Improbable, the company behind the ambitious SpatialOS cloud-based game development platform, revealed some unfortunate developments for future and current devs using SpatialOS with Unity. A change to Unity's Terms of Service (clause 2.4) means that all SpatialOS games are in breach of Unity's terms. Unity, though, says that isn't quite true.
SpatialOS is a platform that allows for massive multiplayer undertakings like Worlds Adrift and Mavericks: Proving Grounds' 1000-player battle royale to be created. The platform is powered by cloud computing, and the Unity terms are pretty lengthy, but here's the specific clause regarding cloud gaming that Improbable references:
2.4 Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions.
You may not directly or indirectly distribute the Unity Software, including the runtime portion of the Unity Software (the “Unity Runtime”), or your Project Content (if it incorporates the Unity Runtime) by means of streaming or broadcasting so that any portion of the Unity Software is primarily executed on or simulated by the cloud or a remote server and transmitted over the Internet or other network to end user devices without a separate license or authorization from Unity. Without limiting the foregoing, you may not use a managed service running on cloud infrastructure (a “Managed Service”) or a specific integration of a binary add-on (for example, a plugin or SDK) or source code to be integrated in the Unity Software or Your Project Content incorporating the Unity Runtime (an “SDK Integration”) to install or execute the Unity Runtime on the cloud or a remote server, unless such use of the Managed Service or SDK Integration has been specifically authorized by Unity. Additionally, you may not integrate the Unity Runtime with a Managed Service or SDK Integration and offer that integration to third parties for the purpose of installing or using the Unity Runtime on the cloud or a remote server. For a list of Unity authorized streaming platforms, Managed Services and SDK Integrations, click here.This restriction does not prevent end users from remotely accessing your Project Content from an end user device that is running on another end user device. You may not use a third party to directly or indirectly distribute or make available, stream, broadcast (through simulation or otherwise) any portion of the Unity Software unless that third party is authorized by Unity to provide such services.
The company shared the news in a blog post on the official Improbable website, breaking down the changes with five specific points:
- Unity’s block of SpatialOS: 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. This was previously freely possible in their terms, as with other major engines.
- What this means: Unity has clarified to us that this change effectively makes it a breach of terms to operate or create SpatialOS games using Unity, including in development and production games.
- Ongoing negotiation: Worryingly, this change occurred during an open commercial negotiation with the company to find a way to do more together.
- Revoked Unity license: 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. This will affect our ability to support games.
- Continuing service for all other engines: Users of all other engines remain completely unaffected and we are working with other engine providers to see if they can help support engine transitions for customers hit by this change.
You can read the Terms of Service on Unity's official page, but the company refutes what Improbable published in its blog. In the company's own blog post in response to Improbable's, Unity states the relationship with Improbably was terminated due to failed negotiations. Also, existing titles or those in production using SpatialOS aren't affected by any actions taken with Improbable. "We have never communicated to any game developer that they should stop operating a game that runs using Improbable as a service," the blog reads.
Unity believes the specific clause under scrutiny has virtually unchanged, but it was rewritten for clarity's sake. The blog mentions that Unity received feedback that the ToS language was ambiguous, so it is possible Improbable leveled that criticism while negotiating with Unity. The company asks that developers using SpatialOS reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org to have any questions answered.