Field Layouts: Fun and Profitable or Boring and Uninspired?

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The average paintball field generally has the same kinds of fields. There are a finite amount of suitable bunker types which are practical, affordable, and which just make sense. The more novelty involved, the more difficult it is to keep a field in suitable condition. A field full of wooden shacks and houses looks cool but even treated wood will show its age after years of weathering and the accelerated effects of being covered in paint fill. Despite this apparent constraint on field creation, there are still plenty of exciting field options where an imaginative field owner can flex his or her muscles.

One aspect of field creation that should be identified immediately is that in some cases, fields are set up in a manner which, whether intentionally or not, facilitate the expenditure of paint. These are not terribly exciting fields to play because they quickly result in lock down. Examples are non airball style speedball fields where bunkers are far apart, creating giant lanes. Another classic example are ungroomed woods where the majority of shooting angles are blocked by twigs. A combination of the two is the ever present woods field with large bunkers that can fit multiple players in them and a giant no man’s land in between. These set ups may be appealing to some entry level players because they can stay in longer, but they are terrible for gameplay. There are essentially no ways to eliminate players on the other team besides shooting a lot of paint and hoping for the best. The problem is exacerbated with surrender rules.

Permanency of structure is another big issue. Hyperball was one of the first permanent speedball field setups. For a long time, hyperball dominated the speedball market. Still, the fields of corrugated PVC drainage tubing posed a few problems. Primarily, it was expensive. Paintball fields clearly did not need the piping to maintain water retention potential, so buying new didn’t grant a field much benefit. Used hyperball bunker availability was based on how many scrap pieces a field owner could get or buy from nearby construction sites. When set up, hyperball didn’t lent itself to mobility. Fields could not be customized often since special shapes frequently required cutting of the tube. Worse, the fields had to be supplemented with wood pieces. No player enjoyed getting shot through the cracks of hyperball bunkers and splatter made refereeing tournaments a nightmare. Airball bunkers have been the tournament standard for some time due to their ease of transportation and setup. Precise measurements can ensure equality of opportunity for both fields. Unfortunately, there are a finite amount of logical field combinations that can be created when tournament formats regurgitate the same types of field layouts from event to event. An outlandish field may be fun for recball players but could alienate the tournament practice crowd.

The field layout needs to be able to accommodate different play styles and different abilities. It should offer the opportunity for adventurous players to aggressively push up a field and it should provide some reasonable “safe spots” for rental players to be able to play and not get immediately shot. There should never be any “invincible” bunkers, and there should always be bunkers that lead up to a large structure so that there are some risks to the defenders. In terms of big woods fields or scenario/milsim based fields, the justification for large bunkers and tons of empty space before them is frequently that this is “realistic”. This is really a terrible excuse for having a bad field layout. There is nothing worse than pressing on the other team and having no option other than to shoot a bunch of paint at their direction. Personally, I stop shooting at this point. I’m not going to waste my money on something that isn’t fun.

Bunker choices also factor a lot into how fun a field can be. Every field owner wants cheap and durable bunkers, but there is sometimes a thin line between something that is junk and something that is fun. I remember playing a tournament in New Hampshire on a field with wrecked cars (complete with rusty, sharp metal pieces jutting out), barbed wire, a disgusting school bus that had never been cleaned, and other ridiculous bunkers. There is no amount of novelty that can justify a safety hazard. In terms of cheap bunkers, pallets and telephone wire spools are popular choices but these leave giant gaps where players can be shot. This is completely frustrating to deal with.

The game style on a recball field can also make things fun or terrible. A long field with a lot of bunkers can accommodate more players. If there aren’t a lot of players on a given day, the action will likely be slow and tedious. While this might be fun for players that enjoy low intensity games or who like to try to sneak around, it doesn’t do much from an entertainment point of view for someone that gets shot out early. In this case, some sort of respawn system would be appropriate. Similarly, an attack and defend style game on a field that offers a huge advantage to one side is generally not a lot of fun for either side to play.

Ultimately, it’s in a field owner’s best interest to have good variety on their fields. Changing up field layouts when possible is a great way to keep field regulars excited about the field. Engaged players will take the game seriously and will shoot paint because they’ll want to win. Stagnant fields will push players to other places. There are endless possibilities for those who are inventive and resourceful enough to invest in new fields.

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