Sunday, February 15, 2009

Billy Ball – First Impressions

OK, I’ve known about Billy Ball for about a week now, so I guess not really first impressions, but the first chance I’ve had to sit down, think and write about it.

For those that haven’t heard anything about Billy Ball, I’ll fill you in on the little that I know about it. First off the name. I don’t like it. Apparently it was nick named Billy Ball by the Smarts Parts staff when they played it on their field with the Gardner brothers, among others. The idea came from Bill Gardner and was devised so his kids (one names Billy Jr.) would have an easy introduction to play paintball. Basically it’s a new mode on the board for the Smart Parts Vibe rental marker (can also be used on the Vibe’s more woodsball counterpart, the SP-1) that sets the ROF (rate of fire) to .5 bps (balls per second) or 1 ball every 2 seconds. Billy Ball has been played at the All American paintball field for a while now and has met with positive feedback from beginners to pro teams using it as a practice tool.

I haven’t played Billy Ball. I’ve played all pump games but even pump markers can shoot faster than .5 bps. I can honestly say that I enjoy playing all pump games much more than I enjoy playing with semis, especially electronic semis capable of high ROF. I have a feeling waiting that 2 seconds for another chance to shoot someone, especially if they are moving, might be very frustrating. On the other hand, the game is supposed to be played with everyone using the same mode, so everyone will be “handicapped” the same. I think it will be a lot of fun and I’ve always held that for paintball to be a real competition, everyone should be equipped alike. But I don’t think we are going to see professional Billy Ball leagues popping up.

I do however think that Billy Ball will be a great tool for field owners interested in growing their sport (and their business). This will be very popular for younger players that are now forced to play with markers capable of shooting 5 or 6 bps, and often grouped with players that have equipment capable of shooting much faster. This will be popular for those kids who are now scrambling to get behind a bunker somewhere near the back of the field when the game starts (we’ve all seen them). It will be popular with the kids who are just plain scared to play paintball the way it is played at virtually all paintball fields in the world today.

I can see Billy Ball becoming very popular as a complete birthday package for 10 to 14 year olds. One of the advantages of Billy Ball will be the fact that far fewer paintballs will be needed and the cost can almost be fixed beforehand. A birthday party of 10 with a case of paintball will most likely be able to have a 3 hour party and mom and dad won’t have to cough up more money for extra paintballs.

The new rental Vibe with Billy Ball mode won’t fit into every fieldowner’s business plan. Not every fieldowner will think Billy Ball is a good thing. I know some think letting people play Billy Ball will give people an unrealistic picture of paintball and they will be overwhelmed when they step onto a field where “real” paintball is played. To that I say, that may be true, but those same people are already overwhelmed stepping onto a “real” paintball field. Billy Ball will give some people a chance to experience paintball in an atmosphere where they will actually have fun and will want to come back a second time. If they continue to come back and continue to have fun, eventually those people are going to move to regular paintball. And if they don’t and end up wanting to play Billy Ball for their whole paintball life, let them. Who are we to judge how people should enjoy their paintball? I enjoy paintball best at about 1 or 2 bps playing with pumps. Why shouldn’t others enjoy paintball at .5 bps?

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