The Piggie Award Winners! Part 1: Game Elements

Yes, the Powers That Be at the Melting Pot have convened to judge the yearly MMORPG and MMORPG blogging awards, The Piggies, which we inherited from Larisa of the Pink Pigtail Inn – and here are the winners in the “Game Elements” category!

Once again, we’d like to thank Larisa for allowing us to continue her award tradition! We’ve enjoyed the Piggies in previous years, and it’s an honour to be able to carry them on.

So, drumroll please…

Best MMORPG Raid Instance 2011

Initially, the three of us were somewhat uncertain about all the nominees presented to us. Throne of the Four Winds was also on the “Worst Raid Instance” list, and thirty seconds of discussion about it confirmed why – whilst it’s very pretty, it’s also extremely annoying in several mechanical ways, and we frankly didn’t want to see it again.

Dragon Soul’s pretty good, but after some discussion, that was as far as it went – pretty good. We wondered if, perhaps, in 2011 “pretty good” was as good as it got in raiding.

But then we started to discuss Blackwing Descent. Whilst we didn’t leap for joy at the name of the raid – unlike Ulduar, say – as we started to talk through the bosses we all became more and more animated. Omnomnomintron Defence Council? One of Rebecca’s favourite raid bosses ever. Maloriak? Johnnie loves that encounter. And I’m hugely enthusiastic about Atramides – a really unique encounter mechanic that worked really well and about Chimaeron, which is one of the most nerve-wracking fights ever in WoW.

It’s been a while, it got nerfed to hell, and it took us a while to remember we liked it, but our vote for best raid instance of 2011 unreservedly goes to Blackwing Descent.

Least Successful Raid Instance 2011

I thought this one was going to be Firelands, by a mile. But whilst we were united in our hatred of the colour scheme (Rebecca describes Beth’tilac as “fighting an orange monster on an orange floor with orange walls while dodging orange missiles than spew fire. Orange fire.”), we were surprised to learn we’re actually rather fond of the raid itself – as are a surprising number of other raiders. Alysrazor, in particular, is a real highlight of a fight, and whilst we haven’t had the 400-pull hell of HC Rag, we didn’t loathe Firelands enough.

Draigoch, in LoTRO, “suffered” rather from none of us having actually fought him. But, nonetheless, the central complaint seems to be that it’s a boring, buggy fight, and whilst we like neither boredom nor bugs, it was up against a 400lb gorilla in the “I wish to kill the world now” stakes.

Throne of the Four Winds. The instance that proves that Blizzard still haven’t learned that most people can’t easily navigate in orbital 3rd-person centered 3D. Nor have they learned that people don’t like ridiculously high RNG fights, nor irritatingly long, trivially easy bits followed by brutally hard final phases. Nor do they like crappy loot tables.

For the vertigo and sheer “Where am I? What’s going on? Oh. I’m dead.” of the entire thing, we’re giving Least Successful Raid Instance 2011 to Throne of the Four Winds.

Best Small Group Instance

It was the best of Heroics, it was the worst of Heroics. It was more than a little surprising to see two nominees – Zul’Gurub and Deadmines Heroic – on the “Best” and “Worst” lists.

We’ll get back to them in a minute. For now, suffice it to say that whilst we made a valiant effort to consider their good points – the innovative mechanics, the revival of classic instances, and, erm, er, erm, the other stuff – discussion of either 5-man rapidly dissolved into spitting fury on all sides.

That left us with the newcomer – The Esseles, from Star Wars: The Old Republic – up against the finest dungeons Patch 4.3 could offer.

Well of Eternity is pretty, and the lore’s great, but the fights themselves are mostly irritating – with the honourable exception of the last one – and the endless escort quest and repetitive RP dialogue killed it for us. Illidan’s well acted, but if I have to hear him declaim about what he’s going to do to that fire elemental one more time, I’ll stab him myself.

If only I could.

End Times has one of the most fun boss fights we’ve ever seen – Murazond, aka COOOOOOOOOOOLDOWNS GOOOOO! – and a lovely story twist at the end, but it falls down well before that. Three of the four random fights have extremely irritating elements – the endless spotlight panthers of Tyrande being the worst. Overall, we just couldn’t get that excited about the instance, and we’ve not really seen anyone else raving about it. The most common positive comment was “It’s short”.

And that leaves SWTOR’s first Republic instance, The Esseles. It’s not flawless by any means – the story rather runs thin once you board the Star Destroyer, and the trash feels endless. But before that, it’s a remarkably entertaining experience – the story’s both very immersive and feels true to Star Wars, there are moral choices that are genuinely choices rather than merely “Pick one: Good/Evil”, and the second boss fight in particular is both challenging and a lot of fun. So, congratulations go to Bioware and The Esseles as our pick for best small-group instance 2011.

Least successful small-group instance

And lo, did the venom spill in buckets.

We pretty quickly eliminated Halls of Origination – which is irritating if you do it in its entirety, but has some genuinely entertaining fights and a new feel for WoW – and The Stonecore – mostly made irritating by PUGs rather than game design – from competition. Blackwing Caverns hung on a bit longer, mostly due to my spitting hatred of the second boss – whom I now refer to as “The LFD Killer” – but eventually even I admitted that it wasn’t so awful.

And that left us with the two former contenders for “Best small-group instance” – Zul’Gurub and Deadmines. And frankly, I’m not sure any of us had realised quite how much we both hated them.

Zul’Gurub was the instance that nearly made me quit WoW, after a four-hour, abuse-filled, wipe-centric horror of an LFD run. It was horribly overtuned when released, to the point that even many guild groups couldn’t complete it. It’s FAAAAAR too long. The ridiculous cauldron mechanic makes it impossible to tell how you’re doing as a DPS, since every so often one of your teammates will randomly pop out a 100k crit. The difficulty’s not only too high, but also wildly variant between fights, meaning that “brick wall” moments are present aplenty. It’s bloody trolls, too. And the fact that it was one of two dungeons worth doing for six months of WoW’s 2011 doesn’t help it either, since not only are we wildly sick of it, but we can guarantee that anyone we get in a PUG will be too, which doesn’t lead to a friendly and tolerant atmosphere.

So is it Zul’Gurub wandering away holding the sick-stained trophy? No, it isn’t. It’s, as Johnnie wrote down on our Official Winner Records Sheet, “Motherf—-ing Dead C—-ing Mines goddammit”.

Vehicle Fights. The sheer length of the bloody thing. Trash of wildly varying difficulty from “pointless” to “WTF? Res pls”. At least one teeth-grindingly irritating mechanic for every class, whether it’s the revolving fire for casters, the huggy goblin for Hunters or Cookie for, well, players in general. The “poison” sequence, which might be fun once, but after that makes you wonder just why Blizzard thought we had queued in the Looking for Mario tool. Multiple mechanics that you can guarantee LFD players either won’t know – Reaper – or will, disastrously, ignore – the Admiral’s Vapours. The sheer disappointment of comparing this instance to the original, much-loved Deadmines. And – Johnnie informs me that I have to mention this on pain of pain – the final boss whom, after you’ve finally downed her, blows you up anyway.

With clenched teeth and spittle-flecked glasses, I’m happy to announce that the Least Successful Small Group Instance of 2011 was indeed Heroic Deadmines.

Most Longed-For Instance

This one was pretty straightforward, as a choice between, essentially, 4.3 dungeons or 4.3 dungeons. And six months of trolls didn’t leave us needing much convincing.

So, for promising rescue from the endless, endless Trollroics, Most Longed For Instance 2011 goes to The 4.3 Instance Chain as a whole.

Biggest Game Addition / Improvement

Again, this one was a fairly simple choice for us. Whilst we’re very grateful that the Raid Finder, in particular, has had its loot rules tuned a bit, and it’s nice to be able to leap into an instance in LoTRO (usual Blah Finder caveats about community applying), the biggest improvement to any MMO in 2011 was fairly clearly, in our eyes, the much-overdue and massively popular Transmogrification feature in WoW.

Best Quest Line

Despite general dissatisfaction with WoW’s levelling experience these days, all of the nominated quest chains have really marvellous storytelling. Johnnie waxed lyrical, in particular, about the Silverpine storyline, which he found sensationally emotionally involving and genuinely surprising.

But our award for Best Quest Line 2011 has to go to the Fangs of the Father quest chain – or at least, the part of it which was accessible to most players in 2011, up to the end of Gilneas. Once again, its storyline is excellent – sufficiently good I’d counsel rogues not to spoiler themselves – it has genuinely surprising twists, and Rebecca was impressed with how well its characters were drawn. But what Fangs of the Father had that others didn’t was not just innovative, but also challenging gameplay.

Speaking personally, I count Fangs of the Father as one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in all 7 years of WoW play. Its overhaul of the stealth mechanics was genius – and the level of difficulty it threw against you was perfect, particularly for such an epic quest with such huge rewards. I spent something like 6 hours on the quest chain as a whole – yeah, yeah, I’m a noob – and the final fight had my heart pounding and my adrenaline rushing as much as any raid ever has – including the Lich King fight itself.

If Blizzard can manage to capture that lightning in a bottle one more time, I’ll stay subscribed just for that.

Ugliest New Piece Of Outfit

If you haven’t checked out the quite remarkable stylings of the nominees for this category, I strongly recommend you do so. The Mandible of Beth’tilac looks silly, sure, but no more so than many WoW cricket-bat swords. But after that, we’re off and running.

Rogues in Tier 13 look like they’ve stretched a Batman mask over a bucket and worn that as a helmet. Johnnie would rather transmog to the worst of Outland than wear the remarkable Death Knight Tier 12. And as for the Priest Tier 11 – oh, my word. The croissant shoulders are bad enough, but the “Is it a space suit? Is it a goldfish bowl? Let’s stick horns on it anyway” helmet really seals the deal.

But from the moment we first laid eyes on it, we knew that the 2011 Ugliest Piece Of Outfit award had to go to Druid Tier 12. I – and this is absolutely true – laughed so hard when I saw a video of the entire ensemble that I sprained a muscle in my back. From the gloriously colour-clashing Spikey Bits TM to the awesomely redundant horns, as Johnnie says, “It’s like a costume your mum designed for the school production of the Wizard of Oz, when she couldn’t remember if you were playing the Tin Man or Dorothy.”.

Favourite New Pet

And in conclusion… We were surprised at how strong our feelings ran on the pets. Personally, I love the Creepy Crate, and was expecting it to win easily. But in actual fact, after arguing, failing to agree at all, looking at more pictures and videos, still failing to agree, and eventually tallying our choices down to fourth place and STILL failing to have a clear winner, we’re declaring this one a tie, between the entertainment value of “Withers” and the joy of supporting your faction of the “Horde and Alliance Balloons”.


That’s it for this first part of the Awards! We’ll most likely be dark on Wednesday to protest SOPA and PIPA, so tune in again for the News and Events part of the awards on Thursday!

Don’t forget to vote in the People’s Choice awards when the poll goes up tomorrow!