Official Square Enix policyEdit
Third party tools are cheating tools that give an unfair advantage. All of them are completely banned both in Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. Violators of the ban may have their access to the game suspended or revoked. The GMs investigate reports of third party tool usage and punish the players responsible. Players who download third party tools are placing their characters and account at risk from both official punishment and malware-containing programs.
Unofficial Square Enix policyEdit
In actual practice, Square Enix is notably more lenient towards third party tool users than their official policy suggests.
Square Enix's unofficial policy towards third party tools has been described as "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil":
- Square Enix takes no effort whatsoever to actively look for most third party tool users, with the exception being anti-RMT campaigns. Contrast with World of Warcraft's "Warden" program, which actively scans players' computers looking for cheating tools and other unauthorized mods.
- When determining whether a user under investigation is using a third party tool, absolutely no evidence outside the game is allowed into consideration. It does not matter how many screenshots or forum posts the player shows or admits their guilt in. Only a confession in-game is valid. Contrast Square Enix's own policy for banning RMT players, who may be banned merely for a suspicious pattern of behavior with no hard evidence of any kind. Hence, what is known as the "Fight Club" rule ("The first rule of Fight Club, is you don't talk about Fight Club"): never talk about the third party tools you use in-game.
- Square Enix almost never makes any effort whatsoever to alter their client to either introduce incompatibilities with known third party tools or alter the client behavior that allows the tools to function. For example, there is a third party tool that allows players to see a fellow party member's TP; normally, a player sees only their own TP. But the server sends data to the client telling it what every party member's current TP is, and it stores this data in memory even though it has no authorized use. The tool merely needs to read those memory locations to gain the information.
- Square Enix will delete any posts made on their official forum that mention the names of specific third party tools, and the poster will be punished. This impedes attempts to bring known issues with third party tools to Square Enix's attention. Many players have received the impression that they have no intention of doing anything about third party tools and would just rather not hear about it.
Major categories of third party toolsEdit
Upon release and for years afterward, Final Fantasy XI did not run in any mode other than fullscreen. If it detected that it was not running in fullscreen, it would shut down. This was a deliberate design decision by Square Enix, under the theory that this would eliminate cheat tool use. It failed utterly to do this. It did, however, prevent players from using informational and discussional web sites about the game, instant messaging programs, .mp3 players and other music programs and numerous other completely legitimate and beneficial programs at the same time as they were playing.
So certain resourceful players wrote programs to fool the client into thinking it was running fullscreen while actually it was in a window. By the time Square Enix finally changed their minds years later, the third party windower programs were so advanced that they were considered overwhelmingly superior to Square Enix's own hastily-added and barely useful windowed mode (which was never subsequently improved).
Currently, there are dozens of plug-ins available for windowers, doing things like:
- Improving the stability of multiboxing by preventing multiple instances of the client from trampling on each other's files.
- Prepending a timestamp to entries in the message log.
- Keeping track of various statistics.
- Improving the game's graphics by extending the draw distance of objects out to the maximum the player's PC will support.
- Filtering out the infamous "blinking" effect that occurs when players change visible equipment, causing them to disappear from the screen briefly and breaking target (which is a huge problem for healing and buffing jobs).
- Providing a macro function far superior to the client's own built-in macros in absolutely every way.
- Filtering out or consolidating redundant and unwanted message log entries.
- Allowing the player to cancel unwanted positive status effects with a macro-able command instead of having to perform a cumbersome and error-prone manual cancellation.
- Showing an exact percentage of HP remaining for targets in addition to the HP gauge.
- Showing how much TP other party members have.
- Showing exact distance to a target.
- Providing an alert tone when receiving communications from other players, so that players who are temporarily away from the game won't miss out on others trying to talk to them.
- Automatically gearswapping when casting spells, using job abilities, in melee combat, etc. so that the player need not mash macros for best performance.
- Automatically pass on unwanted items in the treasure pool, so that the player isn't slowed down in intense action by the need to pass on items or throw them away.
- Retrieving and stowing items in secondary storage as needed, thus making Job Changes between jobs that a player has dozens of items for (each!) much less tiresome.
- Making it easier to multibox by adding macro-able commands to send commands to one's other characters.
- And many more.
It is rumored that even Square Enix staff have been spotted using a third party windower at official events. Hard statistics on third party tool use are hard to come by, but it is often said by players that if everyone using a windower was banned, they would instantly lose half the population.
A parser is a program that parses the message log in order to produce statistics. Usually, these statistics are things like how much damage each player in a group has done, or how many of the player's attacks actually hit. Highly competitive players are often motivated by a desire to move up the damage parsing relative rankings in groups they play in, and parsers are a part of the forum culture on certain MMORPG message boards.
A bot is a program that performs an in-game action automatically. Common types of bots include:
- Fishbots, which fish automatically. This allows a player to make money without effort. RMT were notorious fishbot users.
- Claimbots, which claim a Notorious Monster as soon as it appears, with faster reflexes than competing human players can match. Square Enix implemented a small random claiming delay to stop this; bot programmers created new claimbots that would communicate with each other and spread out their actions to cover every interval in the window. These give a huge advantage in competitive NM camping.
- Stunbots, which read and react to the message that a monster is readying a dangerous ability and stop it by casting Stun before the message has even had time to scroll into the client's (rather sluggish) message log.
- Cleavebots, which automatically kill monsters in groups for maximum efficiency. These were very popular for farming Cruor.
- Digbots and other gathering bots, which automatically gather resources. Again, RMT are notorious for this.
- Craftbots, which automatically perform Synthesis. Usually used by RMT.
- Skillbots, which automatically cast a spell over and over again in order to raise combat skills.
Other cheating toolsEdit
Besides bots, other common functions of cheating tools include:
- "Fleehacking", where a cheating player can increase his character's speed to Flee speed (or higher!) at will.
- "Noclip mode", where a cheating player can move his character through walls at will.
- "Poshacking" (short for position hacking), where a cheating player can warp his character around the zone at will. Claimbots may use this cheat, teleporting to and claiming a monster the second it spawns (well ahead of the human competition). Likewise, gathering bots use this cheat to teleport to resource nodes (again, severely beating their human competition).
- When fishing, a cheating player can immediately know exactly what is on the other end of the line without having to reel it in, and then reel it in if they so choose without having to win the fishing minigame. Fishbots will always use these cheats.
- A cheating player can see invisible monsters such as Voidwalkers. When trying to claim a Voidwalker, obviously the player who knows exactly where it is at all times has a huge advantage over the player who has to repeatedly stop and kneel for several seconds to get a reading.
Technically, programs that view the client's data files are also considered third party tools. Data file viewing allows players to, among other things:
- Know what items exist in the game and what their in-game descriptions are (although hidden effects are not shown).
- Read all dialogue in the game (although who is speaking it is unknown).
- See the names of all targetable objects in a zone--monsters, NPCs, resource nodes, treasure chests, and so on (although locations and conditions of appearance are unknown).
- See the names and descriptions of all spells, job abilities, and job traits.
- Read all quest and mission descriptions without needing to be on them.
- View models and animations, including the terrain, monsters, NPCs, equipment that is visible on the player model, and so on.
- Extract textures, icons, maps, and so on.
- Do all of these things even for content that is unused.
This wiki, and others, depend heavily on data viewers.
The playerbase is split on the issue of third party tool use. A small number echo Square Enix's official stance and condemn all third party tool use as immoral. A larger number support the use of the tools that are considered to improve gameplay experience without giving an unfair advantage. And a group of intermediate size between the first two camps will use whatever tool they find useful and will actively disdain any other players who has any ethical problems with this. In general, windowers, parsers, and data viewers are broadly supported, while bots and other cheating tools are not. Skillbots are the major exception, as a large number of players consider standing around for hours pressing a button every few seconds to be not valid gameplay.