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Multiboxing hardware

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Multiboxing is a term used to denote one user playing multiple accounts simulataneously. This can be done using one or more machines. Solutions exist for both the PC and Mac. There are also solutions for using both PC and Mac at the same time. Look to Multiboxing for a general overview on this subject and to Multiboxing software as well as Multiboxing macros


Hardware Requirements

World of Warcraft has easy to meet system requirements. This makes it relatively easy to run two instances on a single core processor equipped system and even more on multi-core systems. When running multiple copies on one machine it is suggested the graphics and sound options of the extra accounts be turned down. Note that the same rules apply to running multiple instances on a Mac.

The first suggestion, Single instance per machine, can be used to define the minimum system for an extra account when running multiple accounts across many machines. It is assumed that a display device, keyboard, and mouse, are included in the requirements. When using multiple machines a separate display for each can be very helpful.

Single instance per machine

  • Single Core Processor, 1GHz range
  • 512 megabytes of RAM
  • Integrated Video

Two instances per machine

  • Fast Single Core or multi-core processor
  • One gigabyte of RAM
  • Discrete 3d video (Nvidia 6600GT+ as an example)

More than Two instances

  • Fast multi-core processor
  • Four gigabytes of RAM
  • Discrete 3d Video (NVidia 7600GT+)

Additional Hardware

Depending on how much money you're willing to invest the following additional hardware items can be considered. Depending on the method used to control multiple accounts the amount of additional hardware will vary.

Slave systems

If you decide to build, I suggest a MicroATX motherboard (that supports ELECTRICAL x16 PCI-E - a lot ONLY support 1x electrical but 16x physical - a big problem!), a single or dual core processor, at least 1 gig of memory, an 80 gig hard drive, cases, power supplies, an nVidia 6600 GT or better (avoid 6200, 7200s, etc and avoid all built in video cards).

You will need four of these machines, assuming you already have a box that is at least as beefy as these. If money is not an issue then buy five identical machines and defragment regularly and you should see them load at nearly the exact same time. Put solid state hard drives in there and short of latency, everything should match up perfectly. You can take this as far as you want to go and spend as much as you can possibly spend but MicroATX boards with a solid video card and processor will run WoW at optimum framerates with decent quality and max sight distance. Period. ATX mobos or top of the line systems are just icing. Each "bare bones" system will run approximately $500 or $2000 for four systems.

Total Cost - $2000 Running total cost - $2000.

Extra Monitors

LCD Monitors are dirt cheap these days. Do not go CRT. Any 15 - 17" monitor will work perfectly. If you want a larger monitor for the center screen that is perfectly fine but WoW can be played fine on 17" monitors and anything bigger will make it very hard to monitor your "secondary" characters as they will be out of your peripheral vision. So when one gets rooted, sapped, feared etc - you will likely not even know it. You can get a solid 17" monitor for $150. I highly suggest getting ones with as small a bezel as possible to enable them to be placed as close as possible to each other. Response time is a personal preference but nearly any 17" LCD these days is more than sufficient for your purposes.

Total Cost - $600 Running Total - $2600

Monitor Mounts

You have three options here. The best option (and most expensive) is to purchase an Ergotron DS100 triple monitor arm. If you want to mount six monitors (one for websites, email, vent, etc) then buy their 24" pole, triple monitor mount and either a desk stand or desk clamp mount. Then just mount your bottom monitors using their existing stands and save some money. They have newer options that articulate and you can certainly get two triple arms if you wish but each triple arm runs about $200. These are on ebay all the time and are rock solid - I highly suggest buying used and saving a hundred bucks or so. You may (probably will) need to buy a 24" pole to go along with the triple arm. These are fairly cheap. If you cannot find one (the DS100 line has been discontinued but parts abound still) then go to http://www.onlinemetals.com and buy a 24" 1.5" aluminum TUBE (not pipe). With as thick a wall as you feel comfortable with. I suggest at least 1/8". Pipe does not have a 1.5" OD (outer diameter). The ergotrons all use 1.5" OD circular tubing.

Controls

Vetra Keyboard Multicaster

In my experience there are a few hardware choices you need to make to actually control your characters. You will need two Vetra keyboard broadcasters. These will allow you to take the output of a single machine and send it to multiple computers. Make sure you match this with a PS/2 keyboard. USB is too difficult to multicast and is not a good option here. This rules out the use of the Nostromo N52, Ergodex DX1, the Logitech G15 and other USB only keyboards. Each Vetra Keyboard Broadcaster (VIP-844-BC) costs $200. To control four total boxes, you need one. To control five, you will need two. They will make you a custom model if you ask and delivery is usually within two weeks but I do not have a quote. They are usually pretty reasonable though. You will also need the PS/2 cables. I highly suggest http://www.monoprice.com. Their cables are solid, CHEAP and just work. Make sure you pick up a single short male to male PS/2 cable to link the two Vetras together as well as the five male to male PS/2 cables to connect from the Vetra's outputs to the computers.

See discussion on this topic. [Picture]

Total Cost - $400 Running Total - $3250

Keyboard/Mouse KVM

I highly suggest SOME form of a KVM, if only to switch from sending keystrokes to every machine to your main computer. Vetras are top notch, enterprise level units. The VIP-802-KM is what you need to send input to all or one machine. If you want to go further, and be able to send keystrokes to any single machine, you will need Y-Mice for each machine. You only need the KM option, saving some money over a full KVM - which also sends video. You just need to send the keyboard data (and perhaps mouse). KVMs switch far too slow. You need a dedicated monitor for EACH box you wish to play.

[2 Port Vetra KM (KVM without Video)]

Total Cost - $120 (2 port version) Running Total - $3370

Y-Mouse

If you want to use a KVM, you will need a Y-Mouse. I assume you will only want one - to control your main box OR all 5. If you want to individually control them without buying a keyboard for each (or using Synergy) then you will need a Y-Mouse for each. The Y-Mouse gives you two PS/2 ports instead of one. They offer mice and keyboard versions and they can be cascaded to give you more ports if needed. They are simply plug and play - no drivers required. Vetra makes something similar but costs more - go with the Y-Mouse. They are sold by the same company that sells the X-Keys. Think of them as a little 1 port Vetra Keyboard Multicaster made by a different company.

[Picture] [Picture] [Picture]

Total Cost - $60 (each) Running Total - $3430

X-Keys

I HIGHLY suggest picking up at least an X-keys Desktop. That will give you 20 physical keys (and a total of 40 virtual keys with an ALT key modifier). More if you setup a second alt/control key and modify your WoW macros accordingly. Make sure to purchase a PS/2 version. All of the X-keys have keyboard pass throughs - so you just attach your regular keyboard to it and plug it into the computer - nothing else is required. You can cascade several of them together. I also highly suggest printing out the keycaps in the right size (.58" square - but you will need to slightly cut the two bottom corners) in color. That way you will have an on screen version of your input system and a simple glance will tell you what key you are pressing. WoW Icons are available from http://www.wowwiki.com/List_of_WoW_icons. You WILL need to resize them to .58" before you print them. The ghetto method of doing that is simply opening a Word document, dragging and dropping the icons (you can drag and drop all of them at once) then right clicking on each one and setting the size manually. Another (better) option is to do it the right way and use an automated Photoshop script to change the size and then place them with your favorite desktop program. Word will work though, but the quality will be lower. Good enough though if you lack the graphical talent to photoshop like a pro. For those who truly want the best setup they can get, go with an X-keys Professional. It costs $170 (vs $120) but it expands you from 20 to 58 physical keys. If you are running PvP or a complex PvE setup, you will definitely want a Pro. I suggest starting with the center 20 keys and expanding out from there. For non-combat uses, I personally use a Stick. They cost $100 but give you 16 keys to summon water, cast buffs, etc. They can also have a modifier key and I reserve two keys to switch between the KVM computers. (The Vetras switch with a special keyboard combination as well as with a physical button). Any of the X-Keys can be programmed to repeat when held down and of course they can store macros and not just a single keypress or combination of key presses. Whatever you wind up getting, make sure they are PS/2 and NOT USB.

[X-Keys Desktop]

[X-Keys Professional]

[X-Keys Stick]

[Some of My Custom Printed Key Caps]

Total Cost - $120 (Desktop - $170 - Professional - $100 Stick) Running Total - $3550

Keyboard

My personal keyboard of choice is the Happy Hacking Lite II. It has a VERY small footprint and has the directional pads, unlike the Pro version. They run about $80 each and come in USB or PS/2. For my main input keyboard, I went with a PS/2 model and for the other 4, I went with USB. If you plug a USB and a PS/2 keyboard into a computer, windows will simply treat them as an either or setup. So if you type on one, it displays that text. If you type on the other, it displays the other. If you type both at the same time, it intertwines them. Perfect for multiboxing. Mouse control works in the same way.

See discussion

A Gray Happy Hacking Shown Below Normal Keyboard

[Picture]

Total Cost - $400 Running total cost - $3950

Mice (Wireless)

Mice input is tough. You will likely want to setup mouse input for all 4 "secondary" computers and one for your main. A wireless mouse is cheap. Get a RF mouse, not an IR. Go optical. I use logitechs but any brand should work as long as they are the same brand. Buy four. Set three of the mice aside and plug in all 4 receivers. USB mice work fine. To set them all to the same frequency, click the sync button on the mouse and then click the receivers. They should all sync right up. Every so often the mice will desync slightly (a few pixels at most). To "resync" run the WoWs fullscreen and just move the mice to any corner then to your destination. It makes turning in quests, etc MUCH easier.

Total Cost - $80 Running total cost - $4030

Mice (Wired)

You will want either a dedicated mouse per machine or use the KVM to send mice input to each individual machine. The KVM has a SMALL but noticeable latency - switching is NOT literally instant. I personally use dedicated mice but the KVM option would work if you purchase PS/2 mice and a 6 port KVM (technically you only need a 5 port KM but Vetra only sellf 6 port models). Obviously with USB mice this will not work. Go optical and wired (although wireless SHOULD work too). Mice input works the same way as keyboard input. You can have multiple ones connected without any problems. Don't forget a mouse for your main (fifth) box.

Total Cost - $50 Running total cost - $4080

Other Considerations

Electrical Costs

Your electrical costs will increase as each box takes up about 250 watts of power. MicroATX power supplies usually run only 70 or 80% efficient. Assuming a kilowatt hour cost of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, and you will be using around 1000 watts (1 kilowatt-hour) per hour, it will cost you ten cents per hour to run four more boxes. Running 24/7, this will mean an extra $75 per month.


Play Area Layout

Once again, this small detail makes a difference. If you run 5 or 6 monitors, I strongly suggest some logical order to how your characters are arranged and which computer runs which character. Your "main" is generally in the middle and the secondaries flank your main to either side. My personal choice is A in the lower left, B upper left, C upper right and D lower right. Clockwise with X in the lower middle. The upper middle is for browsing the internet, looking up quests, vent, etc. My key arrangement mirrors this and the X-Keys Desktop and Pro are perfect for this kind of setup as they have 8 keys wide and 5 vertical. Making your physical interface as intuitive as possible will speed the learning process and make far more logical sense when playing.


See also

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