Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's All About the Paint

Sometimes. Right after Dallas Damage player Jason FK Edwards posted a question on his Facebook page. As an independent Pro team this year that resurrected its fortunes late in the off season the team is buying its own paint. Seems they'd been using KEE but opted for GI on Sunday thinking it the better choice for the conditions--and GI wouldn't sell them any paint. Shocked? Surprised? Confused?
You shouldn't be. While I can't confirm it personally I'm sure working the paint angle dates to earliest competitive paintball. It's been a part of the game since I've been involved in the sport. And it isn't just the industry, it's the teams too. Look, it's a topic seldom discussed openly because everyone is so dependent on paint and more importantly, sponsorship paint but since Jason went public VFTD has decided to continue this conversation.
For a variety of reasons even good paint can be inconsistent from event to event. When it is there's an incentive among the Pros to try and balance out deficiencies. Now obviously a sponsored team can't very well openly use the competition's paint so deals get done. Frequently it's for OTB paint. Just enough to give your laners their best shot at getting early eliminations. And if Team A hooks up Team B they know Team B will return the favor somewhere down the road. That's just one example.
Perhaps less well known is the role the paint companies themselves play on occasion. While there is some outrage over the incident after it went public consider the situation from GI's point of view. Damage, a very good team, is about to play their flagship team, Heat, in an elimination match. Does it make sense to help the competition? OF course not but as soon as the option to manipulate who gets what paint enters the equation it necessarily lessens the competition and also creates the possibility of more egregious manipulations. Imagine a scenario where 3 of 4 semifinalists are sponsored by one paint company. They are in the money but what if they have preferences regarding the outcome? Could they, would they disburse paint to their own teams based on a desire to manipulate the final result? But why would they do that? Think of one reason and the possibility exists.
It's been one of top end paintball's dirty little secrets for a long time. I am told the PSP is going to address the issue in the near future. So instead of continuing to beat the bruised remains of the dead horse I usually flog unmercifully I'm going in another direction to close. Most of you should have heard by now that the rumored would be PSP competitor league is real and they are working to introduce a competing league. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PBA vs. PSP Pro teams?

Right, the Pro (webcast) schedule is out. Although exactly how that's gonna play out in terms of the competition results is still uncertain. All the Pro teams have been guaranteed four matches but the PSP is still playing fast and loose with the format--and they're doing it without even bothering to inform the teams that have already committed to playing. Look, I get the bind they're in. The PSP that is. Too many Pro teams disbanded in the off season and it's messed with the Champs and Challengers brackets. And while the rules for 2014 suggested the opening 2015 event would be one big Pro party it didn't provide any real details about how that party would be structured. (And the 2014 rulebook also implied the relegation matches at Cup wouldn't amount to anything.) So along comes 2015 and other items take precedence and before you know it the event is just around the corner and the Pro details have yet to be formalized. Oops. ) There's also the matter of logistics. A full Champs and Challengers uses two fields and the released schedule doesn't. Participation is down over last year and the savings on a field with ref crew is significant.
However, the circumstances, while possibly understandable, aren't relevant. The PSP's job #1 is to provide a paintball competition in accordance with known rules and format. And in this case it isn't happening. Not only isn't it happening but perhaps even more inexplicable is the lack of communication between the league and the Pro teams affected. One might even suggest it's blatant misrepresentation given the Pro teams have paid entries based on expectations that won't be fulfilled. If the circumstances don't rise to that level they demonstrate a clear lack of respect (or regard) for the competing teams and a willingness to put the PSP (and the PBA?) ahead of the implied competition promises made in the rules.
It's clear to VFTD that the priorities in the decision-making process was the PBA webcast and the available cost savings to be had in not setting up a Challengers field. Those choices forced the league to modify the format and alter the competition. While perhaps justifiable operationally it's completely inconsistent with the competition the league promised. The premier league in the world is behaving like a fly by night low rent local promotion out to line its pockets first. For whatever reason the PSP has gotten this completely wrong. The teams don't compete for the benefit of the webcast and the interests of the webcast shouldn't have any influence on the structure of the competition. For years the Millennium was routinely mocked for not having a rulebook but the PSP has one upped them. They have a rulebook but ignore it when it proves inconvenient. Of course on the flip side you get what you're willing to accept. If the Pro teams are willing to be disrespected and dictated to--guess what--eventually they will be. The bigger question may be how long will the teams continue to put up with it?  

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another Kind of March Madness

Major League Paintball's leading series kick off the 2015 season this month. PSP Dallas is less than a week away and the Millennium's Med Cup is the last weekend of the month. As of Tuesday morning--after the official final deadline for entry--Dallas was at 125, down more than 25% from last year's Dallas opener. One explanation that hadn't occurred to me before may be simple as the weather. Not only was Dallas cold last year but the worst of the winter weather has hit much of the country in January and February and shows little sign of abating in some places. Med Cup numbers could be similar but the MS hasn't yet posted registrants in the Semi-Pro divisions and the Open divisions are a bit thin. While there's still time for teams to jump in VFTD is projecting event numbers around 110 teams. The MS has seen a fair amount of team turnover in recent seasons with a trend that's in decline. Until this coming event the PSP had been growing over the last two or three seasons. The MS made some off season moves to change the pattern and it will be interesting to watch what happens in both leagues over the course of the season.
The rumor mill continues to churn regarding the PSP with tales of high profile buyers trying to buy the Dye shares along with competing rumors of a competing start-up national league looking to use the current uncertainties to make a move. So far Dye is standing pat--at least according to the latest rumor--and as more industry sponsors sign on with the PSP the likelihood of an upstart league trying to gain a foothold after Dallas seems unlikely.
Across the pond the MS announced an exhibition to run concurrently with the Med Cup in which top Champions League teams will play using a limited paint per point format modification. That should attract the attention of all the teams attending and give everyone a chance to see it in action or actually try it out. There has been talk for many years about limiting paint as an alternative to reduced ROF or other efforts to reduce paint costs and variability. By offering an exhibition the Millennium is taking a reasonable step in that direction while respecting their competing teams.
Remaining across the pond VFTD mentioned the X Series last week and I have some additional information. Begun last year in Germany largely as an alternative for local venues to the top heavy DPL and teams interested in something a little different--the X Series uses a modified PSP rulebook and field layouts--the league has grown substantially over last season with the recent announcement they would have 150 teams competing across the series of events. For the host venues the big deal is the DPL is modeled on typical soccer league practice which sees much of the money stay at the top of the league while the X Series offers greater monetary rewards to the host venues. Of more interest is the fact that in one season the league has attracted such significant growth. Last year the DPL had over 300 teams competing across Germany. It remains to be seen whether or not the X Series will cut into those numbers or if competitive paintball in Germany is still growing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coach Billy Wing

Okay, this is an interesting development. Far as I know Billy still lives here in Florida and that commute to Cali sucks. It gets old fast. I'm curious to see how this works out. Shane and Billy have successfully worked together before so that shouldn't be an issue except that past iteration of the Ironmen isn't the way the current Ironmen roster play. Will the team remain the same hard chargers they were last season or will Billy's influence moderate their aggression? It will be interesting to see what happens in Dallas.  The other thing is Billy has been designing PSP layouts in recent seasons and he can't very well do the "secret" Pro layouts if he's coaching the Ironmen, can he? 

Monday, March 2, 2015

"True" Semi Revisited

I spent much of this past weekend hanging out with Dave Painter and the Upton 187 Crew here in Florida. The guys got to experience a typical winter monsoon on Saturday but were rewarded on Sunday with sunshine and temperatures around 80 while the northeast got some more snow to go with their frigid temps and, er, more snow. Damage came out to play and it was good to see those guys too as they have a 'second' chance to keep competing and keep the team together.
After watching the teams go at it for a couple of days I've also had the chance to observe the PSP's "True" Semi in action. If the "true" purpose, as has been rumored, was to save the paint sponsors some cheddar by reducing sponsored paint usage--it's working. For right now. I have no doubt that paint usage among the pro teams will be down in Dallas. That might change some during the season if and when the players become more accustomed to shooting the mode and continue to improve. Even so I expect overall usage will decline season-over-season from last year to this year. One of the other things I was curious about was how different brands of markers might perform. Would one gun be easier to shoot fast or sustain a ROF simply because of ergonomics, some quirk of design or software or the reverse, would any be noticeably harder to shoot. The jury is still out on that one--at least for me--as the sample over the weekend was MacDev and Planet Eclipse and the most readily apparent factor remains the individual player. Otherwise some of the guys could approach what sounded like about 10 or 11 bps for brief periods with 7 or 8 being closer to the norm. (Actual ROF may prove to be different but I'm confident my guesstimate is ballpark.) At this stage the biggest difference is handedness--which hand a player is shooting with, his dominant hand or off hand and more practice is going to be required to get everyone up to speed. Or at least what constitutes speed in the new mode.
The other and certainly more important question is whether or not the new mode will open up play and create more excitement and interest among a paintball audience. This past weekend the teams were playing the divisional layout for Dallas. The answer is maybe. As previously suggested here it will depend primarily on the teams and the layout. The current divisional layout creates some opportunities for creative players in the mid-game and close out phases of play but whether or not that carries over to the pros competition layout in Dallas and matches where the score matters remains to be seen. At this stage I still expect to see mostly the kind of ball we're used to with the possible exception that the pace across the board will accelerate and broadly become more aggressive. This could happen because the risk/reward balance has been altered by the new mode but still requires the right kind of layout to encourage taking advantage of the potential the new mode makes possible. A couple of weeks and we'll all know more.
UPDATE: Left Coast sources are of the opinion that both Dye and Empire guns are easier to shoot faster in "True" Semi than their Planet equivalent. Will be interesting to hear more on the subject from the players.