What should have been a celebration of a team clearing the most challenging content possible in Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker has turned into controversy as the first team to clear the latest FF14 raid has been accused of cheating.
Except… it’s also kind of not cheating? Depending on who you ask.
The bottom line is that last week FF14 patch 6.31 was released, including a new, super hard version of an existing raid: The Omega Protocol. A typical race ensued to become the first raid team in the world to clear it, with a team called Unnamed_ taking the crown on Monday by posting screenshots of their victory. However, shortly after, an uncredited video began circulating showing one of their members using a mod to zoom the camera out much further than it normally should, presumably to get a better view of the engineering. There are also some less obvious UI tweaks shown in the video that track various elements of the match.
According to the FF14 terms of service, mods of any kind are not allowed in the game. Unnamed_ has since been kicked out of the match and had his kill revoked both in-game and from a popular logging site. Additionally, a lengthy statement was posted on the official FF14 newsboard by FF14 director Naoki Yoshida, reiterating Square Enix’s stance on third-party tools (not allowed at all) and that unspecified punishments will be imposed for their use. The post further condemns the recording and release of certain in-game cutscenes and other non-recordable footage.
“The ultimate raid series is the most difficult combat content in FFXIV, and we are releasing this content after testing that it can be cleared without using third-party tools,” Yoshida wrote. “However, if the assumption is that this content will be addressed and cleared using third-party tools, then any reason for developing high-difficulty combat content seems lost. It’s very difficult for me as a gamer to understand what the meaning behind from using numerous third-party tools to compete for clearance would be.
“…If the illegal use of third-party tools becomes clear through our investigations, I, at least, will not recognize this group as the true World First.”
If you’re not familiar with FF14, this seems like a game that rightfully fights rogues, but the reality is much more complicated. Third-party tools, mods, plugins, you name it, are actually extremely common in MMORPGs with raid content, including FF14. A large portion of advanced players will use mods to track boss mechanics, adjust their UI to be more useful, or make the game more user-friendly. FF14’s rival World of Warcraft, a game with similar “World First” races around its hardest content, has an active high-end raiding scene where everyone is publicly using dozens of mods – if you’re not, you’re dragging the team down. Although the FF14 scene isn’t as intense, it’s still no secret in the community that a lot of people playing at top levels are using them. They just don’t broadcast this usage because, well, things like this happen all the time.
HGXIV: Final Fantasy 14 Home Decorations
But all that being said, it’s also true that given the crackdown, there are likely to be plenty of teams trying to clean up the content without using any mods at all. Given the threat of punishment around it, it’s hard to say exactly how common mods are in FF14. So, across the community, player reactions seem to be divided between people who believe the ban was justified, and others disappointed that such a harsh punishment was meted out for something they see as commonplace. Some suggest that while some mods (like the aforementioned small UI tools) are good, it was the camera zoom that crossed the line. All told it’s a messy situation, not helped by the fact that there are actually no anti-cheat measures to prevent this from happening.
While the community may never reach a consensus, the mod in FF14 is likely to continue unless Square Enix’s crackdown becomes more severe to the point of massively affecting regular players. That said, the active removal of such an award is likely to discourage serious contenders for world first from attempting such a thing in the future.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.