I tiptoed my way through minor league multi-boxing last year. It was during a time in WOW when I was getting very bored. Having done it a tiny bit back then, I knew where to head for updated information on this eccentric approach to MMO gaming, Dual-boxing.com.
Reading through the forums, my eyes crossed at the setups people were talking about, even on the low-end and simple. I didn’t want to download a bunch of stuff or mess with a lot of techno-geek strategies. I decided that I’d macro my setup as much as possible so that I understood the core mechanics and use Keyclone for keystroke management like I had before.
I decided to do fresh characters for the experiment and roll on a PVE server. No way in heck I wanted to attempt this bit of insanity while dealing with PVP. Off to Whisperwind I went, where I had a mid level alchemist and tailor to help outfit my trio. Hell no to grinding professions for the umpteenth time in WOW. For some insane reason, dual boxing wasn't good enough. I wanted to tri-box. And if by some miracle I stuck with the characters, I could add two more from our stable of accounts and join the hardcore multi-boxers by 5-boxing my way through Blizzard's 5-man content. I thought it would be a very cool way to see all the dungeons I'd previously missed AND the new ones from WotLK.
I created three Draenei because I think they look cute. For classes I selected a Mage and two Priests. Players in game have asked me why on earth I rolled two priests? To which I respond, I want one for Shadow and the other for healing, but would level them both Shadow spec. Besides which, I have Paladins, Hunters, a Warlock, a Druid and no interest in a Warrior. Playing a rogue in a boxed situation would be very difficult because of its positional melee combat style. I could have done two Mages but I don't really like the Mage class at all to be honest. I really wanted Warlocks, my favorite WOW class, but didn't want to deal with managing soul shards and I already have a Warlock.
Getting started took several hours across several days. The nuts-n-bolts of the setup are:
- Multiple copies of WOW on the same computer - talk about eating up HD space.
- Configure each copy of WOW specifically for each character
- Keyclone to launch and arrange the copies of WOW in your preferred screen layout (optional)
- Keyclone software to control what keystrokes are allowed to be passed across multiple instance of WOW - example if you're not a clicker, you don't want each char choosing their own target so you blacklist that key from being replicated.
- Keyclone software to send all copies of WOW the allowed keystrokes
- Tons of macros to control every aspect of what your characters do
- Helpful group macros for creating your party, following each other, trading items across characters, buffing each other, healing each other, etc.
Besides nitpicking things like always having them following in a staggered line versus all clumped on one person and being able to switch on the fly, who is the lead character – who they are following and assisting during combat, you have to coordinate all combat so that pressing the A key sends actions that make sense across all characters at the same time. I have a few reserved keys, where only one or two characters have an action mapped to that key but not many. Most keys trigger actions across the trio.
This coordination is the most difficult and time consuming aspect of multi-boxing – determining reasonable behavior across different classes, which is another reason I wanted to double-up instead of having three distinct classes to coordinate. Plus I think two Shadow Priests will be hella cool for leveling. Passive heals and mana battery for a Mage. *smile*
After dabbling on and off for a week, I got into a good rhythm with my trio. We were making the rounds and turning heads everywhere we went. Honestly, I would have thought everyone was aware of multi-boxing by now and would have seen a group at some point or another, especially on a high population server such as Whisperwind. I guess I was wrong. I was getting stopped, followed and whispered so much that I had to macro the responses – “I’m multi-boxing.”, “Yes, it’s one player controlling all three.”, “ No it’s not botting or against the EULA.” “Yes, it’s a fun distraction. Google multi-boxing if you’re curious.”
One evening a lightning storm knocked out the power while I was in the middle of fine-tuning macros. I lost the whole macro cache which was a major setback. Once I got them all re-written, I started making a back-up copy for each character every couple of days so I’d never be at square one again. The next big hurdle was incorporating other players into my routines. I didn’t need others but lone players would ask for help completing tricky quests. At first I declined because everything was choreographed for just my characters. Then I relented and explained that I’d kill everything and they could loot all that they needed but I couldn’t heal them so they should make sure not to pull aggro.
When I had more time and an inclination to adjust my macros, I changed things off to party member references instead of hard-coded character names. My “Make Group” macro ensures that my trio occupies certain party member slots, and visitors are always after that. I took the new setup for a spin in Shadowfang Keep. I put a call out for two stragglers positions which were quickly snapped up. It turned out to be a rousing success. We ran it four times and racked up some phat loots for all. At this point, my characters have done all the expected Alliance side 5-mans for their level, with me having 3-boxed two of them and four-boxed the others. It’s very easy to get one or a couple of other players do to the 5-mans. Many are desperate for a chance to do the original WOW instances for their levels.
- Positioning of each character in combat can be a challenge. I try to preset their locations if I will be in a spot for a few pulls. If the mob moves to the side for some reason or I have to move as the main, which makes the mob move, the other chars can have line of sight or direction issues.
- Death of the lead character requires fast thinking. I have a setup that designates the main - F1 to F5, which resets the focus, who people should follow and the targets.target in the combat macros. Still, when things get out of control, remembering who is who across what looks like triplets on the screen, can have me fumbling F1 to F3 trying to select the new leader. When in doubt have I have the priest (s) cast fear and start running.
- Gear management requires effort since I want them all to stay within a small range of variance as far as stats go so that they are all capable of completing the same content and encounters. I can't give everything to the Mage who is the tank and DPS in case she dies. The Priests can't be in paper. They also need to be able to survive a few punches and finish kills on their own.
- Distance and lag makes navigating tight or winding spaces annoying. I move like a wide load truck to prevent the last character in line from walking into the edge of walls and getting stuck. I play with the leader's screen maximized and can't always tell if the last char in line is close enough to cast spells.
I think I’ve been doing this off and on for three weeks and have reached the early 30s. I’ve added a few mods to my setup now:
- QuestHelper for easy quest assistance and directions
- Cartographer for the instance maps
- Dominos for customizable hotbars
- Multitool a compilation of helpful group behaviors specifically for players who multi-box
- AzerothAdvisor to remind me of special things to look into for each level. It’s been a long time since I’ve had low level chars in WOW and if I’m going to do this, I want to see content, not just race through the levels. I want to see all the 5-mans for sure.
It’s definitely entertaining if you want to add a little spice to your WOW gaming. If your household has access to multiple accounts, you can get Keyclone and give it a whirl. If you don’t but still want to give it a try, you can accomplish it by using trail accounts.
So far so good, and I’ll probably keep going when I have time. The only persistent problem I have with the leveling is that the levels are moving faster than I actually have funds to upgrade my spells. And no, I’m not spending it on the AH. I don’t know what the deal is but the spells are emptying my pockets.
Yes, I'd Buy a Fucking Mount!!!
The one thing I’d wish for right now is FREAKIN’ MOUNT. That’s right, I’m in the 30s and could have a mount but there’s no way in hell a new player would have 45 gold for the required riding skill plus the mount, by just completing the content. I don’t have access to my high level toons or their gold so I’m ass out and walking. There’s no additional value or fun to be had traversing across the long jaunt from Southshore to Alterac Mountains repeatedly, but oh well.
I can either continue walking or stop doing the content to go off and farm something or things repeatedly just for the gold. Nah, been there done that and I’m not interested in needless gold grinds. If I could buy a mount right now for $10, you can bet your ass, I damn well would buy it times 3!! If I last that long, God save me if I’m still mount-less by the time I hit Desolace or STV. Oh the fucking walking in store in those zones. I might have to avail myself of the $25.00 character transfer service to get a high level character and gold on Whisperwind. The plan had been, if by some miracle these characters make it to level 70, to transfer them over to Illidan, where our level 70+ characters were parked. That's right, I'm not old school enough where I think there's a value in me walking back and forth across some of those god awful big zones. Swamp of Sorrows and Sunken Temple won't see my trio if they're still walking.