The $2bn rated British start-up Improbable remains embroiled in a public spat with one of its major partners, after the US game engine developer Unity said that claims it is blocking developers using Improbable’s multiplayer cloud technology are ‘incorrect’.
Improbable posted on its blog on Thursday that a change in Unity’s terms of service meant that games using Improbable’s SpatialOS would be in breach of those terms and could face being taken offline.
Improbable also said that Unity had revoked the developer’s access to Unity, which would affect its ability to support existing games. SpatialOS is a cloud-based solution for developers looking to create persistent multiplayer worlds, but must be used in conjunction with a game engine such as Unity or Fortnite creator Epic's Unreal Engine.
Unity confirmed that it had terminated its relationship with Improbable, but said this was “due to a failed negotiation with them after they violated our Terms of Service.”
“We’ve made it clear that anyone using SpatialOS will not be affected,” added Unity.
In its original blog post, Improbable said that “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 post lead to Spilt Milk’s space-faring MMO Lazarus being taken offline temporarily, before being reinstated a few hours later. Another game that uses SpatialOS, Bossa Studios’ World’s Adrift, stayed online but accompanied by a statement from the developer promising to keep its players abreast of the situation.
Unity said that developers should not have been affected by the ongoing dispute. “We believe that even though Improbable is violating our EULA, game developers should never pay the price for that,” Unity said. “We have been clear with Improbable that games currently in production and/or games that are live are unaffected, and we would have expected them to be honest with their community about this information. Unfortunately, this information is misrepresented in Improbable’s blog.”
Unity also claim that Improbable were told about its violation of Unity’s services over a year ago, which were not disclosed but involved “making unauthorized and improper use of Unity’s technology and name in connection with the development, sale, and marketing of its own products.”
In response to Unity’s blog, Improbable posted a ‘retrospective’ on the events. “To start, we just wanted to apologize to the incredible community of game developers we’ve seen engaging in discourse today,” Improbable said. “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.”
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.
“We invite Unity to participate in this broader thinking with us,” said Improbable. “Whatever the outcome of our misunderstanding. You are an incredibly important company and one bad day doesn’t take away from all you’ve given us. Let's fix this for our community, you know our number.”
However, the British developer then went on to announce a partnership with Unreal Engine developer Epic Games, with the companies providing a $25m fund for developers to move their Spatial OS games to “more open engines, services, and ecosystems.”
The move came after Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney rebuked Unity on Twitter for changing its terms of service, saying that Epic makes its EULA agreement for Unreal Engine 4 EULA “apply perpetually.”
“When you obtain a version under a given EULA,” said Sweeney. “You can stay on that version and operate under that EULA forever if you choose.”
Despite Unity’s statement on the Improbable spat, the developer still faced criticism from developers due to change in the terms of service and its vague wording.
“We understand there are still some questions about our TOS,” said Unity. “We’re currently working to make the TOS clearer. If you are worried about your particular situation please write to [email protected] and we’ll address your question.”