In my last post, I changed things up from my usual focus on the equipment, and discussed gameplay for once. I ended up getting into closed field games versus "everything else" (such as more open games, CQB games, and for lack of a better term, anything tactical), and how I had a bit of a distaste for the former for a variety of reasons. That got me thinking a little more on the concept of field games, their inherent weaknesses, and the age-old debate surrounding equipment performance in this hobby.
What I have come to realize, is that the field-based game is inherently quite vulnerable to the effects of escalating gear specifications. It is this, that I believe is the source of much of the concern, and much of the antagonism, toward the evolution of gear in this sport that I have long failed to understand myself. I have long been a competitor in the arms race, and a very hard-driving player of my gametypes with regards to gear, and while that may offer some bias it also gives me perspective.
Let's go back to a phrase I had used: foam speedball. When you take a 100' or 150' square arena and throw a dozen stock class players into it, you get a ROF-dominated game. SC has a lot of common gear that can create insane and sustained volumes of fire. Due to the limited cover and physical layout of the fight, it partially becomes a matter of who can get the greatest number of darts downrange. For instance, at a casual campus war I found the most effective loadout for me was my old SAW and a secondary Rayven. My strategy? Simple. Stay on the trigger until all bad guys were dead. I sprayed the whole field and kept them pinned, and our lighter guys ran in and bunkered them or nabbed them as they dodged my shots. Real straightforward, not really demanding of any real tactics. What did it require? A hundred rounds up in smoke in a one-minute match, which is not exaggerated, plus what my teammates furiously spammed. Similarly, nowadays I would run a game like this with my Rapidstrike, and play smarter and with more trigger restraint, but it is still a matter of darts on tap.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, spamfest games can be fun, in their own way (not saying I prefer them...) but it does illustrate a fundamental flaw, or at least weakness, of the field game.
Now, let's talk about NIC nerf. Specifically, why the Proper NIC has a longstanding opposition to improving the equipment in great and fundamental ways past the modern day field ruled by manual springers and manually pumped airguns.
Of course, the safety aspect of the above is surmountable, for example by the use of a chronograph and enforced standards of safe design for pneumatic launchers, and due to the fact that some of the concerns such as a catastrophic and random high-velocity shot from actual setups are myths and not truths or likelihoods. However, one aspect remains that cannot be addressed by science and that is the desire to avoid "generalized effectiveness" or ROF escalating out of control, because that would be much more of harm to NIC than to us (i.e., stock class nerf) where it is already a factor.
You see, aside from the fundamental differences in the origins and approach of NIC versus stock class nerf that render stock class much more progressive and objective and much more favorable to friendly competition and hardcore wargaming whereas NIC strives to be a silly extension of Nerf guns as a toy, there is a mechanical difference at work here. The muzzle energy of NIC guns, which shoot approximately one-gram darts at 200-300fps, is much higher than stock class which typically has 130fps as a safety limit for public games. That complicates the task of building something wieldy that can spit out those shots at 6+ per second.
In stock class, we have (and have been working toward for years, example being the Stampede system as far back as 2010) numerous ways to shoot darts at "full" velocity with extreme rapidity and convenience. I have been, for years, a primarily full-auto player, and I shoot about as hard as I am allowed to shoot and get as much range and punch as I can at any given game, and I am doing this with mostly converted toy-grade stuff, bought from stores and fitted with upgrades. That is not the case with NIC nerf. Boosting the rate of fire and using stored energy in NIC would increase costs - think HPA tanks, regulators, fittings, air refills... It would spell the end of playing with plumbing and usher in a new era of buying a collection of parts and assembling a rather expensive primary, such as a QEV/DCV semi-auto. It would also create an environment for very, very nice and awesome gear to be created - like a mag-fed selective fire airgun based on paintball technology, perhaps.
I would welcome this as the evolution of the hobby, especially because frankly, the crude nature of a lot of NIC gear and its low ROF is what puts me off from doing anything but plinking targets with it. I like dakka and assault rifles, and playing stock class with Rapidstrikes gives me that, whereas I don't play pump very well. Plus I want to see high-spec and non-cheesie nerf gear meant specifically for us. But enough of that tangent...
Given what NIC wants to be, it is understandable in light of the above why NIC is so antagonistic and closed-minded toward stored energy devices on the field. It would reduce the accessibility of the game to newcomers and casuals in a time when we are all (SC included) still pre-critical mass and short on players.
But what is the REAL problem?
Not the weapons... Not the players and their arms race...
It is the field game!
There is no other way to play that is so especially vulnerable to being damaged or reshaped by what people do with or to their equipment, particularly centered around rate of fire. Yet, that appears to be all the proper NIC ever plays. No wonder.
Remember that CTF game I discussed? How about HvZ, have you ever played or seen it played? These are examples of situations where the arms race escalation is inherently secondary to tactics by means of the game mechanics and setting. So in short, my opinion on the arms race issue: Fix the game to make it more playable, don't nerf the players to make it work. Banning equipment should be done only for safety purposes, IMO. Banning for playability is not addressing the root problem and it makes the game less appealing to the players that get their gear - or their ideas - targeted.
Furthermore, a regulatory approach that aims to limit field effectiveness and control non-safety parameters like rate of fire and energy source, and indeed the concept of leveling the playing field to such an extent, is more consistent with a sport than a game. Do we want to play a sport? I don't. As an example of the effects, note the proliferation of all these 1.25" bore, circa 7" stroke, springers with a "K26"-like spring rate, a pump grip, and a hopper. I was building a one-off design of my own, but I realized that there are far too many SomethingBowPumps out there already, and as Kane described in his NH post, the format is more or less self-limiting - so gather dust the parts will. I can improve the "hoppered SomethingBowPump" format in some minor way, but really, it can be practically improved just as much as tournament paintball guns can be improved, which is not much at all. And that is not cool.