Final Fantasy 14’s latest raid sparks controversy as world’s first winners are accused of cheating

What should have been a celebration of a group clearing the most difficult content possible 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… is that also a kind of non-cheating? Depending on who you ask.

The bottom line is that last week, FF14 6.31 patch was released, including a super hard new version of an existing raid: Omega Protocol. A typical race to be the first raid team in the world to eliminate him ensued, with a group called No Name_ taking the crown on Monday by posting screenshots of their victory. However, soon after an unlisted video started circulating showing one of their members using a mod to zoom the camera much further than it should normally be able to, presumably to get a better view of the mechanical. There are also less obvious UI mods shown in the video that track various elements of combat.

Per the FF14 Terms of Service, mods of any kind are not allowed in the game. Unnamed_ has since been disqualified from racing and his kill has been revoked both in game and by a popular journaling site. Additionally, a lengthy statement was posted on the official FF14 bulletin board by FF14 Director Naoki Yoshida reiterating Square Enix’s stance on third-party tools (none are allowed) and that unspecified penalties would be decreed for their use. The post further condemns the recording and streaming of certain in-game cutscenes and other footage that is not intended to be recordable.

“The Ultimate Raid Series is FFXIV’s most challenging combat content, and we are releasing this content after testing that it can be cleared without the use of third-party tools,” Yoshida wrote. “However, if the presumption is that this content will be tackled and cleared using third party tools, then any reason to develop high difficulty combat content seems to be lost. It is very difficult for me to understand as a player what the meaning behind using many third-party tools to compete to clear first would be.

“…If the illicit use of third-party tools is clearly established by our investigations, I will not, at the very least, recognize this team as the true world first.”

If you’re unfamiliar with FF14, it sounds like a game that rightly cracks 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 lot of high-end players will use mods to keep up with boss mechanics, customize 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 toughest content, has an active high-end raid scene where everyone publicly uses dozens of mods – if you don’t are not, you drag the group down. While FF14’s scene isn’t quite as pronounced, it’s still no secret to the community that many people playing at the highest level use them. They just don’t spread that usage because, well, things like this keep happening.

But that said, it’s also true that given the crackdown, it’s likely that a number of teams will try to wipe content without using any mods at all. Given the threat of punishment surrounding it, it’s hard to say precisely how common mods are in FF14. So in the community, player reactions seem to be split between people who feel the ban was justified and others frustrated that such a severe punishment has been meted out for something they perceive as trivial. Some suggest that while certain mods (like the aforementioned small UI tools) work well, camera zoom was what crossed the line. All in all, it’s a messy situation, without the help of the fact that there are actually no anti-cheat measures preventing this from happening.

While the community will likely never come to a consensus, modding in FF14 is likely to continue unless Square Enix’s crackdown gets tougher enough to affect regular gamers en masse. That said, actively withdrawing such a prize is likely to discourage serious global early hopefuls from trying such a thing in the future.

Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

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