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. 


Bruce Anderson said...

I love rules changes. Why? Because it creates an atmosphere where the meta game is constantly changing.

The meta game being that part of the game that isn't played out on the field, but in your mind and in the pits.

Paintball is often described to be chess-like, with guns. In the past 5+ years it has moved into the arena of speed chess; a game dominated by cash flow and repetition of a known layout.

The smart players and coaches will find a way to win. Those who rely on brute force and cash to win will have to take a back seat while the new meta is sorted out.

Anonymous said...

10pods per team plus a hopper is right. Limitations on the size of the pod or hopper? Personally, I think if a player wants to use the goofball pinokio for a little advantage then let them.

Michael Brozak said...

Paul - to indicate that by limiting paint that we will some how return to the stone age of paintball just isn't fair. I have had numerous discussion about this at a local level and have suggested that some of our fellow competing teams at least try it at practice. All have loved it and players leave the field excited and all smiles. We are currently running a race to 3 w/ limited paint, but not limited to paint per point but limited paint per match. this way it allows players to play both sides of the game. If a team decided that they want to go out and blow through their paint by shooting lanes and racing down the field then they do that, but what we find is the opposing team that may have not shot as much due to player eliminations has the chance to press the other team in the end and has an opportunity to come back and really make things exciting. We also find that players are even communicating more on the field. Our race to 3 format is 6 pods and a hopper per player to start the series, we find that players are making calls between points as to who needs what paint to carry for the next point (backs a little more, fronts a little less). The only refill is air. Limits on paint per point just won't work - every point will be the same - use all you have then sit and wait. If its per match then a team can go full out and try to win 3-5-7-2 straight (whatever the race to) and its still crazy exciting. We even run back to back points - 2 points then break for air (3mins) then back to run 2 more then break (3mins) then final point if necessary. Give it some thought... Really

Baca Loco said...

I think you personalized my point and read into the post things that aren't there. I'm all for restricted paint at beginner and novice levels just as I favor a lower ROF for those players. Lower than PSP Pro even. Always have. :) For the simple reason it allows for fuller player development.
If however you think you'll get similar results from D1 level players you might want to give it some thought. Really. :)
Truth is I fully expect the competitive game to trend toward restricted paint in the not too distant future whether I like it or not. And my point is (and was) that there will be a host of unintended consequences as a result. Will they be good for the game? Will they turn players away from the game? I don't know but I think giving it some thought doesn't do any harm.

Anonymous said...

Why bash it before you get on the field and try it! The best part was the return of the mehanical marker comment. I watched a ex pro win a 3 on 1 with his cocker in a limited paint league .We also do paint per match not per point. One problem we have run into is long drawn out point like baca mentioned we created a 5min timer rule to correct this but I think it would be better to go to 4 quarters instead of two halfs . The most exciting plays happen when they are forced by the clock lets see more of those moves and plays.

Michael Brozak said...

Paul -
I agree totally that they shouldn't have changed the ROF at the pro level nor should they limit paint even though like you said it may happen. Just didn't make sense given their skill set and resources. I would however love to see your suggested limitations be applied to the lower divisions. Would you be inclined to agree that match limited paint might work better then the per point application? Maybe they could set benchmark levels per division / race to ?

Race to 2 - a hopper and 4 pods per player
Race to 2 cost per match:
3800 balls per match = 1.9 cases @ $45 per case = $85.50 per match
WCO had 7 matches played to the finals - that would have been $598.50 total paint cost.

Race to 4 - a hopper and 8 pods per player
Race to 4 cost per match:
6600 balls per match = 3.3 cases @ $45 per case = $148.50 per match
WCO had 7 matches played to the finals - that would have been $1039.50 total paint cost.

Does the math look right? Do those numbers sound doable?

Baca Loco said...

While I'm not a fan of the current Pro ROF I understand why it was done and the reality is that most "pro" teams too struggle with the costs of competing.
With RaceTo-2 you max out a match at 3 points so it shouldn't be too difficult to determine a workable limit on the paint.
With RaceTo-4 teams can play anywhere from 4 to 7 points per match. Makes it harder to determine a workable limit. Seems like the uncertain point total per match is a concern. At a minimum there will be a learning curve for players and teams trying it out. Not a deal breaker but another hurdle nonetheless.

Joshua W. said...

I'm not sure whether this is a legit concern or not but just throwing it out there. Won't paint companies try to maintain their profit margin? If people start shooting less paint, companies still have to bankroll the entire company and hopefully make a little extra to grow. At first it might provide a cost break but wouldn't companies eventually adjust prices to maintain their current income?

Baca Loco said...

VFTD discussed that idea back in June here: http://viewfromthedeadbox.blogspot.com/2014/06/brave-new-limited-paint-world.html

Reiner Schafer said...

Good question Joshua, but I think tournament play is still a fairly small portion of a paint manufacturer's total sales, therefore a decline in a small portion of their business is not going to affect their bottom line a great deal. A small price adjustment may need to be made, but it will not offset the savings tournament players will see in reduced volume.

Michael Brozak said...

Wouldn't it also be true that if tournament play became more affordable that maybe we would see more participation, so more players would equal more paint consumption. I won't be immediate of course.

Baca Loco said...

The manufacturers are already in trouble.

That would indeed be a hoped for trickle down effect.

Anonymous said...

Baca is right when he said hoped for trickle down. The trickle would come to the tournament series. The vast majority would progress to big game/scenario style GI Joe paintball.

Michael Brozak said...

Anon 7:23
Why would the vast majority progress to big / scenario? If that were the case wouldn't they already be coming. I thought this discussion was about tournament play and paint limits.

Reiner Schafer said...

Yes Baca, manufacturers are already in trouble and further price adjustments may take place because of that fact, but that does not change the fact that a moderate decrease in sales from a fairly small segment of the market would only call for a small price adjustment due to that scenario alone.

Reiner Schafer said...

I know history cannot be undone, but I truly believe that had paintball evolved right from the start with restricted paint limits, both in tournament and recreational play, the industry overall would be much healthier. It would be different and the play would most certainly be different, but I don’t believe we would have less participation. On the contrary, I’m quite sure the participation would be higher. But I have a feeling that ship has sailed.

If a transition to limited paint was deemed desirable, then it would need to be done gradually in my opinion. It would start at the very lowest level with incremental steps up one division per year until the goal was met.

Baca Loco said...

Which is a huge part of the "problem." You make paintball sound monolithic as if someone can make that decision and just do it. Even if the PSP were to make that decision and attempt to force its adoption that means nothing to the fields, other promoters, scenario gamers, etc. to say nothing of the howls that would come from divisional. They tried trickle up with ROF and it didn't work.

Reiner Schafer said...

Agreed, that's why I think that ship has sailed.

MissyQ said...

I don't think the LTD paint ship has sailed, simply because its a great format and I have seen it be so successful in the UK. I think it suits woodland play more than arena-play, but it could transition across with some work.
It adds an element of strategy if the teams are allocated paint at each stage (prelims, semi's and finals), and can use it as they wish. It loses this element if the team are allowed an amount of paint on the field per point, or per match. If done right, teams will look for cheaper points against weaker teams so that they can stockpile paint for their toughest games. Long points will be very costly. teams that sit&shoot will have to change their style as that strategy will ensure they never get out of the prelims.
It's not so much that it will save the teams money, but that they will know what the bill will be way in advance. There are no $urprises with LTD paint.

Potentially I could see a bright future for a LTD paint format. Doubt it will ever happen though. Too big a change.

Anonymous said...

Missy has the best idea (X number of cases allotted per team in the prelims, Y in the semis, etc).

The PSP already had an enforcement method with their ID card scanners... simply scan in the cases of paint as the team enters the paddocks.

Players would still be incentive to cheat of course...

Michael Brozak said...

How will you determine how much paint gets allocated?

How do you determine who the weaker teams are?

What happens if you over allocate and run out before you complete all your prelim matches? forfeiture? Is it safe to think that we would have some very unhappy teams if they don't at least get to play all of their matches in the prelims at the $2850.00 entry fee?

At least if done by match, they would get to play every match they can. By point teams would have to bring more paint based upon the max number points that can possible be played.