Wednesday, 19 June, 2019

Unity rules change suddenly leaves many games in trouble

UPDATED- Unity Pulls Licensing fromSpatialOS + Unity's Response to Allegations [Update] Unity Changes Terms of Service to Block SpatialOS Tool from Improbable
Cecil Davis | 13 January, 2019, 23:21

Online video games that use both the Unity game engine and the SpatialOS cloud platform are now at risk thanks to a recent change in Unity's terms of service, according to SpatialOS developer Improbable.

The newly updated now specifically excludes "managed service [s] running on cloud infrastructure" which "install or execute the Unity Runtime on the cloud or a remote server".

Not only that, but Improbable also says that Unity has revoked its own license for this ToS breach, which makes it hard for the company to support Unity games using SpatialOS. "We apologize that this event we instigated has created so much uncertainty, confusion and pain for so many developers who really do not deserve this". Worse, it has left some live and in-development games in legal limbo.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Improbable co-founder Herman Narula speculated that Unity's decision was either an accident or a negotiation tactic, adding in regards to the latter, "We're waiting for someone in the West Coast to wake up and make some ransom demands, basically".

The developer community has been thrown into chaos after Unity changed its Terms of Service to render all games made with Improbable's SpatialOS in breach of Unity's licence, before Epic Games stepped in to announce it would partner with Improbable to create an open integration between SpatialOS and the Unreal Engine.

Unity developers using SpatialOS spent the day complaining about the move and wondering whether their projects in development would have to be completely reshaped. Bossa Studios, the company behind the sandbox MMO Worlds Adrift, stated that the game would not affected following a confirming correspondence with Unity. Several games, such as Lazarus by Spilt Milk Studios, have already announced the closure of their servers due to the dispute, while unannounced projects, most notably an MMO project from Claus Grovdal, CEO of Sensiga Studios, noted on Twitter that they are "very concerned about this news, and hope it is some kind of mistake".

Others have not been able to respond with the same positive tone. "To start, we just wanted to apologize to the incredible community of game developers we've seen engaging in discourse today", Improbable said.

Key phrase: more open engines, services, and ecosystems. Projects that are now in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected by any actions we have taken with Improbable.

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The change coming to light has been met with immediate backlash from game developers, with even one of Unity's forum moderators making it clear they're not too pleased with the company's failure to communicate such a change ahead of time. Unity has also revoked Improbables ability to continue work with the engine as well, hindering their ability to support previously released games.

Unity has also provided explanations from their side regarding their working relationship with Improbable. To make things more confusing for game developers, Unity's new terms use broad language that could potentially be used to shutter titles using SpatialOS, AWS, or other similar frameworks.

So, it seems that Improbable is now in a stand off with Unity until this whole debacle gets sorted out.

This caused a ripple effect in the gaming industry, as developers who used SpatialOS quickly began taking their games down from the market.

But that was not all.

"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 USA $25,000,000 combined fund to help developers transition to more open engines, services, and ecosystems".

This money will be distributed via the long-running Unreal Dev Grants initiative, as well as in the form of Improbable developer assistance funds and Epic Games store funding.

"We believe we are at the beginning of an unprecedented age of inclusive online games that become parts of our everyday lives", Epic chief Tim Sweeney wrote.