At least two Final Fantasy XIV players pulled into an in-game jail by moderators while streaming the massively multiplayer online game this week. Many believe this was done to reprimand them for using third-party modifications to optimize HUD details for high-level raiding, a frequent pain point in the relationship between the community and Square Enix.
Final Fantasy XIV raids are serious business, so much so that unofficial ”world’s first” races often spring up whenever Square Enix adds one of these difficult, multi-stage missions to the game. As such, players do whatever they can to give themselves an edge, like implementing HUD-expanding mods that help them keep track of boss behavior, battle mechanics, and damage-per-second output, despite such tools being technically illegal.
Although Square Enix is known for adopting a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to to this issue, Final Fantasy XIV producer and director Naoki Yoshida recently reiterated the potential for bans after HUD mods were put front and center during the sprint to finish the game’s newest raid, Dragonsong’s Reprise. And now, it’s becoming obvious those weren’t just idle threats.
On the morning of March 10, a Final Fantasy XIV player known as Hiroro was streaming the game with on-screen mods when he was teleported against his will to a dungeon known as the Mordion Gaol. Most folks have never seen this area outside of a special event since, as a Square Enix spokesperson told Kotaku in 2016, it’s meant to discipline players “without disrupting the gameplay of others.”
“After discussion,” the Square Enix rep explained, “the GM will arrange for the appropriate corrective measures, including name changes, item confiscation, item creation, or account actions.”
Hiroro has since scrubbed the footage from Twitch and deleted everything on his YouTube channel. The only surviving proof is a collection of tiny screenshots from his stream.
It happened again that evening. As shown in the video below, a player named Bagel Goose was broadcasting his Final Fantasy XIV group’s progression through Dragonsong’s Reprise, again with visible mods, when he was teleported to the Mordion Gaol. On-screen text indicated that a game master was responsible for removing Bagel Goose from the raid, and footage shows a sinister-looking admin joining him before he ended his Twitch stream.
“I don’t think I should stream this,” Bagel Goose told his bemused team when they realized he was missing. “I’m in jail. I think I might be banned.”
According to Bagel Goose’s raidmate Melo, he also received a week-long suspension from Twitch for “cheating in a multiplayer game.”
It’s unclear how long Hiroro and Bagel Goose will be banned from Final Fantasy XIV. Kotaku contacted both Hiroro and Square Enix for more details but did not hear back before publication.
While avoiding these bans is as simple as concealing your mods from the stream, there also seems to be a concerted effort by a certain segment of the Final Fantasy XIV community to make sure these players are noticed and punished by Square Enix. Screenshots posted to Twitter and Reddit show users on imageboards like 4chan and 5ch pointing out high-profile players who use mods, indicating there may be an organized campaign to mass report the banned streamers.
In any case, it’s clear that mods will remain a sticky subject in the Final Fantasy XIV community for the time being, or at least as long as it takes Square Enix to expand the HUD’s functionality and make them obsolete.