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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dancing With Yourself

In Eve, dual-boxing can give you a significant advantage in combat, if you’re able to pull it off successfully.  This article will discuss the types, advantages, and challenges of dual-boxing.
What Is Dual-boxing?
In Eve, each account can have one character online at any given time.  Many players have more than one active account, with multiple characters on each.  Some use that second account (secondary) for invention, running research, invention, and hauling characters.  A lot of null-sec PvPers have one client open with a ratting alt while they PvP on their other character (primary), effectively paying for any PvP losses in real-time.  I imagine there’s someone out there who actually *gulp* mines with their second account while they PvP, but I’ve never met that person.
For my purposes, I’m talking about having two PvP characters roaming together, either by yourself or in a small fleet.  I’m not including scouting alts for large fleets, as the scouting account has very low handle-time requirements.
In PvP, the second account typically serves one or more of these functions, and confers all the usual benefits you’d expect from them:
Prober: Your secondary jumps in first and quickly tries to find and tackle targets. You have a probe launcher, combat probes, and usually a cloak.  These ships need to survive some punishment until your primary character can come to the rescue, and typically have bonuses to tackle. Examples: Rapier, Arazu, Loki, Proteus.
Tackle: Your secondary jumps in first and has the sole objective of tackling targets until your primary can arrive, at which point your secondary warps to safety.  Examples: interceptors, assault frigates.
EWAR: Your secondary is held in reserve to assist your primary character, who jumps into system first.  Jumping your secondary in too early will often scare off the targets, as seeing ewar ships on dscan immediately kills an opponent’s desire to fight.  This type of secondary will piss off the maximum number of opponents.  Examples: Curse, Pilgrim, Rook, Falcon, Celestis.
Logi: Having an Oneiros or Scimitar in your back pocket can prolong an engagement indefinitely.  With your logi keeping range from you, your primary can freely engage larger targets and focus first on destroying any drones prior to engaging the actual target.  If your logi is cap-stable, you can fight indefinitely without risk to your ship, making it possible to take down even heavily tanked mission battleships.
Bubbler: A secondary character in a Sabre or Broadsword can make it much easier to pin down an enemy target, particularly in pipe systems.  In pipes, you can sit with your Sabre cloaked in line with an in-gate and flush targets to it with your primary DPS ship.  Just remember to decloak and bubble -before- your target enters warp.  Your DPS ship can warp directly to the gate, be caught in the same bubble, and destroy your target.  If your secondary is a Sabre, you can either engage or simply cloak it back up.
Scanner: Sometimes, particularly when high-sec ganking, having a secondary with a fast lock time that can scan potential targets to help with cost-value is useful.  These ships are small, innocent-looking, and have a Passive Targeting system and cargo/ship scanners.  A quick lock and scan can reveal whether it’s worth hitting the target.  Doing so can, for instance, identify officer resistance-fit Tengus that you can alpha-strike with a single Tornado.
You’ll note that I didn’t include Scout as a role.  If you’re out by yourself or a small gang, you don’t have the manpower to have a dedicated scout – that character is more frequently a prober.  Boosters are also excluded, since they remain safely away from the fighting, and don't require the same attention as engaging with two characters does.  Also, I intentionally excluded dedicated probers – Buzzards and the like – as having a prober that can’t tackle targets is a waste of a ship when you’re in a gang of 2-5.  You need to cover as many roles as possible without compromising your fit.
The Pitfalls: Two People, One Brain
I remember the fist time I died to a dual-boxer with a boosting Loki.  I thought it was cheap, and spouted off something about e-honor in local.  I hated him for having that advantage.  I promised not to make the same mistake again and, in the future, avoid fights with obvious dual-boxers.  I also promised myself that one day I’d be that guy.
It’s natural, to see a tactic and want to exploit it yourself.  By all means train up or buy a new character.  But before you take him out for the first time, consider some of the downsides of splitting your attention between two characters.
Sure, in most fleets, and during most roams, a lot of your time is spent waiting, and watching your ship slowly whittle down an enemy.  You can use that time to control your second character, right?
That thinking would work fine if sudden changes in battles were predictable, which they aren’t.  Even if you’re using two computers instead of two clients on the same computer, you only have one attention span to split between them.  You’re bound to miss a ship sliding into web range on your kiting Cynabal, or a brawler moving in on your Rapier.
Target selection and situational awareness are absolutely critical.  You need to understand where you are, whether you can take that ship you’re about to drop on, and whether he’s actually alone.  When dual-boxing, you must be absolutely committed to the fight before you begin it – retreating is not an option.  With two characters to control, you can only enter commands on one client at a time (unless your maker blessed you with four hands).  If the engagement goes squirrelly, you’ll – at best – only be able to save one ship.  You best decide which one it’ll be before you undock.
Look at it this way.  Think about how you react when you get into a fight.  Think about all the mistakes you’ve ever made, the moments of hesitation, and the poor decisions.  Now, try imagining facing those same decisions, but with two ships of very different capabilities and limitations.  You need to have two fighting styles in mind at once, and seamlessly switch between those two styles as you Alt + Tab or change monitors.
Dual-boxing carries the possibility of winning fights you couldn’t win with a single character, but it also risks double the isk and requires triple the attention.  I recommend trying it out on low-value ships and clean clones first, then gradually moving up to more specialized and expensive fits.  It takes practice, but when you master it, you’re in for a whole new world of PvP on your own schedule, without having to wait for others to be available.

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