Final Fantasy XIV has long been regarded as an MMO with one of the very best communities out there — but as anyone who has played for long periods will attest, there are times when things can get less pleasant. In fact, there are certain behaviours from the more toxic players that have become so predictable and common that they’re memes in their own right.
Square Enix is keenly aware of this — and also would rather people spend most of their time in-game in Final Fantasy XIV being nice to one another. And so in one of the most impressively comprehensive updates to a game’s Terms of Service that I think we’ve ever seen, the company has laid out exactly what sort of behaviour is and is not acceptable — along with the “Penalty Points” system that applies for those who violate the rules.
As a general rule, the updates to the “Prohibited Activities” policy encourages players to maintain “civility and respect” when interacting with one another, but the impressive thing about the document is how specific it gets. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
One of the most significant updates comes in the form of specific guidelines that relate to in-game stalking in Final Fantasy XIV. Square Enix defines this as persistently following someone around, sending unwanted messages to them, “ambushing” them, sending repeated friend or party invites and circumventing blacklists by creating new characters, all while having been asked to stop the behaviour — or, on the most serious end of things, interacting with someone when they have been banned from doing so by real-life authorities.
In the most serious circumstances, Square Enix will actually issue an in-game restraining order, with more severe penalties imposed if this is breached.
Provocation and ridicule
This one’s a big deal. Square Enix has specifically banned “expressions that provoke or belittle another person, such as excessive criticism, negation and ridicule”. They’ve then gone on to provide specific examples of what is inappropriate — which includes specifically blaming players for wiping in cooperative content, insulting players’ personal tastes, using insulting words (with “stupid”, “idiot”, “die”, “crazy”, “garbage” or “trash” cited as specific examples) and threatening players with ostracisation from Final Fantasy XIV communities or more severe consequences.
Notably, it’s also prohibited to “attack someone for doing something different from what you or others may feel is the norm”. This means that if there’s an established community “strategy” for doing something, but someone chooses to do things differently, it is a violation of the policy to insult or belittle them for doing so.
It is worth noting that Square Enix specifically notes “there is nothing wrong with providing suggestions that the player community typically follows, but this can only be presented in the form of a suggestion and cannot be in the form of a demand”. In other words, you can help people out, but don’t be a cock about it or take the piss if they get it wrong. Seems fair enough, really.
It’s also prohibited to deliberately try and exclude someone from a party, piece of Final Fantasy XIV content or community as if they are not “qualified”. In other words, everything from “if you can’t do this mechanic well, you’re out” to “you can’t join if your equipment is that bad” is now a no-no.
Obviously common sense applies here — certain content in the game requires that players’ gear is to a certain minimum standard, for example — but the key thing is not to threaten others if they’re not playing in the “right” way by your definition. Offer advice by all means, but if they’ve found something different from your norm that works for them, don’t be a dick about it — particularly if it still leads to a successful duty!
Uncooperative or lethargic behaviour
This is another interesting one; it’s specifically prohibited to go into a multiplayer part of Final Fantasy XIV and “not perform the necessary gameplay required of the situation”. Specific examples include a healer refusing to heal because they don’t like someone, players going AFK if they believe a duty is a lost cause, or deliberately sabotaging a team’s PvP efforts by working with the “enemy” team.
Notably, unjustified use of Vote Dismiss, intentional leaving or disconnection (rage-quitting) and using combat- and enmity-related actions to interfere with other players are all prohibited, too.
To put it another way: if your actions deliberately benefit enemies (whether they’re AI- or player-controlled) then you can get in trouble.
Selling content clears
The main reason these guidelines have been added is because they’re inextricably tied in with the Real Money Transactions (RMT) problems that every MMO struggles with, and Final Fantasy XIV is no exception. Those who sell content clears typically charge very high in-game rates, which often leads the purchasers to make use of illegal third-party services to acquire in-game currency. In some cases, content clears are actually arranged through services like Discord for direct RMT.
The other reason is that selling clears simply means that people aren’t playing and learning the game effectively. If you can’t clear a Savage or Ultimate raid or trial under your own steam, that’s fine — not everyone can without lots of practice, or the “Echo” buffs that gradually come into play over time as the content ages. But in a game like Final Fantasy XIV, no-one has the inherent “right” to a clear; the game as a whole is designed to challenge its players, and as a result some parts of it are harder than others.
That said, Square Enix hasn’t prohibited people from privately asking for help or offering rewards to others to help them clear something — the specific thing that is prohibited is people using the in-game Party Finder to advertise the fact that they are selling clears or loot drops. This makes sense, because Party Finder has long been cluttered up by “advertising” entries, which makes it more difficult for those attempting to use the feature for a genuine purpose.
Obscene and indecent expressions
You’re now prohibited from “using a combination of emotes and motions to mimic grinding against another character” and “using movements that are evocative of sexual activities”.
That said, Square Enix does specifically point out that “in the case of role-playing involving mildly sexual expressions with a consenting group of two or more players, if it is conducted in a private area, it will not be considered a violation unless a report is made. However, if you encourage or invite a player to participate in such role-play without being certain of their consent, there is a high possibility that you will be reported and penalised. Please be very careful.”
In other words, ERP isn’t banned, but do it in private and ask first. Also remember Final Fantasy XIV is rated for players aged 13 and up. Seems sensible enough, no?
Don’t do it. Housing is already difficult enough to get in Final Fantasy XIV; don’t make it harder for others. Pretty simple.
Doubtless there will be some people out there who will be crying “censorship” at these new rules — much like we had when we introduced our new community guidelines here at Rice Digital a while back — but those players are almost certainly the toxic ones for whom these guidelines were specifically created.
Response to the rule changes has been positively received in general over on the very active Final Fantasy XIV subreddit, with most players quite rightly pointing out that nothing changes if you’re already being a decent person and playing the game as intended. In fact, most people seem very happy that the rules have been laid down and codified as clearly as they are — including not only examples of violations, but also examples of things which are not violations.
Players are particularly pleased about the crackdown on selling content clears and RMT, which has been a problem in Party Finder for quite some time — and several users have also cited examples of real-world stalkers (such as exes) harassing them in-game, so they appreciate the clarification to the stalking rules.
On the whole, this is a very positive change for FFXIV, and Square Enix should be praised for taking these matters so seriously. It’s kind of sad that it was necessary for them to go into so much detail as to what is and is not acceptable behaviour in-game — but at the same time it’s good that they’re willing to cite such specific, demonstrable and frequently occurring examples of bad behaviour, many of which have been actively offputting to some players (including myself!) for quite some time.
Here’s hoping that this leads to a happier, more pleasant Final Fantasy XIV community in general — on the whole, the game still has a really excellent community; these updates will hopefully help to stamp out the last dregs of toxicity in the game, making the whole experience much more enjoyable for everyone in the process. (Except those who enjoy being dicks to others, but fuck them anyway.)
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