I debated writing a post about this issue at all, because observing it over the course of the week has been mind-numbing to a point, and it also led me to more generalized posts about DPS meters and parsing in MMOs as a genre.
At the end of my last meter post, I noted that this discussion has all the tedium and drudgery of Soulsborne difficulty discourse, which anyone who has participated in that would know is often the dumbest, most dull discussion one can have about games, where no one is really changing their minds in spite of anything said. It’s amplified in FFXIV because of the community rallying around YoshiP and the developer team, which means that any point made against the stance of the team is met with a lot of weird and parasocial behavior.
Because I’ve started and struck two drafts on this topic, I’m just going to bullet point my actual opinion and then post some funny memes that I enjoyed about the topic as a palette cleanser, because I could write a lot about it but just like the last Ultimate race that led to an addon-crusade, it’ll blow over in a week and no one will talk about it until the next Ultimate race, repeat until change happens.
The TL;DR for people not plugged-in to FFXIV is this – the unofficial world-first race for the newest top-end raid in FFXIV, Dragonsong Reprise, showcased a fair number of groups, including the first clear, using third-party tools in their clears. Mostly, the plug-ins used were QoL from Dalamud – group buff timers, enemy list debuffs, enlarged personal buffs/debuffs, and the like. It also featured screen overlay and text-to-speech callouts from Cactbot, a tool that hooks into Advanced Combat Tracker (a fully external tool that is most often used for DPS reading) to enable DBM-like functions, using packet analysis from the game to determine what boss abilities are being used and provide a callout for them. In order for Cactbot to work, triggers have to be built, which the world-first team had to build themselves, by necessity. Because of this, Square Enix copyright struck the world first kill video and refused to congratulate the team Neverland by name as the winners of the unofficial race, instead using the post to segue into a letter from YoshiP about the official stance on usage of third-party tools with the game.
This discourse has happened in the past, as tools are against the TOS, but YoshiP has also gone to excruciating lengths in the past to indicate that such tools cannot be detected from client-side and that the team enforces TOS when given reason to – ie, you harass players about DPS, catch this ban. Streaming with addons has been murky because it has become a lot more common, yet is against the TOS. So this time, unlike the prior times, the team took more action – hitting two streamers mid-stream with 10-day suspensions for TOS violation, in part due to brigaded mass-reports from Japanese site 5ch, an anonymous chan board.
Now, I won’t stake a position on addons (because doing so positively would technically be against the TOS even outside the game itself by the letter of the law) but I think this list breaks down my arguments before the memery:
-The only real argument needed if you don’t like/want addons is that it is against TOS. If you show them or use data from them to be shitty or with players you don’t know, you broke TOS, and account action is correct. I don’t support mass-reporting and I think the streamers with 10-day suspensions got a raw deal because no one in the reports seems to have been playing with them, but the rules are the rules.
-I find the moralizing about the integrity of the race and cheating to be stupid. All the stuff people have crusaded against do not enable cheating, which they would know if they…bothered to read more, research them, or tried using them (don’t though because TOS). There is maybe an edge case to things like Cactbot being able to call out stuff like P3S fireplume type (full out or Shiva rotation) prior to the animation, but that level of nuance is nowhere to be seen in the crusades over cheating. A lot of people take the word of others as gospel instead of analyzing it for themselves, and associate certain things as part of addons when they aren’t (there is a tool for meteor AoE radius on DSR, but it is not a part of Cactbot and is a separate tool developed in China to my understanding, likely for use when selling Ultimate clears).
-On the integrity of the race point, I think a lot of the weighing in comes from that same lack of understanding I mentioned above. Callouts are not precise in terms of movement or positioning, and the player still has to meet the standards of the mechanic while also meeting the DPS check of the fight. Playing Ultimate (or Savage for that matter) with callouts is still on the cutting-edge of difficulty in FFXIV, and you still have to know how to process the movement and mechanic. If Cactbot yells “dynamo” at you, do you know how to react? I don’t. Hell, even this tier my FC static was telling me to Protean when I was subbing in, and I didn’t know what the fuck that meant (it’s a conal AoE from an old fight that targets everyone, so you fan out to avoid cleaving each other). For people saying Neverland specifically was cheapened because their first kill was with a crutch, news flash – Cactbot is not DBM, and Neverland had to build those triggers themselves, which would indicate to me a pretty high degree of savvy and comprehension of the mechanics!
-A lot of people have used the third-party tool debate to sharpen their daggers against damage meters, even though YoshiP’s statement was pretty careful to cut a line around them. But ACT also enables Cactbot, so an opportunity is an opportunity, I suppose. I’ve been talking meters to death this week, so all I’ll say here is that FFXIV has a large casual playerbase, the worst examples of which are often allergic to any suggestion they could play better – and not in the “increase your DPS by 1.2%” way but in the “freecure fishing is a trap and doesn’t help you, try this instead” kind of suggestion, and that is something that is a tough issue to tackle (most queueable content in the game is pretty easily knocked over even blind, though, so it often only matters in EX and up and you only see that kind of thing very rarely once you break into Savage).
-A lot of the moralizing and energy against third-party tools comes from modders using boob mods, nude mods, custom animation packs, and Gshade to create FFXIV porn and ridiculous ERP, so like, I hear you complaining about mods, but…uh, you are using them? If the energy around this topic continues, I would not be surprised to see report wars pushing out these players too, because they are also breaking the rules!
-Everyone is rightly pointing out that the TOS text is vague on what constitutes an actionable third-party tool, and while this discussion is also often tedious and annoying, it is also correct in some form. By leaving the definition of what is a third-party tool vague, there’s room to say a lot of dumb-sounding things that are technically against the TOS, as YoshiP pointed out in 2020 the last time this discussion happened. Is Discord a third-party tool? It is, definitionally. Does it confer a gameplay advantage? You could argue it does, because you can get rotation guides from The Balance or callouts from a raid lead. Will it be banned? Obviously not, but it does paint a picture about how the current policy is pretty difficult to consistently enforce. It is the worst kind of pedantry, but illustrative of how odd the current state of things is.
-Outside of any discourse around getting banned today for QoL addons that might be added to the game tomorrow, I am throwing a red flag on the idea that the team will add anything to the game UI. They should, because a lot of Dalamud plugins are shown to solve actual issues with the game in ease of reading and customization, but the team makes a lot of empty talk about these kinds of things and then moves slowly until we forget. Way back in ARR, YoshiP was talking publicly about a full addon API for the game, and how the team wanted to do that and was evaluating the approach, only to quietly drop it until a 2017 interview, when he just flat-out stated it was cancelled. To be fair, in 6.1 they did actually add a feature that was in Dalamud prior (the indicator on a orchestrion/Triple Triad/Mount/minions to show if you had it already or not), so maybe my cynicism could be wrong here, but I have my doubts that they’ll move to make such changes with anything approaching speed or urgency, if at all.
-A lot of the discourse around addons and cheating is, in addition to being ill-supported by facts, also exclusionary of people who use QoL addons to enable accessibility options. FFXIV’s colorblind and hard-of-hearing support sucks, as does their approach to colors on things (P3S is a nightmare of nigh-unreadable orange on orange, and both Shiva fights had problems with blue-on-blue and white-on-white that made mechanics very hard to read visually with even slight vision impairments), and there is no real easy way to fix sound cues that exist in some small parts of the game without the use of additional tools. Most of these options do not enable an advantage to the average player, but instead help bring someone with some sort of impairment up to level. Miss me with any arguments about how they don’t get to play content if their natural eye cone development wasn’t perfect, because that is asshole behavior. Oh, are glasses third party tools? Someone call YoshiP and let’s sort this out…wait a minute…
-Console players deserve the ability to use addons too, and besides the TOS argument, the one I do find most valid is that third-party stuff they can’t use is unfair to them. That’s why I think the best solution is a proper API that is a part of the game and can support addons on both sides of the fence, but that might be a pipedream at this point.
-I do still believe that despite the increased fervor on the topic this time out, that we’ll get about a week of arguing and everyone will go back to forgetting addons exist until the next Ultimate race, which is much sooner this time so we’ll get to have these fights once a year now, joy!
And with that, let’s get the memes rolling!