Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Amava Knows Box

Sorry, I just couldn't resist the title.

Multi-boxing. Some frown upon it because they claim it makes the player/toons too over powered. Others think its a hoot, and love running around totally over powered and blasting every single-boxer they can find. Regardless of which camp you're in, Blizzard officially sanctions the practice, because lets face it, one player paying multiple software license fees and multiple monthly subscription fees is pure win at the corporate boardroom.

In the inaugural installation of Ask Amava, Rysteranch from Musings of a Nutjob writes:

I was wondering if you could expand on your dual boxing set up. Do
you use one computer or two? Are there any addons that you would
recommend to make things easier? I only found two posts on your blog
from the search function that related to dual boxing.

Lets bump that number to three posts, shall we? This one is long-ish, so if you have no interest in multi-boxing, scooty scoot and go read about the new President-elect or something.

From a multi-boxing perspective, I've mainly done two things: 1) a pair of toons, one doing the playing, the other following around as a healbot, 2) a trio of toons, one being played, and the other two simply collecting insane masses of RAF XP in low level dungeon run throughs, and 3) a pair of toons seamlessly joined up and working together as if two humans were playing together.

So lets take a look at these, starting from the simplest setup, up to the more complex ones.

The post grew way too long, even for my wall-of-text crit TL/DR tastes, so this one will be rolled out over a three part series.

  1. Part 1: Two toons, one healbot

  2. Part 2: Three toons, one lvl 70, two babies along for the XP ride

  3. Part 3: Two toons, seamlessly joined up and working together as if two humans were playing

So, welcome to Part 1, the story of Two toons, one serving as a healbot, the other playing as a normal solo toon who's got a pet healer.

I'll start off by saying that there's lots of addons and software out there aimed at helping make multi-boxing easier. I used no addons, although I really would like one that helps manage quest accepting and completing, because that was a big pain. In some of the scenarios that I'll describe, I do use Keyclone, so if you're using this as a guide, you might want to pick up a copy. Its inexpensive, and works pretty nicely for me. Also, I read a bunch at Dual-Boxing.com.

Lets get on with the show...

Two toons, one healbot, two computers

This one can be as simple as you'd like it to be. Simply log into one account on one computer, the other account on the second computer, and have at it. Put looting on Free-For-All, and have the toon on the primary computer do all the looting. Put the healbot toon on the secondary computer and have her /follow all the time.

Using this method, I make sure the healbot is targeting the primary toon, so its simply a matter of reaching over to the other keyboard and pressing a heal button as necessary.

This steadily became tedious, because sometimes the target would switch if the healer got attacked. Also, for some quests, you need to reach over to the secondary computer and do some looting for quest items, and then you've got to remember to re-target the primary toon. Using the /follow method of movement, you also need to make sure you hold the primary toon still while the healbot is casting a spell, because if you move too far, it'll interrupt the heal and start running to follow you.

So, pretty quickly, I macro'd the main commands to hardcode the primary toon as the target, for example...

/cast [modifier:alt,target=player] [target=JoeMama] Renew

I think that you can do this much more easily with a /focus and the new 3.0.2 changes that allow you to specify a modifier that targets your focus for all spells, but my multi-boxing was before that was available, and I always forgot to focus on my primary toon, so I hardcoded the toon name.

I generally create 2 or 3 of these macros to cover a HoT, one direct heal, maybe a shield or buff or something nice like that.

I also ended up adding a macro so I wouldn't have to keep right-clicking the unit frame and choosing a menu option to follow...

/target JoeMama

That's pretty much it for the simple example. No special software, no special hardware (besides needing 2 computers), no addons, no nuthin.

Two toons, one healbot, one computer

I went on a business trip, and only had one computer with me, and for giggles, I wanted to try doing this same routine on a single computer.

Keyclone to the rescue!

Relatively easy to setup. Made even easier by following this guide.

In this scenario, you use Keyclone's maximizer feature to open up two copies of WoW on the single computer. It also takes keyboard input and sends commands to both WoW's simultaneously.

This was a mix of good and bad.

GOOD: No switching of hands from one keyboard to the other. I simply mapped three of those healbot macros and the follow macro to 9, 0, -, = keys at the right hand side of the action bar (and kept the rest of the healbot's action bar blank), and also kept those same spots blank on the primary toon's actionbar. So, if I needed a Renew to be cast on the primary toon, just hit =, and if I needed a Renew on the healer hit alt-=.

BAD: Even on a 17 inch laptop display, which is pretty big as laptops go, the two screens made the viewable area brutal. Very straining on the eyes to play like this. However, my laptop was easily powerful enough to run both copies at maxed out visual and sound effects.

NOTE: in either of these situations (either one or two computers), the pair of toons is pretty much useless for playing with other players, its only useful for you to play by yourself, actively working the primary toon, and only making minimal use of the other toon for some very basic healing.

Two toons, one healbot that does a little damage output

The pet healer deal works very nicely. You've got no idea how much more aggressive you can be in pulling mobs and advancing towards your quest goals with the simple addition of a healer. Priest is a very nice choice. Playing an Enhancement Shammy, doing nothing else with the Priest besides Power Word: Shield and Renew, you just blast through all leveling content. It really is quite fun.

After doing this for a bit, I found that I had lots of down time where the follower-healbot was doing nothing. To help speed things up, I added in a couple more macros to allow the healer to easily do damage....

/target JoeMama
/cast [target=targettarget,harm] Shadow Word: Pain

Made it very easy to have the primary toon doing all the work, but whenever I wanted a mob to burn a bit quicker, I'd reach over to the other keyboard and trigger the SW:P or Mind Blast or whatever else you want. Its not hugely flexible, but it does allow you a little extra firepower without adding too much complexity.

Again though, without making the macros more sophisticated, I'm left with the healbot toon being setup exclusively for working paired up with a very specific toon, and not much use outside of healing or assisting that toon.

So for the basic setup of playing two toons together, that's about it. You can become much more advanced in how the two toons are played, but generally, that's how I got started out. Play one toon as if she were solo, and have the other throw out a heal as necessary to allow you to tackle more mobs at a time and maintain a faster pace between mobs.

In the next installment in the series, I'll explore using one mama toon to boost a pair of babies.

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