Why the Final Fantasy XIV billboard debacle puts the community at risk
July 5th was an eventful day for the Final Fantasy XIV community. The latest patch introduced the much-anticipated Data Center Travel system which was then heavily overloaded and had to be shut down for maintenance. Over 1,000 fans collaborated to release a music video to show their love for the game. Another group of players is so excited to throw a party in-game that they bought out real-life billboards advertising the event.
This group’s event shortly gained a lot of attention, and not all of it was good. Many in the community worry that the attention this billboard is drawing to the modding and roleplay community will upset longstanding peace between the community and developers.
What happened? — In a now-deleted tweet, DJ Potate, who is scheduled to perform at the Summer Bash event on July 9, posted a picture of the billboard advertising the in-game event. The billboard features two-player characters with links to social media for the DJs performing and the organizing group’s website.
The billboard is one of two that were put up in Texas, with two more originally planned to be in California. As reported by néws.com.au, the group removed the original billboard. No California billboards have been spotted yet, either.
While many people saw this as just a cringe thing to do, others saw it as a threatening action that could negatively impact the larger community. The event is being held by Rain Nightclub, a Free Company (an in-game group of players), at their house on the Balmung world. Balmung has an infamous reputation in Final Fantasy XIV for being home to a large population of role-playing communities, including those that do erotic roleplay, or ERP. Rain Nightclub is one such group. While ERP is not a bad thing, it is often looked down upon by other players and the development team of FFXIV has a tolerance for it — as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.
Another point of contention is the billboard’s apparent use of third-party tools that break the game’s terms of service. Specifically, the Viera on the billboard’s left side is wearing a data-mined outfit and both characters are being posed in ways the vanilla game does not allow, meaning it is being done with a third-party tool. Yet the official Final Fantasy XIV logo is featured on the billboard, giving the event a veneer of official approval that it almost certainly does not have.
All these elements either explicitly break the terms of service or are walking the line. Modding has long been an issue in the game, with Square Enix turning a blind eye to it — so long as fans don't use mods in a way that affects the experience of other players. The main worry is that players will use parsers, tools that track the damage output of players, to bully players for not “playing optimally” in an encounter. While the event organizers have said in the group’s Discord channel (which is now closed) that this event was not going to make any profit, the extensive list of infringements on terms of service could make them a target for bans.
Inverse has reached out to Square Enix for comment on this developing story but did not receive a response in time for publication.
What’s at stake? — For those unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy XIV community, this might seem like just a case of schadenfreude. People love to see someone else’s embarrassment. But there is a real fear in the community that this very public display could harm the communities it spotlights.
Producer Naoki Yoshida has repeatedly discouraged players from using mods and engaging in ERP in public spaces via blog posts on the Lodestone. The most recent such post came in May 2022, after raiders used third-party tools (in a way that did not affect gameplay, just HUD elements) during the latest Ultimate race. In the May post, Yoshida reiterated that “the use of third-party tools is strictly prohibited. Players who are determined to be using third-party tools will have their accounts suspended, or permanently banned for repeat offenses.”
The problem with the billboard is that it publicly displays multiple violations of FFXIV’s terms of service and spotlights the modding and ERP community as the groups that are responsible for this. These are large communities that are formed out of love for the game. Most modders aren’t trying to hurt player experiences, and most ERP happens consensually in designated community-run spaces. But all of this is put at risk when one group does something so publicly that it could easily catch the eye of Square Enix.
The worry isn’t that the people who run Rain Nightclub will be banned — as of now, none of them have been. The worry is that Square Enix will go to the source of the perceived problem, the mod creators, and take down the content. At even greater risk is the ERP community, which is already seen by so many as a taboo that this could lead to stricter regulation by Square Enix. While the Rain Nightclub event may have been intended to celebrate their enjoyment of FFXIV, the community’s worry is that it will threaten everyone’s ability to do the same.