most boring situations are low paint games. Those are usually at the end of a point though (low body count as well), not sure how it would pan out with five alive

Nick Brockdorff said...

Ofcourse lower ROF means less kills OTB. That is the drawback.

The upside, is that it becomes easier to move during the game.

Limited paint is a problem if it is hard to move, because the gaps you have to move through are wide, so that the players locking them down do not need to shoot continuously, but can just wait for the move and hit you at the end of it.

So, in reality, we end up right back at field design being the biggest decider in how the game is played.

Vijil said...

I'm not sure how anyone can be seriously interested in the future of the sport and not be following developments like the nsl, redzone etc.

Personally I consider the nsl rules err too far on the side of complexity, but the basic vision is good. Simple changes like a touchdown line instead of flags make excellent sense and don't require extra equipment. Points for the pull also make sense - so long as that's all it is and doesn't involve bringing back the insanely complex point system with points per kill etc.

Paintball is young. The basic deathmatch format with an afterthought of a flag is flawed, but race is certainly more watchable than ten man. We've got a long way to go and are nowhere near done.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Well, I have not heard of it - so feel free to elaborate....

Anonymous said...

What if the PSP made every player carry 6 pods per point? You were not allowed to carry more and the players would eventually adapt.

Anonymous said...

Until you give the players the camera angles that allow them to actually see paintball, it will be a niche and failing situation.

Figure out a way to put cameras in places (such as behind the box off the break and along the lanes with the most traffic) and you will make this proposition have a chance in hell.

Vijil said...

Nick:

http://www.nationalspeedballleague.com/

I'm not entirely convinced by the format - as I said it errs on the side of overcomplexity and tryingtoohardtobefootball ness. Not as unworkable as moneyball was though.

Hell, at least somebody is trying something fresh.

Anonymous said...

Patrick,

Close, but I'm Anon May 22, 2014 at 2:55 AM and May 22, 2014 at 2:46 PM.

For those unfamiliar with the NSL (as I was), here's the rulebook and site:

http://www.nationalspeedballleague.com

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1enW_q_21stiYO-j9XSJ3qVpO02L0zWpkeOZq25rqxgQ/edit

It looks interesting. With decent marketing/rule tweaking, it would be intriguing to see how far it could go. Unfortunately, you need money to make money and it looks like they're lacking in that department. Thank you for informing me of this league.


Nick,

I agree with your sentiment about top to bottom. However, I never have seen a current style race to match with one referee at a local field that didn't have controversy. A minimum of 2 refs, I believe, is needed. With 2, watching endzones is possible. Endzones would still be possible with 1 ref; it would have the same amount of controversy one sees with the current race to format IMO. I'm not saying endzones are necessarily the answer--I just don't see it being significantly more difficult to ref (or at all) compared to the current format while promoting aggression and moves. I see it as a potential solution. I'll have to watch some of those NSL matches to see how well their method works.

I agree that limiting ROF, field layout, and paint are the best methods for the current setup. As you say, thinking of all 3 (ROF, layout, paint limits) is necessary when coordinating an event as they're all tied to each other. However, this ties back to my earlier comment on whether the PSP would want to go "mainstream." We already change the layout. To further change the ROF and paint amount would likely alienate their biggest sponsors ie. the paint companies. However, in the long run, it would make it easier for other teams to compete (ie. paint prices would attainable for smaller teams) and movement would be stressed if the field design kept those restrictions in mind. In the long term, it would likely be better but the initial backlash would be harsh.

The transition period would be hard from that backlash. For it to be successful, I'm guessing you'd need at least 3 years to build up the volume of players if the webcast was successful, the increased action brought in more players to fields through a coordinated event, and the paint limits encouraged more people to play as it's more affordable. You could maybe pitch the idea to the paint companies that the increase in people playing the tournaments would make up for the loss of paint slung per team, but I think they're too short-sighted for that. Either way, it's a gamble and I'm not sure the PSP would want to risk it. They may just be happy with the current niche they have now.

As it stands now, I find the webcast and format to appeal to the people who already play, like the format, and encourages them to play more/buy more (ie. increase profitability from the current playing population). I don't see that changing unless there is a concentrated effort to appeal to the mainstream (if they want to).

Anonymous said...

^ Great Post.
Spot on this is going on the wall at the field.

Anonymous said...

A rate of fire of 5bps is what is needed to open up movement. Even then it might not be enough.

What you guys are missing is that if you limit the rate of fire to even 5bps, how does a player respond? By moving or by posting longer?

You will have more people posting up. You'll start shooting lanes preemptively even more so.

Here's what the gurus don't get that even Eric Felix taught us all back in the day in the Ironmen training video: You need to have an objective.

The objective is not slower guns. Stop playing "the architect" from the Matrix and presume that if you tweak this variable, you'll get the optimum output (lest you end up with thousands of iterations of the same nero story...hey wait a minute, doesn't the PSP keep tweaking the variables year after year, rinse lather repeat?)

If you want movement, provide objectives that reward movement. Point clocks, power play points, etc.

Add an objective to the game that incentives the players to move. And you'll see your damn movement.

Slowing guns down is not adding an objective. It's quite frankly a bullshit bureaucratic big government approach applied to sports. No this isn't a government rant, but stop trying to be little commishiners legislating paintball to primetime.

Just figure out a way to reward what you want to reward and penalize what you want to penalize without mucking up the game too much.

The players and teams will see the incentives and act accordingly.