What should have been a celebration of a group clearing the most challenging possible content in Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker has turned into controversy, as the very 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 gist is that last week, FF14 patch 6.31 released, including a new, super-hard version of an existing raid: The Omega Protocol. A typical race to be the first raid team in the world to clear it ensued, with a group called Unnamed_ taking the crown on Monday by posting screenshots of their victory. However, not long after, an unlisted video began to circulate showing one of their members using a mod to zoom the camera out much farther than it normally should be able to do, presumably to get a better view on the mechanics. There are also some less-obvious UI mods displayed in the video tracking various elements of the fight.
Per FF14’s terms of service, mods of any kind are not permitted in the game. Unnamed_ has since been disqualified from the race and had its kill revoked both in-game and by a popular logging site. Additionally, a lengthy statement was published on the official FF14 news board from FF14 director Naoki Yoshida, reiterating Square Enix’s stance on third-party tools (none whatsoever permitted) and that unspecified punishments would be enacted for using them. The post additionally condemns the recording and circulation of certain in-game cutscenes and other footage that isn’t intended to be recordable.
“The ultimate raid series is the most difficult battle content within FFXIV, and we release this content after testing that it can be cleared without the use of any third-party tools,” Yoshida wrote. “However, if the presumption is that this content will be tackled and cleared with the use of third-party tools, then any reason to develop high-difficulty battle content seems to be lost. It’s very difficult for me to understand as a gamer what the meaning behind using numerous third-party tools to compete to clear first would be.
“…If the illicit use of third-party tools is made clear through our investigations, I, at the very least, will not recognize that team as the true World First.”
If you’re unfamiliar with FF14, this reads like a game rightfully cracking down on cheaters, but the reality is much more complicated. Third-party tools, mods, add-ons, whatever you call them, are actually extremely common in MMORPGs with raid content, including FF14. A large portion of high-end players will use mods to track boss mechanics, customize their UI to be more helpful, or otherwise make the game more user-friendly. FF14 rival World of Warcraft, a game with similar “World First” races around its most difficult content, has an active high-end raiding scene where everyone publicly uses dozens of mods – if you’re not, you’re dragging the group down. While FF14’s scene isn’t quite that pronounced, it’s still not a secret in the community that many people playing at the top levels are using them. They’re just not broadcasting that use because, well, things like this keep happening.
HGXIV: Final Fantasy 14 Home Decorations
But all that said, it’s also true that given the crackdown, it’s likely there are a number of teams trying to clear the content without using mods at all. Given the threat of punishment around it, it’s hard to say precisely how common mods are across FF14. So across the community, player reactions seem to be split between people who feel the ban was justified, and others frustrated that such a harsh punishment was doled out for something that they perceive as commonplace. Some are suggesting that while some mods (such as the aforementioned small UI tools) are fine, the camera zoom was what crossed the line. All told it’s a messy situation, unhelped by the fact that there aren’t actually any anti-cheat measures preventing this from happening.
While the community may likely never come to a consensus, modding in FF14 is likely to continue unless Square Enix’s crackdown grows more severe to the point of impacting regular players en masse. That said, having such a prize actively taken away is likely to discourage serious world first hopefuls from trying such a thing in the future.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.