A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

On Pick Up Groups – Multiplayer Bane or Boon?


This past weekend I participated in the latest event for Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer component as well as continuing my participation in Star Trek Online roleplaying. There’s a common thread in both games amongst my friends and the people I’ve been associating with: no one has faith in a pick up group or PUG.

Now, I’m not saying this isn’t justified. Random groupings are a mixed bag and there’s a good chance of failure or success every time you set out on a mission, regardless of how coordinated you are with your companions of the moment. Let’s talk about ME3 for a bit first.

My friends and I have been playing a lot of the multiplayer component of ME3 lately. It’s incredibly fun but can be exceptionally frustrating if things go awry. For example, I was practically screaming at my computer last night when I couldn’t get my vanguard to perform a Biotic Charge when I needed her to. The ability was cooled down, I was targeting an enemy properly, there wasn’t anything in the way and I was hitting the right key, it just turned out that when my friend hosted, the game had a bit of ability lag and in twitch based combat, that’s unacceptable. So, yeah, I got pretty upset. After that fiasco I moved onto a random quick match and had a much more enjoyable experience even though we proceeded to very nearly lose at the last moment. Further, I hate fighting the Reapers. I can do it, I just don’t like it and I hate the Benning map the most because the cover sucks (but I’ve learned how to deal with it and it’s way less of a problem for me than it used to be).

With regards to PUGs in ME3, I’ve been in groups that have consistently trashed the enemy and made it all the way through to a successful finish. I even wound up in a group where none of us were KO’d the entire time and there were only three of us. However, I’ve been in groups that couldn’t survive past wave 3. After a certain point, it doesn’t matter how good I am at anything in the game, it has to do with how badly I got screwed by someone getting KO’d in a bad place and how many people trying to get to them managed to get KO’d too (myself included). Sometimes the enemy is just overwhelming and that’s understandable, just frustrating. My successes are better than my failures though and I’m getting more enjoyment than I expected from multiplayer. I’m a huge fan of the Adept and the Vanguard, two classes I’ve never really played in single player. I’m tempted to do a full run of Mass Effect with an Adept thanks to multiplayer.

On to Star Trek Online! I was hanging out in the Star Trek Online Roleplay chat (as I usually do). Conversations there are interesting, thought provoking, and rarely annoy me. There is a common complaint and “lesson learned” statement that’s often trumpeted there: you get what you deserve by playing in a PUG. Someone was complaining how their group wasn’t doing well in a Special Task Force and someone else said, “That’s what you get for not playing with friends.” There’s a certain truth to that. If you play with your friends, you’re instantly more forgiving of their shortcomings, they’re more willing to sacrifice for you and back you up, and overall the experience, even if you fail, is much more enjoyable because you did it with friends. I don’t disagree with the notion that you’d probably be better off doing the high end STO content with a group of people you know and associate with and actually like, but there is some benefit to PUGs. For one, you could get new friends. For another, you could learn something new. Yeah, you can still get the crap kicked out of you, but there’s nothing really bad about losing in STO unless you do it on the higher difficulties and there’s nothing really bad about losing in ME3 Multiplayer (you still get credit for everything you did… although, to get credits you do need to survive a few waves).

In the end, participant beware! Pick up groups are full of strange people who have questionable skill levels and you will never know what you wind up with until you’re in the thick of it (whatever IT is). Although, there is something to be said for Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer: you can pick a random map, a random enemy, and you can wind up with a random group with random quality. This is present in a lot of games, but I’ve never been hit in the face as hard with genuine chance as I have with Mass Effect 3. Pick up groups are truly a mixed bag. Good luck in getting one with something good in it and even if you don’t find one like that, you might still learn something or get a friend out of the deal.

Until next time, play nice!

– Elorfin

P.S. “It is good to be often reminded of the inconsistency of human nature, and to learn to look without wonder or disgust on the weaknesses which are found in the strongest minds.” – Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay

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