Epic looks to cash in on Improbable, Unity spat

[Update] Unity Changes Terms of Service to Block SpatialOS Tool from Improbable

Unity Engine games developed with SpatialOS' cloud-based multiplayer Game Development Kit (GDK) are now in violation of Unity's terms of service, according to SpatialOS maker Improbable. A game engine does much of the heavy lifting in games, such as rendering graphics and handling the physics of gameplay.

There may be something specific about SpartialOS's architecture that presents problems for Unity: Rather than using a single, authoritative server to oversee a unified game world for multiple clients - a common setup in gaming - it coordinates multiple servers through various server-side worker programs. "In addition, Unity has revoked our ability to continue working with the engine for breaching the newly changed terms of service in an unspecified way". Though the terms of service were changed on December 5, Improbable says Unity confirmed directly to them this week that the update "specifically disallow [s] services like Improbable's to function with their engine". 'This was previously freely possible in their terms, as with other major engines. It claims that changes to Unity's terms of service has affected developers' ability to choose their providers, and left some games in "legal limbo". Bossa Studios, the company behind the sandbox MMO Worlds Adrift, stated that the game would not affected following a confirming correspondence with Unity.

Improbable notes that this change occurred while Unity was in "open commercial negotiation with the company to find a way to do more together". While the folks at Improbable also seemed unsure about this detail, Unity clarified in its blog post that SpatialOS projects that were live and in production would still be supported.

Unity has since responded, saying Improbable's version of events is incorrect. "Games that have been funded based on the promise of SpatialOS to deliver next-generation multiplayer are now endangered due to their choice of game engine". "We have been clear with Improbable that games now in production and/or games that are live are unaffected, and we would have expected them to be honest with their community about this information".

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It continues: "To assist developers who are left in limbo by the new engine and service incompatibilities that were introduced today, Epic Games and Improbable are together establishing a U.S. $25,000,000 combined fund to help developers transition to more open engines, services, and ecosystems".

Improbable is aligning with Epic Games following a very public and nasty spat with Unity over SpatialOS. "Unity won't let it happen". A company spokesperson said a statement is planned, but we've not heard back. "Whatever is happening in the background outside of our control, our focus is ensuring players are looked after and your memorable experiences in the game are protected". In, the game-engine company offered a clarification for any Unity game makers concerned about their use of SpatialOS: "Projects that are now in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected by any actions we have taken with Improbable", the blog post says.

Game maker Ruari O'Sullivan via Twitter lamented that Unity's handling of the situation represents a nightmare scenario for game developers.

The post, which can be read in its entirety on Improbable's website, reiterates its original argument that changes to Unity's Terms of Service make it so that any owner or user of a managed service (like SpatialOS in this case) can be potentially found in breach of Unity's terms, despite Unity's informal assurances that this is not the case. We have no formal technical arrangements there and have not required any with Unity for years.

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