After a day of comments about the fan-made unlicensed Mass Effect RPG being nominated for multiple ENnie awards, Russ “Morrus ” Morrissey of ENWorld, stated that the game would be removed from the slate of nominees. The Mass Effect RPG, nominated for Best Electronic Book, Best Free Product, and Product of the Year, was written and designed by RPG industry veteran Don Mappin. The game is based on Galileo Games’ Bulldogs!, a Fate Core-based game.
“For this year, we have decided to disqualify the fan-created Mass Effect RPG on the basis of IP violations,” the statement read. “The creator of the product, after discussion with him, has already been notified. Don Mappin, the creator of the product, has additionally told us that ‘Based on this outcome I will be removing the work and its associated files.'” The game’s three award nominations will be replaced with other items to keep the number of entries in a ballot equal at five, ten for Product of the Year.
About the game, Mappin writes the game is “solely a labor of love”. The game states that despite using the setting and illustrations from the Mass Effect property, the game is unlicensed and done without the permission or involvement of the IP holders. Mappin writes “it is our hope to expand the outreach of the Mass Effect property to another segment of games—role-players—who have long coveted a way to bring the events of Commander Shepard to life at their gaming tables.”
“I am very public and open that it is an unlicensed product, made available free of charge and that no renumeration is to be made from its distribution. The Fate core OGL is adhered to (to the best of my ability) as well as content from Brennan Taylor of Galileo Games and their Bulldogs! product, with permission,” Don Mappin responded. “I don’t believe that I have violated any aspect of the rules for the ENnies and would hope that my work could be considered.
After game industry professionals and gamers began commenting on the inclusion of an unlicensed work being nominated for Product of the Year, Morrus posted a comment on Twitter and facebook reading, “We are currently discussing an issue re. an ENnies nomination. Info soon.” This was followed up an hour later with a post on facebook reading, in part, that while the nomination categories don’t distingush between fan and publisher work, that this is the first time they’ve had issues concerning a product’s licensed status. “We’ve never had to ask about a product’s licensed status before – we’ve always left a publisher’s own legal matters to them – so this is a new situation for us.” The facebook post says that the issue was being discussed as they wanted to do the right thing.
Nicole Linroos of Green Ronin, publishers of the Dragon Age RPG, said in 2012 that although their relationship with Bioware is “pretty damn happy”, that the video game company was not interested in a Mass Effect roleplaying game. She writes, “the idea has been tossed around and discussed between the Mass Effect team, the Bioware licensing folks, and Green Ronin on more than one occasion. They’re not interested in taking Mass Effect to tabletop, it’s as simple as that.” In a more recent statement, she says that while she would love to have a legitimately licensed AGE-powered Mass Effect game, the company would is not allowed to do so, “not even for free, not even to “give back” to the community. In fact, doing so would likely endanger the legitimate license my company does hold from EA.”