On Monday, a Japanese Final Fantasy 14 raid team was the first in the world to defeat The Omega Protocol (Ultimate), a grueling endgame boss fight that was recently added to the MMO. A week later, they're the subject of the MMO's biggest controversy, their achievements having been stripped by the game's developer, who called their use of third-party UI mods "extremely disappointing." (opens in new tab)
Shortly after publishing a stern response to accusations that a Japanese raid team "cheated" by using third-party mods in their world first Omega Protocol kill, Square Enix revoked the achievement and titles from all eight players. (opens in new tab)
"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) (opens in new tab)," Yoshida wrote in the post. "As the individual who is entrusted with full supervision over [FF14], 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."
Yoshida reiterated that any use of mods, or "third-party tools" is forbidden in FF14, and said that, "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."
Even before Square Enix punished the raid team, the director said that if its investigations did prove they used third-party mods, "I, at the very least, will not recognize that team as the true World First."
The Omega Protocol (Ultimate) scandal — in brief
- FF14's patch 6.31 released last week with The Omega Protocol (Ultimate), a harder version of an existing fight made for the game's top-tier players.
- As is usual with Ultimate-level raids, the unofficial World Race for Charity stream (opens in new tab) started to track and identify the world's first kill.
- On Monday morning, the raid team, Unnamed_, posted screenshots of their kill and it quickly circulated around the FF14 community.
- A few hours later, an unlisted YouTube video (opens in new tab) was posted showing one of the players using several UI mods (specifically one that allows you to zoom the camera out to see the boss arena).
- The video sparked debate over the validity of Unnamed_'s world first kill. People began posting memes that depict the "zoom hack" from the perspective of the moon. Many of the memes nod to FF14's recent, moon-related expansion.
- As a result of the video, the team was disqualified from the World Race and, due to Square Enix's punishment, has had its kill wiped from FFLogs (opens in new tab), a popular site that ranks boss kill data (ironically gathered via teams using a mod).
The time has come for you and yours to clear TOP pic.twitter.com/tmdywX1NGGJanuary 31, 2023
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for...""Uhhhhh Houston. You won't believe what I'm seeing right now." pic.twitter.com/U6fkGWQJ7rJanuary 31, 2023
HELP pic.twitter.com/Vg57bIEFGaJanuary 31, 2023
It's still unclear who owns the YouTube account that uploaded the video. One of Unnamed_'s members, Feuer E', who observed the raid through Discord screenshare, claims (opens in new tab) the channel belongs to them, but that the account was hacked and the video was uploaded by someone else. The channel's name translates to "Divine Judgement" and was created on January 27, two days before the video was posted.
Many people in the FF14 community have pointed out (opens in new tab) how common it is for teams to use mods when making an attempt at a world-first raid. Much like high-end raiders in World of Warcraft, FF14 players use UI mods to help visualize and track boss mechanics so they can focus on playing their characters efficiently. It's basically assumed that everyone is using them at this level of play, despite it being against the game's ToS. Usually nobody uploads a video showing them breaking the rules, though.
Frosty, the creator of the World Race Tracker, wrote in a response to the news (opens in new tab) that the verification process has always relied on official achievement tracking posted to The Lodestone (opens in new tab), communication from Square Enix, and their personal verification of screenshots and VODs.
Frosty says that from now on, they will no longer track teams who clear the raids. "It’s outside my abilities to give full integrity when all I have to base the clear off of is a screenshot and any data sent to other websites." They encouraged teams to provide VODs for "the level of legitimacy the community is looking for."
One of the members of Unnamed_ posted a screenshot (opens in new tab) of a conversation with a FF14 GM detailing their punishment. In a translation of the messages (opens in new tab) that I've verified is correct, the GM says, "Although you did not commit any cheating directly yourself, you still took advantage of that cheating, and therefore profited from it." They explain that they won't ban the player but that their achievement and titles will be removed. The conversation ends with the GM politely asking them to delete the daggers they received from the raid "as soon as possible."
Japanese translations for this story were provided by Kazuma Hashimoto (opens in new tab).