Sunday, August 31, 2014

Improving the Tournament Experience

Sorry kids but here's another tedious post asking for your participation (ha!) but I continue to be hopeful--or else I don't really care. Whichever choice you prefer. In the last post--First Look at the Season Finales--which you failed to respond to despite my invitation--the comments are mostly about the notion that the PSP should improve the tournament-going experience by, you know, doing extra stuff. (If you want to know what was actually suggested check the comments out. I'm reasonably confident no harm will come of it.) So this time I am soliciting your opinions about what would improve the tournament going experience. (Yes, we both know it's a waste of time but I haven't gotten around to previewing either the Chantilly layout or the Richmond Cup layout yet. Which I promised to comment on.)
Despite the futility of this request I am including some basic ground rules in order to further alienate y'all. There's no point in saying you want lower entry fees or cheaper paint. Those go without comment--and we both know it ain't gonna happen. Other than cheaper what could event promoters do that would improve the tournament-going experience? Another way of looking at it might be to point out things you think are missing from the event experience you think ought to be included. And beyond stuff you might like would any of your suggested improvements be the sorts of ideas that might draw more teams?
Tell VFTD how to make your tournament experience better and who knows?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Look at the Season Finales

Not too exciting I know but it's that time of year. All the local and regional series are closing in on their own season ending events as well. In my backyard the CFPS has their event #5 coming up this weekend and the MiLP will be closing out their season the following weekend. In the CXBL the Richmond Cup is right around the corner. On the international stage the Millennium is returning to Chantilly, a lovely but somewhat isolated venue north of Paris. Their event is scheduled for the weekend of September 26-28. World Cup comes a bit early this year over the long weekend of October 9-12.
In Euroland the Millennium has seen attendance decline slowly from the season opener Med Cup in the south of France. While the locked divisions are stable the two open divisions peaked at Puget sur Argens with modest drops at Bitburg and Basildon. To date the Chantilly numbers are off by a substantial 20 teams. Still nearly a month away that leaves time for late arrivals but normally the majority have at least registered by now which makes the Chantilly deficit one that probably won't be overcome.
World Cup registration is at 243 teams (or was when I posted this.) With the first deadline still a couple weeks out registration will continue to build. (Whatever the number is around the first deadline is a decent indicator of likely event participation, give or take a few.) And with the later first deadline I expect a significant number of teams to get their entries in by that deadline if not sooner. PSP began the season very strong with higher than expected turnout at the first two events while Chicago was basically flat in the year-to-year and Riverside was down from last year. Last year, counting UWL participation, Cup was right around 400 teams.
Are teams running out of steam (and money) towards the end of the season? What's happening in the series you compete in? Are you seeing similar results at the local and regional level? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Next time (unless something else grabs my attention) VFTD will take a quick look at the CXBL's Richmond Cup layout and the Mills Chantilly layout.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Say Hello To My Little Friend

My little 50 cal friend (both paintball and marker) that is. If you thought 50 cal was a flop a few years ago and nearly forgotten, think again. While you've been running around on airball fields ignoring the rest of the paintball community 50 cal has been making a big difference on the rental front. Oh I know, nobody cares what the newbies are doing. You know, if it keeps them playing it's fine but it's never gonna have an impact on competitive paintball. (Real ballers play 68.) If that's your take you best reconsider. Sure, 50 cal is largely confined to the rental market but like Splatmaster that is the gateway for the majority of new players entering the game. (Yes, in some places speedball and competition style fields are more accessible and some new players jump in the deep end quickly but that's more the exception than the rule.) 50 cal is proving to be very popular too with both customers and local field operators. Promoted as low impact, "less sting" it's bringing in new, younger and previously untapped portions of the market. And for the field operator it takes up less space and is easier to clean up after. And with the "normal" attrition among players 50 cal will, in a few short years, become the first paintball experience for the majority of players. That means for those who want to take the next step and buy their own gear and play regularly 50 cal won't have the negatives the 68 crowd associate with it today.
Stepping away from competitive paintball for a moment consider what 50 cal could do for the growing mag-fed crowd. With a smaller paintball greater realism in marker design is possible. Less obtrusive air systems are needed to power the markers and the assorted magazines will hold more paintballs than with 68 cal. Suddenly the trade-offs don't look so bad. (Who knows, the big money in markers may be in replicas in the not-too-distant-future.)
And if VFTD is correct about the extent of industry struggle in the current environment 50 cal just may be a big part of the solution. Shifting a growing percentage of their paint manufacturing to 50 cal from 68 would reduce costs at the manufacturing end and would ultimately limit the production of 68. Yes, the Chinese and anyone else could make all the 68 they like but it wouldn't be in anyone's interest to glut the market particularly if, over time, 50 cal begins to dominate the marketplace. (Take a moment to think about what happens to older unsupported products these days and there's no reason the same couldn't happen to 68 cal guns.) Which would eventually lead to either conversion kit sales for old 68 shooters or brand new shiny 50 cal gats. (That would be one way to recreate a marketplace demand for guns.)
And if you still think competitive paintball would be immune I have one word for you; sponsorship. To the extent it serves industry purposes they can influence the marketplace in the same ways they always have. And if that were to mean only 50 cal (paint and guns and assorted related gear) qualified for sponsorship what do you suppose the likely outcome would be?
Will the change if it comes happen over night? Of course not. It will likely take years but if you pay attention and see that 50 cal is continuing to grow and spread that may be your answer.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Guns Guns Guns

Regulars here know VFTD doesn't talk about paintball gear because it only leads to pointless (and endless) arguments ("Is so." "Is not.") and I've no desire to expand this audience with "those people." And I don't do equipment reviews because they are tedious (been there, done that a hundred times over) and nobody wants to hear the truth, certainly not the industry producers. So any post that includes the hardware of paintball is just looking for trouble. Except I'm really not. It's just that I can't talk about the relationship between technology and the play of the game without, in this case, discussing guns, or markers if you prefer. And what the future might hold in a changing competitive environment.
Historically technology advancements have driven the game in significant ways. (Which is an interesting conversation all on its own. Who still remembers actual gravity-feed hoppers?) Another is how marketing created an artificial buying cycle which in turn contributed to the glut of used guns and helped destroy the secondary value of those guns. (But you can see where that conversation might cause some agitation.) So we're not going there. Instead this post will speculate in more detail on how trends in the play of the game might impact future guns. (Or loaders for that matter.)
In my last post, Restricted Paint FTW, I asked a few rhetorical questions about the impact of restricted paint on gun utility and where it might lead. The two most influential tournament series in the world have reduced ROF to 10 bps. (In the PSP it's only for the pro teams but remember the league tried to introduce 10 bps to divisional a few years ago.) At 10 bps performance is hovering on the blurry line that separates modern electro-pneumatic guns from the best of the Old Skool mechanical markers. More to the point it is also a range well within the performance envelope of even the low end electros to say nothing of mid-price markers. A number of pro teams shoot mid-price markers without handicap. The fact is almost anyone can afford a perfectly functional tournament capable gun today. (And we've haven't even mentioned the huge resale market of formerly top end guns available on the cheap.) If the ROF were to drop any further top mechanical guns would be competitive too. Toss in restricted paint usage and it's a whole new game for guns. A reduced ROF and rules mandated scarcity of available paint will reorder gun performance priorities. Ramping becomes largely counterproductive. Air efficiency is nearly irrelevant. (More so even than today.) Improved ergonomics and accuracy become leading trends and differentiators. As the priorities and defining characteristics of 'performance' are altered manufacturers are pushed to produce specialty guns that are actually specialty guns. (Or not.)
Now all of this begs another question--or two. If competitive paintball is merely a tiny corner of the paintball marketplace can it drive manufacturers' decision-making? The seemingly sensible answer would be no. But history suggests technology advancements and innovations have been driven by the competitive game. Or at least largely focused on the competitive game. And that the competitive market informs the rest of the paintball marketplace. Recreational players with their own equipment don't buy $1000 guns because they need them to play. Would that pattern continue or would the scenario & rec crowd continue to want their machine guns and paint sprayers?
Could a changing competitive game create a new divide separating competitive paintball from the other forms of paintball? Would that ultimately be a good thing?

More speculation next time as VFTD ponders another possibility.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Bizzaro Earth: Restricted Paint FTW

What would a restricted paint game look like? How could it (or should it) be constructed? On Bizarro Earth restricted paint is the norm. (Not to be confused with Htrae, the cubic bizarro world of DC comics. Bizarro Earth exists at LaGrange point 2 opposite Earth in an identical orbit.) All things on Bizarro Earth are the opposite of the way they are here so it follows competitive paintball developed around restricted (low volume) paint usage. (And as fans of the original Star Trek know goodness here is evil there--and usually wears a sinister goatee.) But anyway ...
Unfortunately their game also is played with 12 players per side on one acre fields covered in pallets and tiny log cabins made out of giant Lincoln logs. Which leaves us on our own to evaluate the impact of restricted paint. Let's begin by imagining some hypothetical scenarios and considering the ramifications in those scenarios of restricted paint. (Hey, it could work.) First we need to decide what constitutes restricted paint. What are our self-imposed restrictions? Or limitations? Does full loaders plus 15 pods distributed amongst your 5 players anyway you want sound about right? That's a case and a half of paint. To keep our calculations simple let's say on average the team shoots a case per point. And averages 5 points per match at RaceTo-4. That's only 20 cases for the prelims--approximately. At $45 a case that's $900 bucks. Not exactly a bargain but seems pretty good so far, right? And it would probably trickle down to scrimmages too, right? Which, at a minimum, would be more points played for a given allotment of paint. Of course I've no idea how much paint the average RaceTo-4 team shoots now in the prelims. Let's reduce the paint usage a little more. Full loaders and 12 pods per point. Now we're down to 16 cases for the prelims.
But even the seemingly simple decision to restrict paint usage doesn't occur in a vacuum. There are consequences. Let's see if we can figure out what some of them might be. Assuming everything else remains the same our first choice is how much paint do we commit off the break. Our skill or the layout may influence that choice--as will our success or failure rate. But that's okay. Of course the more paint we commit early the less we have to shoot later on. How effectively will we be able to contest movement? On the current playing field many of the props are relatively close together--certainly compared to back in the day--and if shooters wait for movement to react they will fail more often than not. Which is okay as we want movement. Except--except if it becomes too easy. Part of the pleasure of both watching and playing is accomplishing the various tasks within the game when they are hard to do. If it becomes too easy it's no longer exciting and if everyone can do it there's no accomplishment.
Then there's the issue of what happens as players realize they're running out of paint. They conserve. Which mostly means they stop shooting their guns. Which needn't be but is usually accompanied by sitting in their bunkers. And with every discharge of a paintball the tendency to conserve grows stronger. Even when a team needs to score a lack of paintballs frequently stops players dead in their tracks. And that's not a good thing.
On the plus side accuracy gains (or regains) some primacy amongst the skills of the game. And if less paint increases movement it should create more instances of opponent proximity which in turn will generate more rundowns and run-thrus. Maybe. There's still the concern about how conservation of paint will impact play based on what we currently see in such situations. But even so, it could work out. Might restricted paint encourage players to want more control over their guns again? Could that lead to capped semi and no ramping? Or even a return in utility of the top mechanical markers of old?
The biggest question is how much restriction makes competitive paintball economically viable to a larger pool of potential players? And will anyone want to play the game severe restrictions will create?

Or, who knows, one change could cascade into other changes and before you know we're hiding behind giant Lincoln logs playing 12-on-12. 

Friday, August 15, 2014


Faster is the mantra of the league and more to the point, PBA. It seems the conventional wisdom has settled on the notion that faster points are the only thing our ADD culture will find entertaining. And I confess I fell for it too but I'm reconsidering my position. Sure faster is better when compared to watching soccer or grass grow but those are polar extremes and it needn't be an either or proposition. Nobody very badly wants to watch a 2-1 match no matter what's at stake but it doesn't follow that 30 second points are essential to make competitive paintball entertaining. For example, imagine a maximum point match of all 30 second points. the final score is a seemingly exciting 7-6 yet that match would be 6:30 minutes of game time with 24 minutes of down town assuming neither team called a time out. Is 30 seconds of action followed by 2 minutes of dead air (or talking heads or advertising filling that dead air) really the best competitive paintball can do?
What is essential is that the audience (any audience) is provided a story to follow and that they understand that story. That story is told in words and pictures and any failure to communicate the story disconnects the match from the audience. And every story has context, a back story, a history that puts every match in relation to every other match. Who are the players? How often have these teams played each other? What are their histories? Is there any bad blood between them? Where do they come from? How long have they been around?
If paintball can tell its stories it will find an audience but in order for those stories to be compelling the audience needs to also understand how the game is played. And the truth is even some percentage of tournament players are relatively ignorant when it comes to fully understanding the game they are playing. Which means that the average paintball player who might be interested also needs to be educated to say nothing of the extended potential audience of family and friends and others who get an introduction to competitive paintball.
Unlike the field of dreams simply building it doesn't mean they will come. And focusing on one dimension to the exclusion of all else isn't a recipe for success either. The fan base for competitive paintball will only grow when we stay focused on telling the stories of our sport while continuing to educate those who show any interest. Everything else is fiddling at the margins.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Changing of the Guard?

While PSP Riverside came and went without any *real* earthquakes the ground under the pro establishment appears to be fracturing. Only 6 Champions level teams haven't been relegated this season and that's 6 of 13 teams but 2 of them started the season in Challengers; 187 Crew & Russian Legion. Over the course of the season Heat, Art Chaos, Infamous, Aftershock, X-Factor and Dynasty have been relegated. Only Impact, Ironmen, Damage and Vicious haven't spent any time in the Challengers bracket. Granted, the system puts 40% of the bracket at risk every event but there has been more turnover this year compared to last year. As recently as two seasons ago a changing of the guard seemed improbable at best impossible at worst. And yet here we are.
The question remains: Is that what's really happening? I remain unconvinced. However there are clearly forces at work in the pro division. The upstarts are acting--and playing--like they belong in the elite company of the Champions while time-tested true Champions continue to falter. And by all appearances the gap between the pros and the top divisional teams is shrinking. (Whether that means the divisionals are improving or the pros declining is also open to debate.)
To my eye it is the later. From Dallas this year I've thought the pro ranks have struggled as a group to reach the levels of play that were routine a year, two years and three years ago. I chalked it up in large part to all the roster changes. And I'm sure it has had an impact. (No pun intended.) Even so by this point in the season teams should either be getting their act together or making it apparent it ain't gonna happen. It may seem unfair or even hubris to pass judgment on team(s) but results are results. Not winning versus winning is a pretty simple metric. What is less easy is deciphering why. We talk about the struggle first timers have in Champions but surprisingly the reverse is also true. Relegated Champions haven't done a good job of adjusting to Challengers. Too often they tend to play down--which is symptomatic of a lack of focus and tight mental game. The trend amongst pro teams is to practice less. Both long time and/or successful teams (and players) tend to lose their drive and hunger. Then there's the pro ROF. As regulars here know I have long correlated ROF versus the ability to move as a defining characteristic of the game. If correct a lower ROF dumbs down the game and makes it easier for a larger pool of players to be competitive. At the lower divisional level that's a very good thing. At the pro level not so much. Even field design may play a part. Data is being collected that will (hopefully) ultimately yield a better understanding of the influences on the game. Whatever is going on the winds of change are blowing through competitive paintball.
The other big question is: If in fact the guard is changing is it a good thing for pro paintball? Clearly the league hoped Challengers would help elevate the up-and-comers but if the perceived distance shrinks too much doesn't that also marginalize the pro game? Time will tell.

Monday, August 11, 2014

PSP Riverside Review

The first thing you see exiting the elevator is a sign that reads: Places of refuge available in both stairwells. Only in Cali I think to myself. Only in Cali. Refuge, eh? Worn out tourist refuge? Snail darter habitat perhaps? What sort of refuge does California think exists in the fourth floor stairwell of a Hyatt hotel? From a tsunami maybe but that's not where I'd want to be when the San Andreas decided to fault once and for all. Viva la revolucion? Not so much. Tornado? No thanks. Terrorist attack? Hmm, no. Nor was there any refuge for the unprepared on the unforgiving fields of PSP Riverside.
Speaking of the fields whatever sort of soil and seed begat that grass in drought ridden California we need more of it. Looking yellow by Sunday that was the result of paint, not wear and tear as the surface held up remarkably well. The venue itself accommodated the six fields easily but if there had been a need for much more than that it might have been a very tight squeeze and the available space also largely separated the vendors who were there from the fields and players. Parking for most was along the street or in a dirt lot across the street and I heard something about a daily parking fee being charged. If true I imagine it wasn't well received. With the exception of the parking situation and the ability to avoid the vendors if so desired it was an ideal place to play paintball. Even the boneyard was paved and nary a hint of rain or puddle of mud anywhere in sight to mar the proceedings. The weather as well was superb with temps only reaching slightly uncomfortable levels a couple of days but even the heat was mitigated by a constant cooling breeze. Lastly, downtown Riverside and a nearly endless supply of hotel and restaurant choices was less than 10 minutes away. The only real downside to Riverside is the distance to LAX and even then (for the smart traveler) Ontario International airport is about twenty minutes away.
The setting was one of the best in recent years. The stories to be told some of the most dramatic in recent memory. The results more than measured up to the hype. Art Chaos finally fulfilled expectations by beating Impact in the Champions final after dispatching Russian Legion in the semifinal. For RL it was a return to past glory as the team has shown consistent improvement over the course of the season. In the other semi Impact stopped Damage once again leaving the prelim powerhouse short of the ultimate PSP prize. In one relegation match 187 sent VCK back to Challengers but I expect VCK to profit from the experience and to come back more determined than ever. In the other relegation match Dynasty lost to Heat which sent the most storied team in competitive paintball down to Challengers for World Cup. And from Challengers only X-Factor made it back up to Champions as both Aftershock and Infamous failed to regain a Champions spot. Instead newcomer Revo will make their first Champions appearance at World Cup. Most of the matches were fairly decisive although there was some controversy in both the Infamous and Dynasty losses. In any case neither team played particularly well and in fact I say that was mostly true across the board as even the successful teams fell well short of their potential. Chaos, for example, was more aggressive in Riverside but also somewhat disconnected which resulted in some excellent positive points--enough obviously to win--but also more than a few blow outs too. Even Impact, despite their continuing success looked less efficient and unified than have at times this season. Otherwise only Revo, RL and at times, X-Factor delivered a standard of play that measured up to their potential. I don't know what it is but it's been a season long trend so far.
Divisional play proved as hard fought as the pro matches with some new names appearing at the top of the standing which should only see the season ranking tighten further as the league enters the stretch run to World Cup.
There is more to say but as I'm sitting in the airport trying not to fall asleep that's gonna be all for now. I'll catch y'all later.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

PSP Riverside Prelims

Did I call it or what? For the record I called it. For much of Friday Champs and Challengers matches were high scoring wars. Some matches featured points going back and forth with winners being the last to score. And there were matches that began like blowouts only to see their opponents come roaring back to close the gap. In the end, and despite a few late day lopsided scores the pros averaged around 9 points a match. The results produced a few surprises too. And Saturday only doubled down on the Friday madness. If you didn't spend the day spellbound watching the world's finest hammering away at each other on pristine (and remarkably sturdy) grass under crystalline blue skies you should slap yourself.
Both Russian teams made the top four. 187 Crew beat both Art Chaos and Dynasty today and are still in a relegation match. Dynasty will be fighting for a shot at the World Cup in their first relegation match Sunday morning against Houston Heat. VCK learned a hard lesson or two in their first Champions experience and also moving on to the Sunday morning semis were Damage and Impact.
Making the cut in Challengers was the surprisingly tough Revo along with the former Champions trio of Shock, X-Factor and Infamous with Shock and X-Factor competing in one semi. So Sunday will deliver not only who gets promoted just in time for Cup but also who, among the Champs, will go down and miss a shot at a professional World Cup title. 187 or VCK? Heat or Dynasty? Who will it be? Tune in and find out whose in and whose out. Will the match trends carry over to Sunday play with high-scoring seesaw affairs?
A more complete review will be coming your way on Monday or Tuesday and sometime next week we'll take a look at the layout.
Be there (or watching the webcast) or be square.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Winds of Change

I'm feeling vaguely philosophic. Tomorrow is set-up for Riverside--at least our small portion of the set-up. Burt and the boys have been here for days already. And I'm genuinely looking forward to this event as it should prove to be an all day every day war across the divisions. At the same time I've been wondering lately where competitive paintball is headed. And what, if anything can be done about it or are we all simply along for the ride?
10 years ago the world was paintball's future oyster and all was going according to plan--or so it seemed to many. Competitive paintball was becoming a sport. For my part it was a change I fully supported. Much of the change was driven by innovations, advancing technology and yes, the mainstream promises TV seemed to offer. Today we play a game focused on a demographic that can't afford it in an ever worsening economic environment. Now there's no point in making pronouncements with the advantage of twenty-twenty hindsight or even wishing some things were different. Looking back does however offer us an opportunity to consider the future in light of the past.
Look, everything's fine. There are always a few bumps in any road. That certainly sounds good to me--and may even be true. But even if it is the game will continue to evolve; to change. There have been big changes and a little tinkering around the margins. The agents of change have been many. There are almost as many reasons given as there have been changes made. What if a time of austerity is coming for competitive paintball? None of the players in our game are too big to fail and the would-be international federation isn't going to step in an bail us out. And such difficult circumstances would almost certainly precipitate new changes, wouldn't they? Or should the plan be to ride out any tough times and wait to grow again when good times return? Or should the game be changed now to deflect an expected future reality? Or is that simply foolishness masquerading as planning ahead?
But before answering any of those questions best decide what kind of future you envision for the sport. Is it destined to remain on the fringes? Or is there a way to make it more accessible to a larger audience? (With or without losing what we already have achieved?) Does that even matter? Is it more important to preserve the existing game in some fashion--or preserve a game that can carry the sport forward? And how does anyone know?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

PSP Riverside

PSP's second summer event is coming up this weekend at Rancho Jarupa Sports Park in Riverside (or thereabouts) Cali. Anybody taking bets on days above 100 degrees? I haven't checked--mostly 'cus I'm not sure I want to know. While total team numbers are down some the majority of the teams competing are still in the hunt and looking to set themselves up for a killer Cup. Which should make for some hard charging competition all weekend long. Toss into that mix three perennial Champions sitting in Challengers with no more than two of them able to make the move back to Champions in time for Cup and every match from the first prelims on Friday takes on added significance. Will we finally see the *real* Art Chaos? Can VCK hang with the big boys? Have you seen the Champions prelim schedule yet? Who will escape the bracket of doom. It's gonna be a weekend of hot action. And between you and me I'd as soon be relaxing in my recliner and watching the webcast on the flatscreen. Follow the stories and catch all the action on PBA's webcast starting Friday.
Meanwhile, since I'm outta here at first light tomorrow don't expect much for a day or two but I will try to post daily updates from the event. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Gunfighting Objectives

If you missed it (or skipped it) take a quick look at 'Gunfighting: Positions of Advantage/Disadvantage' as a primer for this post. Whereas last time the focus was on drilling to improve your gunfighting this post will explore different aspects of gunfighting in order to more fully understand how to incorporate effective gunfighting into your arsenal. (A blog search using "gunfighting" will also turn up some past posts on the subject for those who are interested in learning more.) And if you missed those posts the first time around--given that some are a few years old--I probably ought to review terminology briefly too. For now I'll limit the definitions to 'edge control', 'contain', 'vision', 'suppress' and 'support'. Edge Control refers to any situation where a player is able to maintain gun up vision over a portion of the playing field. Sometimes this goes uncontested by an opponent but mostly it is contested--which either requires gunfighting to maintain or giving up the edge. The edge is the portion of any prop being played at any given time. Contain is the active effort to deny an opponent's movement. In most situations that means getting wide, moving from the interior of the field toward a wire. Vision in this application is simply that, being able to visually survey a portion of the field. (Vision is also a subset of communication.) Suppress is the active effort to keep an opponent from bringing their gun--and paint--to bear. And Support  is the directed effort of an insert or push (back player) to advance their lead (front) and keep them alive.
Gunfighting objectives. Edge control is critical because it is a position of advantage and allows the player to act instead of react. Having and maintaining edge control allows a player to perform the contain, suppress and support functions. (Think for a moment how a player's role [job] directs the player's decisions and actions and the puzzle pieces should begin to fall into place. More about roles another time.)
It should be readily apparent why contain is worthwhile but let's review some reasons anyway. Effective containment not only fixes one opponent's position but frequently also denies other opponents an opportunity to move too. And a a fixed opponent has limited options while allowing you or a teammate to work for a killing angle. Contain also, in many situations, frees up the lead to more aggressively press for a field position advantage because they aren't being directly countered.
Suppress, like contain, describes both the approximate action and the circumstance or the objective. In both cases it's some volume of paint that performs the function so in order to distinguish the differences it is important to recognize the purpose. With contain it is to deny an opponent the ability to move. With suppress it is the act of denying an opponent the ability to shoot his/her gun. Suppress maintains edge control and more importantly helps free up the lead to move and acquire kills.
Support is unlike the others in that it encompasses all the actions taken by the insert (support) or back (push) in helping the lead move around the field and work for eliminations while staying alive. Effective support begins with edge control--which in turn allows the insert to freely (relatively of course) perform the assorted support functions. The difficulties arise in that most opponents are attempting to do much the same thing and the support player is often bombarded with choices about how best to do the job over the course of a single point.
Which brings us back to knowing your role.

If you have any questions related to gunfighting etc. (or the terminology) post them up in comments and I'll do my best to answer them.