Final Fantasy XIV's latest Ultimate trial mired by cheating scandal

The latest Ultimate trial in Final Fantasy XIV is just that, a battle that’s designed to push players to their very limits when it comes their understanding of the game’s battle system and encounter mechanics, as well as their ability to coordinate in groups to solve them.

In The Omega Protocol, players face off against Omega, a boss that was previously a major antagonist in a Stormblood expansion raid. A major theme of the raid was Omega’s insistence on testing the player’s combat prowess, and the Ultimate’s alternate storyline asks: “what if the testing were to continue further, to push the Warrior of Light to their very limits?”

In these Ultimate difficulty duties, in which the development team tailors and tunes battles for hardcore players. These players go so far as to coordinate time off from work or school and go for long stretches repeating and repeating and repeating the grueling phases until they can clinch a breakthrough. They do it to test themselves and claim a vaunted “World First” title, earning the respect and admiration of the community (and some cool gear and titles, sure.) It’s quite a spectacle, and a thrill to watch personally; it’s a communal event for Final Fantasy XIV fans worldwide.

However, these events are not without controversy. In past iterations teams and players have been called out by the community for using third party tools, which are disallowed by the game’s TOS (Terms of Service), to aid in parsing information, communicating more swiftly–or even solving some of the obstacles these high difficulty fights put forth.

When a team in Japan claimed that World First title this week, followed by a leaked footage from a party close to that team showing a player using a third party tool to increase the zoom size to see more of the arena, it ignited a firestorm within the raiding community and the larger FFXIV community about the role of these tools, or add-ons, when it comes to competing in the highest difficulty content.

In a letter released yesterday, producer and director Naoki Yoshida underlined his disappointment in the prevalence of third party tools in the group’s clear, reiterating his stance that third party tools are not allowed in any circumstances, and that players involved would receive punishment by having their titles and gear stripped — even facing suspension and permanent bans — an action the team has not taken on this scale before, despite meting out punishment in past Ultimates when cheating was identified by the development team.

Yoshida went on to say that the team designs and tests these high-difficulty battles for players who are not using third party tools, lamenting that the reason for developing this content at all is lost if people assume everyone is using these tools.

Of course, the broader conversation about third party tools in the game is a bit more nuanced. Third party tools can often make high level content more accessible for players with different levels of vision, or be able to communicate information more quickly such as when a buff or debuff on a party member will wear off. While not directly correlated with the World First race, which Yoshida solely points his attention in his post, some are left wondering about punitive action for using such tools anyway.

For the raiding community, it presents a lot of questions too. If other teams might be using third party tools, shouldn’t I? If there’s a hushed, yet communal acceptance, is this still ok even when the World First title is in play? Do they risk an arms race of add-ons seeking to “solve” encounters? What’s the point of competing in this content?

It seems like both parties have a bit of homework to do if the enthusiasm around these competitions is to survive.

About the Author

Tony Garsow Tony joined Nova Crystallis in 2015, and has spent more than a decade writing in the Final Fantasy community. He also contributes to the Nova Crystallis Twitch and YouTube channels, where you can watch select gameplay highlights, previews, and streams.