The Piggie Award Winners 2011! Part 4: The People’s Choice

Part 1 of the Piggies Awards – Game Elements | Part 2 of the Piggies Awards – News and Affairs | Part 3 of the Piggies Awards – Bloggers and Blogging Nominees for the Piggies

And welcome to the final part of the Piggie Awards for MMORPGs and MMORPG blogging, 2011!

Today we’re unveiling the winners of the People’s Choice awards, voted on by MMO Melting Pot readers!

So, with no further ado…

People’s Choice: Games Company, 2011

I’ll admit, I’m surprised by this one! They’ve had a rough year, and they’ve come in for a lot of criticism. But, nonetheless, it seems that the MMO community still loves them.

With twice as many votes as any other games company, the winner of the People’s Choice Games Company 2011 is Blizzard Entertainment!

People’s Choice: Blog Post, 2011

And we have a tie!

Yes, after a week of hectic voting, the decision has come down to a tie. So, congratulations to the two winners of the People’s Choice blog post Piggie –

Congratulations to both of them – they are two fantastic blog posts and I’m proud to award them the Piggie!

That’s it for the Piggies for this year – here’s looking forward to the Piggies 2012!

How to display your Piggie

Winner of a Pink Pigtail Award

Are you a winner, or Honourable Mention, this year? If so, you’ll want to display a PInk Piggie badge. It’s easy – just copy this code and add it to your website or blog.

<a href="http://www.mmomeltingpot.com/2012/01/the-piggie-award-winners-2011-part-3-bloggers-and-blogging"><img src="http://www.mmomeltingpot.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/PPIPiggiesIconGreenNGold.png" alt="Winner of a Pink Pigtail Award" title="I won a Pink Piggie!"/></a>

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The Piggie Award Winners 2011! Part 3: Bloggers and Blogging

Part 1 of the Piggies Awards – Game Elements | Part 2 of the Piggies Awards – News and Affairs | Nominees for the Piggies

And so, we come to the main event of the Piggie Awards 2011: our awards for bloggers and blogging in the MMORPG blogosphere.

Before we start – it’s time for me to say something that sounds cliche, but is very, very true. We had a hell of a time choosing these. The arguments raged. In some categories, we wanted to make every single nominee the winner. You all rock.

OK, hang on to your hats, here we go!

Most Charming Games Company Employee

This was a tough one to choose, but at the end of the day, whilst everyone else can be lovely, fun and gracious in their interactions, only one person combines that with a transparency and honesty about his work that’s just inspiring to see. Thus, out of all the nominees, we’re choosing the marvellous Eric from Elder Game, for his tremendously interesting and honest work on Gorgon, the MMO that he’s developing in full view of everyone in the blogosphere – a brave choice, always a fascinating read, and a great member of the blogosphere!

Best Podcast

Both Twisted Nether and The Instance add a hell of a lot to the MMO community online, and we simply couldn’t choose between their different styles. Plus, they complement each other so well, it doesn’t seem fair to raise one above the other. Thus, we’re announcing this category as a tie, and awarding the Piggie to both Twisted Nether AND The Instance . Congratulations, guys.

Most noticed blogger breakthrough

This one was really tough. Flavor Text Lore have written some stunning posts over the year, and suddenly leaped into the eye of the blogosphere in the latter half with a couple of brilliant collaborations between Hamlet and Percula. Gamer’s Fridge and Niki are not only plying a fantastic idea, but doing so consistently and steadily gaining an audience. And Stubborn’s analytical, intelligent posts have become such a fixture, so quickly, that until I wrote my year’s roundup I thought he’d been around for much longer than he has.

The vote-in favourite for this award was Garrosh Hellscream, whose brilliant in-character writing – and occasional deviations into spot-on epic verse parody – has established him as a voice like no other in the community, and given him not a small fan following. We’ve never really seen a blog like his, and he earns an Honourable Mention for this category.

Bravetank has become someone we just couldn’t imagine the blogosphere without. Her posts are open, honest, and laugh-out-loud funny, and she’s become an established and distinctive voice in the community. There’s no-one else who does what she does, and the rest of the blogosphere notices and appreciates that. She’s our second Honourable Mention.

But in the end, we decided the award had to go to Apple Cider of Apple Cider Mage. She’s not new to blogging, but her blog is very new indeed – it only started in October of 2011. But since she started, she’s exploded into the blogosphere. Her passionate posts on extremely important issues are incredibly widely retweeted and reblogged (over 50 retweets on some posts), she’s known as one of the conversation-starters of the blogosphere – when she talks about an issue, you can bet that other posts will follow – and she’s willing to take risks on issues she believes in. From calling WoWCrendor on victim-blaming to highlighting WoW’s evolution Apple Cider Mage is our Most Noticed Blogger Breakthrough 2011

Most Solid Content Provider

I’m reading from Johnnie’s notes here, and above the listing for this category is a note which reads “they’re all awesome”.

And really, they ALL are. Nils fires out precise, cutting analysis day after day. I’m not sure Rohan could write a boring post if he tried. Derevka’s healing advice is invaluable, and has earned him a near-fanatical following. Anne Stickney not only works incredibly hard to highlight the best of the blogosphere – something we all have a soft spot for – but comes up with original, intelligent lore insights week after week. And Tobold – well, he’s Tobold. Five years of solid almost daily blogging and he’s still a must-read.

I frankly have no idea how Cynwise does what he does. I mean, he tells us that he has a family, a job, and actually plays MMORPGs from time to time, but I assume there’s some kind of Prestige-like legerdemain going on, because the frequency, quality and sheer, fascinating length of his posts have to be a full-time job. Oh, and did we mention he maintains not one blog but two ? For his astonishing hard work, he gets our first Honourable Mention.

And talking of spoilers for popular films, Rades must be doing the same plot-twist-I-won’t-reveal-here. I can’t think of another blogger who ranges so widely over the subject, from art posts to his trademark awe-inspiring lore posts, to transmog guides, to comment and opinion, to hardcore tactics and theorycrafting. And almost everything he does is really, really good. Dammit. He gets not only my envy but also our second Honourable Mention.

And then there’s Gazimoff and Mana Obscura . I’m going to let you into a secret here – Gazimoff is one of the few people whose work I will not wait until the evening to read. If I see there’s a new post on Mana Obscura, I’m off reading that bad boy right away. His writing is consistently insightful, intelligent, thought-provoking and entertaining. So, if you’re waiting for me to fix an egregious guide typo or approve your comment, and Gazimoff’s updated that day (which, let’s face it, is more likely than not), I’m probably off reading his post when I should be working. He gets not only the blame for my procrastination but also our award for Most Solid Content Provider 2011.

Best Writing

And once again, the response of your humble judging team was “Seriously? We have to CHOOSE here? AAARGH!”

Cynwise is always engaging and original. Beruthiel can put an argument to paper like no-one else. Tzufit combines serious intellectualism with a rare warmth and compassion. Stubborn – well, he’s a teacher by trade, and his skill at communicating shines through.

But in the end, we came down to three, and then to one.

Rades is too goddamn talented for his own good, frankly. Not only can he theorycraft, Photoshop, and keep up a publishing schedule that would make Troma Films say “whoa, hang on a minute there”, he’s also a damn talented wordsmith. His “here’s an idea for a WoW plot” posts are un-put-downable stuff – and I’ve never gotten to the end of one yet without thinking “dammit, Blizzard, hire this man already!”. Some of that is brilliant ideas, and some of it brilliant writing. He’s our first Honourable Mention.

One of the marks of a really great writer is an unmistakable style. You can read a single passage from Hemmingway or Hunter S Thompson and immediately identify who’s writing. And our second Honourable Mention, Jon Big Bear Butt Patricelli, has that same quality. He achieves the remarkably rare and difficult trick of writing conversationally, so that you really feel he’s talking to you, possibly over some kind of malted beverage, and he’s a gifted, engaging storyteller, whether he’s raising ire or telling a heartwarming tale.

But the winner of Best Writing 2011 has to be Melmoth of Killed In A Smiling Accident. Here’s a random quote – not the best one I could find, just a random quote from a random post of his:

“Like the marathon runners, we race along these paths, through landscapes and cityscapes of majesty and beauty, but always staying true to the well trod, well defined path. Barriers line the runners’ route, broken infrequently by refreshment stations where NPCs stand and offer bottles of XP to revitalise and give energy to our enthusiasm as we trudge ever onward. “

Try reading that out loud. It’s remarkable. His writing has rhythm, flow, a cadence to it that very few people ever achieve. For pure writing quality, his work is just astonishing. I don’t know what he does in real life, but were I to discover he was a White House speechwriter or a well-known playwright, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Most hugged blogger

The MMO blogging community is generally a very friendly and welcoming place, but even then some bloggers stand out as going that extra mile. The people who are not just a part of the community, but a cornerstone of it. The anchors around which the community gathers. The people everyone loves.

We were unanimous in our desire to give the first Honourable Mention in this category to Larisa, AKA Jessica, the originator of the Piggies and a vibrant presence in the community for many years. She’s no longer part of the WoW community – although we whole-heartedly recommend The Velvet Cafe , her new film blog – but when she was here she was an absolute pillar of the community, and her legacy will live on for a very long time indeed.

Our second Honourable Mention goes to Oestrus of The Stories Of O. She’s a fearless and intelligent blogger, who has rapidly built up a community of followers on her site and on twitter. Oestrus is always willing to help her fellow bloggers, and there’s a lot of love for her in the community.

In the end, though, the award for Most Hugged Blogger has to go to Alyzande the WoW Gold Queen. She had already established herself as a prolific and popular blogger, but the reaction of the community to the horrible events in Alyzande’s personal life last year proved in just how high a regard she’s held. Dozens of bloggers displayed a white ribbon in solidarity, and I’m sure the support of the community must have helped her get through such a difficult time.

Bravest Blog Post

We have a surprise category!

Yes, in our discussions over the awards, Rebecca, Johnnie and I all felt that a new category was needed. And so, with much fanfare (and an apology that we didn’t think of this in time to solicit nominations) we’re introducing a category for “Bravest Blog Post”.

What do we mean by that? Well, we felt we needed a category for the posts that not only talk about something important, but something close to the blogger’s feelings, too. Blog posts that require bravery to write, because they’re about things that could well get the blogger criticised or attacked, and are about very personal topics.

Our nominations for this category were:

  • Jaded Alt, for Mental Illness and WoW. Mental illness is still a taboo subject, and one that many people have extremely unpleasant opinions on. At the same time, it’s literally life and death. For Windsoar to write this post, and talk about her own experience with mood disorders, was both laudable and courageous.
  • Alyzande, The Gold Queen, for World of Warcraft Gold – What’s the F—-ing Point? and NSFW White Ribbon. Sexual assault is a hotbutton topic on the Internet, and one where victim-blaming is rife. For Alyzande to talk about what happened to her shows considerable courage.
  • Oestrus, for Out. Transgendered people are marginalised, abused, mocked and assaulted in our society. The wider World of Warcraft community is far from accepting of TS/TG people. And that needs to change. Oestrus was well aware that she was likely to be a target of abuse and hatred when she came out as transgender, but she did it anyway.
  • Bravetank, for Don’t Be Greedy. Bravetank risked being ridiculed when she talked about the difficulty and fear that the act of looting in WoW causes her. Indeed, I even saw people being rude about her for it – and yet anxiety’s no joke, and I know more than a few people who struggle with the social pressures of WoW grouping. Her post was valuable, useful, and, true to her name, brave.

And our winner is Oestrus, with Out . Writing that post and potentially making herself a target took a rare form of courage. I quite literally can’t imagine what it took to put a fact she’d carefully guarded, knowing how it could hurt her, out there. And by doing so, she’s serving as a model for everyone, saying loud and clear to everyone in the MMORPG community that transgender people are worthy of respect.

Great stuff.

Most memorable blog post

Wow, this one was really tricky.

There were so many great blog posts in the past year, from the inspiring and laugh-out-loud Out of the mouths of, well, you know from Big Bear Butt, to the Windsoar’s post which almost became a manifesto, I’m doing it wrong and I’m OK with that

After much debate, though, we settled on three absolutely stand-out posts. Our first Honourable Mention goes to Falling Leaves and Wings for Are 400 Pull Kills Good Design? Are They Fun?. It was a superb post: well-written and well though-out, with an inescapable logic that genuinely changed the way the blogosphere thought about end-game raiding.

A Honourable Mention as well to Orcish Army Knife for Sylvanas, the Val’kyr, and the REAL master plan. Rades has always had the ability to write excellent lore posts faster than most of us can even read them, but this post is one of his best. Rades sees conspiricies everywhere, but he’s often right. Johnnie, who read the post the same evening he finished leveling his goblin through Silverpine, is convinced that Rades has hit upon the real truth behind Blizzard’s secret master plan for the Forsaken.

We also decided to award a special min-award in this category – a Piglet, if you will. The award for Best Comedic Blog Post goes to Killed In A Smiling Accident for CSI: MMO.

It was close, but the winner of this year’s Piggie for Most Memorable Blog Post is Cynwise, for On The Forsaken. Brilliant even by Cynwise’s standards, this post permanently changed the way we think about the Forsaken. Cynwise details the greatest (and most terrible) moments in WoW’s Forsaken storyline, comes to a horrible – and I mean genuinely shocking – conclusion via an argument that none of us can fault, and in doing so reminds us why we love the game in the first place. Bravo!

Congratulations to all the winnes, and here’s to a fantastic 2012!

How to display your Piggie

Winner of a Pink Pigtail Award

Are you a winner, or Honourable Mention, this year? If so, you’ll want to display a PInk Piggie badge. It’s easy – just copy this code and add it to your website or blog.

<a href="http://www.mmomeltingpot.com/2012/01/the-piggie-award-winners-2011-part-3-bloggers-and-blogging"><img src="http://www.mmomeltingpot.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/PPIPiggiesIconGreenNGold.png" alt="Winner of a Pink Pigtail Award" title="I won a Pink Piggie!"/></a>

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The Piggie Award Winners 2011! Part 2: News And Affairs

Part 1 of the Piggies Awards – Game Elements | Nominees for the Piggies

And welcome back! After a short break caused by, well, the US Congress and Senate, we’re back with part 2 of our annual awards for MMORPGs and MMORPG blogging!

Today, we’re looking at 2011’s news, events, and general shenanigans in the MMO world…

Biggest controversy

2011 was not short of controversy, that’s for sure – and all of it was centered around WoW. The Raid Finder nearly won this one – and is establishing itself a commanding lead for the 2012 awards this year – but we decided that the “announcement” of a thing was not the same thing as its release. There wasn’t actually that much controversy around raiding guilds being banned for exploiting – even the guilds themselves admitted they were probably asking for it. But after that, the decision became much harder.

In the end, we felt that the destruction of Theramore, with its thousands of posts mostly opposed, and the Firelands nerfs, with their dozens of blog posts, came in behind the greatest controversy of the year – the airing of the homophobic Corpsegrinder interview at Blizzcon. Whilst I initially argued that it wasn’t so much a controversy as an outcry, Johnnie pointed out that in the wider community, and particularly on the forums, there were plenty of people arguing both sides of the case, offensive as that might seem. Plus, of course, the fascinating group who simply failed to understand that homophobic insults could possibly be offensive, and instead assumed the entire fuss was about Corpsegrinder insulting the Alliance…

Thus, because it was a huge deal, provoked extremely strong reactions on both sides, and was about a very serious subject indeed, we’re calling the airing of the Corpsegrinder interview at Blizzcon the biggest MMORPG controversy of 2011.

Most Appreciated Announcement

I must admit, I argued for the lack of a Dungeon Finder in SWTOR as my personal “most appreciated” announcement of 2011! But beyond that, it was pretty quickly down to a couple of big, big deals – the announcement of Battle Tags in WoW and other Blizzard games, fixing the horribly broken privacy intrusion that was RealID, Mike Morhaine’s apology for Corpsegrinder, and the announcement of Transmogrification, also in WoW, to the universal joy of everyone who ever grimaced as they equipped their new cricket-bat sword.

Mike Morhaine’s apology was the Right Thing To Do, unquestionably, and was definitely appreciated – although we noted that there were plenty of people even on that thread arguing against his apology. Wow. And I’m personally very glad about Battle Tags, which might reintroduce at least some of the community back into WoW.

But the winner of this category, from blog posts on the subject alone, unquestionably has to be Transmogrification in WoW Patch 4.3. Looking back over the year, no other single issue has dominated MMO blogging in the way that Transmog did. There’s hardly a blog out there that didn’t raise a cheer at some point, and hardly a WoW player amongst us who didn’t, at the very least, mutter a quiet “yeah, OK, that’s actually a good idea”. Grats, Blizzard -you got that one very, very right.

MMORPG Company Of The Year

Let’s be honest, there’s only one possible winner here. We were both amused and somewhat saddened to note that Blizzard Entertainment didn’t even get a nomination this year. And whilst Turbine did release a new expansion, they’ve had far from a spotless 2011. From badly mishandled security breaches to raid and instance content that has, shall we say, not been greeted with universal acclaim, about the best you can say is that they’ve probably had a better year than some.

At the end of the day, only one MMORPG company can claim to have hardly had a word said against them in 2011 – and that’s Bioware. 2012 is already showing it’ll be a rockier year for them, but for now, with a massive buildup, masterful press handling, a beta that somehow didn’t attract any major criticism, and a smooth and 90% successful launch that managed to capture most of the gaming world, they rocked out 2011.

Most “Er…What?” moment in MMORPGs this year

Johnnie, Becca and I all picked a different option from the nominees in this category for our winner.

Personally, despite the randomness of the Raid Finder’s loot from time to time, I didn’t feel that it was an “er, what?” so much as a “New Game System Not Thought Out Properly Shocker!”. And given the writing scrawled in increasingly large and anguished writing on the Blizzard wall re game difficulty and how it kills subscriptions, I was slightly disappointed but not surprised to find out that Dragon Soul was not exactly Sunwell difficulty. (Of course, as we learned a day or so ago, it’s already being made easier still, albeit in a far more sensible way than the sweeping Firelands nerfs).

No, I selected the discovery that Mists of Pandaria would, in fact, be the new expansion – said discovery coming after Blizzard all but flatly denied it. Johnnie, meanwhile, selected the discovery that we’d be playing bouncy, kungfuey, somewhat-reminiscent-of-another-3D-propertyey pandas in the next expansion, whilst Becca pointed to the “It’s not Pokemon Honest Guv” Pet Battle System announced in MoP as her choice for the “yerwhatnow?” moment of the year.

We looked. We thought. And then, as one, we agreed that the Mists of Pandaria Announcement Panel at Blizzcon 2011, in its entirety, with all its… quirks, was our unanimous winner for this year’s “Er… WHAT?” award.

Tune in tomorrow for the big one – the winners of the MMORPG Blogging category of the Piggies, 2011! And don’t forget to vote in the People’s Choice awards!

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Vote on the Piggies People’s Choice Awards 2011!

Yes, it’s time to have your say! So, let us know what your favourite blog post and games company was in the year that just finished!

Blog Post Nominee Links:

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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”.

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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!

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Logitech G110 Review – great gaming keyboard?

It’s hard to get truly excited about keyboards, when the world is full of things like iPads and 3D cinema and Felicia Day. That hasn’t deterred Logitech, though, who have pulled out all the stops to design a keyboard that’s actually worth getting excited about. If standard keyboards are vendor trash, the G110 Gaming Keyboard is pure purple and bind-on-pickup.

The idea – as with Logitech’s other gaming keyboards – is to provide a keyboard which does far more than simply enable you to type “lols nub l2p” into party chat. The G110 has a whole host of other features, all firmly designed with gamers in mind.

The keyboard itself is adequate, if not spectacular. The keys are nicely weighted without feeling heavy and cumbersome, and the boards sits well under the palms. The available tilt angle is minimal, but the keyboard does come with a detachable wrist-rest which snaps snugly onto the bottom of the board for those of us who are a bit lazy with our typing postures. For a keyboard which boasts so many features, the G110 is admirably compact, measuring just 50cm wide by 19cm deep ( 23cm with the wrist-rest attached).

The G110 keyboard

The flagship feature of the G110 is the bank of additional keys to the left of the main keyboard. There are twelve keys, positioned in three blocks of four keys each, but Logitech’s clever use of custom modifier keys and profiles allows for far more than just twelve additional buttons. Three small modifier buttons sit just above the bank of custom keys, allowing the user to change to a different set of keybindings with a single press. Software supplied with the board enables each key to perform a variety of functions, some of which are admirably specific. A key can be configured to mimic a standard keypress, of course, but can just as easily mimic a complex key combination. Sick of having to break your fingers trying to press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+J to trigger that once-in-a-blue-moon ability? Just set that combination as the action for one of the custom keys, and your poor phalanges will be safe from harm. Even better, the custom keys can trigger a sequence of keypresses, rendering a regular sequence of key presses down to a single tap. I set one of the custom keys to type “/afk” – a simple shortcut, but one which saved a lot of time.

For extra credit, the G110 will even allow keypress sequences to be recorded with specific lengths of time between each keypress. That’s potentially dangerous levels of automation for some of the more dictatorial MMOs – using automation like this could theoretically get you banned in WoW – but for something like A Tale In The Desert (where automation macros are actually encouraged) it’s a killer feature.

The software will automatically detect installations of many popular games – on our test machine both World Of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons Online were detected – and will create profiles for each one. This allows you to switch the entire set of keybindings and macros contextually, depending on the game. You can create additional profiles, of course, for whatever purpose you like. Many of the popular games are additionally supported with direct keybindings to popular actions – the World Of Warcraft profile, for example, allows you to assign the action “send my pet into defensive mode” to a custom key. The keyboard will then interface directly and issue that command. No need for keybindings or macros – the keyboard software takes care of it all.

If that’s not enough to impress your friends, the keyboard also provides a bit of eye-candy in the form of the backlighting on each key. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s not actually eye-bleedingly ostentatious – and if, like us, you tend to do your gaming in a gloomy room late at night it does actually help to easily identify the keys. Yes, you can pick the colour.

The keyboard provides a handful of USB ports, and also contains an entire in-built USB-audio card. That means you can attach a microphone headset directly to the keyboard. It’s a nice touch, especially when combined with the separate mute button to affect only the headset audio.

At the right-hand side of the keyboard is a standard set of media control and playback buttons, including one of my favourite little touches: the volume control. Rather than the usual “+” and “-” buttons, the volume is controlled by a scrollable wheel. It’s a much more natural way of controlling volume, and once you’ve tried it you won’t want to go back.

This is not a keyboard for a casual gamer, nor is it a keyboard for those who like instant results. In order to make the most of this board, you’re going to have to take the time to train yourself to use it properly. You’ll need to think about the optimum assignment of keybindings for each game, and you’ll probably still find yourself using the same keybindings for your core abilities as you always have. Where this keyboard really excels is its extraordinary amount of customisation. You can tailor the G110 to do almost anything you need it to do. There are other gaming keyboards, some of which have more bells and whistles, and some of which have even more keys. If you’re looking for a workhorse gaming keyboard, though, which will improve your game and give you an astonishingly flexible setup, the G110 is a solid contender. While it’s not the cheapest of keyboards, it won’t bruise your pocket as much as some of its competitors, and the potential benefit is well worth the investment.

Buy the Logitech G110 Gaming Keyboard from Amazon.com ($64.99)

Buy the Logitech G110 Gaming Keyboard from Amazon.co.uk (£48.99)

Main Logitech site

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Gaming Product Review: Enjin Guild Websites

You know those days where you get up and think it’s going to be a boring, grey day, and then three dead bodies land on your desk? Okay, maybe that’s inappropriate use of an overstated police metaphor, but you get the screenshot. A couple of weeks ago I had a day like that: several new opportunities for the Pot just popped up. One of them was the chance to review Enjin’s guild website hosting package and given I’ve been thinking “really must get round to making a guild website at some point” for a while now, it was perfect timing.

Given that a lot of you folks are in guilds in WoW, LotrO, Rift, and so on, you might be looking at your website (or lack of one) and thinking about a change. Hopefully this will give you some ideas.

I’ve spent a few hours today buzzing around backstage in my guild’s flashy new website like a humming bird on sugar. I started out trying to be calm and following some kind of methodical plan so I could report back in detail, but these things just don’t work like that.

Y’see, building a guild website with Enjin doesn’t require you to be methodical and collected. Or, put another way, boring. It’s fun. For the most part it’s also simple, which goes some way to helping with the ‘fun’ part if you’re a guild leader who wants some time off leadering.  Especially one who’s not very tech-minded, like me.

I started off with the boring but safe settings tab. The settings are all there from the mundane time and logo settings to the juicy ban and smiley manager settings (a fun touch that people like me could get lost in customising for hours). The options are in sensible sub menus, and there’s nothing there that’s confusing to technical idiots non-techie people like me.

What about the fun stuff? Your website comes with a range of themes to choose from, and you get an increasing amount depending on which package you’ve gone with. A lot of the themes riff on the same idea but with different colours, or labelled for different games, but even then there’s still a lot to choose from. Even the free package has a fair few, though the best are available with the packages that cost. Themes are easy to apply and there’s an option to create your own, though I’ve not tried that just yet.

Next: the header. Here’s where I hit my first snag. It’s an example of one of the few but noticeable things where Enjin’s intuitive interface falls. When you choose your theme you can also choose your header, and like the themes, you get a choice of preset headers. But what if you want to use a custom header? Good question. There’s no option to set a custom header in the theme/header options, which is where you might think it would be. Instead it was tucked away as part of the ‘header’ module options.

Argh confused

And this is where we get on to the gooey, chocolatey centre. Modules are the content bits n’ bobs you choose for your website’s pages, like calendars, member lists and if you’re brave, chat boxes. There are a lot of modules and some of them do similar things to others. The module interface was like some kind of code at first – a list of words, no descriptions of what anything did, and no inkling as to why some of them had pre-created modules and others didn’t. Argh, confusion. I moved on to page layout instead.

Happily the page layout editor tutorial video saved me. An excellent video and by the end of it I knew how to play around with page layouts and that, from the page layout editor, I could control modules – I didn’t need to use the module editor, though that now made sense too. The page editor is a thing of beauty, it’s so intuitive. It allows you to drag and drop modules to different columns on any page, customise columns however you want, auto-saves when you make changes… and there’s more than the video shows you. I found myself working on auto-pilot, assuming I’d be able to do things like set internal columns or rows in columns and edit modules straight from that page once I’d placed them in a column. And turns out I could.

By and by I ended up with a website that looks roughly like this at present. It’s quite shiny. It was fun to make. But there are downsides.

Little snags, like no clues on how to change custom banners, where to add albums if for the love of Om all you want is a slideshow of your piccies, or how to change the order on the navigation bar. In retrospect with the knowledge I gained just playing with the website, over time these things became either obvious or achieveable. But they reveal one of Enjin’s problems: there’s no FAQ and few helpfiles, though those that are available are in video and absolutely rock. Although to give credit where it’s due, while I was running around like said besugared humming bird, I ended up poking their support forums and harrassing my aforementioned Enjin contact. In both cases the support they gave me – and others – was fast and spot on correct. I’m impressed.

One other thing slowed me down. I ended up choosing modules by going through all of them and testing them out for looks and usefulness by adding and removing to the homepage, then refreshing said homepage, then playing with the module options. Kind of fun, but a time consuming activity that could’ve been averted with previews akin to those available when you’re oogling themes.

But the biggest downside? I’m not sure whether my website stands out or whether it’s generic. Sure, I’ve not finished playing with it by a long shot and my guild need to descend on it and give me their design orders too. But I’m a little worried that it was too easy and too quick to set up, and whether the semi “out the box” feel I had with it means it’s the same as the next wild west playset on the shelf, give or take a few colours and trims. It’s possible it is generic, but that it’s the fault of the newbie interior decorator at work.

So the gold-cap question: is an Enjin website worth the money? Let’s take a closer look at what you get with their various plans (click the details tab on the right of their plans page to see everything). First up – you could go for their free website plan. And actually, when I say you could, I mean it – it wouldn’t be a killer.

You get the basics you’d need for a guild website – progression support, social features, rosters, applications, even a chat function. But there are some potential let-downs with the free plan, the big ones being adverts on your site (to be fair, I don’t know how much control you have over where/what the adverts are), no event planner (I can see this being a pain in the proverbial for most guilds), no file storeage or extra security, and a limit of 15 modules. You’d need to be going for the minimal look for your site. It’s not a bad package but I don’t know how it compares to other free plans on the market*.

The next one up is the premium package for $7.16 a month. This is a good, middle ground package, covering all the things the free package lacks. It also gives you limited access to a mumble voice server (yep, mumble included in the price) and more themes – you get almost everything they offer with this package. The ultimate package gives you the finest shinies, like being able to use different themes for each page, live support (soon, anyway) and increases on themes, mumble connections and file storeage. But for that extra loot you pay about three times that of the premium package, which seems a steep increase. Which is ingenious of Enjin really, given that the premium package is perfect even for bigger guilds but for its low limits on file storeage and mumble voice connections.

At day’s end and said dead bodies thoroughly dressed up to look pretty, though, I’m happy with what I’ve got. I think if I hadn’t lucked out and been given the ultimate package to try, I’d have gone for their premium package, as it looks like value for money. That’s the one I recommend although it does depend on the size of your guild. They do a good job of catering for guilds in most games on the market and the only thing I found myself thinking “why don’t they include X” about was an armory search box. If that’s all I can say is missing, it’s a pretty comphrensive package. And given both the fact that extra content has popped up since I first got hold of this two weeks ago and their customer support is efficient, it feels like Enjin’s got more tricks up their sleeves. Looking forward to seeing how they progess.

All that said, we’re happy to advertise them and run an affiliate link. By nitwibble, I’ve even asked them if I can run a competition with one of their packages as a prize. So watch this space for that. Meanwhile, if you can’t wait and want to get your hands on it nownownow…

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WoW Product Review: The Ultimate Rogue Raiding Guide

So who here hasn’t dreamed of sneaking from shadow to shadow, pick-pocketing anything that looks like it might have a coinpurse in its pocket/suckers/loincloth (delete as applicable and don’t think too hard about it). Maybe you’ve got an urge to burst out of the darkness and backstab your enemies in the name of saving the world. Or maybe you just like slipping from monster to monster, giggling as you concuss them with a quick blow to the back of the head.

There’s a little rougery hidden in all of us. Maybe you’ve got a rogue character already in WoW, maybe you’ve got several. Maybe you’re thinking of rolling a rogue to let the scallawag in you out.

If you’re a rogue and relatively new to the business of being level 85, Garona’s got your back covered. As the host over at the top rogue resource and community (a strikingly friendly bunch given their penchant for skullduggery) PvE Rogues, Garona is top of her game on how to be a rogue.

And she looking to help you be just that in her new E-book package: The Ultimate Rogue Raiding Guide. But is it worth the money?

Garona prodded us and asked if we wanted to take a look at it. She said it’s aimed at new, less experienced rogues who want to raid but don’t know how to get there. It sounded interesting, given here at the Pot we have one experienced rogue and two people who’ve never really let their rogue instincts out. We fell on the opportunity like wolves on a frolicking lamb.

Then we found we couldn’t rip it to shreds.

You see, Garona’s guide is extremely good for a newly minted 85 rogue. Which is handy, given that’s explicitly her target audience.

Enough rambling. Why is it so good? First up, her introduction page. The guide’s very first page sets the tone and answers the questions you might have about the guide. Who’s it for? What do I do if I don’t understand it? Will I get laughed at? What does the guide do? All answered from the off – good start.

Garona’s covered everything you need to know if you want to start raiding. She starts out with a look at each of the rogue talent trees and what each one’s good at. She doesn’t tell you to pick one spec, she tells you to find out which one you’re comfortable with. She goes on to cover gear, stats, gems, enchants – every practical detail you’ll need to get raid-ready – and she does all of that for all three of the rogue trees without favouring one or the other. So no matter what spec you decide on the information you need is in the guide.

The thing I was most impressed with though? How clearly everything is written. She leaves very little room for confusion, and anytime I thought I had a question about something it was usually answered later. Case in point – Garona’s written the rogue rotations chapter so well that as a non-rogue I now know exactly what rogues should be doing. And the places where things could get really muddly, like explaining Equivalency Points (EP = a way of working out which stats are better for you at any given time), are written both clearly and elegantly.

Throughout the guide there are tips on good rogue practices as well as a whole invaluable section on good play. It includes things I can only assume have been lost in the rogue generations, the amount of time I don’t see them happen. /mumbles about kids these days and porches

Okay, okay,< you’re thinking, I’m crowing her praises and it’s all just over-the-top. Reality check time. There are some things wrong with the guide. Like… um… ah yes! What does ‘paper doll’ mean? I’m guessing it’s the character sheet but paper doll’s not standard terminology to me. And the chapter on reforging had the only question for me which went unanswered, about reforging white hit into poison hit (isn’t hit all the same stat?) But that doesn’t bother me too much as it’s exactly the sort of thing I could go ask on the forums over at PvE Rogues, which Garona invites us to do if we have any problems with the book.

I was left a bit at sea with Garona’s recommended way of choosing my rogue spec, which basically boils down to whatever feels right for the rogue in you rather than practical “guilds will want this so DO THIS OR ELSE”. But after a couple of seconds thinking I realised that those two types of advice don’t mesh and when you’re addressing new rogues enthusiastic to get stuck into the class, encouraging them to experiment and get comfortable with it for themselves is the best advice to give.

So there we have it. The thing to bear in mind is this guide is not aimed at you experienced rogues out there. You’re going to know most of the information in it, though you might find bits of it handy like the rogue stats/caps Cheat Sheet that’s included. The package also includes the rogue CSC3 calculator* and a clearly written guide on how to use it, which could well be handy if you don’t already have and know how to use it. Finally, buying the guide also gets you access to the e-book only section of the PvE Rogues forums.

Our experienced rogue didn’t think anything was missing, and in fact got a couple of tips himself. The only thing he thought could be better would be adding alternative choices to the pre-Heroic gear list.

Perhaps the biggest downside is that most of the guide is information you can find for free elsewhere, like on Elitist Jerks. But what Garona’s achieved with the main guide is breaking down information you’d find on Elitist Jerks in abbrieviated goobledigook and telling you it extremely clearly. She doesn’t overuse words (unlike me) but she does give you clear instructions with fully written rogue-terminology, and throws diagrams in where it’s helpful.

It’s also very easy to digest the information compiled into one well structured book (reading the contents page strangely reassured me I wasn’t going to be overwhelmed with info). She’s removed the need for you to hunt down bits of information from loads of sites, get scraps of info from 76-page long forum threads, and cross reference everything’s validity.

I’m going to stop gushing – from a professional point of view I wish there was more I could criticise. I feel like the Nice Fairy put mushrooms in my tea this morning. But there’s no way round it: Garona set out to provide a compendium to help new 85 rogues get ready for raiding, and that’s exactly what this is. The main guide on its own is a lifeline for a new rogue, but the additional cheat sheet and CSC3 guide and calculator packaged along with it make it all you could need.

The only questions left in my mind are – is she going to keep it updated as we get patches (I’m guessing so, but she doesn’t say so in the guide) and are you going to tell the rogue in your life that this is out there?

**

  • If you want to see for yourself, the guide is currently $1.99. Buy Now (this is a secure affiliate link).
  • Or you can buy it for the same price here (this is not an affiliate link but is also secure).
  • There is, I think, no refund policy – although it’s a steal at this price. The price will go up (but not much and it’ll still be worth the money) soon, so hurry. There’s a chance of an exclusive mousemat for you if you buy it now…

    *The CSC3 calculator is the rogue critical strke chance cap calculator, though it’s useful for other stats too.

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