With the Improbable/Unity dispute lingering on, MMOs like Worlds Adrift are literally adrift

    
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Last week, Improbable and Unity stunned the gaming industry with their ugly spat over SpatialOS integration and licensing, as both companies issued statements about their agreements that clarified and contradicted their relationship and even Epic Games got in on the spectacle, teaming up with Improbable to fund affected developers and coax them away from Unity.

A week later, those affected developers are still very much affected. Though Unity told MMO devs that used SpatialOS alongside Unity would be grandfathered into that use, Unity hasn’t as yet unbarred Improbable itself from developing the SpatialOS/Unity integration, which means those devs and their MMOs are still very much left in the lurch. (And that’s without counting the Unity-only teams that are now left wondering whether their projects could be in jeopardy over similar fallout and vague terms in the future.)

One such company is Bossa Studios, which is currently running MMO Worlds Adrift in early access. The game, though small in playerbase right now, is one of the more prominent using both SpatialOS and Unity. Bossa Co-Founder Henrique Olifiers has a new dev blog up today admitting that the future of the game – and whether it will continue to be a SpatialOS title – is still uncertain.

“This storm is still there, though, lingering on the horizon. The dispute between those two companies is not yet resolved. Whatever the outcome, it will affect different studios and games in unique ways, thus it’s wise for us to explain our particular situation and plans going ahead,” he writes.

“Worlds Adrift is the only live game using SpatialOS at this time, with the exception of our friends’ game, Lazarus, which is in closed Beta. Because Worlds is the very first game to use the tech, as it happens, it’s making use of a previous version of SpatialOS (v10) that no one else uses. This version is no longer in active development, and it’s stable. While it’s unlikely we can remain on SpatialOS10 forever, we can do so for now. Thus we are able to brave the storm reefed and consider all the options available without rushing. We have quite the supply of pizza and a lot to fix and expand in the game, so, for now, we’ll do what we do best: continue making Worlds Adrift better.”

MMO readers will also likely be familiar with Fractured, a full-fledged SpatialOS MMORPG that was Kickstarted last year; its dev team pulled the game’s pre-alpha servers down last week amidst the crisis and haven’t made a public statement since (the forums are currently down as well as we type this).

Update, Weds afternoon
Unity posted a new blog today that didn’t entirely back down from its position (it even claims it “refuted” “untrue statements”) but does say it’s once again updated its terms of service, clearly allowing “that developers can use any third party service that integrate into Unity” and noting that “some of these services will be supported, others will not.” While the company maintains that Improbable was in violation of its earlier TOS and claims Improbable was “misprepresenting [its] affiliation with [Unity],” it does clarify that Improbable is no longer in breach and its license has been reinstated. Don’t get too excited, though. “We do not consider them a partner, and cannot vouch for how their service works with Unity as we have no insight into their technology or how they run their business,” the company warns. In other words, while Improbable is now free to assist developers using its integration, it’s not entirely clear how that non-relationship will play out in the future. Unity also held an AMA this afternoon. (With thanks to Mark Jacobs for pointing out this blog post to us!)
Update, Weds afternoon
Improbable now says it will is “once again fully able to support” developers using SpatialOS and Unity.

Update, Thursday
In a new blog post today, Improbable again confirms it will continue to update the SpatialOS integration for Unity and that in fact it will be “one of [its] priorities.”

“This means that any developers considering new projects can continue to plan around our ongoing development of the GDK for Unity. We will ensure that SpatialOS continues to work with Unity. […] Over the last week, the major engine providers have publicly affirmed your right as a developer to host your game wherever you want. We think this is a monumental step forward for the future of online games.”

 

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silverlock

So I was just reading over at RPS that this is over and done with Unity basically backing off.

“Today’s change in our TOS means Improbable is no longer in breach by providing you a service, and that we are able to reinstate their licenses. But we do not consider them a partner, and cannot vouch for how their service works with Unity as we have no insight into their technology or how they run their business.

We know Improbable was in violation even before the December TOS update and misrepresented their affiliation with us. Although SpatialOS is not a supported third-party service, it can continue to be used for development and shipping games.”

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rafael12104

Interesting. I hope this is the case.

SpecterFractured
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SpecterFractured

The Fractured forum is down to fix a bug. It has nothing to do with Unity. ;)

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PanagiotisLial1

One of the devs that works on Fractured was the one that was holding LinkRealms together. LinkRealms was prob the nicest UO-like mmorpg I seen but needed to be expanded in time, and there wasnt much will from the holding company to do so, so it lost most of its fanbase over time. It would be a pity to see Fractured down since it had a lot of creativity put into it

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rafael12104

*shakeshead*

It’s like we take a step forward with platform tech and then we cut off our leg.

Listen, I don’t know who is at fault here. Maybe they are both greedy bastards. Not a shock.

But it is fucking disingenuous for Unity to say “oh, don’t worry. Spatial OS will be grandfathered in for existing games in production” while Improbable is barred!

I have no dog in this hunt. I’m not in the lurch with any game caught in this bullshit. BUT this reminds me so much of one of the worst gaming experiences I ever had with Repop, that it is pissing me off.

This slow death is worse than most of EA’s shitty tactics. Seriously. Because at least EA buys out everything and then pillages and destroys. Something is left in its wake and it happens fast.

This Unity/Improbable debacle, if not resolved, will kill several games and indies at once. The death by 1000 paper cuts will be slow, painful and will only strengthen AAAs.

My apologies for the colorful language.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

To me, at the heart of this is the ability for a company to close off a technology because its proprietary in nature or locked behind a contract vehicle.

There was a Command Line Heroes podcast from RedHat recently where they were specifically talking about open source software in the gaming industry. I think when you look at how open source boosted Google, helped bring Microsoft to their current age of profitability, and secured Redhat shareholders a premium in the IBM acquisition there are a lot of benefits which could positively impact the industry. The downside is that it really takes a core group with vision and persistence to make it happen, and you have to deal with organizations that take a lot and don’t put much back into the ecosystem.

It’s a fun listen; I highly recommend it.

https://www.redhat.com/en/command-line-heroes/season-2/press-start

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Jeremy Barnes

Unity is not looking good in this one.

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Ironwu

I think it looks more like Unity bent over backwards trying to make a deal with Improbable, but finally had to step back and say no-deal then no-use.

In addition, the past history of Spatial OS and Improbable tends to support the position that it is not a Unity issue, but an Improbable one.

We shall see as it all plays out, I guess.

Xijit
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Xijit

I too am in Unity’s camp: every single time Improbable/SpacialOS is in the news, it is because they are either being douchy or their hyped up product has been dumped by another project that found it ineffective and over priced.

Unity on the other hand has been constantly pushing itself for open integration with anything & anyone who wants to partner with them & does everything it can to support startup / indie development.

kjempff
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kjempff

Shush. Don’t anger the Unity police, they are quite fanatic.

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Lethality

They misstepped, that’s for sure.