So, what is multiboxing and why should you care? Multiboxing (or dualboxing or just boxing) is PC gaming terminology for running multiple game clients attached to same online game. This was originally done with multiple computers (or boxes), hence the name, but many games allow multiple client instances on the same machine or through hacks (or Virtual Machines, etc.)
As for why you should care, multiboxing does influence what is possible in many online games and it is guaranteed that some people will do this in Star Citizen. It is not ‘bad’, per se, but it does change the scope of the game’s mechanics. Indeed, many games are built around the fact it is a given that many of the players will multibox (though it is usually far from a main stream activity).
The feasibility of multiboxing in any game is tied to the level of interaction the game requires. RPGs, where stats are king and real-time interaction is minimal, are ripe for multiboxing. A character that just follows you around buffing you or casting heals is a temptation that many cannot resist. Even if it costs them another $15 a month (or even 25 times that for single-man raids). Multiboxing in other games that require near real-time control (FPS or other twitch-based) is much less advantageous. If reaction time matters, then it is hard to split your attention without sacrificing too much.
Star Citizen’s space combat (to our current knowledge) is a real-time affair and It is likely we won’t see many (if any) people trying to simultaneously pilot two Hornets into combat. That said, there are many other things that may be conceptually feasible. Also, the lack of a monthly fee and the extra low bar game cost from the crowdfunding means we are guaranteed to see a bunch of people with extra accounts. Let’s explore some possibilities:
- Pirate crew - Capturing another craft in SC happens in two stages. First you must cripple / disable the other ship by shooting out its thrusters. Then you must dock with the ship and your crew must board it doing battle with the other ship’s crew and defenses. Notice, that the action here does not include the pilot and the crew simultaneously. Theoretically, it may be possible for a person to crew his own ship with a second account and simply switch when it comes to boarding. One-crew craft (like the Cutlass) seem ideally suited for this. You could theoretically have more than one (like 4 extras in the Caterpillar / Constellation) and just play one at a time during boarding, but that seems a little more extreme.
- Refueling - In my earlier pirate ship post I mentioned the Starfarer freighter could be strategically interesting for pirate fleets, but few people will want to give up a fighter in battle for one. This math is turned sideways when everyone can simply use a second account to park a refueling ship outside the fight or at the next jump. This could influence common guild strategy of fleet movements in that they just have extra refuel ships in areas that are hard to refuel in and relatively safe (and / or kitted with stealth mods).
- Low-interaction ships - Some ships are more interactive than others and need more handling. For instance, the Retaliator is a ship covered in missiles and turrets. It is not beyond reason to think a person could hop between two screens just calling targets without serious aiming or flying. For that matter, a skilled person might be able fly a whole squadron by themselves if they are just going in a straight line and casually launching hoards of ordinance. Closing on a tightly packed formation of auto-turrets could mean the accuracy of the AIs aim isn’t really all that important.
- Trading - In a low-conflict area, you could theoretically have two characters meeting halfway on a route, trade cargos, and double your profits (per given time). This, of course, assumes that you can navigate two sets of waypoints at once (seems reasonable assuming downtime in travel), you don’t run into trouble (thus the low-conflict areas), and you have some way to ‘trade’ cargos in a fast / efficient manner (the biggest unknown, dumping and tractoring?). The more nefarious version of this strategy is when one half of the route is in a different reputation area than the other. For instance, shuttling commodity supplies from Terra to a pirate asteroid at a sufficient markup; using separate pirate and Citizen accounts (depending on how important Citizenship is to trading). Trade missions / jobs would obviously not work in these scenarios.
- Guard Duty - This will likely be the first strategy tried by players, but possibly the hardest to get right. While using a Starfarer or similar vessel for asteroid mining or gas harvesting, the player brings along a more dedicated fighting vessel for protection. The idea would be that spending your flight time in the fighter gives you a better chance against pirates than the limited armament of the trading vessel. At a minimum, the second ship could be a deterrent against potential attackers and this strategy may actually be a good idea when fighting against a single pirate (as they will be forced to focus on the fighter), but the odds of survival go dramatically down with a pirate group. Then you’re potentially on the hook for two insurance payouts instead of one. Mining in groups could swing the balance back, but this will require each miner to have a multibox setup. My guess is that mining / trading guilds would benefit the most here.
Any other ideas? Tell me in the comments!