Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
IT | By Lester Massey

Improbable teams up with Epic after Unity revokes SpatialOS licence

Improbable teams up with Epic after Unity revokes SpatialOS licence

"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".

Improbable went on to say that a platform going down or changing its Terms of Service could have "devastating repercussions" on the industry and called on Unity and others to create a "code of conduct" to adhere by.

As reported by PC Gamer, Unity rolled out an update to its Terms of Service in late 2018 that restricted the use of cloud platforms like SpatialOS in games created with the engine.

The talks between Unity and Improbable, creators of SpatialOS, have broken down.

"SpatialOS [has made] it easier [for me] to build large-scale multiplayer games using a cloud-based solution", developer AtomiCal writes on the Unity forums. SpatialOS is a cloud-based multiplayer service that's used by a variety of MMO titles; Unity's new terms forbid managed services from installing or executing the Unity Runtime on the cloud or through a remote server, and that's essentially what these SpatialOS games do. The issue at hand is that developers now developing games of with games in production using Unity will no longer be able to use SpatialOS. 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". Bossa Studios, the company behind the sandbox MMO Worlds Adrift, stated that the game would not affected following a confirming correspondence with Unity.

Sensing an opportunity, Epic Games, whose Unreal Engine is a direct competitor to Unity, then jumped into the fray.

Unity has also provided explanations from their side regarding their working relationship with Improbable. If a game developer runs a Unity-based game server on their own servers or generic cloud instances (like GCP, AWS or Azure), they are covered by our EULA. That means all games using both platforms, whether they're live or in-development, are now in breach of Unity's license terms. We have never communicated to any game developer that they should stop operating a game that runs using Improbable as a service. Unity was part of why we started Improbable in a barn in north London just a few years ago. Six months ago, Unity once again notified Improbable of the violation, but seemingly no action was taken. A Unity representative was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment. It goes on to say that the companies aim "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". We encourage others with a similar vision to reach out, so we can find ways to make it come sooner.

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'll see what happens from here, so stay tuned.

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