If you’ve somehow managed to miss the ongoing Final Fantasy 14 drama over the past few weeks, allow me to catch you up. The Omega Protocol (Ultimate) was added to the game as part of Patch 6.31 on January 10, kickstarting the race to see which team would be the first to beat the latest in a series of notoriously difficult raids.
The world's first title was claimed by team UNNAMED_ on January 30, but the fanfare didn’t last long. It soon came to light that at least one member of the team had been using third-party tools when footage of them zooming out farther than the native game allowed came to light. If you’re wondering what the big deal about the team using plugins to help them play is, I previously wrote an article that went over third-party tools in more detail, and using them at all is essentially against the Terms of Service.
I’m not getting into the ins and outs of plugins and whether they’re right or wrong, as there’s too much to unpack, especially when you consider that some third-party tools (such as shaders) are benign in nature with no impact on gameplay. However, it’s easy to understand why the community is in uproar when players are given an unfair advantage by using plugins to rise above the competition.
There’s no prize other than bragging rights for completing the raid first, but it still matters, and if you were ever uncertain of how much people care, you need only dip your toe into any FF14 area of social media. The community is absolutely outraged, and some members of UNNAMED_ have apparently deleted their characters in penance from the shame and sheer amount of hate they’ve been receiving. UNNAMED_ previously took the world’s first title on a different Ultimate raid, so now players are calling for their name to be stripped from that too.
This isn’t the first time that an Ultimate world first race has succumbed to third-party tools drama. The last Ultimate — Dragonsong’s Reprise — was beaten by Team Neverland, only for Square Enix to later remove the video from YouTube when it became known that the team used third-party tools. So what makes everything seem so much worse this time around?
For starters, Yoshi-P appears to be sick of all this shit now. He released yet another statement that emphasised how the use of third-party tools is against the ToS and players could get banned, as well as explaining they would be investigating the world first record. For the first time ever, the UNNAMED_ “winners” were stripped of their rewards, losing their achievements and titles, and dragged into GM jail to return the totems or weapons earned from the raid.
It didn’t take long for another team to score the new world first for Omega Protocol, but rather than ensuring the dust settled on the drama, it just added more fuel to the fire. The new team to snatch the crown was Neverland. That’s right, the same team who apparently used third-party tools for the last Ultimate. Taking that into account, as well as UNNAMED_’s recent cheating, the community grabbed their pitchforks and began to demand proof that no funny business had gone down.
Given the heat that Neverland received over Dragonsong’s Reprise, I imagine they didn’t play with fire this time around, but their win is going to be forever in question because they didn’t record it. There are eight people per raid team, so to satisfy the community, you’d have to provide VOD from each member to prove it was a clean win. Imagine having seven people playing it straight and then you find out one person on your team had some daft plugin, and it not only cost you the win but also damned you all to hell in the eyes of the FF14 community?
To be clear, I don’t condone the UNNAMED_ cheating. But isn’t it a bit much to force them to quit or delete their characters? We should just let Square Enix investigate and dish out punishment as it sees fit, which it seems to have done so already, but do we really need to go all vigilante on these players? Don’t be the numpties that cheat, but equally, don’t be the numpties that harass and send death threats to the cheaters. While some comments made about and directed at the Japanese team have been silly zoom memes, others have gone to embarrassing extremes, including outright racism.
I don’t believe players are going to stop using plugins that give them an advantage in raids, and as it’s hard for Square Enix to work out who is using them without the players being stupid enough to give themselves away, it’s also hard to police. We shouldn’t throw up our hands and give up, but there aren’t many other options where the problem right now is impossible to fix. The community has been burned by cheaters (and become a toxic inferno in the process), so what’s going to happen in the next race? Are we only going to acknowledge wins if we see footage from every team member to check that they didn’t cheat?
It’s all become a sticky mess, and I don’t think the community will ever recover from it. From now on, every Ultimate race will be tainted by this, every win will come under scrutiny, and quite simply, this is why we can’t have nice things.
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