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PSP Northeast Open
Story by Dawn Mills Photos by Raymond Rase and Tina Marucci
Cup - Oakland Assassins
Paintball Sports Promotions brought the fourth event of the 2004 season to an all new venue. The NorthEast Open has a heritage in locations like Atlantic City, Philadelphia and even Nashville. This year it was held at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, PA. This posh getaway location is home to numerous conferences and charity gatherings where the elite meet to get away from the bustle of the city.
The tournament action began on Wednesday with the launch of the 5 man competition. Each team faced 8 preliminary round games, played in a single day.
As the 5 man teams battled it out, NXL commissioner Mike Ratko prepared equipment for enforcing the league's new rules regarding trigger operation. Over the last year, the NXL has faced issues with paintguns ramping velocity on field and increasing rates of fire with paintguns that fire more than one shot per trigger pull. Some paintguns have been pulled if found to be operating illegally, but the problem comes in catching them.
Paintguns set-up to operate illegally, by adding shots with trigger bounce, can typically be caught with a machine pulling the trigger at known rates and comparing the output on a recording chronograph. If however, the paintguns software is designed for cheating and only switches into an illegal mode when the user selects a secret code that is tapped on the trigger, or pressed in a secret sequence on control buttons, the only way it can be caught in testing is if the equipment evaluator knows the secret code.
One solution considered earlier in the year was to simply allow any modes of fire, and that is in a sense what the NXL has now done. A change in the equipment rules regarding paintgun operation was passed prior to the NorthEast Open. NXL rules require a vote of at least 2/3 of the league's franchise holders to be enacted.
New equipment rules allow other modes than semi, provided several restrictions are met, chief amongst which is a rate of fire cap limiting the paintgun to a maximum 15 ball per second rate of fire at all times.
In addition, the paintgun must operate in true semi-automatic mode during the first three shots of a string. After three shots are fired, it may fire in any manner, provided it stays at or under 15 balls per second. When the trigger is released, the paintgun must cease firing, and after the trigger has been released for a full second, it must return to true semi-auto (one shot per trigger pull) operation.
With these caps in place, the incentive to cheat by having illegal modes to increase rate of fire goes away, since increasing rate of fire, and even true full-automatic (hold down the trigger and the paintgun continues to fire) is legal. The requirements that the paintgun cease to fire, and that it operate in semi-auto mode initially are designed for player safety, to minimize the risk of accidental firing of multiple shots in staging areas and other areas where people may not be wearing full protective gear.
The possibilities for cheating by ramping velocity, or firing at rates above 15 balls per second remain however, and the NXL is addressing that with newer technology for on field enforcement. In addition to the hand held Paintball Radarchron chronographs which are linked to the scoreboard, the league is also employing radar gun technology capable of measuring a paintball's velocity without having to stand next to the player being monitored.
Especially with paintguns programmed to ramp the dwell time of their first shot to combat first shot velocity drop or bolt stick problems, tighter in-game velocity enforcement while intended to force players to stay within the velocity limits intentionally, it is also going to increase an emphasis on improved velocity consistency and control.
As the first time a major paintball league has set an on field velocity cap (several years ago, a cap was placed on Turbo mode paintguns for a single event but it didn't apply to true semis) finding a way to enforce it, aside from hoping to catch cheater modes off-field had to be devised. The method developed by the league was to use hyper directional microphones to single out players during game play. Players suspected of shooting too fast, as well as others selected randomly were checked by the sound of their paintguns - with the wave form being analyzed for the rate of its peaks.
Penalties for having a gun programmed to operate illegally, such as firing as a full-auto on the first trigger pull of a string remain as before, the paintgun is declared illegal. Velocity penalties remain as before putting players in the penalty box. Rate of Fire penalties will also be issued as player penalties. A player caught at over 15 but under 16 or less balls per second will be issued a minor penalty. Under 17 balls per second is a double minor penalty, while 17 to less than 20 is a major penalty. A paintgun firing 20 or more balls per second will be declared an illegal marker.
Of the twenty-four rookie five man teams, just 8 would advance to the semi-final match on Thursday morning. In two divisions, the teams would face off against each other, vying for the top two placements in each division to meet in the finals round. Team LTZ won all but their last game in the preliminaries, giving them a solid 682 points. Following them by just two points was Pittsburgh Blaze with a single loss. Darkside Out joined them, though further down in points with two losses and a 588. It was Darkside that set the standard cascade of points for the top 8, joined by Evil Empire, Foundation, 8-Ball Factory, CCX, and Grim set the cut at 434, edging out the next team by 10 points.
The Novice bracket for the five man was considerably smaller, with just 16 teams, the games would eliminate just half of the playing field. Familiar faces of Team Savage took first into the semi round with a single stalemate game with a total of 760. Nebraskapaintball.com did well with a single loss for second into the semi's joined by Toxic Factory Unit who had a stunning start with 3 maxes with 100's but then dropped their last two games of the day. Albany Power Surge had a similar day with three maxes, a couple of losses and a stalemate. Punisherpb.com did well, dropping three, maxing two and taking fifth into the semi round. An old face showed up at the Novice bracket in the Drop Zone Dislexic Dog team who played dropped three and earned a spot for Thursday. Rogue joined them with a three drop prelim and Panhandle Allstars brought up the 8th slot with three losses, a stale and 436 points for the cut, another 10 point difference was between the 8th and 9th spots.
The semi matches were fairly tight for the rookie teams competing. Team LTZ nailed two of their games against Grim and Evil Empire and then played a shooting game against Foundation for a dicey game total of just 20, but earned enough to get first seat into the final round. Grim joined them for the fourth place spot in finals with a 6 point lead over the other two competitors in their bracket. The other bracket for the rookie division saw Pittsburgh Blaze and CCX tie with 202 points with the Pitts team taking the second place spot over CCX since CCX had fallen to them in their head to head game.
The novice teams saw the Dislexic Dogs take top spot with three 94's in the semi round. Nebraska joined them in the fourth place slot in their bracket after a surprising semi round and two losses. Team Savage didn't make the cut of the semi round after a hard fought round with not one but two teams for the two spots available. Savage finished with a loss and two wins, often a solid seat, but even with 194 points, Panhandle Allstars and Albany Power Surge played the bodies better and despite them both dropping games, earned for themselves 206 and 204 points to send them on to finals.
In the finals round, Team LTZ fought against Grim for a 98-4 win while CCX beat out Pittsburgh Blaze 94-12. The novice's first games showed Nebraska bouncing back to their standard performance with a max of 100-0 against the Dislexic Dogs while Albany Power Surge beat Panhandle Allstars 92-16. Rookie round two saw LTZ crush CCX 100-0 and Pitts delivered Grim's second loss of the day in the form of a forfeit. Nebraska took Panhandle Allstars 96-8 and the Dogs beat Albany 98-4. In the third and final round, LTZ had a risky game with Pitts, earning bodies, and just 12 points to Pitts 18. CCX had a forfeited win against Grim, 95-0 but CCX's prior loss of the final match kept them from first, giving the win to LTZ, CCX in second, Pittsburgh Blaze in third and Grim with two forfeited final matches, in fourth place. Novice team Nebraskapaintball.com took top honors after winning each of their final games followed by Drop Zone's Dislexic Dogs in second, Albany Power Surge in third and Panhandle Allstars in fourth.
While the 5 man teams were finishing up, the X Ball teams were just getting started. In Division 1, Dynasty was seated first, giving them a first round bye. Naughty Dogs faced off against Jax-Worriors and that game went to the Dogs 13 to 2, making a pair up between Dynasty and the Dogs on Friday morning. Excessive versus Infamous went to Infamous with a four point lead 9 to 5. Russian Legion made their first PSP X Ball appearance facing off against Avalanche. Legion has long been in the spotlight. Even though their track record in the states has not been as strong as other teams, theyíve developed a reputation for taking a very aggressive and professional approach to team training. It paid off in their game against Avalanche which they won by a single point, 9 to 8.
In Division 2, the first game was a
win for Team No Name, who defeated Tippmann Effect 9 to 3. Hostile
Kids put another 9 to 3 victory on the board by beating Team RUSH.
Fury defeated EXS 10 to 3. Punishers came out on top when they faced
Ignition 8 to 4. Oklahoma Legion defeated Thunderstruck 11 to 4.
Diesel fell to Team Xtreme 9 to 6. Oklahoma Outlaws beat Top Gun
Factory 8 to 6. Drive posted a 9 to 3 victory over Southside Empire
and Precision defeated Wicked Air Sportz Factory 9 to 3. In the second
round matches Team Ultimate defeated Team No Name 9 to 4. Hostile
Kids posted a 7 to 5 win over Fury and Ground Zero Silver was beaten by
Punishers 8 to 3. Docís Raiders took a single point win over Oklahoma
Legion 5 to 4 and
In Division 3 the day started with Team CDR beating Sonic 7 to 3. Empress fell to Hudson Valley X-Treme 12 to 3. Demented Kidz beat Cincinnati All Stars 8 to 5 and ECX Shakedown fell to X-Factor 2 to 10. DC Devastation defeated Panhandle Allstars 9 to 4. Denver Altitude won their game against AfterMath 9 to 6. Gravity weighed in heavily against CT Shift, bringing home a score of 9 to 5. PBX Jesters beat Eastcoast Fury 7 to 5.
Along with the PSPís X-Ball competition, the pro players of the NXL took to their field. For these teams the Northeast Open was an important event. It marked the end of the 2004 regular play season. At the completion of the tournament, the top ranked teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be awarded their trophies, and the top ranked team in the nation would receive the Commissioner's Cup. Their ranking would then determine their position in the playoffs to be held at the World Cup in Orlando, Florida. Going into the Northeast Open the Oakland Assassins had already secured the Western Conference title. They led Chicago Aftershock 27 to 14, which means Chicago would have to win 7 games to get ahead of Oakland. When it comes to series points a win earns two points, a tie earns a single point, and a loss earns zero points. With only 4 games left in Shockís schedule this wasnít going to happen. The Eastern Conference was a different story. Baltimore Trauma was the conference leader with 22 points, but trailing close behind were last yearís champions the Philly Americans at 19 points (2 wins away) New York had 18 points and Miami 17. The entire conference was close enough in score that any of its four teams could potentially take the trophy home. The commissioner's cup, however was nearly in the hands of the Western powerhouse, Oakland Assassins. Trauma could get it but that would require them win at least 3 of their four games, and Oakland to lose theirs.
The day for the NXL started with New York Xtreme defeating Chicago Aftershock 10 to 8. Baltimore Trauma defeated Miami 9 to 8. Oakland Assassins took out the Los Angeles Ironmen 12 to 6. The last game of the day pitted San Diego Legacy against Detroit Strange. Detroit won that match 11 to 6.
The new rate of fire enforcement proved not to be trouble free, as background noise caused some interference with the sound based measuring equipment. Over the next few months, the league expects to further refine the rate of fire measuring equipment to make it simple and reliable to spot check a playerís firing rate from the edge of the field during game play.
As always, Friday meant the start of 10 man preliminary rounds. With X-Ball going strong and even 5 man going well, at the fourth event of the season which is usually the smallest, 10 man was a smaller affair. 6 rookie teams came out to the tournament, 12 novice teams and 8 pro-am teams. This led to a much more relaxed schedule, starting games mid morning and wrapping up by mid-afternoon to split the games over the traditional Friday to Saturday spread rather than lumping them into a single day.
Division 1 X Ball started out with Dynasty beating the Naughty Dogs by a single point, 7 to 6. Russian Legion kept their momentum from their first win and took down Infamous 11 to 5, a very solid win against a strong team.
In Division 2, Tippmann Effect fell to Precision 8 to 4, knocking them out of the running. EXC defeated ICU Rattlesnake 8 to 6, taking them out of the tournament. Ignition took their second loss from Oklahoma Outlaws at 2 to 10. Team Extreme knocked out Thunderstruck 11 to 3. Diesel eliminated Oklahoma Legion with a 14 to 3 victory. Top Gun Factory was taken out by Ground Zero Silver 8 to 3. Fury defeated SouthSide Empire 8 to 5 sending them home. Wicked Air Sportz received their second loss from Team No Name at 11 to 3. In the winnerís bracket Docís Raiders beat the Punishers 10 to 1, sending the Punisherís to the second chance bracket. PB Fanatics Twisted Revolution defeated Hoganís Alley Factory Team 7 to 3. Xtreme Sports Factory Team kept themselves in the winnerís bracket by a single point when they beat Drive 8 to 7.
Empress was eliminated in the first round of the dayís Division 3 games, as they fell to Sonic with a score of 3 to 10. ECX Shakedown knocked out the Cincinnati All Stars with a 9-5 punch. The Panhandle All Stars were also taken out in that round when Aftermath defeated them 8 to 9. CT Shift knocked out East Coast Fury 6 to 4. In the winnerís bracket team CDR beat Hudson Valley Extreme 9 to 5. Demented Kids defeated X Factor 8 to 6. DC Devastation posted a 13 to 2 win over Denver Attitude and the PBX Jesters beat Gravity 7 to 3.
Fridayís NXL games started off with Oakland defeating Baltimore 8 to 7, ensuring that they would be going home with the Commissionerís Cup. The Philly Americans defeated San Diego Legacy 12 to 7. Chicago posted a 12 to 8 victory over Miami. New York Xtreme beat the Los Angeles Ironmen 10 to 8. In the final match up of the day Philly beat Detroit 13 to 7.
The ten man competition was a tight race for the three divisions of rookie, novice and pro-am with only 6 teams in rookie, 12 in novice and an even 8 in pro-am. The lack of teams in pro-am would mean they'd all head to semi-finals and prelims were a ranking mechanism. Novice had some interest in weeding out four of the teams. Momma's Boys proved worthy after winning all of their eight prelim games and setting a nice high point of 771 for first slot into semi's on Sunday. Rock-It Kids were right behind them with two drops followed by Enemy just two points behind. Sin dropped three for fourth place as did Misfit Toys for fifth. Crush dropped half of their games, but were well enough ahead of the pack that it didn't impact their moving on. Chaos had a rough couple of days, but pulled off 7th into semi finals after five drops and were joined in semi's in eighth place by Fox 4 Darkside who also dropped five games for the cut of just 315. The rookie squad dumped just two of their preliminary teams sending four teams onto an automatic final match. Little Fusion dropped three games, a staggering number for first place of 504. They were joined by Cartel Kidz and Anarchy who both dropped four games and Team Aggressive who dropped five for a total cut of 324. With less teams, the competition was definitely a factor and scores that normally wouldn't make the cut, did in Pennsylvania this year.
Saturdayís Division one games saw Infamous knocking out Jax Worriors by handing them their second loss 14 to 2. Naughty Dogs did the same to Excessive 6 to 4. Then Russian Legion faced Dynasty, and lost by only a single point at 8 to 9. Infamous took out the Naughty Dogs 7 to 4. This put Infamous versus Russian Legion on Sundayís schedule to see who would face Dynasty in the final game.
Division Two saw Precision taking out EXS with a 12 to 2 game. Oklahoma Outlaws knocked out Team Xtreme 6 to 5. Ground Zero Silverís 9 to 4 game against Diesel took Diesel out of the running. Fury knocked out Team No Name with a single point win at 7 to 6. In Precisionís second game of the day they eliminated Punishers with a 9 to 3 game. Team Ultimate took out Oklahoma Outlaws 8 to 4. Ground Zero Silver knocked out Drive with a 10 to 5 game. Fury was taken out of the running by the Hoganís Alley Factory Team 8 to 4. In the winnerís bracket Docís Raiders beat the Hostile Kids 6 to 5, and PB Fanatics Twisted Revolution came down hard on Xtreme Sports Factory 14 to 3. In the left bracket Precision was eliminated when they fell to Team Ultimate 4 to 7. Hoganís Alley Factory Team knocked out Ground Zero Silver with a single point at 6 to 5.
Division Threeís games started in the second chance bracket with X-Factor eliminating Aftermath 11 to 4 and Hudson Valley X-Treme taking out CT Shift 7 to 6. In the winnerís bracket Demented Kidz beat Team CDR 9 to 3, and DC Devastation posted a 10 to 4 victory over PBX Jesters. With CDR and Jesters moved to the left side bracket, Gravity was eliminated by ECX Shakedown 10 to 4. X-Factor knocked out Hudson Valley X-Treme 10 to 4. ECX Shakedown also eliminated Team CDR 9 to 2. X-Factor took out the PBX Jesters 7 to 4 in the divisionís last match of the day.
On the NXL field the Los Angeles Ironmen took it to Miami Effect with a massive 19 to 3 win. Baltimore Trauma beat Detroit Strange 12 to 7. Chicago Aftershock took home a single point win over San Diego Legacy at 9 to 8. Oakland beat New York 10 to 8. In the last game of the day Miami Effect got rolling again, earning 8 points against Phillyís 13.
More news for the NXL players and franchise owners came off the field as it was announced by Dick Clark Productions that a TV deal for the league had been agreed upon. This announcement came approximately one year after Dick Clark Productions announced at the Philladelphia Open that they had agreed to represent the National X-Ball League in an effort to get an NXL television show into production and on air. As contracts were still in the process of being completed, DCP was limited in what they were able to say, but league commissioner Mike Ratko confirmed that the deal is in place to have the NXL on the air before the end of 2004, and not just on cable, but on one of the ďbig 5Ē broadcast networks.
Sunday saw sixteen 10 man teams hit the fields for semi-finals with the rookie squads ready for their finals matches later in the day. Novice teams held two divisions of four teams, each team fighting for the top two ranked spots in their divisions for the move to finals. Momma's Boys pulled off the first place spot with an easy 289. They were joined in their division by the fourth place seat of Sin who only dropped a single game, to the Momma's Boys. In the other division, Enemy and Rock It Kids both had a single loss to their name, but enough to ensure a trip to the last three games of the event. ProAm teams were a familiar bunch of Justice, Fusion, Cartel and were joined by Hood.
Rookie ten man teams hit the field in
the afternoon for their finals rounds and Cartel Kidz pulled off a smashing
victory with three solid wins. Team Aggressive and Little Fusion
were in a tight race with a drop to each of them going into their third
and final game as Team Aggressive scraped up a few extra bodies against
Anarchy to secure second place, leaving Little Fusion for third and Anarchy
in fourth. Novice's Enemy, perhaps a surprise to some who've followed
the winning streak of the Momma's Boys, won without a drop in the finals
match, to give them a nice first place win. Momma's Boys had a second
place win after their drop to Enemy. Sin had a single win and still
further surprising, Rock It Kids dropped each of their games for fourth
place. Fusion had a good day after
Division 3 was the first X Ball division to come to completion. ECX Shakedown bested X-Factor 7 to 4. This knocked out X-Factor, putting them in fourth place. Shakedown went on to beat Demented Kidz 5 to 4, leaving the Kidz in third place. This meant that ECX Shakedown would have three X Ball games in one day, as they entered the final game against undefeated DC Devastation. Coming into the day fresh, Devastation won the game, and the tournament with a score of 7 to 5.
Division 2 kicked off with Xtreme Sports Factory edging past Team Ultimate 5 to 4, knocking them out. Hostile Kids was eliminated by Hoganís Alley Factory Team 6 to 5. When these two winners faced each other, it was Hoganís Alley that came out on top 7 to 3, giving Team Ultimate a fourth place finish. This put Hoganís Alley against Docís Raiders, and again Hoganís won, with a score of 8 to 2, leaving Docís in third place. This made a very tough row to hoe for Hoganís Alley, putting them in the finals game against undefeated PB Fanatics Twisted Revolution as Revolutionís first X Ball game of the day, and Hoganís fourth. That final game went to Hoganís Alley giving them first place by a 12 to 3 win.
The NXL's regular play finished up on Sunday, earlier than most days, as there were only four games to play. Baltimore Trauma defeated Chicago Aftershock 11 to 7, and became the Eastern Conference champions. Philly posted a 10 to 8 win over San Diego before Oakland beat Detroit 12 to 5. The final game of the day pitted San Diego Legacy against New York Xtreme, and the boys from New York came out on top 15 to 6.
In Division 1, Russian Legion took it to Infamous, beating them 15 to 6, putting Infamous in third place. Dynasty found themselves going into the final game against Russian Legion with Johnny Percheck suspended on an illegal gun penalty. According to Ultimate Judge Robert ďRosieĒ Rose, the rate of fire cap and on field monitoring of velocity and rate of fire being put into place in the NXL are likely to trickle down to PSPís divisional X Ball, providing that the equipment needed to check rate of fire on field proves to be practical and reliable. The final for Division One received special attention. It was re-scheduled from its initial time in order to allow for the use of NXL referees to supplement the PSP referees in judging what was certain to be a dramatic game. Russian Legion definitely brought their game picking up a 5 point lead with a 6 to one score as the first half drew to a close. While Dynasty started picking up points, Russian Legion kept amassing them as well for a final score of 10 to 5, and a tournament win.
As the games drew to a close at one of the PSP's most picturesque venues to date, plans were already underway for the series' final event of the year - the World Cup to be held at Disney's Wide World of Sports two months later in Orlando Florida. In preparation, the PSP rules committee will be evaluating the possibility of rule changes to follow the NXL's mode and rate of fire restrictions, while the NXL develops and refines the needed equipment to enforce those rules and finalizes production details for their broadcast television debut.