Vampire: The Masquerade video game publishing house Paradox Interactive has announced a program that allows fans to create, publish, and profit from video games set in the pen-and-paper RPG’s dark, urban-gothic universe.
Paradox said the Unbound program was inspired by the success of the recent Vampire Jam, in which nearly 90 developers had a month to create games based on Vampire: The Masquerade‘sWorld of Darkness mythos. “While we could only award one grand prize to Heartless Lullaby, we knew we had to create a platform that empowered our community to work on the projects they love while giving them the support they need to be successful,” World of Darkness Community Developer Martyna Zych said in a statement.
Developers that take part in the Unbound program will receive “a personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable, nonsublicensable, royalty-bearing right, and license” to the World of Darkness IP “to develop, localize, publish, sell, distribute, promote, and advertise” their game, according to an extensive license agreement.
In exchange, Paradox will take a 33 percent cut of the net revenues brought in by any Unbound games. Developers can bring in additional funds through donations or by publishing content on Youtube or Twitch, though, as outlined in Paradox’s “Dark Pack” content agreement. Developers also retain the rights to any of the completely original art and music they create for the game, which can be reused or resold as they see fit.
Unbound developers can’t do whatever they want with the World of Darkness IP, though. Games have to be submitted to Paradox for review, and the publisher will make sure titles don’t use the World of Darkness “in any manner deemed socially or educationally damaging.” Unbound games also can’t include the use of “hazardous substances” or “cause harm when used.”
While real-world historical settings are allowed, the submission guidelines prohibit mixing in other fantasy settings such as “science fiction, steampunk, cyberpunk or similar” into the 5th Edition rules. The terms “Vampire: The Masquerade” or “World of Darkness” can’t appear in the game’s title, either, presumably to avoid brand confusion with Paradox’s own titles or other official products.
Games published through Unbound can only be distributed on indie platform itch.io, which already hosts a handful of such games from the Vampire Jam. Unbound games can be offered for free, but those that charge money need to cost at least $5.99, for some reason.
Paradox promises “a streamlined launch process” for games submitted through Unbound and says developers should follow up if their game isn’t approved within 10 business days. Paradox also dangles the possibility of “additional marketing support from World of Darkness” for some titles in the program.
Paradox’s efforts to create a legal setup for developers to profit from games based on their licensed IP goes quite a bit further than most video game publishers. While publishers like Sega and Capcom have historically not taken action against fangames based on their popular properties, that usually only applies “so long as no profit is involved,” as Sonic the Hedgehog Social Media Manager Katie Chrzanowski said last May. On the other end of the spectrum, publishers like Nintendo can be downright overbearing in enforcing their IP rights against fan-made titles that use its characters.