Prue’s Guide to Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

or
How I Learned to Multiplayer even though I’m Friendless and New to this RPG Shooter Thing

Mass Effect is a great game for many reasons, but I especially like that it’s super-accommodating to your play style and skill level. All those different classes – Soldier, Engineer, Vanguard, Adept, and all the rest! Your wonderful team – Liara the biotic goddess, James the human tank, Garrus the turian heart-throb (shut up) genius sniper, Tali the quarian engineer’s engineer and EDI the shiny killing machine – they will selflessly put their all into your single-player combat and pick up the slack, possibly without you even noticing (or is that just me?). And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people play Mass Effect to shoot things (or so I hear), some people play because of the story, some people love the game because you get both shooting and story in one glorious package.

I put off getting into multiplayer for ages because I thought I wasn’t very good, and I worried that because I don’t know anybody to play with I wouldn’t be able to play at all. But I started reading up on strategy and how multiplayer works, and did a bit of calculated practice in the single-player game, and also found out that it’s really easy to find matches even if you don’t know anyone, and I’ve been having a great time. But it’s a sharp learning curve, even if you’re good at single player, and so many of the guides I’ve read take for granted that you’re already familiar with online multiplayer games, so I’ve written this post to link you to the more helpful resources I found, and also to record the things I personally wanted to know before getting into playing shoot-em-up with real people on the real internet.

So here is a golden rule before you start tearing off into the strange foreign land of Mass Effect multiplayer – there is no right way to play. There are more and less effective ways to play, but effective is not the same as correct. Damage per second (dps) is a great measure, sure, but there’s more to a successful game than how quickly you personally can tear through the enemy or pull off a perfect headshot. Between the different classes and their unique abilities, and the different enemies you’re up against (Cerberus, Reapers and geth – three very different kettles of fish), there’s no one superior playstyle for all situations, just like there’s no one superior weapon or character class. Everyone has their favourites, of course, and that’s fine. Just because that whiny entitled American who’s played every console shooter ever released wants to tell you that Infiltrator with a sniper rifle is the only way to go doesn’t mean he’s right. Sure, it’s his strongest combo, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be your strongest, too. So before you go headlong into multiplayer, test out some different class and weapon combinations for yourself. Get comfortable and get as effective as you can. Then you’ll find yourself rocking those multiplayer matches in record time.

First, know your basics:

The Mass Effect Wiki multiplayer guide: http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mass_Effect_3_Multiplayer
At the bottom of the article there’s a super-helpful list of maps, and of course there are links to the rest of the wiki for further information about the enemies, and quite a bit of detail about how the whole multiplayer thing works.

A sarcky and profane guide to ME3 MP that loudly assumes you suck, but is quite informative despite that: http://www.toptiertactics.com/2012/03/mass-effect-3-multiplayer-strategy-tips/

Some prep you can do in single player before hopping into multiplayer

Play and replay the N7 mission maps (check out the wiki link for a list of what maps correspond to what single-player missions). Jack up the difficulty level and challenge yourself while nobody can see you die but you. 😀 Also take the time to wander around the map in between firefights to get a sense of the area, the cover, the ammo boxes and so on.

Restrict yourself to two basic weapons only and remove the mods to get used to the limited range you’ll be restricted to when starting a multiplayer character from scratch. In multiplayer you get two guns max, and you’ll start out with only the most basic models and no mods. On the up side, your power recharge time will be low. On the downside, depending on your class you might find you need to rely more heavily on your powers to inflict damage on your targets.

Wean yourself off the left shift/pause combat/heads up display (HUD) button. It’s my favourite crutch in single player, but in multiplayer pressing left shift will only get you the HUD, and picking options off it with your mouse will waste seconds that may mean the difference between life or rocket-to-the-face death. There is no way to pause and no handy combat radar in multiplayer. All your enemies have to be located visually. Needless to say, this can be a pain when new enemies spawn almost constantly, and from anywhere on the map, including right behind you. Which brings me to the next tip…

Get used to using the number hotkeys for your powers (on PC). When you create a new character in the multiplayer section, the order in which your powers are listed are the hotkeys for those powers. For example, my human engineer’s powers are listed as Combat Drone, Incinerate and Overload, in that order, which means Combat Drone is mapped to 1, Incinerate to 2 and Overload to 3. Remap your hotkeys in single player to match the multiplayer layout (which you cannot remap) and test it out for yourself so you can find those buttons on the keyboard without looking. It’s a great timesaver and possible lifesaver, too.

Be nimble and quick in your movements. Practice getting in and out of cover quickly (the bane of my life – I’m never quite lined up against those walls properly), or even staying out of cover (but not out of shelter) as much as possible. This is almost the complete opposite of the single player game, where you’re almost always advancing on a point and only rarely defending, so hunkering down is much more effective. In multiplayer, it can be fatal.

Major differences between multiplayer and single-player

Enemies spawn in waves, and they can spawn anywhere on the map where players aren’t, and sometimes even where players are (I always seem to pick the spot in Firebase White where banshees appear on top of me – such an ignomious way to die). You need to get good at looking around and behind you, and (eventually – I do hope to live to see the day where I can do this) picking alternative shelter to retreat to in a hurry. Lurk behind tall crates and walls while your shields or barriers regenerate. You don’t have to zip around the map like a mad thing (Infiltrators in particular seem to love sprinting all over the place while cloaked, more power to them) but in multiplayer you do need to be mobile, even if your strength is camping out and dealing damage from a distance. You never know when you might need to make a strategic retreat from your cosy hidey-hole. So practice your agility while moving around in single player.

Learn not to freak out too much when you lose shields and health, even if you’re seriously injured. You’re probably not going to be able to avoid dying quite a bit, especially in your first few matches, but that’s okay. Unlike single player where you get “critical mission failure” and have to restart, dying in multiplayer isn’t forever, just for that wave, unless it’s the 11th wave, in which case if you do die, try to go down behind some shelter in the extraction zone where your team mates can easily revive you at no risk to themselves.

Teamwork, or, on ME3 MP, nobody knows you’re new

Seriously, everyone has to start somewhere. And even the most experienced players might enter a match with a level one character, a complete tabula rasa, with barely any powers and not very effective guns. You can’t tell anything about a player just by the rank of their character. The only way to get get higher ranks on your characters is by playing. So ignore any twinge of imposter syndrome you may be feeling and enter yourself in a game. Here are some reassuring things you might want to know before you go:

There’s no training sandbox for Mass Effect – you just have to jump right in. But if you’ve prepared even a little, you’ll probably be okay.

A full match is around 20-25 minutes long. That’s 11 waves of enemies and eventual extraction.

You don’t have to talk to the other players. And they might not talk to you.

You don’t need friends to play because you can join any public match. “Quick game”, searching for public matches on the bronze difficulty level, is the best way to get started. It’s quick and anonymous, carries a low likelihood of player chatter (and having to join in to that chatter), and has the lowest level of difficulty, which means the best chance of success, or at least being able to learn from your mistakes before the situation becomes really hopeless.

Nobody can see what you’ve named your multiplayer character but you. The name you’re identified as playing under is your Origin account handle. (So basically I spent an hour thinking up roller derby names for nothing but my own personal satisfaction if/when I eventually promote Bomsa Wei to the single-player game as a War Asset.)

There’s no penalty as such for failing a match, except fewer experience points and credits, which means possibly not being able to afford to buy new equipment packs to replenish your medi-gel supplies, etc. In fact, if you survive to wave 10 but not to extraction, you’ll still get a good amount of credits, experience points and some readiness rating increase. So it’s okay not to win every match you go into, and don’t let it discourage you.

Still, the best thing when you’re just starting out is firstly to avoid dying, if you can help it. Be nimble and have good awareness about where the enemy is, and that will go a long way to helping avoiding death. Secondly, in multiplayer, if you are about to die (but not quite dead yet), you can quickly hit 6 to activate an ops survival pack, which will restore your shields and health. Thirdly, if you do die, and the circle around “Dying” starts running down, you have two options: you can press 7 to use medi-gel (if you have it) and revive yourself, or mash spacebar and hang out for a team-mate to come revive you. I’d recommend waiting until your “dying” circle is down to three-quarters before using medi-gel on yourself (there’s points for reviving team-mates, and your medi-gel supply is limited), but although I have that rule I’m still not good at following it. I should try to remember that using medi-gel on yourself when a teammate is about to revive you is more embarassing than dying in the first place 😦

Even if you do die (and you may get wiped out instantly – it happens, especially with Phantoms that sneak up behind you), remember you’re not out of the match; it’s just for that wave. While you’re temporarily dead you simply go into spectator mode and get to watch your team wreaking havoc. And, if you’re me, maybe despair about when you’re ever going to be skilled enough to be that gutsy with nothing but a shotgun and a tactical cloak. And, seriously, does anyone ever take cover in multiplayer, or is it just me?

So play a few matches. Keep yourself alive as best you can. Get a sense of how matches and the random mini-missions work. Then when you’re comfortable you can start helping out on those mini-missions. Ease your way into things, remember to deal damage, look around and stay alive. Good luck and have fun!

Further reading:

Ammo box locations for multiplayer maps: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/57145/where-are-the-supply-spots-on-the-multiplayer-maps

Enemy spawn points: http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/343/index/10037557

The best Mass Effect tumblr blog ever: http://biowareaccordingtomom.tumblr.com/post/19790950882/lunch-today

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Note dated 17/10/11

I am sitting in my little room, thinking of the future.

I am sitting in my little room. My workshop. My office. This is probably an achievement already but I am not sensible of it. Or I was, but I became complacent. Lazy.

This little room is more of an alcove – the door is a screen. It keeps the cat out. It does not shut out the world.

I am sitting in my little room, thinking about the future.

I feel like I have lost.

I feel like there are vast swathes of the world to which I am not invited. Whole occupations which I cannot contemplate. Vocations to which I am not admitted. Bricklaying. Forklift driving. Plumbing. Rigging. Truck driving. IT support. Industries where women work in the office while the men do the real work. Where the break gossip is about who knows a bloke who went out and got a FIFO job up north, great pay, blows it all on a car in a city where he only lives two weeks out of ten. Can’t get a date but fuck me the money’s all right, yeah. Urban legends about the local whores and the Asian cleaners and it’s the ugliest fucking arse end of the world but for that money you’re not there for the view, are ya?

They say there’s a skills shortage, but they overlook half the people in this country straight off the bat. We conveniently forget the other half are 50% office workers and those roughneck, self-taught manual geniuses, those boys who stripped out the olds’ classic wreck and spent three years worth of their supermarket shelf stacking or brickie’s labourers wages on getting it running again, that breed of Australian Male is long gone, if it ever really existed outside those few suburbs for those few years while you were young, mate. The 70s. Fuckin’ oath.

How is this situation progress?

And in the papers, it’s the men we talk about. Men’s work. Great male authors, directors, producers, CEOs. Where are the women? We’re not there.

And this is what I see, sitting in my little room, thinking of the future. I see I am invisible.

I worry that I am not really here.

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Prue’s guide to Tasmania

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When to go?

In summer, the quiet time is just before Christmas. Go to Cradle Mountain and Queenstown and all that before the rest of the crowds start piling in from Boxing Day onward.

If you insist on going to Cradle Mountain with the rest of humanity on the day after Boxing Day or similar, park at the visitor centre, be prepared to queue for a shuttle bus for 30 minutes or longer, and head for Dove Lake (the last stop) or the stop before if you want a longer walk. Get back on the bus at Dove Lake. In fact, you don’t really have a choice. If you don’t join the queue at Dove Lake for the return shuttle, you won’t get back to the visitor centre, because every bus back from Dove Lake will be full.

Queenstown

Queenstown has a cute little Christmas eve parade along the main street around 6pm. Enjoyable even if you don’t have kids. Also definitely book in on the Mount Lyell underground mine tour* (unless you’re claustrophobic), because how often do you get to go down into a real, working mine with a guide who’s a former employee? Maybe I’m just a heavy industry tragic, but I thought it was a highlight.

*The tour details aren’t on the internet, but ring the tourist info centre and they will have them.

Hobart

If you can stand to return to civilisation, the 28th is a good day to be in Hobart so you can brag that you saw the winner of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race cross the line. Short Beach is a good place to watch from, if it’s not raining, and while you’re waiting for the boats you can watch other people’s dogs exercising (and maybe score a pat or two).

The Taste festival will be on at this time, too. Go for an afternoon and get it out of your system. If you can stand the gawpers constantly violating your personal space (honestly, we’re you people raised in a barn?) and then the lack of comfortable/clean/available seating and the overpriced, user-unfriendly stall food, good on you. But why not pop down to Vermey’s Quality Meats on Sandy Bay  Road and buy some wallaby burgers to BBQ yourself at the beach (other BBQ supplies available at Coles or Woolies, also on Sandy Bay Road a mere paper plate’s throw away)? Or get fresh, properly handled seafood on a real plate from Blue Eye, across the street just outside the festival itself? Or pop into Wursthouse for some schmancy picnic supplies (French camembert, the real deal)?

New Year’s Eve: Picking a fireworks viewing point was tricky, but for future reference you want to be looking north out over Sullivan’s Cove. If you’re on the south or west side of the Elizabeth St Wharf your view could be completely obscured. Go early and get a good pozzie near the big yachts if you can. Avoid the Taste festival, which only has a view from the side of the warehouse that faces the cove, and at any rate charges for tickets that night.

Salamanca markets: Better than your usual tourist markets. Out of all the wood stalls I liked the wood guy in the barrow at the far eastern end. Also in the good find category, Henk Berg leather bags. Expensive, but I’d say worth it. If you like a style but the colour you want isn’t available, you can place an order at the stall and get free shipping anywhere in Australia. (Related: I bought a handbag!)

Whisky

Hellyers Road in Burnie is the nicest to visit, and you can purchase various size bottles of the different varieties. Also not as expensive as Lark in Hobart. Lark has a good list of domestic and Scotch whiskies, but at tourist prices. Nant need to work on their visitor strategy. And their website. (Seriously, who still has a Flash entry page with no option to skip?) We didn’t get to taste their product, and their stall at Salamanca markets (one cask, two bottles, a thin stack of brochures and a pull-up banner) didn’t inspire confidence. By all means, you should go to Bothwell, where Nant are located. The architecture in Bothwell is classic colonial sandstone and you can get a lovely lunch at Elm Corner Cafe seven days a week (a welcome find on new year’s day!). While you’re lunching, ring ahead to Nant to check they’re open. If you drive up the road to check, you won’t find out they’re closed until you’ve driven all the way down the dirt road to the entrance to the visitor’s carpark.

Heavy Industry Spotters Guide

Bell Bay power station in the Tamar Valley (for sale). Visible from the A8 between George Town and the turnoff onto the Batman Bridge.

The decommissioned Burnie Paper Mill (possibly for sale, but may be demolished soon to make way for a Bunnings).

The Norsk Skog newsprint mill in Boyer, a little bit up the Derwent from Hobart.

The Nyrstar zinc smelter in Hobart (gawk at it from the MONA ferry).

Cascade Brewery is apparently classified as a micro-brewery, but enthusiasts of 70s architecture (the barley silos), giant vats and beer will appreciate the tour. Go on a Monday through Thursday to see the brewery in action at its busiest – it’s operational from 7 to 3, five days a week.

Telecoms buffs, try Mount Nelson in Hobart (the old semaphore station) and Mount Wellington, also in Hobart (a traditional steel frame tower and a concrete monolith of unspecified purpose – pictured above).

Cheese and wine

Take a cooler bag to Yondover goat cheesery north of Launceston. It’s a good place to stop for lunch or a snack, too (goat milk lemon curd tart, anyone?)

Janz do free shipping anywhere in Australia for six or more bottles purchased from their cellar door, and their cellar door price is $20 a bottle for the NV curvee. Budget accordingly, and have your dear friends’ and relatives’ address details handy.

The triumvirate of the cheese, berry and chocolate places between Launceston and Devonport are in cahoots, and I don’t especially recommend them. They’re not bad (although what was that awful smell at the cheese place?) but they’re not remarkable either.

When you never want to leave

But Prue, you say, I don’t want to go on holiday, I want to buy a b&b and pretend every day is a holiday. Well, my delusional workaholic friend, you’re in luck! The Ross Bakery Inn is for sale, and if baking isn’t your thing, so is the Mole Creek Guest House and restaurant (listing here).

The more mercenary investors among you should purchase three or four (not two) bedroom houses in Queenstown and let them out to moderately cashed-up mining families so you can travel back every year to inspect your investment property and more of beautiful Tasmania.

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Where’s the other, nicer future I used to hear so much about?

I feel the need to apologise for the fact that the world still fails on many levels, and I am doing very little to change it.

I’m sorry that I am going to write novels under a male pseudonym rather than my real, female name. That you can’t get a commercially available birthday card of dinosaurs for girls. That I sat in front of the computer for hours tonight with my credit card out, agonizing over what, which and how many romance novels to buy. That tumblr is full of advice about how to avoid rapists because this information is actually still slightly relevant if a bit hysterical.

I am sorry that I am stuck undervaluing myself in a non-technical casual job with no security and no prospects despite clear things I have done to take initiative, not just demonstrate it – and that my good friend now is in the same position (it is too hard to believe in ourselves, so we seek refuge in demeaning jobs that reaffirm to ourselves our low relative value both in our own eyes and in the eyes of society and our employers).

I am sorry I still eat entire packets of mint slice biscuits even when I know I should know better and my clothes don’t fit any more and I know exactly where those extra calories that run to fat come from and I could stop it if I wanted.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being sorry when it’s not even my fault. I’m just fucking sorry for all of us and everything.

I’m sorry.

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National Young Writers’ Festival, 2011

The zine shop in Newcastle seems to have closed. The building that looked like it had been bombed has been knocked down. Hunter Street mall is still a wasteland of clothing too horrible to buy even at $5, but even so the place seems generally less distressed than last year. The weather, on the other hand… *shudders*

The weather was shit

I blogged the festival in fanfiction. If you want to read it, you can find it here, at tumblr.

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Write like a pro!

Excuse me folks, I’m just typing out loud to make these rules stick in my head. I’ve spent so long in the real world that I wrote an easily-read and  – horror! – honest first draft for a job application. Shame on me.

 

HOW TO WRITE LIKE A SUIT

1) Never mention money as a reason for wanting a job.

2) Never use contractions (e.g. “I’m”, “I’ve”).

3) Use the passive voice wherever possible, to avoid saying “I want” or anything so crass.

4) Never use an ordinary word where a fancier synonym is available (e.g. replace “get” with “obtain”, and “create” with “develop”).

5) Your job application is not about showcasing your good points, it’s about writing a showcase of the company’s good points, and incidentally happening to mention some evidence to support your claim that you’re a brilliant choice for a cog for their well-oiled corporate machine.

6) Remember, you never did anything if you didn’t “drive” or “lead” it.

7) Your CV duties explain your reason for existing in that job. Co-opt your team’s reason for existing if that makes you sound better. Even if all you did was the photocopying for the group that did the admin for team who wrote the specifications for the tender for the International Space Station loo paper, you should write that YOU personally were responsible for sending humanity into space.

 

Now to see if I get that job…

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Cocktail time

A Certain Tea Brand were running a competition to make recipes using or designed to complement their tea products. One of the categories was for cocktails. I thought – wait a moment, I’ve been drinking that particular flavour tea with gin since winter kicked in, like a particularly girly Hot Toddy. I can totally create a cocktail recipe based on that!

Call it social anxiety, call it minimalism gone mad, but after making the cocktail and photographing it for the competition entry, I reconsidered. I don’t really want to win a competition. I don’t even want to risk winning it. The mere thought makes me need another cocktail. So I decided it’s better to just post the recipe here, where the world at large can benefit from it, and I don’t have to worry about getting a 3-day brand loyalty indoctrination trip to Sri Lanka.

 

Cupid’s Tea Time

1 measure gin

2 measures Dilmah Rose and French Vanilla tea (brewed for 5 minutes, 2 sugars, then chilled)

2 measures pomegranate juice

Pour into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Decant into a vanilla-sugar rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry.

cocktail

Cupid's Tea Time ( and return of the Bodum glasses!)

Enjoy!

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