Improbable clarifies timeline and petitions Unity for ‘clarity’ as the SpatialOS drama continues

    
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Yesterday, news of the tiff between SpatialOS company Improbable and Unity spread like wildfire over the internet, with multiple involved parties adding kindling throughout the day and into the wee hours of this morning.

Improbable began by warning MMO companies that used both SpatialOS and Unity that Unity had cut off SpatialOS access in the middle of business negotiations, potentially putting their development in jeopardy; Improbable even likened the move to “ransom demands.” Unity, however, accused Improbable of dishonesty, claiming that it had ended those negotiations and warned Improbable that it was in breach of its TOS. Unity also promised game developers that their projects were not at risk, though it did not clarify those remarks. It did continue updating its TOS as of yesterday amid criticism from non-SpatialOS Unity devs who said the new and ambiguous terms threatened their projects as well. Then, just before midnight, Unreal company Epic Games and Improbable announced a $25M fund to rescue Unity games from limbo.

(For a more detailed account of the events prior to today, see our updated piece from yesterday.)

This afternoon, Improbable has released another blog post in response to Unity’s, suggesting that Unity’s piece was confusing and in fact contained misstatements of fact.

For example, while Unity maintained that it informed Improbable it was in breach of its TOS, Improbable says it had received “verbal confirmation from Unity at the most senior level that [it was] not in breach of their terms of service,” such that Improbable “regarded this as the end of the matter and proceeded with commercial discussions,” having no “reason to believe there was any issue for developers.”

Improbable also points out that at no point did Unity ever tell Unity users that they might be in breach for using Improbable, which you’d think it might do if it believed that. “We have never acted in bad faith or concealed anything concerning service breaches,” the SpatialOS company says.

It then outlines its reaction to what it characterizes as Unity’s “sweeping and ridiculous” TOS changes in December and claims that Unity did not in fact inform it of the license revocation until January 9th (a day before Improbable went public to inform developers itself), which put those games at risk. “During this process, Unity did not communicate with us in any formal way,” says the company.

Improbable does say that while Unity is promising that legacy devs can run SpatialOS games, that doesn’t include Improbable itself, meaning that Improbable cannot legally support its service on those games. In other words, Unity can’t really make the promise it’s making under the circumstances, which is exactly what some game studios are upset about.

Ultimately, Improbable is asking Unity for “clarity.”

“We do not require any direct technical cooperation with an engine provider to offer our services – Crytek, Epic and all other providers clearly allow interoperability without commercial arrangement with cloud platforms. We have no formal technical arrangements there and have not required any with Unity for years. Our preference would be that Unity simply adopts industry standard practice and allows platforms to host the engine as was the case before the change in Terms of Service. Failing that, Unity must grant Improbable sufficient legal basis to protect its existing customers, or be honest with the community about the situation. We now hope Unity will seek to engage with us to solve this issue.”

Source: Improbable
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Kevin McCaughey

This genre is in more than enough trouble already and we *really* don’t need this. I don’t want to just paint Unity as the bad guy here, but at the end of the day this type of predatory licensing puts the whole stability of the industry at risk if people like unity are prepared to pull a HUGE carpet out from everyone. They need to rethink this.

Xijit
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Xijit

The catch for me is that this isn’t new: whatever loophole Improbable was exploiting was left open for years as they tried to get them to play nice.

… And SpacialOS isn’t the only player on their market, but everyone else hasn’t had an issue signing up to play by Unity’s rules.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

OK, someone break it all down into laymen’s terms!

I don’t get what’s going on here. Other than two big companies going ‘Mine.’ ‘No, MINE!’ -thump- -Goes crying to mommy and daddy- ‘They hit me!’ Parent calmly asks why. ‘Because I wouldn’t share!’ Parent calmly states that you deserve it.

Xijit
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Xijit

Unity requires that anyone who qualifies as a “platform” (SpacialOS is exactly this) become liscenced by Unity as such, Improbable said “nah, that is ok: we are just fine without one, but thanks for asking” for 2 years.

********

So, if you run your own unity project on your own server, then you are not a platform (note that this is about back end server software for you game, not the physical hardware your server files are installed on).

But if you make a generic server program and then sell it to other development teams to run their games without having to go through the work of building their own server, then you are a “Platform.”

Which is exactly what SpacialOS was.

Unity told them mutiple times to get with the program (the same program that lots if other “platform” suppliers have signed up with) and Improbable wouldn’t do it.

So Unity revoked their rights to be a Unity Developer.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

Ah, OK. Thanks for the explanation.

Xijit
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Xijit

LoL, I just lewrnd this stuff yesterday because I had no idea what was going on either.

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Dobablo

SpacialOS has obviously been talking to Epic for a while as leverage to ignore Unity’s requests and is kicking up a fuss to encourage developers to jump ship to Epic’s $25m fund for poaching Unity games.
(Edit – incorrectly mentioned Rare instead of Epic)

Xijit
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Xijit

You mean Epic, but yeah: for sure that $25m honey pot did not just magically appear out of nowhere.

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Kevin McCaughey

It’s a good piece of business though – you can’t blame them for it. And it is pretty generous.

kjempff
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kjempff

“platform” in my terminology mean something like Android, Windows, Xbox, smart tv etc. SpatialOS is not a platform, it is a cloud service.
Maybe you are right about the other thing, but “platform” doesn’t seem like the correct term for SpatialOS.

But in any case here is what I think is going on…

Unity exe: hey these guys used to bring people to use our product (Unity) which was great, but now we own a competing product so either we kick them off or raise their price so high that they bleed hard.

Spatial exe: hey didn’t we have an agreement already?

Unity exe: Oh but that was for the old ToS, and for matters completely unrelated (smirk) there is now a new ToS. Would you like a new deal, it is only one hunnerd gazillion per year ?

Spatial exe: you dirty doublestandard…. Your mom … (Censored)

Unity exe: no your mom . And also….(censored) you will never get a deal with us

Spatial exe: you will regret this, I got friends..this means war.

Unity exe: Bring it on ..

Xijit
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Xijit

Uhm … No.

My statement was direct from Unity’s statement about the situation, backed up by comments from other developers who have used SpacialOS / Developed their own “platform” similar to SpacialOS.

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Kevin McCaughey

Nah I see SpacialOS as definitely a platform. It’s a platform you make your game on.

Xijit
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Xijit

When 2 children are arguing, I always side with the one who’s story is simpler.

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Utakata

“There are a variety of complex, social and economic reasons why we shouldn’t build a wall.”

Versus:

“It gonna make us safer. And it will be a beauuuutiful wall!”

…so that always doesn’t work. :(

Xijit
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Xijit

One side always falls apart once you ask “why” enough times.

“He hit me!”

“He wouldn’t let me play with his toys”

“He wanted my toys for a $5 billion dollars slush fund project to build a physical barrier that will be easily circumvented & require constant maintenance”

“He hates me for loving you more and that is why I just walked into the room screaming and wont let you get any work done”

“I told him I would give him $2 billion to boost our border security with more headcount & better equipment and he ran away to jump up and down in front of the TV while you are trying to watch football”

“He hates you, he hates you, he hates you! This is all his fault!”

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McGuffn

“He hates me for loving you more…”
That got dark fast.

Xijit
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Xijit

I can’t decide if current US politics is comical because it is so horrifically bad or horrific because it is so comical.

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Robert Mann

It’s a long-term tragic comedy of errors and stupidity… has been for decades.

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zoward

If you’re a US citizen, it’s painful to watch, especially if you didn’t vote for the current crop of losers and don’t want your taxes to fund 21st century USA’s version of the Maginot Line. I have a couple of friends who work for the government who are ready throw in the towel and find a job in the private sector.

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socontrariwise

So it sounds like I read the previous press release collection correctly then. Unity asks Improbable to get a license like anyone else developing a product with unity. Improbably goes the “but we never in years needed one!” route.
Just because you did not in the past does not mean you won’t need now if you keep using it.

Xijit
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Xijit

They always did, they just never did it and Unity kept asking politely.

miol
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miol

Didn’t Bree mentioned in the last podcast, how she can’t wait for the slow news cycle since the holidays to be finally over?

Well, 2019 here we go! ;P

2019.gif
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Tobasco da Gama

Sounds like 2019 already has a strong contender for Weirdest Legal Drama.

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rafael12104

Heh. It certainly does sound like the beginning of the Idea Fabrik and A&B disaster all over again but on a broader, larger scale.

And the short of it is, if Unity’s new TOS excludes Improbable as part of the exception for current live and or games in production, then lack of services will shut down those games anyway.

A few observations. First, Unity bought Multiplay knowing full well that Spatial OS would be impacted. They weren’t competitors and then they were. The projected earnings with the addition Multiplay must be great.

Second, Unity is still tying itself up in knots reworking their EULA and TOS to not look like the bad guy.

Third, Epic jumped in like the hero and pledge quite a bit of cash to help out and yet they are a competitor of Unity. A Mark Kern move if I’ve ever seen one. Heh.

And in the end, gamers will be the ones that pay, one way or another.

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Michael18

Considering Epic is pushing its store mainly through exclusivity deals, all this talk about “interoperability”, being “open”, and “respecting choice” in the Improbable/Epic statement reeks of hypocrisy.

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Greaterdivinity

Not really. They can pay for exclusive releases to give folks a reason to use their storefront while also keeping UE4 open and allowing folks to hook in with other software.

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Michael18

Of course they can do that. But they cannot then claim to keep UE4 open out of moral responsibility as valiant defenders of an open games market. It’s just a business decision for them that is momentarily in line with their objectives in case of UE4 but not in case of the store and its games.

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Cosmic Cleric

It can be both, doesn’t have to be an either/or.

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BalsBigBrother

So to sum up a complete and utter fustercluck that didn’t need to happen.

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McGuffn

I think it was clear yesterday that Unity wanted SpatialOS to die.

A few months ago Fortnite was just a game and people were happy. As Epic is flexing its fortnite derived muscle some nice things are happening (thanks for Edith Finch by the way) but there’s also a lot of really ugly carnage.

How long before Epic starts suing over frying pans and gliders in everybody elses games?

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Robert Mann

About the same time that Epic gets sued for it by the writer who debuted frying pans (or rather people with various uses over the past century, since it was before that, make the lawsuit look so stupid that the backlash causes Epic to be the next apology central), and other companies note they had gliders in games long before that and turn the legal drama to 11.