June 27, 2004

Origins Notes, Part 1

Met up with Mike at the airport, but couldn't check into the hotel until 3pm, so we stowed the luggage at the hotel and crossed the street to the convention center to stake out the scene. Sure there were plenty of people, but they had plenty of space, and time in Taiwan had inured me to crowds, even crowds of gamers. Mike went off in search of press credentials, and I went to get registered. The line moved surprisingly quickly, and before I knew it I was officially a part of Origins, originating from the lovely town of "El Lerrito, CA." Oh well.

Origins Registration Bought some event tokens, even though I wasn't thrilled with being nickel-and-dimed to death by event fees on top of the registration. Mike liked spending time with the Looney Labs folks in their Lab Room, so I followed along and put the tokens to use by paying for their demo series. You get a Fluxx promo card for demoing all their games, and I'm a sucker for giveaways. Of course, other companies are happy to demo their games for free in the Exhibition Room, but Looney does need to recover the cost of renting their own room, and it's always nice to have a mellow place to hang out at a hectic con.

I'd promised myself that I wouldn't play Magic at this con, but couldn't help but perk up and notice "Win Peter Adkinson's Magic Cards!" listed in the program. Went to check it out with visions of Beta and Legends packs dancing in my brain. In reality, the former CEO of WotC simply had a big stack (100, to be exact) of the Magic pre-constructed starter decks. Each person rolled D100 for a random pre-con deck, and if you beat Mr. Adkinson, you get a pack from the set corresponding to the pre-con. Frankly, Peter wasn't much of a Magic player, and with all the different sets involved the games went slowly as both players often paused to read the cards. Luckily the event was just around the corner from Looney Labs and I could get started on filling out my demo badge while Peter worked his way down the signup list. Even got a chance to scope out the Exhibition Room, which had just opened. Finally got my chance to play, and I got an Odyssey deck vs. his Urza's Destiny deck. The problem with playing decks from different blocks is that the blocks varied in power level. Odyssey was fine, but Urza's block was as strong as modern Magic gets, and my discard/direct damage deck had no way to stop his horde of beef. That's okay, I got my fix, and got to meet a minor gaming non-celebrity (and his dad, who's a cool guy, too). Yay.

Went back to the Exhibit Room for a more thorough walk-about. The usual suspects like WotC and WizKids had their massive booths up and running like the well-oiled corporate machines that they were. The board game companies had plenty of demo space set up to show off their latest European imports. The graybeard wargamers had their corner, as did the miniature folks. Did I mention I'm a sucker for giveaways? WotC had a program where you could roll a D20 for prizes ranging from a starter pack of Magic to a copy of D&D rulebook. Of course, the higher you rolled, the better your prize. The trick was that for each game you demoed (and get stamped on a record sheet), you got +2 to your roll. Now, D&D isn't really my thing anymore, but they had a stack of the new-and-improved Axis&Allies there to give away if you rolled 18 or better, and I really, really wanted that. So I spent the rest of the afternoon playing inane demos (NeoPets, anyone?) just for the stamps.

You play Magic?


Right, who doesn't? Let's just play this stupid demo game and get our stamps.

DuelMasters was the latest thing they were pushing, combining Pokemon-style anime/manga/multimedia mass-marketing with more Magic-like game mechanics with an eye toward upselling kids to the more complex game later. The game wasn't actually that bad (of course it probably seemed that way to me because I'm a Magic junkie), but I couldn't get over the whole exercise in cynical and derivative marketing. At least the Pokemon were kinda cute. Anyway, by the time I got enough stamps, the copies of A&A were long gone. Hopefully they'll have more the next day.

Now that the Exhibit Room is closing I went back to the Looney Lab for another random game or two. Should've gone to get food instead, because before I knew it it was 8 PM and I wanted to go check out the Origins War College Seminar, "Taiwan, the People's Republic of China, War, and International Law." Always interesting to see an unbiased outsider's view of the Taiwan vs. China thing. The lecturer was a law prof. at UVa, and the thrust of the seminar was to demonstrate the real-world importance of the subtleties in International Law, as demonstrated by the nuanced treatment of Taiwan's status in the international community despite its de facto independence, due to the fact that China cares so much about the word "independence" itself. No real earth-shaking revelations, really, but I did learn all about the parameters of internatiional waters.

It was well past 9:30 by the time I finished chatting with the guy. Good thing that there were still plenty of bars open nearby the convention center and hotel. Walked around until I found one that seemed relatively nice. The mushroom-beef sandwich was way too salty for me, but the onion rings weren't bad (it's been ages since I've had rings), and everything goes down easy with a fresh pint of Guiness. I just wished I cared about the NBA Draft more so the TV were more entertaining. It's been a long day at that point, and the beer convinced me to turn in early. The room was one king bed and a couch, so I kinda got the couch be default. It wasn't quite enough to stretch out, but I don't sleep stretched out anyway. Although I never got a chance to meet Chris C. our mysterious third roommate. Well, nothing wrong with sleeping with strange men occasionally.

Posted by mikewang on 03:29 AM