Wednesday, May 7, 2014

MAO: In The Rearview Mirror

This is gonna be a long one so if you suffer from short attention span deficiency try reading it in sections. It's gonna be long in part because I didn't post anything at all during the event, not even some highlights or quick comments, 'cus I was too damn busy. I know that's a poor excuse for the but-it's-free-crowd but it's still the truth. Anyway, it's all in the rearview mirror now and objects may appear closer than they are so let's engage in a little post-event review.
The Weather & the Venue.
Under normal circumstances OXCC is a comfortable venue tucked away in a bit of rural eastern Maryland although it's not as rural as it might seem on site. During the event the weather was lovely though a tad cool for my taste much of Sunday but not even close to Dallas cold. (Only in tournament paintball do the words "Dallas" and "cold" go together.) It would have been nearly perfect except it rained all day last Wednesday with a lead-in on Tuesday and a parting thunderstorm or two on Thursday that soaked everything. Among other things it left an apparently permanent puddle of mud behind the snake side insert Aztec at the far end of the Champions field. But that was the least of it.
Parking.
It's said that bad things come in threes. If true the PSP can breath a sigh of relief 'cus they got their three outta the way at one event. Fingers crossed. Knock wood. Parking at OXCC for a PSP tournament uses the enormous expanses of grass fronting Old Telegraph and if the ground had been dry instead of recently soaked it would have been fine as it has been fine in the past. Soaked it became a patchwork parking lot with crew guessing where cars could be safely parked and lines of waiting cars snaking away from the field back to the road and beyond. And of course the daily effort to extract the stuck and winch out the careless. Not a game breaker on its own it made the simple act of showing up a struggle of sorts.
The webcast.
I didn't see one minute of the MAO webcast. Normally I get a chance to watch some of it if only after the day's event is over but not this time. I'm told the webcast itself was up to par and that most of the problems and associated frustrations were related to the introduction of pay-per-view. Which proved to be more pay and less view--at least for a while there--along with some delays in refunds, etc. Like most of you I'm not a fan of the last minute change--How's that been working out lately?--or the failure of a product I've paid for to deliver on promises made. Nor am I inclined to make excuses. What I am inclined to do is put the webcast in a different context perhaps. PBA certainly didn't help their cause and they had better make sure Chicago goes off without a hitch as anything less will begin to look like they don't have the competence to pull this off. That said, who criticized the webcast when it was free? (Free to you that is as it's never been free to produce.) Who hated on its mistakes when it was free? Who has come to take for granted its inclusion as part of a PSP event? Everyone was thrilled to have the webcast when it was somebody else's problem to pay for. It would seem those days are over. The question now becomes what are you willing to pay in order to keep the webcast around? (Free or P-P-V the production costs are in the tens of thousands every event.) If the answer is nothing or not much then you won't be shocked when that's eventually the webcast you get.
RaceTo MAXX
Are we having fun yet? While not quite an epic disaster Friday morning's opening rounds of MAXX were a trainwreck. If it could go wrong, it seems, it did go wrong if only briefly but when added all together it made for a chaotic introduction. Fixes were implemented on the fly and by the afternoon the matches were running much more smoothly and that carried over to Saturday which was night and day different from early Friday. Even so it was clear the league was ill-prepared to implement MAXX on such short notice and if Saturday suggests MAXX may have a future in the PSP that may depend on how the teams and players respond than anything else. Even before the event was over discussions were underway on where and how the process needs to be restructured and what needs to be done in order to make sure nothing like Friday morning happens again. Among other things the league needs to educate the teams and players on exactly how the process works and what they can do to avoid unnecessary hassles. Too many teams tended to get caught up in watching the action without realizing they needed to be getting ready for starters. No decision about the future of MAXX has been made yet and hopefully when it is that word will be passed along in a timely manner.
As little as I like saying it I think it's probably inevitable at some point. Maybe not Chicago and maybe not even the rest of 2014 but if not now eventually. The potential for space and time savings makes it attractive for maximizing team participation and potentially opening new venues to the league besides. And despite the rugged beginning the rest of the event demonstrated it can and will work when implemented better than was managed at MAO initially.
The Refs
It turns out MAO can be a tricky event to fully staff. In part because of the location and in part because it falls on or just prior to a lot of schools finals week. This time around we had a lot of last second drop outs--not due to MAXX though--and where Dallas was a great start for the new program we took a half step back at MAO. And it was only a half step due to the above and beyond effort put forth by the crews that were out there this past weekend. The refs at MAO more than earned their keep--they deserve our gratitude. Any failings on their part are our responsibility and we will do better. It seems like circumstance conspired to make MAO a difficult event all around but we will continue to expand the pool of certified refs and continue to work with the best of the best in an effort to improve, if only a little at a time, from one event to the next.
The Cali event is similar to MAO in that the league hasn't had a presence out west for sometime so if you or anyone you know has an interest in reffing don't hesitate to drop me a line at: paul(at)pspevent(dot)com.
The Layout
Okay, I'ma 'fess up. Yes, the same person who did the "fake" layout could in fact come up with the MAO layout because they were predicated on different concepts. MAO was intended to be a highly technical layout demanding coordinated effort but also allowing teams of any tactical persuasion to play the layout to their strengths. Which, at the divisional level, happened quite frequently. Not universally but still. Not so much however on the Champions field where risk aversion has been elevated to a core principle. (The fact that one end of the field was a mud pit all weekend didn't help but even so.) To see how the field could be played watch Heat versus Russian Legion. Or the final few points of Shock and Art Chaos when Chaos was finally sufficiently desperate to stop sitting in their bunkers. It seems to me, at least conceptually, that the ideal layout is one that suits all styles of play as equally as possible but it seems that reality is if it can be stalled and/or slow played that is what most of the Pros will choose to do. In the meantime I'll take the blame for the terrible layout on which the Pros chose to slow play their points. Trust me, that won't happen again.
The Results
Didn't see that coming. Infamous wins Dallas and is relegated at MAO. Didn't see Art Chaos winning MAO but surely didn't predict they'd be relegated either. Impact recovered their balance in Dallas and have carried on since with a win in the Millennium and a finals spot at MAO. And what about Aftershock? The off season additions seem to have brought the right balance of experience and discipline to the team without diminishing their aggressive tendencies and the result was some great paintball at MAO. Has the Champions bracket just gotten that much tougher? It might seem like Vicious took a step back but the reality is that one or two points at critical moments is the difference between moving on and playing a relegation match. And 187 struggled but they stayed in Champions. No more yo-yoing for now.
In Challengers VCK has been consistently at the top of the ranks without breaking into Champions yet. The Russian Legion turned their fortunes around to join Heat back in Champions while XSV and Top Gun saw their Dallas fortunes reversed. What will Chicago bring?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the event, no ref complaints here, OXCC staff was fantastic, and we managed to swindle a pro shop parking spot every day so no parking complaints either. All in all despite the half muddy pro field it was a well run event.

Art chaos had to run down the field in desperation against aftershock, they were running through guns so I wouldn't say they were playing the layout a way you could've played it. That way would've simply resulted in a lot of penalties.

Feel bad for infamous kind of simply because their paint was sooo horrible. Aftershock match it was the worst. You can't win anything with a spray paint gun.

Also aftershock, I like how their core has developed, and how the small but perfect additions like Sosine, tholey, and hot Carl have solidified their roster. The best part is, they are a real family, a real group of friends and not just a bought roster masquerading as one. That's how dynasty did it and still does, it's the only way it should be done.

Anonymous said...

In Chicago Vicious and 187 will be relegated, assuming they end up in separate brackets. If not, we'll see Aftershock relegated.

For promotion, I'm guessing that AC will make it up, but Infamous won't.

And of course, more rain, combined with high humidity and heat. Make sure you've got your golf cart charged!

For the layout, I like how you forced play up the middle and made it actually possible to play the center of the field. Please keep that option open.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Yes, it was obvious to see paint made a huge difference this event.... though few will say it and put their name to it.... it's never P/C to blame your sponsors ;)

And Baca, when people are shooting clouds of spray and paint is flying left and right because barrels are full of broken paint, and teams STILL decide to sit, the layout is most definitely off.

I'd be more than happy to make some suggestions for layouts for you, for the next event, if you give me the tools to do so :)

sdawg said...

I could tell this layout was going to be slow, using what I think I've learned from VFTD over the years:
* the snake is slow because it is not in a "zipper" design of yesteryear
* the doritos are not all in a column, which means back lines could control movement more effectively
* there were (finally?) big bunkers in the back line, encouraging teams to put multiple shooters off the break, making getting wide even more difficult.

Infamous had been in a couple of relegation matches since the beginning of last season, so getting knocked down to the minors just seemed inevitable. Art Chaos was a genuine surprise after stomping the Challengers. I was expecting the Russian Dream Team to be an almost shoe-in to win the event.

X-factor is a perfect example of what a thin line the champion's division has become. Whether they were in a relegation match, made Sunday, or were left sitting in the middle came down to a few points. That's sports, but I wonder if there is still discussion around the idea of having the bottom two champions play the top two challengers to decide relegation/advancement. If another "marquee" team is relegated this season (which seems inevitable), I can't see how that would not become a serious discussion.

sdawg said...

I could tell this layout was going to be slow, using what I think I've learned from VFTD over the years:
* the snake is slow because it is not in a "zipper" design of yesteryear
* the doritos are not all in a column, which means back lines could control movement more effectively
* there were (finally?) big bunkers in the back line, encouraging teams to put multiple shooters off the break, making getting wide even more difficult.

Infamous had been in a couple of relegation matches since the beginning of last season, so getting knocked down to the minors just seemed inevitable. Art Chaos was a genuine surprise after stomping the Challengers. I was expecting the Russian Dream Team to be an almost shoe-in to win the event.

X-factor is a perfect example of what a thin line the champion's division has become. Whether they were in a relegation match, made Sunday, or were left sitting in the middle came down to a few points. That's sports, but I wonder if there is still discussion around the idea of having the bottom two champions play the top two challengers to decide relegation/advancement. If another "marquee" team is relegated this season (which seems inevitable), I can't see how that would not become a serious discussion.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Making pros and challengers play off every event, for spots in next events pro division, is great for the pros.

However, while the present system clearly shows challengers improving steadily, as they get more and more games against the "real pros" under their belts, when they get their shot in the show - changing it to what you suggest, might very well create a situation where it is rare for challengers to make it into the pro division.

I think this is a difficult issue that has to be thought about carefully, before being changed, as it might very well return us to what we saw in past years, with fresh blood in the pro division being a rarity.

My gut feeling is the present system is better for the development of the league, but not better for the pro teams.

K. said...

Maybe pros need some sort of tournament system that runs throughout the year and have some form of play-offs at world cup.

bigbob21 said...

Race to maxxxx:
Our team had 7 guys with little to no pit staff and we pulled it off just fine.

With the exception of our very first point, only having about 9 seconds to run across the field (PSP admitted an error there and we did not replay the point) everything else went fine.

Usually we had about 30 seconds to get to the starting box, which required you to stand at the net ready with mask on to jog onto the field on time. Other times we had about a minute because the previous teams' point went quick...

Baca's right, Saturday went off with little to no problems...

Maybe it would be easier to just give the teams a standard of one minute and if they get to the box and tag up, just ask for verbal readiness and then adjust the clock to ten seconds?

I don't know, I felt the "new" format works well. I don't recall millennium guys having to run to their start boxes...or am I missing something? It's just an adjustment for the players.... However, the pod runners have a really hard time. Picking up pods in less than 30 seconds and managing not to get shot was a challenge, as literally every team would agree with me...

I'm sure it'll get sorted out in Chicago.

splatkid10 said...

Baca - few things a fan noticed from watching the webacast...

Water on the Champions field - it did make an impact...which one could argue is nullified due to switching sides ...it'd be interesting to see how often the team in the mud lost...Why couldn't the PSP buy a shopvac and tons of absorbent? When I played baseball in college we were a small school and had to fix our field when it rained prior to start. Obviously that had to be done to play at all, but for a few hundred this problem could have been minimized and maintained.

Webcast Issues - I'll complain-I have high standards. You charge $20, it doesn't work smoothly and your sharing with the social network world is poor. It's 2014, PBA could easily drop a tweet, facebook status, and a PBN post in 5 minutues outlining technical difficulties, and that would have calmed some people down. The decision to take the webcast free on Friday wasn't a "nice" move it was the ONLY move. As for your comment earlier that it was free before, sure I personally didn't pay, but was PBA not taking my click to watch and attempting to turn it into ad revenue? Don't most apps start out free on your phone? To grow the user base...before somehow figuring out a way to charge consumers? Bottomline - yes, as you said, that needs to be flawless at Chicago. There only saving grace is well - paintball webcasts don't really ever occur.

The Slow Field - Enjoyed watching it, ever time a body dropped there was that "oooh/ahhh" because you saw the significance and it happened rarely.

Race to Maxxx - Hopefully this isn't a challenge for the teams...not only does the Millenium operate this way...but the NPPL did for a couple years. :O

Fullbore said...

Race to Maxx, surprised that it didn't work out so well, as has been said, it works foe Millennium, with some teething problems admittedly, but not on the scale you allude to. It is the future as far as maximising field use goes, but some have said they don't like it as spectators as it makes the sequence of a game harder to follow. And, yes it is hard for the pod runners.

Webcast payment, I paid on Thursday, when I checked I'd actually made £0.03 profit on the refund due to exchange rates, suppose I'll have to declare that on my tax return. I hope this gets sorted out for Chicago, if the old system was so foolproof why was it changed? the $20 charge is a pittance for a potential 24hrs+ of paintball, try comparing that to other pay per view events!!

NTran said...

Doesn't Millenium give teams 1 minute between points?

PSP had 30 seconds between points.

plovell said...

@sdawg the real perfect example of the thin line between semi's and relegation was shown by Vicious.

With the Vicioux/X-factor match in overtime, there were three completely distinct possibilities as to where each team could land.

If vicious had won the overtime point, they would have moved on to semi's over Damage due to a higher point margin(they tied in their head to head). X-Factor would go to relegation matches.

If the point had ended on time and the teams drawn, Vicious would have sat as the 3rd seeded team in their bracket, while X-Factor played the relegation match.

BUT since X-Factor beat Vicious in the overtime point, X-factor took the 3rd seed in their bracket, while Vicious played for relegation.


It's crazy how one point can be so crucial to a team's success or demise.

NewPro said...

relegation should be year to year, not event to event. At the very least, top 2 Challengers play bottom to champions to decide movement.

Paintball is finicky enough and with xball out of the equation with its variable elimination, one event should not make or break a pro team.

"St.Louis Cardinals demoted to triple AAA after month one of MLB"

bigbob21 said...

Thinking about it from year to year...wouldn't some paintball sponsors considering dropping/drastically reducing budgets for a team who gets demoted at the end of the year? (Almost no webcast time in challengers)
This would mostly apply to smaller companies.. Or who knows, maybe the larger ones would be tired of some peoples shit and they'd drop them for being relegated as an excuse! Lol

K. said...

@NTran Millennium has 30 seconds between points that starts when the point is given.

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