Improbable teams up with Epic after Unity revokes SpatialOS licence

Ruben Fields
January 13, 2019

The spat began yesterday when Improbable said that Unity had made changes to its Terms of Service which blocked developers using its SpatialOS tech from the engine. The developers of the engine have a beef with the SpatialOS cloud platform, and now every game that's running SpatialOS is in breach of the new Unity terms regardless of whether the game's already released or not. The worry, of course, is that Unity doesn't change its decision or give SpatialOS permission to use the Unity Runtime in the cloud, which would leave live games in particular between a rock and a hard place.

The upshot is that multiplayer games built using SpatialOS may have to be pulled offline as a result of being in breach of Unity's fine print, though at least one developer, Bossa Studios, has been assured its SpatialOS-based title, Worlds Adrift, can stay up and running while Unity and Improbable work through this falling out. Improbable's SpatialOS platform also runs on the Unreal Engine and CryEngine and can be created to work with custom engines. "We are very concerned about this news, and hope it is some kind of mistake". The answer probably lies in the "partnership" that both Unity and Improbable allude they were in the process of reaching, i.e. Unity likely wanted Improbable to pay up if they were going to be hosting the Unity Runtime on Improbable servers, but the two couldn't come to an agreement.

View the full blog post here.

Improbable writes, "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".

'The game engine provider Unity recently changed (Dec 5) and then clarified directly to us (9 Jan) their terms of service to specifically disallow services like Improbable's to function with their engine, ' claimed improbable in a blog post on the matter. "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".

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Projects that are in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected, he explained. Outside of using the cloud-gaming platform, this could be seen as a beacon to studios and developers trying to figure out the best home for their projects in general, especially with funding being dangled out in front of them.

The problems with the new ToS may also go beyond the SpatialOS system, as noted by Flying Oak Games developer Thomas Altenburger on Twitter, meaning hundreds of games are now in legal jeopardy for violating the new terms of service.

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

"We believe we are at the beginning of an unprecedented age of inclusive online games that become parts of our everyday lives", the letter reads. Sweeney said that the funding will come from a variety of different sources, including Improbable developer assistance funds and the Epic Games store.

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

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