There is no Final Fantasy XIV Race to World First without outrage in the community. But here’s the recap of the first week.
First, the Good News!
The latest Final Fantasy XIV Ultimate Encounter, The Omega Protocol (TOP for short) was released on Tuesday, January 24, which started the community Race to World First. Since its release, only one team has confirmed a clear of the encounter, but the legitimacy of that clear has since been called into question.
But let’s start with the good news instead. As always, the Race to World First was held in an unofficial capacity by MogTalk, hosted by community alumni and all-around great person FrostyTV and his team of volunteers as well as casters from the Final Fantasy XIV community.
The event was held for almost an entire week as a charity fundraiser, highlighting streamers from around the globe trying to progress what turned out to be Final Fantasy XIVs toughest encounter yet. During the runtime of the event, MogTalk and the community managed to raise an estimated $56,000 USD for the charity ExtraLife4Kids. The event itself was a huge success for everyone involved.
World First Clear Drama
To make a long story short, this whole thing is a mess and the result of things surrounding the Race to World First since its inception. Traditionally, the Race to World First is a community event. In the past, Square Enix has officially acknowledged the first few teams that cleared an encounter with a tweet and a message by director and producer Naoki Yoshida.
This has, however, changed after the drama surrounding Neverland’s controversial clearing of Dragonsong Ultimate, which included at least one of the participants using a bot that would call out mechanics vocally. A third-party tool that other participants of the Race to World First were also using on stream. After some streamers and raiders got banned, it sparked a whole controversy and the age-old argument of what even is a third-party tool.
Back then, Yoshida released a statement that they explicitly prohibit the use of third-party tools, period. But they also don’t want to employ any sort of software that would scan a player’s PC or console for such tools. They also admitted that prohibiting third-party tools as a blanket statement would also forbid the usage of programs like discord or software for keyboards and so on. This has turned into a bit inside joke at this point, but some players also claimed this as a ‘gotcha’ loophole in discussions.
While the Race to World first is always exciting to spectate, it is often, if not always, followed by a community-wide controversy over the usage of third-party tools. So no one should be surprised that it happened again.
On January 31, 2023, at 03:34 AM JST, the Japanese team UNNAMED_ posted their clear of The Omega Protocol Ultimate. Shortly after, footage from their private streams leaked, confirming that they used a third-party tool that allowed them to zoom out far more than the game allows during regular play, giving them an unfair advantage. It’s probably also important to note that UNNAMED_ was the first team to clear Abyssos (Savage) back in August of last year.
The next part is a bit muddled due to UNNAMED_ being a Japanese team. It was understood by UNNAMED_ that everyone serious about a World First clear was employing third-party tools in one way or another, which has been proven many times since the inception of the World First Race. Even if you don’t use any, who is holding the other teams accountable?
In the past, teams like TPS or Neverland had also never been publically punished by Square Enix. And the backlash would quickly fizzle out and be steered into a conversation about how Square Enix never made a clear stance on their view on third-party tools.
Behind the scenes, everyone who takes the Race to World First seriously knows that third-party tools are a necessity. Since there is no way to hold the other teams accountable, everyone uses whatever they can.
History of World First Drama and Frosty’s Statement
As much as players now want to clown on UNNAMED_ and their usage of third-party tools. It is a little disingenuous to just bully them for doing what other participants were doing as well.
Third-Party tools have been popular with raiders in Final Fantasy XIV for a long time. This includes the likes of ACT, which in theory, just reads out for battlelog and turns it into a readable graph that tells you how well you’re performing. But also enables several features that can enhance your gameplay.
The use of third-party tools has been a state of contention for a while now. And with the release of the Stormblood expansion, when high-end raiding became more popular, people have been tinkering with these tools more and more. ACT is generally accepted by the community as just a tool raiders use, and FFLogs is a site that compares and analyses player performance and puts them up on a leaderboard.
Everyone draws a different line here and the arguments used here are so stretched and all over the place, that any meaningful discussion on the topic will eventually turn into a shitshow. And with recent statements by Square Enix and Naoki Yoshida, the community perception is somewhere between all third-party tools should be banned and Square Enix should allow the usage of tools that help players optimize their gameplay.
It is something Square Enix will never be able to fix at this point. Since their stance on the problem had been relaxed for such a long time now, everyone has their own perception of what is right or not.
Some members of UNNAMED_ have since deleted their characters or outright quit the game after the community came after them. At the same time, the international community has memed on the situation and incited a witch hunt. The JP side of things has reportedly been much, much worse. We here at ESTNN ask politely to be nice to members of UNNAMED_ and other raiders, as this situation evolved. No one’s at fault here. This is just how things are.
Since UNNAMED_ posted their clear, Frosty, who runs the Race to World First event for the community, has made a statement in a tweetlonger. Stating that he has always done his best to verify and confirm clears that were achieved offline without a stream. Frosty is just a member of the community; he has no access to tools that allow him to verify the legitimacy of a clear outside of screenshots, battlelogs, and achievements on the loadstone.
But there is no way that he can counteract the behind the scenes arms-race of the usage of third-party tools. Future Races to World First, hosted by MogTalk will exclusively focus on teams who stream their process as it’s the only method to hold everyone accountable.
Naoki Yoshida’s Statement
As the situation was evolving, Square Enix and director and producer Naoki Yoshida released an official statement on Final Fantasy XIVs loadstone.
They acknowledged the situation and reiterated their stance on the usage of third-party tools as well as other things that have unfolded behind the scenes. Yoshida confirmed that they’re launching an investigation to verify the legitimacy of that and other clears of The Omega Protocol just as they have done in the past, like during the Dragonsong Ultimate race.
In any instance, they are the ones that will handle this situation and deal out the punishments they deem appropriate. Reiterating that they have not and will not overlook this kind of wrongdoing.
Yoshida also once again made his stance clear on the usage of third-party tools. This has always been a hotly debated topic within the community, as some people love to find certain clips from live streams or interview statements to justify their usage of third-party tools. Square Enix does not allow the use of third-party tools, period. There are no if’s or buts. If you use third-party tools of any kind, you are breaking the terms of service.
They have also identified and enacted punishment against players who have either data mined or illicitly accessed content, like the post-clear cutscene of The Omega Protocol encounters. There was also leaked footage from the game’s developmental server and there is an internal investigation being launched against the perpetrator.
Yoshida gave this closing statement:
“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).
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.
Although unofficial, I am of course apprised of the race to the World First clear, and we have shown our support for everyone in the community by sharing information on the first clears once multiple clear teams came forth, and exact clear times had been confirmed.
However, as announced in a previous statement, I plan to refrain from doing so for the time being. We hear the community voice that an official raid race should be supported, and regulations should be decided upon—this is a topic which needs to be discussed internally, so please allow me to keep this as an item for future consideration.
The ultimate raid series is the most difficult battle content within FFXIV, and we release this content after testing that it can be cleared without the use of any 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.
It’s very difficult for me to understand as a gamer what the meaning behind using numerous third-party tools to compete to clear first would be.
I want to apologize specifically to the many of you who are continuing towards clearing this content without the use of third-party tools, consistently streaming your progress, and continuing the trial and error process.
However, please know that the Development and Operations teams take notice of all your passion. Please be sure to take proper care of yourselves as you continue to tackle The Omega Protocol (Ultimate).
If the illicit use of third-party tools is made clear through our investigations, I, at the very least, will not recognize that team as the true World First.”
FINAL FANTASY XIV Producer & Director
As always, Yoshida holds himself accountable and responsible for what has happened. But also reaffirms his personal stance on the situation. The mention of an official Race to World First is, however, interesting. Not only would it put more of a spotlight on the high-end raiding scene of Final Fantasy XIV, but it might also come with means to properly verify and confirm a clear’s legitimacy.
It would be a great way to support the scene if Square Enix would at least give their official support for the traditional community-organized event. But it would also be a shame if the charity aspect of the race were overshadowed by an esports type of thought. So if this does become a reality… please, Square Enix, just hire Frosty and his team.
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