How I DualBox

It seems that in the last year or so, the profile of multiboxing has increased dramatically.  Much of this is due to the Recruit-A-Friend program, which many people (myself included) have used as a quick method to level up multiple alts.  Even a relatively casual dualboxer (if there is such a thing) can level up anywhere from two to six characters to level 60 in the three months that R-A-F offers triple experience gain.  A hardcore multiboxer can do much more.  Wow.com’s Turpster set himself the goal of having at least a level 60 of every class using Recruit-A-Friend and posted some useful tips on how to set up a system for multiboxing.

I have fifteen characters spread between US and EU realms, and while I did use Recruit-A-Friend, only two characters were leveled up using the triple XP bonus.  I started dualboxing in the fall of 2006, long before R-A-F came out, and though I have upgraded my equipment in the years since, my basic setup really hasn’t changed much.

Most multiboxing setups that I read about these days involve two things that are not present in my rig: running two copies of WoW on one PC and keyboard/mouse cloning.  When I first started, the machines I was using were far from being capable of running two copies of WoW at the same time.  My old eMac was be hard-pressed to run even one copy at times.    Even though I now have hardware that could run four or five copies of WoW before it fell over, I still run two separate computers.  Strange, but true.  Instead of a network-based keyboard and mouse sync utility, I use two separate keyboards or keypads.

Unlike some of the recent blogs I’ve read on the subject, I don’t run multiples of the same class.   Doing so vastly simplifies things, as you just end up hitting things harder than if you played solo, but it doesn’t feel very active to me.  You aren’t using the synergy of two characters to benefit each other – you’re just overpowering the competition.   I actively play two different characters at once.  I really feel like I am a party unto myself, instead of a solo player with a permanent quad-damage buff.

Since my setup seems to be different (or anachronistic depending on how long you’ve been dualboxing yourself) than some of the setups being promoted, I thought I’d take the time to explain what I use from a hardware and macro perspective.

My Rig

Here’s what my hardware setup looks like (click for a larger image):

dualbox_rig_tn

What I’m running right now:

Main PC

  • Quad-Core Q6600 with 4gB RAM
  • Win 7 RC 64 bit
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 280
  • 24″ LCD
  • Logitech G11 keyboard
  • Logitech G13 keypad
  • Razer DeathAdder Mouse

Secondary PC

  • Dual-Core E7400 with 4gB RAM
  • Win 7 RC 64 bit
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670
  • 22″ LCD
  • The cheapest USB keyboard I could find
  • Logitech G13 keypad
  • Logtech G9 Mouse (overkill, but it used to be on my main PC)

The star of my multiboxing setup has to be the Logitech G13s.  As you can see, I like them so much, I bought two.  Yes, they’re expensive, as these things go, but I’ve gone through several other keypads in my time dualboxing, and nothing I’ve used before comes close to the usability of these.  While dualboxing, I primarily use the keypad connected to the secondary PC.  The other one is there to give me additional keybinds when I’m playing solo.  Yes, I could have gone with one and switched the connector back and forth, but in this case money won out over time.

As for my keyboard: I picked up a G15 shortly after when I started playing WoW.  The problem with the G15 is that the original version had eighteen G-keys, but the second version has only six.  When they brought out the second generation G15, they also released the G11, which is the first generation G15 without the LCD.  When I just had the keyboard I missed the LCD a bit (it’s great for seeing who is talking on Ventrilo), but since I picked up the G13 keypad, its LCD serves the same purpose.  If you aren’t going for the G13 and want an LCD, I highly recommend trying to find an original G15 rather than the current one, as six extra keys isn’t really enough to do much with, at least from a dualboxing perspective.

Class Combinations

For obviously reasons, I tend to run a DPS or tanking character as primary with a healer as secondary.  The first character tends to do most of the work, and the healer tends to just heal, and in some cases add some extra DPS.  Sometimes, they provide a useful buff (like my Boomkin staying in-form most of the time to give my mage +5% crit chance).

Here are a few of the combinations I’ve used in the past:

  • Paladin + Priest
  • Mage + Druid
  • Hunter + Shaman
  • Warrior + Shaman
  • Rogue + Paladin

If the primary character can heal, you can use a DPS character as secondary, but because the act of DPSing optimally tends to require more attention than healing a single character, you may find this a bit more difficult – you’ll be doing more with the secondary character than I do.  You may also find it harder to take on group quests, as you will need to heal on the character that is tanking, which makes the encounter just as hard as soloing it, but you have a bit more firepower to burn the target down before they kill you.

When I first log in and form my party, I need to have the secondary character make the primary character their focus.  I use this macro to do this.  If one healer heals for different characters at different times, just add more /targetexact lines (all but one will fail because only one can be logged in at once):

/cleartarget
/targetexact PrimaryOne
/targetexact PrimaryTwo
/stopmacro [noexists]
/focus
/cleartarget
/script twoboxtoolkit:SetMaster(UnitName("focus"))

Keybinds

All of my keybinds are global.  Back in the days of TBC when keybinds were client side, I tried to have different keybinds perform different actions, but it just gets out of hand when you have as many characters as I do.  But wait a minute – I don’t play the same class together, so how does that work?  Well, just because the keybinds are the same for every character doesn’t mean that the ultimate action is the same.

Here’s how it works: I have several sets of keybinds (I’m excluding the ones on the main keyboard and just referring to the G-keys on both the keyboard and keypad).  The physical keys look like this:

g11_physical

g13_physical

My G11 has these assignments set up:

g11_keybinds

My G13 has these assignments for mode 1:

g13_keybinds

As I mentioned, mode 2 just adds shift to each of the keys.

I use Dominos for my action bar mod, and I have this layout (designed to look like the physical layout of the keyboard and keypad):

dominos_annotated

You’ll notice that G7-G12 and G13-G15 are missing from the annotations.  This isn’t a mistake: G7-G12 are dedicated raid target keys (five lucky charms + clear).  This is invaluable for me as a tank, and while I could change my setup to use them for other things on non-tank characters, I haven’t yet seen the need.  G13-G15 are dedicated for making my second character follow me, healing myself and restoring mana.

So the keybinds are globally set to action bar buttons and what I put on the action bar buttons for each character determines what happens when I press that key.  So far, so good, and nothing different from having different spells bound to 1 through = on each character as everyone does.

So far, this is all just my main PC.  The trick with the secondary PC is that none of the keys from mode 2 on the G13 are bound to anything visible.  Instead, they call specific macros named for the keys.  Some of these macros are set globally (i.e. food/drink) while others are character specific (heal my focus using spell X, damage my focus target using spell Y).  More on that later on.

To simplify things, both G13s have the same keybinds in them.  You’ll notice that the LCDs are glowing different colours – that’s because the one connected to the main PC is running in mode 1 and the other is running in mode 2.  The keypresses bound to mode 2 are the same as mode 1, but with the addition of shift key.  So if button G1 in mode 1 is Control-Q, the same button in mode 2 is Control-Shift-Q.  This is important because it means that if I need to, I can quickly switch to mode 1 on the secondary PC and have access to the “main” spells of my class instead of the twoboxing macros.

Macros

Macros are what bring all of this together.  The secondary character usually needs to do something to one of three units:

  • the primary character (which is set using /focus) and in some cases their pet
  • the primary character’s target
  • themselves

All of this is driven by use of the [target=] syntax in macros.  These are invoked by the keys bound to mode two on the G13.  The macros are named after the keys on the keypad – I use GBTBG## (game board two box G##).  Not every character uses all the keybinds, but I do try to keep some consistency from one class to the next.

The first row (G1-G7) are for healing or cleansing my primary character, and tend to look like this:

/castsequence [target=focus] reset=15 Power Word: Shield, Renew, Renew, Renew

G8-G14 are for healing or cleansing the secondary character, or invoking self-buffs (Bloodlust for example):

/castsequence [target=player] reset=combat Renew, Prayer of Mending, Lifeblood, Flash Heal, Prayer of Healing

Where possible, I try to line things up, so my priest will dispel magic on my focus when I press G6 and abolish disease when I press G7.  They will dispel magic on themselves when I press G13 (directly below G6) and abolish disease on themselves when I press G14.  Trust me, when you try to “solo” a quest like The Rider of the Unholy, you’ll want to be able to spam the secondary keys without looking at the keypad first.

G15 and 16 are used to heal the first member of my party (which should be the primary character, as I always invite the secondary from the primary).  These are used only when I’m healing a pet class  (see below):

/castsequence [target=party1] reset=combat Riptide, Lesser Healing Wave, Lesser Healing Wave, Healing Wave

G17 and G18 are used for eating and drinking on the secondary character, and are the same as their counterparts on the G11, and G19 is used to mount up, using the wonderful addon Mounted to ensure that I get on my flyer when appropriate.

The last row, G20-G22 are for dealing damage because they are the closest to my right hand when it’s on the mouse, letting me do damage on both characters at once:

/cast [target=focustarget] Lightning Bolt

Global vs Character-Specific Macros

The majority of GBTBGXX macros are character-specific, as they invoke class-specific spells.  Some are more generic however.  G23 on the secondary character’s keypad follows my focus:

/follow focus
/script twoboxtoolkit:lastFollow = UnitName(focus)

If you’re not using twoboxtoolkit you can omit the last line – it just turns on “sticky follow”, which resumes following when combat ends.

On the keyboard, I use G13 to make party1 follow me:

/followme party1

This works well in two-character groups, but tends to break when I join up with others and party1 becomes another player-controlled character.  I’m so used to mashing G13 after every fight that I end up spamming someone who doesn’t understand my twobox setup and then having to explain myself.

I also use two global macros to heal myself both in an out of combat. I use the addon AutoBar, which provides two “best” buttons for both types of potions and food.  I make one buton perform double-duty in and out of combat like this:

/click [combat] AutoBarButtonHealFrame; AutoBarButtonFoodFrame
/click [combat] AutoBarButtonRecoveryFrame; AutoBarButtonWaterFrame

Binding Macros to Keys

There’s no built-in way to bind a keypress directly to a macro.  I used to use SpellBinder, which lets you bind spells or macros directly to keypresses, but I don’t anymore for one main reason – it can only bind macros that exist.  None of the secondary character classes I play use all of the buttons on a G13, but I want to set up the macro binds so that all I have to do is create the macro and things start working.  Once I had used SpellBinder a few times, I was able to get the hang of the format of the bindings-cache.wtf file and modify it directly.  This file is located in your account directory:

c:\users\public\games\world of warcraft\wtf\account\YOURACCOUNTNAME\bindings-cache.wtf

Inside, macros are bound with a simple line like this:

bind CTRL-SHIFT-Q MACRO GBTBG1

I’ve included the portion of my bindings-cache file that deals with the G11 and G13 in the list of files below.

Dealing with Pets

Pet classes are one of the most difficult to fit into this setup, especially when you use multiple classes that use their pet in very different ways.  If I’m healing a hunter, typically I want their pet to be my focus and receive most of my heals.  If I’m healing a warlock, it will depend on whether they’re running with a tanking pet (in which case I treat them like a hunter) or a DPS pet (in which case I tend to ignore the pet and focus heals on the character just like any other combinations.  I treat Unholy Death Knights like Warlocks with DPS pets.

If I want the heals to go to the pet, I set the pet as my focus instead of the character.  Then if the character takes damage, I use the party1 macros to heal him.  When I’m not dealing with a pet class, the third row isn’t used – if I hit those macros by accident, they just end up healing my primary character, since in those cases, focus and party1 are the same unit.

You can also make the macros a bit more intelligent, and have them cast on focuspet if it exists and focus it doesn’t:

/cast [target=focuspet,help] Chain Heal; [target=focus] Chain Heal

but these only work for tanking pet classes.  If you try to use them on a pet like an Unholy DK or Destruction Warlock, you’ll quickly find that they break down because the character is the one taking agro and thus requiring heals.

Addons

  • twoboxtoolkit: provides message relaying, auto-following and quest acceptance
  • SpellBinder: lets you bind macros directly to keys
  • AutoBar: combines buttons for most consumables and actions into a small screen area
  • Dominos: flexible action bars

Files

None of these files are complete, so you shouldn’t just replace your copy with mine.  Open up your copy and this one and use mine to guide you in editing yours.

  • bindings-cache.wtf – just contains the bindings related to dualboxing
  • macros-cache.wtf – this is the global macros file that goes in your top-level account directory under WTF\Account\macros-cache.txt
  • macros-cache.wtf – a priest-specific macros file, this goes in the directory name for your character under the directory named for their realm
  • macros-cache.wtf – a shaman-specific macros file, this goes in the directory name for your character under the directory named for their realm.  This one uses the “if pet exists” style of macros to show you how both techniques work
  • Logitech profile –  a complete profile you can import that gives you my keybinds for a G11 + G13 combo.  It should work if you only have one or othe other.

I hope this has given you some idea of how I do things, and perhaps inspired you to try out dualboxing if you haven’t or modify your setup a bit if you have.  If there is any interest in the comments, I can post the logitech configs and my macro / keybind files for people to incorporate into their setups.

Until next time.

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