Boxing (also known as dual boxing, two boxing, multiboxing, box army, or hydra) is a style of play in which one player logs in characters from more than one account at once, controlling them in tandem.
In EverQuest, boxing is perhaps best known as a method to "group with oneself," but it also has applications in Bazaar trading, buff idling, power leveling, and moving around the world of the game.
Boxing has a long history in many MMORPGs, and EverQuest is no exception.
Since the earliest versions of the EQ client did not play nicely with alt-tabbing, lacked a windowed mode, and were fairly demanding on the hardware (and Internet services) widely available at the time, boxing was not convenient in EverQuest's early years, although two-boxing using two side-by-side computers (a common enough tactic among gaming couples and college friends) worked about as well as it ever has.
The release of third-party tools such as EQWindow (which bypassed the client's limitations and allowed EverQuest to be run in a window), and the eventual addition of an in-built windowed mode for the game, greatly expanded the accessibility of boxing from a technical standpoint, enabling users to run two or more instances of the EQ game client on a single computer and quickly alt-tab (or click) between them.
Real-world monetary price has traditionally been an issue faced by boxers, and sometimes argued as a limiting factor on its popularity. When EverQuest was a strictly subscription-based game, boxing two or more of one's own accounts required a higher monetary cost for the player in question: having two accounts meant paying for two subscriptions (and two sets of expansion packs, if desired). Having three or more meant dealing with a steadily increasing price of play.
The advent of Free-to-Play has increased the financial accessibility of boxing considerably. Combined with the ability of each character to have one mercenary companion, using boxing as a means to form a basic group has never been easier.
Designing and operating a boxed party is a strategic challenge in itself, even before any actual questing or combat occurs. Several factors require consideration.
Different classes in EverQuest require different amounts of user input on average in order to keep them functioning effectively during a fight. Players seeking to optimize their boxed parties typically take the required input for each class into consideration, and form parties accordingly. What follows is a discussion of the challenges involved in making each class work in a boxed party, along with some commonly used methods for meeting those challenges.
In general, dedicated melee DPS characters like rogues, berserkers, and monks are among the more difficult classes to use effectively in a boxed party, since they require both frequent hotkey input and frequent position-checking to ensure they are still in range of their foe. However, the potential sustained DPS (and in the case of the monk, pulling utility) that these characters bring to a boxed party is still sometimes high enough that players deem it useful to have one or more in the group.
When using melee DPS characters in a boxed party, a common strategy is to have the melee DPS /autofollow the tank and begin fights with the press of a multi-line hotkey that starts with /assist and queues up a few rounds of their strongest offensive abilities (e.g. backstab, frenzy, flying kick, and fast-reuse abilities from the Combat Abilities window). The boxer can then switch focus to the tank's window to ensure that positioning is correct (turning the mob so that the following melee DPS are behind it and swinging, while the tank attacks its front), activate one or more aggro abilities, and then switch to a healer to throw on buffs/debuffs and monitor health.
Melee damage mercenaries (a.k.a. rogue mercs) can also be used for this role, freeing up the player to focus much more fully on tanking and healing. However, damage caster mercenaries (a.k.a. wizard mercs) are more often used for this purpose due to their higher potential burst damage.
In general, melee characters or mercenaries are at their strongest in boxed parties that include a shaman and/or bard, due to the hefty melee DPS enhancements those classes provide.
Note that including any melee DPS character (or merc) in a boxed party largely rules out the option of using a pet tank option, since mobs being tanked by a pet will always turn and attack a player character who comes into melee range.
A dedicated tanking class is likewise challenging to use effectively in a boxed party unless the player gives that character a larger than normal amount of his or her attention. Among the tanks, the shadow knight is perhaps the easiest to box, owing to its single-pulling utility and to its strong aggro generation abilities that can be used from range (a boon when mobs are running past the frontline and attacking squishier characters).
A warrior is also relatively simple, with respectable aggro generation from autoattacking and the highest passive damage mitigation among the three (freeing up player attention that might normally be consumed on a knight tank's self-healing activities) but suffering a bit compared to the shadow knight in situations where a mob has run out of melee range and started attacking another character in the party.
The paladin is considerably harder to box optimally in most situations due to needing to switch targets more frequently (e.g., for healing). This is eased significantly at the highest levels (85+) with the advent of target-of-target healing spells, but never totally goes away. On the plus side, a paladin tank can significantly ease the party's healing burden when facing foes that are able to be stunned.
Under many circumstances, the simplest tank to box is not a traditional tanking class at all, but rather a magician pet (air or earth elemental) that has adequate buff, debuff, and healing support from the rest of the party to endure the punishment being directed at it, while the remainder of the party burns down the target with magic. Box groups relying on pet tanking will need to specialize the magician's AA investments toward pet survivability, and keep upgrading the magician's pet focus item, as progression into the level 70+ range continues.
The other remaining alternative for box party tanking is to use a tank mercenary (preferably with its owner on a Gold subscription so that Journeyman mercenaries are available, as the durability difference between an Apprentice 5 tank merc and a Journeyman 5 tank merc is substantial). This is often the preferable tanking option for non-magician boxing setups in which the player wants to focus most of his or her attention on healing or on optimizing DPS for fast kills, without aggro management being as much of a concern.
Damaging casters are often the workhorses of a boxed party, since their emphasis on long-range damage makes positioning more forgiving, and since their capacity for slow-casting, large-results abilities makes it easier to use multi-line hotkeys to achieve high DPS, with only minimal player attention being given to each character.
Magicians can serve multiple purposes in boxed parties. To begin with, the pets offer fire-and-forget sustained DPS that will automatically pursue the target, while their magician masters apply additional burst damage via magic to help end fights quickly. As noted in the Tanks section above, it is also entirely possible to use a magician pet (with appropriate support considerations) as a boxed party's main tank. Stacking a boxed party with multiple magicians all using air pets can render stunnable mobs virtually useless, making many grinds and quest progressions remarkably easy.
Necromancers function similarly to the magician in the sense that they bring both fire-and-forget damage via the pet and additional damage from the necromancer's own magic. However, necromancers tend to lose out to magicians for ease of use in a boxed party because their pets are somewhat less powerful (and substantially less sturdy) and because their personal damage relies on smothering a mob in DoTs rather than providing heavy burst damage on demand. The killing power a necromancer brings to a boxed party can however be very substantial, particularly against high-health named mobs and group mission bosses, provided that tanking and survival utilities are already addressed.
Sample Class CompositionsEdit
(stub - obviously add more sample compositions)
One Pet Tanks, Ranged DPS BurnsEdit
This style of boxed party uses a magician pet to tank (air or earth elemental, depending on the situation) while one or more characters capable of dealing heavy damage from long range burn the target down. The pet requires minimal management once sent in to fight, often allowing the player to queue up a multi-line hotkey of offensive spells on the magician and switch his or her attention to another window. As the magician grows in power, AA priority is put into pet tanking when possible, with pet offense and spell crit chance being secondary.
The bulk of damage in this setup is typically provided by one or more boxed wizards or wizard mercenaries, as their DPS is convenient to manage. A ranger may also be included to provide tracking, snaring, and other utility, with its AA investments aimed toward archery damage and spell crit.
The party's crowd control needs are often served by a boxed enchanter, bard, or shaman. Using an enchanter who provides caster-friendly buffs and controls targets via mesmerization and memory blurring. Healing for the party can be successfully performed by one or more cleric mercenaries for most content, or can be accoplished by another boxed character if the player so chooses. A bard is likewise a valid option, offering solid buffing potential for the casters' spells and mana regeneration, while also being more readily mobile than the enchanter. A shaman is another viable alternative for two-boxers who want their second character to handle some of the healing, with the shaman also providing some crowd control via root parking.
Note that at level 70 and above, a magician can conveniently break mesmerizations using the Raging Servant line of swarm pet spells, which deal a single point of the damage to the target (breaking mez) before summoning a relatively strudy swarm pet to intercept. Prior to level 70, a simple Burst of Flame spell, followed by a Pet Attack command, is a useful alternative. If using a shaman to perform the party's crowd control, no such considerations will be needed in the first place, since pets can freely be ordered to attack foes which are merely rooted.
This style of boxed party revolves around stampeding foes with as many powerful pets as possible, and comes in a variety of flavors.
One of the easier-to-control core setups for this type of party consists of two or three magicians all using air pets. The pets are used to intercept foes, while the magicians also summon swarm pets and throw damage spells to help ensure targets die quickly. When multiple air pets are targeting a single foe that they are capable of stunning, the sheer volume of stuns being thrown at the target (even if there is some lost stun time due to the stuns overlapping) is often sufficient to keep the party's healing burden to a minimum. For obvious reasons, this setup runs into difficulties against stun-immune creatures, but can often still get through the fight by virtue of the sheer number (and sturdiness) of pets being thrown into the fray.
A more balanced variant involves using one magician with its pet tanking; a shaman or beastlord sending its pet, reducing the target's attack speed, and DoTing; and a necromancer sending in its pet and laying on even more DoTs. The necromancer provides movement speed slow via its Darkness DoTs and can also function as the party's puller in areas where mob density is too great for the magician to do the job well.
If going for a large boxed party (more than three player-controlled characters), adding a Bard into the mix as a low-maintenance aura and melody provider is a strong choice. High-level bard attack speed auras will work on both the primary pets and and any summoned swarm pets, providing a significant boost to the party's DPS.
A potential downside to any party using this style of play is that giving pet toys to each of the pets can become an irritating chore if attempts at a fight repeatedly end in defeat.