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This is DredPage version 5.02, online since February 1996. Most graphics and design contained on this site are copyrighted by Joe Fourhman, 2000.
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Although the con is a great time, don't get stuck trying to find something to eat in Columbus after 11pm. But be sure to have lunch at the nearby North Market. The aloo mutter at the indian store is delicious.
  Origins 2001
Last weekend was Origins, the annual gaming convention held in Columbus, Ohio. If you've never attended a gaming convention - and odds are you haven't - it's a barely controlled collection of vendors, tournaments and body odor. All types of games from CCGs to RPGs to board games are represented. (There is very little on the video/computer game front, which surprises and disappoints me.) Any gamer within driving distance definitely ought to attend, because it's a great place to play your favorites and test out new ones.

I played in my second Doomtown World Championship tourney and went 3-2 with my Whateley deck. Considering my 0-5 streak last year, this was an incredible surprise. I am just not an aggressive tournament-style player, but obviously the deck tuning I did between 2000 and 2001 helped. (Going 3-2 doesn't win you anything except the pride of not being a total loser, but while I was gunslinging, Rhonda won a bunch of free Magic stuff from the Wizards booth... so did Scott and Mike, but their prizes weren't Magic, so they weren't as excited about it.)

Z-G, the action figure / trading card game hybrid. Man, it's a great idea, but I felt it was more than a little clunky. And I was all set to buy it, too... until we demoed it. I love the no-license robot toys and the cool way that you get to blow vital bits of armor and weaponry off your enemies... but moving and posing your toy bot is clumsy and loose. The poor toys tend to get top heavy and fall over, thus wrecking any kind of precision placement. "Leave gravity behind," indeed.

Chrononauts, a "traditional" card game from Looney Labs, won the Origins award for best card game. So I checked it out at their booth and bought a copy. What a surprising and clever game this is! You're a time traveller whose primary goal is to change the US's timeline to ensure that your personal alternate future continues to exist. So you have to go kill Hitler or sabotage the Manhatten Project or save John Lennon... generating some thought-provoking ripple effects throughout the resultant timeline. If you can find it, get it!

Great Rail Wars, Pinnacle's Deadlands-based miniatures game, was back in force. The new giant-size miniatures look fantastic, and the combined-package faction army boxes are a stupendous idea. (The Deadlands brands must operate in a zero-sum system: Last year at this time, Doomtown was going strong and Great Rails Wars was dead. This year, GRW is getting a relaunch and Doomtown is dead.) I picked up the new rulebook for GRW (which is almost identical to the High Noon rulebook they released for free on their website, goddammit) mainly out of affection for the brand. But they better come out with that Army Book soon! They don't want you to make your own heroes anymore, and the new GRW edition has precious little example archetypes in it.

We all enjoyed Apples to Apples, a vocabulary card game in the family/party style... there was this great booth in one of the gaming halls that let you rent games. In fact, we all intended to go buy our own copies, but the core edition of Apples to Apples costs $20, which struck us all as pretty outrageous. Sucks to be a small-time gaming company.

I was hoping to see demos for the new Lord of the Rings card game and the Harry Potter card game, but no such luck. Probably saving those for GenCon. But we did get free stuff from Magi Nation, Button Men, Mage Knight, 7th Sea, Age of Empires, Sailor Moon and lots of other games. There's a few Origins pictures in the photo album.

Huzzah. More of the same 2-D, colored lighting click- and- kill Gauntlet shit. Now with swamp gas!
  At least they increased the inventory
The Diablo 2 Expansion costs $35. Diablo 2 itself was new for $45-$50 and now goes for $30. The expansion adds 2 new characters classes, 1 new adventure Act (with accompanying new monsters), and a bunch of new items. D2 had 5 character types, 4 Acts, and thousands of items. In the world of Diablo, less costs more.

Expansions sets like Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction have become a complete rip-off. They are sadly overpriced compared to the original. (Bias notice: I hate the Diablo series. But, I love Starcraft and they had the same price points with Starcraft and the Starcraft expansion, Brood War. So consider me equalized.) This one LoD Act better be pretty goddamned long. The locked-in-place quests of Diablo 2 were one of my biggest gripes with the game... since the quests are all the same EVERY TIME, why would I still play it? This weakness is particularly lame in multiplayer. "Hey Questor, BloodMane69 and Godboy-[kkc], let's go find the fricking Horadric Cube again!" The game really needs user-defined quests, or at the least, a set of multiplayer-only quests. The $35 expansion doesn't add that. One single new Act ought to be a free download, assholes.

Diablo 2 also needs to slow down the difficulty levels of the enemies. Why am I bothering to level-up my character when the bad guys all get to level-up too? Once you've filled in all the spell points you want, levelling up becomes a waste. Hooray, I'm a level 76 necro... but the plague zombies back in the first town are now level 76 too... you never get to the point where you can really cut loose and enjoy your power. It's always a struggle; you're always just a mob scene away from dying. How about a lowered difficulty mode where your experience actually counts for something? The $35 expansion doesn't add that.

By the way, there's already a patch for the expansion, which tweaks over the numbers for the characters (even the two brand new ones, goth girl and hippie.) The $35 expansion doesn't add that either, you'll be greeted with the patch download when you visit battle.net.

GBA Wish List: Mappy, Paper Mario Advance, Mario Party Advance, Pokemon Advance, any kind of decent first-person shooter, Toe Jam & Earl, Gargoyle's Quest, Dragon Ball Z... and a full color, multiplayer, retro-update of Mr. Chin's Gourmet Paradise!
  Mood Indigo
My Game Boy Advance is about to reject its first set of batteries. I know their time is up because the power LED has turned red (it's green when your batteries are fine.) What a great feature! Now if only they'd make consoles that you can turn on with the controller, instead of a button on the box.

GBA Mini-Review: It's great. The bigger screen size is worth everything; don't let anybody say it's not. Super Mario Advance (Nintendo's Big Launch Title, damn them) makes a cute point by having the startup movie begin in the GBC screen ratio, and then slowly reveal the entire screen. It's like breathing fresh mountain air when that two-and-three-eighths inch screen fills with happy colored pixels of clouds, rutabagas and grunting plumbers. Super Mario Advance was the first game I booted up in the GBA and it felt good.

Lot of buzz about the shoulder buttons being too small and the screen being too dark. Picky shits say this, not I. Every Game Boy unit has had visibility problems, and every Game Boy iteration has gotten better. Until Nintendo decides to build in a backlight, it's just what's for dinner, sonny. I have massive, meaty paws and I don't mind the shoulder buttons one bit. Although I must confess that I don't bother placing my index fingertips on them; I use the inside middle knuckle. Compared to any other handheld, it's wonderfully comfortable. You will enjoy holding this ugly-colored box (more colors! more colors!) for hours.

But like all new game systems, the launch titles lineup was lame. Too many ports and not enough showcase games. I'm not a major Castlevania- or Tony Hawk- head, and those were the two biggest marquee titles. I stuck with Super Mario and ChuChu Rocket, and I'm eagerly awaiting more (I'm first in line for Sonic Advance and Mario Kart Circuit Racer, baby.) Over-eagerly. Can you believe that Nintendo didn't push a Pokemon game for launch? Man, that's balls. Pokemon is almost singularly responsible for the Game Boy family's huge success over the past five years. Without Pokemon, there may never have been a Game Boy Advance. (Or more likely, we would have gotten one, but it would've been like the Sega CDX: the console addendum nobody wanted.)


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