“There’s no perfect system”, but the FFXIV devs want to do more to combat harassment

FFXIV's Alphinaud in Endwalker

Square Enix is looking into improving Final Fantasy XIV’s social features following calls from players for better protection against stalking and harassment. However, it seems we may have to wait a while to see any such changes implemented.

While issues of player misbehaviour have been raised on the FFXIV subreddit numerous times over the years, one post in late September brought the conversation back to the fore. Some of the ideas the community proposes to tackle the problem include the abilities to remove yourself from someone else’s friend list and to make your Lodestone profile private. It’s also been suggested that you should be able to block someone’s account, not just their character. We recently got the chance to attend a preview event for FFXIV’s next expansion Endwalker, so we took the opportunity to ask director Naoki Yoshida if the team has any plans for the update or beyond to implement changes like these.

“We’re aware that this is a big discussion in the community, but at the same time, there are various reasons why our specifications are designed as they are,” he explains. “It’s a very serious topic, so I would like to take a lot of care in how I answer this, so please allow me to explain.”

Yoshida acknowledges the points raised about Lodestone profiles, telling us that the team is considering ways of addressing the feedback. FFXIV’s friend list, however, is something that the team is a “little bit nervous about adjusting”. He explains that the team’s time in other MMORPGs influences various design decisions in Final Fantasy XIV. The group noticed that several arguments between players escalated when one found out the other had unfriended them, so they designed their friend list with that in mind.

“Previously, we’ve seen in other games that there are cases where this eventually develops into stalking because of the way that those friend lists are designed,” Yoshida explains. “So it was for that reason that we decided we would structure our friend list the way that it is – so that it’s more difficult for the other person to find out there’s a separation between them.”

a group of FFXIV players

While the team is looking into the matter, it may be some time before you see any meaningful changes implemented. For Yoshida, rushing to implement a solution could introduce more unexpected problems.

“We have to be very careful with the approach that we take for this,” Yoshida explains. “In this respect, I would like to spend more time discussing with the relevant parties involved, to get a clear idea of what’s going on, and to put some substance into what we want to implement in FFXIV.

“It’s just the reality that there’s no perfect system in this world – there’s never going to be a system that is 100% just, but the best that we can do is to work towards creating something closer to that ideal. So once again, I would like to carry out more discussion and develop our plans for addressing that moving forward.”

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A Reddit post (linked above) highlighting how certain social features can allegedly enable stalking and harassment gained traction in the community in late September. Concerns raised include remaining on someone’s friend list after you delete them, being unable to make your Lodestone profile private, and still matching with blacklisted players in duties. “Even if you server switch, name change, [use a] Fantasia, and do this thrice over to make them lose track of who you are (which, is expensive and a hassle and you really shouldn’t be forced to do something like this just to avoid people who are creepy to you), then if they just have your Lodestone URL they can find out exactly who/what you’ve become and where you play,” the post reads.

One person tells us that blocked players can still follow you around the map and talk about you in the public chat – be that close-by chats or the zone-wide shouts – even if they can’t speak with you directly. We’re also told that players can reportedly make unlimited alt accounts through which they can send you messages, since you can create and delete new characters “more or less indefinitely” once you have your regular account.

Players are also discussing the situation as it pertains to housing, as you can’t decide who comes into your house on an individual basis – you can only lock your home entirely, not selectively. “You can’t even kick people out of your own house,” one player writes. “The only thing you can do is to lock the door, but if someone is already inside, they can remain inside until they log off or get kicked out for server maintenance”.

A team of FFXIV players

Players also report that divorcing someone, destroying your eternity ring, and blacklisting them in-game still isn’t enough to free you of a stalker, and it’s not uncommon to see someone turn to the subreddit for aid as getting help from a Game Master is apparently difficult.

It remains to be seen, then, what Square Enix has in store to combat these problems, but it’s clear the community has a long list of issues that need to be addressed.

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