Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV addon cheaters undermine the game – and themselves

    
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It is baffling to me – utterly baffling – that I have to write this column at all. But let’s start by taking a step back and examining the history. Earlier this week, a team “cleared” The Omega Protocol in Final Fantasy XIV. I use quotes there because the team did so while benefiting from cheats, which meant that the individuals were dragged on social media and Naoki Yoshida wrote a rather clear and unimpressed statement shaming their behavior.

Honestly, he shouldn’t have had to, but now I’m going to have to spill some words on this. I take umbrage not just with the people who have decided to cheat to clear what is supposed to be the most challenging content in FFXIV but with the people who have decided to carry water for them and defend those actions – the people who have decided to treat cheating as an exercise in, “Well, what did you expect to happen?”

The answer to that question is pretty simple. I expected people to play by the rules.

See, here’s the lie at the heart of a lot of discussion about this. Many, many people are trying to argue that this is a decision that’s natural because these people wanted to be the best! But that’s not true. These people wanted to win. No, I don’t know all of the secrets that lie within their hearts, but that’s what their actual actions displays. The goal was winning, and if winning was made easier by taking actions that were technically cheating, well, cheating was the option they were going to pick.

That has nothing to do with being the best.¬†The two goals are not, in fact, analogous. One of my favorite books about chess when I was trying to be good at chess (which, for the record, I am not) was about learning to play chess to win… even if you were not actually very good at the game. It was all about bluffing, distraction, confusing your opponents, getting them to make mistakes and capitalizing on it. The book was, of course, written with a humorous bent.

Or, to use the popular saying, a Smith & Wesson beats four aces.

If you actually do want to be the best, you want to be the best. You don’t want to figure out shortcuts or do things that you see as undermining your skill because that’s entirely antithetical to your main goal. But if you have to choose between winning and being the best and the former is what you choose… well, that’s your priority. Whether you like it or not, it says what it says about you.

And that’s disappointing. But then we have the people who are trying to argue that they need these mods to play the game… and that is, I’m sorry, a lie. Especially when we’re talking about the “mods” that are actually under discussion here.

You do not need NoClippy to play the game. If you play with a high ping, that sucks, yes. That makes the game much more difficult to play. But the mod in question here is specifically designed to artificially remove data packets and intentionally cheat the game mechanics. You also do not need zoomhacks to play. You do not need any of these hacks to beat this content – or any content – because the game is tested and balanced around not having these hacks.

“But other games allow addons!” Yes. They do. Other games have different rules regarding acceptable patterns of play. In tee-ball, you are allowed to set up the baseball on a stand and hit it there instead of swinging at a pitch, but if you try to do that in a major league baseball game, you will be called out as cheating. FFXIV does not allow addons, and that is the game we’re talking about, not some other MMO with different rules and goals and norms.

The point here, and the point in Yoshida’s letter, is not to litigate whether or not these things are cheating in other games or whether or not these addons are a moral failing or a skill failing or anything of the sort in another game. They are not allowed here. The fight was tested and is beatable without using them. You are not in any way obligated to agree with this stance, but you are expected to abide by it.

Speedrunners – who partake in an entirely community-based activity – have long understood this. People who cheat do not keep their records, their place within the community, or anything of the above. If you want to be the best, you have to do so within a set of rules that are agreed by the community. There are often several different categories established to allow for different sorts of challenges and different questions of whether or not glitches are permitted, but if I used a turbo controller on a run where turbo controllers were not allowed, I would not be considered a record holder. Full stop.

Don’t carry water for these people. They cheated. They knew it was cheating at the time. They decided that winning while cheating was better than risking losing, and they don’t deserve the added benefit of a doubt.

This looks fine.

If that were the end of the story, that’d be enough. But Yoshida also made a point in his column that I think a lot of the people who cried for Ultimates to be added in the first place should be taking to heart, something that is even more reason not to support people who outright cheated to win a race. If players ask for more skilled content but insist on using things that aren’t allowed to clear it, what’s the point in developers developing it?

And therein lies the dark heart of the whole thing: If you do care about skill and challenge in MMO content, you should be mad about this. Whether it’s allowed elsewhere or whether or not you personally think it’s cheating enough are irrelevant. This was meant to be the hardest challenge possible, and the people who wanted to race to be the first to beat it went looking for shortcuts right away.

If you want to be good at a game, hey, that’s great! That is an understandable impulse, and I say that with no mockery whatsoever. But an awful lot of the people who say they want to be good really just want to win. They want to have the rush of victory, and if victory requires them to do something that bends the rules… well, hey, everyone probably does it and it’s hard to get even close to this, right? I’m still really good, and this just assures everyone of that fact.

Mastery is intrinsic. Victory is extrinsic. Do you want to be the best, or do you want people to celebrate that you are the best?

More to the point, if the voices who most loudly proclaim they want the former demonstrate in word and deed that what they want is the latter if the two conflict… it’s really hard for any developer to say that they should put the time in to making new content designed to challenge people who are going to try to cheat away that challenge. And if you really want that challenge, that means you should be the first one being angry at people trying to cheat past it.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing¬†Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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