The world of Final Fantasy 14 has become embroiled in what might be its biggest controversy yet.
On Jan. 30, a team of players were the first to complete a high-difficulty raid called The Omega Protocol — an achievement that’s called a “world first” in raiding communities. Just hours later, footage uploaded to YouTube showed one team member using a third-party mod to help clear the raid. This reveal, which documented the use of an illicit tool in worldwide challenge, has touched nearly all ends of the Final Fantasy 14 community, from regular players to top developers at Square Enix.
Director and producer Naoki Yoshida responded candidly to the matter by saying the use of third-party tools was “extremely disappointing.” Developers and moderators took swift punitive action by stripping all members of the team of their achievements and titles.
“It is extremely disappointing for me personally to see this commotion surrounding third-party tools once again in the wake of what happened with Dragonsong’s Reprise (Ultimate),” Yoshida wrote. “As the individual who is entrusted with full supervision over FFXIV, it is my responsibility to enact countermeasures and police the use of these tools, as well as educate people to not use these types of third-party tools — this is especially unfortunate when I, as a gamer, am cheering on everyone who is learning this content by trial and error and putting in the effort to clear.”
Dragonsong’s Reprise (Ultimate) was a similar incident in which developers grappled with the use of third-party tools on the part of players clearing content.
Additionally, Yoshida reiterated that he has never supported the use of third-party tools, and that such tools are strictly forbidden in Final Fantasy 14’s terms of service. He said later in the post that the ultimate raids are the most difficult content in the game, and the team releases content only after ensuring it can be cleared without the use of third-party tools. “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,” he said.
Developers added The Omega Protocol on Jan. 24 as part of the 6.31 patch. As is tradition, the World Race for Charity stream initiated a worldwide race to clear the raid. On Jan. 30, about a week after the boss launched, members of a Japanese team called Unnamed_ shared screenshots documenting that they had been the first to clear the challenge. However, video evidence uploaded just hours later showed that at least one of the players used third-party tools to adjust the camera angle of the field so that it was more zoomed out.
Use of third-party mods in Final Fantasy 14 isn’t novel. Almost every elite player will use third-party tools of some kind that will help with tasks like tracking damage or buffs. However, it’s not often that players get caught — Final Fantasy 14 doesn’t have anti-cheat software — and what’s more, this particular case is a rather extreme use of third-party tools. This particular tool was not simply keeping a log to help a player, but altering the way they would see and experience the game. The news sparked conversations about what can and should be considered to be cheating. Additionally, it also inspired a lot of memes poking fun at the exploit.
As for what’s in store for Final Fantasy 14 players, it seems developers and moderators are hell-bent on enforcing punishments to those who use third-party plug-ins. In a correspondence shared by a member of Unnamed_, which was translated by PCGamer, even members of the team who didn’t use plugins would still get their titles and achievements revoked. The player was told by a FF14 GM, “Although you did not commit any cheating directly yourself, you still took advantage of that cheating, and therefore profited from it.”