That’s really the heart of this controversy. On the one hand, it makes some sense that the FF 14 team would rather put a blanket ban on most mods rather than try to say which ones are ok and which ones are not. While the security concerns involved with the use of such mods are historically minimal, Yoshida rightfully points out that it’s technically safer to not allow third-party modifications at all than it is to allow some of them or even encourage the use of some of them through any means. Yoshida even stated that he believes that “people use [mods] to expand the HUD and display more information because they feel that existing functions are insufficient for tackling high-end duties.” To that end, the team “intends to review the most prominent tools, and in order to discourage their use, endeavor to enhance the functionality of the HUD.”
While that does make it sound like the FF 14 team is interested in essentially adding popular mod functions to the game and making them official, they have not confirmed their plans regarding such additional features at this time. While fans wait for such features to potentially be added in the future, they’re left to navigate an uncertain present where what are generally considered to be relatively harmless tools may be classified as cheating by both Twitch and Square Enix. So far, the consequences of using such tools have seemingly primarily impacted FF 14 streamers (who may have been targeted by online users for their use of mods), but it’s pretty clear that the FF 14 team is fundamentally not ok with the idea of those mods being used in the first place.
Why is that the case? Well, I can’t put words in the FF 14 team’s mouths, but it’s worth noting that some feel such tools contribute to a competitive, sometimes toxic, environment in what is supposed to be a cooperative experience. Basically, things like damage meter tools can contribute to an environment where everyone is expected to perform at the highest level in order to participate in certain content. If your numbers drop, you may be singled out for your performance or even kicked out of a group. That can lead to an almost “work-like” atmosphere where the fantasy of an MMO is replaced with hard data.
Having said that, there is a degree to which playing games like FF 14 at a very high level (meaning participating in world first clears) is kind of a job. Those who participate in such content usually know their participation comes with certain requirements. Where things get tricky is when that mentality bleeds into more casual forms of play. It’s pretty clear that FF 14 was designed to reduce instances of what Yoshida refers to as “excessive competition,” and anyone familiar with raiding in other MMOs knows the dread of encountering “that guy” who takes things just a bit too seriously. To that end, you could argue that these policies seem to be part of an effort to combat that element of MMO culture.
The problem is that there’s long been a bit of a divide among MMO fans regarding whether that part of the culture is really a problem and if there’s anything that can actually be done to eliminate it or reduce its influence. We’re already seeing fans argue over whether or not this is a case of people simply being punished for not following the rules, or whether this is an attempt by the game’s developers to enforce an artificial atmosphere of cooperation and harmony. There’s no doubt that these players violated the terms of service, but there’s quite a heated debate to be had about whether or not those rules should exist in the first place.
Ultimately, the FF 14 team has done an exceptional job of listening to the game’s community and satisfying their requests. The game’s incredible success reflects their accomplishments in that area. While there’s no reason to suspect they won’t be able to find a solution to this particular problem, it is fascinating to see how this issue highlights what could prove to be a philosophical difference in how the team would like the game to be played and how it’s actually being played at certain levels.