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Should Multi Boxing in Games Be Allowed?

Introduction

As an avid PC gamer, I play a ton of different games. Most of them I play are in the role playing game genre, which also happens to be where people have benefits to multi boxing. But should this be allowed?

What Multi Boxing is

If you are not familiar with what multi boxing is, it is running more than one account on your own. This actually works in a few different ways, depending on the game and the player:

  • You manually control each character
  • You use key replicators to control your other characters with the same key strokes you use on the main one
  • Bots automatically control the other characters for you

In most cases, when we talk about multi boxing we are actually referring to the second scenario, with key replicators. This allows someone to create as many characters and accounts as they want and control all of them at once, having each one do the same exact things the main one is doing. This, for example, is something people love to use in PvP because it ensures that all of their accounts are pounding away on the same target. It is also used in raids sometimes, but usually when it comes to raids people end up botting instead because there are too many variables involved with trying to control every character on your own.

Multi Boxing in Subscription Based Games

I am one to argue for allowing multi boxing in games that require a subscription. In this case, I feel that as long as the user is not running any bots or other automation software (that is, to say that key replicators would be allowed), there are no problems. Most game publishers also agree with this theory, although their reasoning is a bit different: the person is paying monthly fees one each account, so the more they have (and are allowed to have) the more the publisher is earning.

I, on the other hand, have a different reason. I feel that if someone is willing to shell out the money every month for their multiple accounts, they should have the right to do as they please (as long as botting is not done). The person is at the computer and they are actively playing one way or another, so I do not see any problems there. I will admit that it is quite annoying when you get rocked in PvP by a multi box party, as there is pretty much no way you are going to be able to compete with them due to instant assisting and such, but that is something I can get over.

My problem with the multi boxers does not come in until people start running completely automated software. These are people that are gaining benefits in the game to push them above and beyond the rest of us, while they are not even around to earn their own stuff. I will be hitting on the bot problem in a later article, but for now suffice it to say that bots are the only time where I get upset about people doing this in subscription based games.

I do, however, often question the motive people have with the desire to run many accounts at once. I have brought up in the past problems with online role playing games seeming a lot like single player games as of late, and sadly when people do multi boxing all they are doing is making the problem worse. When this happens, they are filling in the spots that other players could use (in their group) with their own characters, which cuts down on the number of groups that is running. Depending on how you look at it you may not see this as being too big of an issue, but I think it is pretty damaging to the community as a whole. We need more people that are actually playing their accounts legitimately if we really want to get people to start working together.

Free to Play Games

Now, when we are talking about free to play games, my opinion on everything changes drastically. This goes for both games that are free to play from the very beginning, as well as those that start out as subscription based and then change over to being free. In both cases, allowing people to run multiple different accounts at once causes massive damage.

Alright, so the first thing to think about is the difference between free and subscription based games. For example, which one is more limiting on how many accounts you can run? It is the subscription games, because with those you are forced to pay extra every month for each account you are running. Because of this, far less players do it, and those that do end up running multiple accounts do not run that many. The cost would be far too great to run massive groups of multi boxed characters, so it is really cost prohibitive to do so. Some people may be able to justify spending the money and might do that regardless, but those are very slim and far between. Most players are more interested in saving money than they are having as many characters running as possible. And this is a great thing because the more it is limited, the less it is hurting the game and the community.

But then we move in to the free to play games, where there is no cost whether you are wanting to run a single account or twenty of them. The only limit here is how many clients you can keep running on your computer(s), rather than how much you are willing to spend each month. This results in far more players deciding to multi box, and over time it can turn in to a problem where even group based content is no longer grouped for. Take Lineage II, for example. When it went free to play people started running entire parties on their own, so even when dealing with content that used to require groups (and people would sometimes take a boxed buffer), there is no more grouping needed. This has led to far less groups being formed, and now if you are not running multiple accounts you are going to end up having problems really going through progression. It has been a downward spiral and has been experiencing the snowball effect. In my case, for example, when I hit the group based content everyone said to just grab my own buffer and do it on my own. I spent days looking for groups before I finally gave up and did just that. After a while, though (actually it was not that long, as I get bored pretty quick when I am stuck playing the games by myself) I ended up quitting the game out of boredom. It became apparent that the entire game was going to end up being like that, other than the true end game content, and that content was still largely like that unless you happened to be in a nice guild or have a lot of friends that would take you. Even then, I found that most of the time the groups you were going to get in to were just one or two other people running multiple characters. To me, that is no different than just running them all solo; I would much rather play with completely separate people.

Multi Boxing Leads to Worse Players

I am likely going to be experiencing a bit of flak for this next point, but it is very true. When people multi box, they are usually worse players than those who do not. This is not true in every case, as some people will multi box because others are the ones that are bad, but in most cases you can tell the difference like night and day if you are playing with someone that is used to multi boxing versus someone that is used to actually playing in parties. Maybe it has to do with the dynamics in that when they are multi boxing they are in full control over everything and when they are in groups everything that happens is the result of a group decision, but in any case, it is a pretty bad situation. The worst part is when you end up getting in to a PvP battle with a multi boxer, as they are usually so easy to kill it is ridiculous.

One of the big reasons this happens is because if you are running multiple accounts, you only have to worry about yourself and nobody else. Even in PvP, you are only worried about the main character. When you join another group and you are battling with them, however, things change because their healers, for example, have to heal the entire group instead of just you. Over time, this difference in play style starts to become a bigger and bigger problem, although most people do not even realize that it is happening.

The only real way to counter this is to do what I consider hybrid playing. When I played Lineage II back when it required a subscription, I had a second account that I used for mana regeneration or healing on my main character. The trick to this, though, and to keep my peak performance, was to only dual box that healer when I was unable to find a group. So if there were no groups for, say an hour, I would run my two accounts for an hour while I continued looking for one. As soon as I found one, I would drop the second account and go off with the group. This gave two great benefits:

  • It allowed me to level regardless as to if I happened to be able to find a group or not
  • It gave the satisfaction of playing with groups and getting to know people

As my main's level got further and further apart from the healer, there was a problem though: with too much of a level gap, there is no experience gain for the lower level character. When this happened, I would simply take the healer in to a group and play it actively while it gained a level or two, and then go back to normal. Because Lineage II had sub classes (or you could basically have a two in one character, although separate), I was only worried about whether or not the healer would get experience when we were duo'ing; I was not concerned at all about it actually catching up in level since the sub class would start at level forty and then it would be a higher level than me anyways.

How to Fix Multi Boxing Problems

Getting rid of the desire to multi box all the way to and through the maximum level in a game is pretty easy. Take, for example, the game Aion. This is a perfect example of when multi boxing does not work because of how dynamic the world was in terms of combat. At least through the betas, there were pretty much constant raids on enemy lands from both factions (Elyos and Asmodians), which meant that you often had to make a fast run for it. If you were attempting to run more than one account at a time, you were setting yourself up for problems since you were not going to be able to react and escape nearly as fast. This actually made hunting down multi boxers pretty easy for us when we were raiding the zones, too!

Another thing that Aion did right is put the best farming areas in a PvP hot spot. This was called “The Abyss,” and in it you had to fight not only mobs, but also players. While you were near your faction's starting area you were pretty safe, but if you actually wanted to go out and farm anything that had some real value and use, you had to venture out in to the middle areas, right where your enemies were also hunting. This made multi boxing in this zone pretty much impossible, because with the way Aion worked and everything, it was just not feasible to try to PvP and run more than one account at once, while also fending off any enemy mobs that you might be in the middle of fighting at the time.

There were still some multi boxers outside of these areas, but they are not nearly as important as if they were able to survive and flourish within the more important places. Since this did not work, the system was great. Note, however, that one thing NC Soft failed to do with the game was ban bots, so botters were all over the place, even in The Abyss, but that is a discussion for another time.

Their Effect On the Economy

Multi boxers really have the same effect on the economy as botters do; they work to offset the prices, often causing either massive inflation or massive deflation, depending on what the items are. The reason this happens is simple: when one person gets a hold of more items than everyone else, they have a huge advantage in that they can work towards swaying the market. For example, if we have five players out hunting and earning, say a hundred gold per hour. After ten hours each of us have a thousand gold. The prices we charge for items, as well as what we pay for them, are going to be based on that thousand gold. Now, however, we have another person coming around that was running five accounts all on their own. This person, instead of having a thousand gold, has five thousand. This gives them control of the market, as they can buy everything else that is for sale, and then market it at their own prices and pretty much dominate who can buy what and how they are able to purchase it.

The process actually moves a lot slower than in the example above, but the effect remains the same. Actually, we can see this in every online role playing game that has a ton of bots and farmers already. Look at the prices of items and you will realize that most of them are way out of the range of what they really should be. If you were to farm the gold normally, and not rely on the massive sale prices of items you are getting rid of, there is no way you would ever be able to achieve the top items. But it is possible because the farmers sell the gold, the players buy the gold and then the gold ends up being spread among players in the market. If they wanted to (and this has happened in some games) the farmers could simply create their own monopoly in which they would dominate one or more item types and determine on their own who could get them and what it would require. Why do they not do this? Because it would make players (and developers) mad, make them lose business and they would probably have a much larger chance of being banned as a result of it. As long as their impact is seen as “small,” even though it really is not when you consider it, they are often left alone.

The worst part about this effect on the economy is that the longer they are allowed to run around like this, the worse the problem will get. At some point (usually pretty fast, within a couple of months) the situation is already to a point where it can never be fixed again without doing a complete server wipe and restart, which is not viable in the least.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think that whether or not multi boxing should be allowed in online role playing games really depends on the situation. If a game is based on a subscription model, I have no problems with it as long as they are not going to be using automated tools to play for them. If the game is on a free to play model, however, it is more of a problem, as everyone has the same ability to create as many characters and accounts as their computers will allow them to, and it turns the multi boxing from being something only a few people do to one that a ton of people do. With this comes a big change in how grouping works, as well as end game content, and it pushes games further in to being like a single player game than they already are. At one point you end up getting to where you have no choice but to either multi box yourself or be left behind. This should never be something that happens; there should always be choices and if you want to play socially, you should not feel as if you are obligated to go off on your own and create more characters just so you can get by and remain competitive.

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