Monday, June 29, 2015

An Unlicensed Fan-Hack Has Been Nominated for Three ENnies.

The nominees for the 2015 ENnies Awards have been posted and I can't say that I'm surprised by many of the names appearing. D&D 5e appears in several categories and will likely win all of them. Zak Smith's A Red and Pleasant Land has four nominations and should win all of them.

But one very surprising nominee is the Mass Effect FATE game. "What Mass Effect game?" you might ask, not recalling the release of a game using such a hugely popular property. You wouldn't have remembered this huge release because it didn't happen. The Mass Effect game that hold three ENnies nominations is an unlicensed fan hack. 

I have no problems with people taking one cool thing and finding a way to make it work at the game table. I especially like it when they make it nice and polished and then give it away for free. (And of course they have to give it away because they don't own the property.) This DIY spirit is what makes RPGs such a fun hobby. But one of the most prestigious awards in the industry is not the place for fan hacks, even the best of them. 

The Mass Effect FATE RPG has been nominated for Best Free Product, Best Electronic Product, and (in what can only be seen as a slap in the face to anyone working with original IP) Product of the Year. For every one of those nominations, a wholly original or officially licenced game was excluded.

This is a low point for the ENnies. My past gripes with the award have been that the nominated products have been boring or substandard, but this is something else altogether. Nominating the hack for an award legitimizes it as a "real RPG product," which it certainly is not. It should never have been submitted for consideration and the judges should definitely have removed it from the running. But there it is, possibly about to become the defining RPG product of 2015. 

Best case scenario, the hack will go unnoticed by the voting public and the ENnies will enact stricter submission guidelines. Worst case, the creator of the hack will get a C&D letter from Electronic Arts and the ENnies will loose all credibility from here on out.

UPDATE: The ENnies have done the right thing and disqualified the Mass Effect game. The game has also been removed from its own site, which make me think that the author is either having a tantrum or has been contacted by owners of the Mass Effect IP.