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SpatialOS games under threat as Unity revokes Improbable's license

Update: Spilt Milk Studios brings Lazarus back at least temporarily, while Bossa's Worlds Adrift is "operating as normal"

A change in Unity Technologies' terms of service has left Unity games created using Improbable's SpatialOS platform under threat.

According to a statement released by Improbable today, Unity changed its terms of service on December 4 2018, and clarified the change to Improbable yesterday.

As a result, Improbable has said, "all existing SpatialOS and Unity games, including production games and in-development games of all developers, are now in breach of Unity's license terms."

The new terms of service "specifically disallow services like Improbable's" to work with Unity, which was not the case in the previous iteration of the terms, and is still not the case with competing tech like Epic's Unreal Engine.

According to Improbable, this development arose from an "open commercial negotiation" with a goal of finding new ways for the two companies to work together.

Instead, Unity's new terms have put the futures of a number of in-development games in jeopardy. Improbable's license to work with the engine has also been revoked, which will prevent it from supporting all SpatialOS games made with Unity

"Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry"

Improbable

"Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry, including those of extremely vulnerable or small scale developers, and damaged major projects in development over many years," Improbable said in a statement.

"Games that have been funded based on the promise of SpatialOS to deliver next-generation multiplayer are now endangered due to their choice of front-end engine. Live games are now in legal limbo."

Improbable emphasised its "huge respect" for Unity Technologies, and attributed the dire outcome of the new terms of service as "an error in judgement or coordination failure" within the ubiquitous engine company.

Improbable has said that a reversal of the change is the ideal solution, but while those negotiations take place it has established an emergency fund to help its partners who are now in financial difficulty. One possibility is that Unity developers will have to switch their projects to new engines, though Improbable described this as "a last resort."

A number of SpatialOS games were built with Unity's Engine, including Bossa Studios' Worlds Adrift, which launched last year, and Klang Games' ambitious MMO Seed, which has yet to be released.

We have reached out to Improbable and Unity Technologies for comment. More on this story as it unfolds.

Update: Improbable has confirmed to GamesIndustry.biz that Unity has blocked SpatialOS due to a change in its terms of service on "Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions."

The full text of that section has be found below, or you can check section 2.4 of Unity's terms of service.

Update: Bossa Studios has reassured the Worlds Adrift community that the game is "operating as normal," despite the perceived difficulties between Unity and Improbable.

In a statement published on Twitter, the UK studio said that while SpatialOS is "the technology underpinning the Worlds Adrift servers," Bossa will remain focused on ensuring that its players' experiences are protected.

Update: Spilt Milk Studio is among the first developers forced to take a game offline due to the dispute between Improbable and Unity over a change to the latter's terms of service.

The UK indie said on Twitter that the servers for its game Lazarus are "going to be down for an undetermined amount of time, basically until the dispute is resolved, one way or another." Lazarus was playable in open alpha, and it was scheduled for release on Steam in March 2019.

Update: Spilt Milk Studio has resurrected Lazarus servers for the time being, saying on Twitter, "We're not quite sure what's going on - we were told that access to the servers would be revoked by 2:30 p.m. today but it seems that's not the case. Until either the servers are forced down or we're told to turn them off, we'll keep Lazarus live."

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Latest comments (6)

Michael Sellers Chief Alchemist, Online Alchemy6 months ago
There has already been a lot of discussion about this across social media, which is no surprise.

What is surprising is that Unity has been conspicuously silent. On Twitter, Reddit, even their own official Discord community server, there has been active discussion and questions about this precipitous policy change -- but not a peep from anyone at Unity.

This is a stunningly short-sighted and poorly thought through policy. Not a good move for a company like Unity -- or any company, really.
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Dariusz G. Jagielski Game Developer 6 months ago
@Iain Angus: Better safe than sorry.
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Ian Griffiths Product Owner, Hutch6 months ago
@Dariusz G. Jagielski:
Never, EVER hire anyone that has "worked at EA" in his or her resume
What kind of ridiculous tribalism is this!? You judge someone because they work at EA? What on earth has EA done that is so bad?
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Show all comments (6)
Dariusz G. Jagielski Game Developer 6 months ago
@Ian Griffiths: Let's see... Worst company in America for several years in a row (at least two, not sure if more), loot boxes, microtransactions in a FRIGGIN PAID GAMES, closing down Visceral, Dungeon Keeper Mobile... Hang on, I think the better question is what haven't EA done that is so bad.
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Adam Campbell Game Manager, Azoomee6 months ago
@Dariusz G. Jagielski: Hmm, you're talking about a congolmerate with a wide range of people working there. I'm sure this is an emotional response but many people are naturally going have EA as a company on their CV.
Let's see... Worst company in America for several years in a row (at least two, not sure if more)
Kinda strange at a time when there were companies forcing people into foreclosure. But I guess we should just take these 'lists' as a given right?
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Ian Griffiths Product Owner, Hutch6 months ago
@Dariusz G. Jagielski: How are the worst company for several years in a row? Did the cause the BP oil spill? Did they start the 2007 financial crisis? Were they involved in extracting Iraq's oil?

EA didn't invest mtx in games, nor loot boxes. Dungeon Keeper mobile was 4 years ago and it's not like creating it destroyed the existence of the original or its sequel, or the spiritual successor.

What have they done that is good? Created beloved video series, from Madden to FIFA, Mass Effect to Dragon Age, Battlefield to The Sims.

In any case, it's an awful attitude to write people off because they worked at a studio that make games you personally don't like because you have no idea how they were involved in the process.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ian Griffiths on 11th January 2019 9:35pm

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