SpatialOS gives developers a cloud-based solution to handle multiplayer gaming for all kinds of platforms, including PC, console, and mobile. The tool could integrate with the most popular game engines, including Unity, Unreal, and Crytek. That is no longer the case with Unity, an engine that is especially popular with independent game developers.
“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,” Improbable noted on its site. “Games that have been funded based on the promise of SpatialOS to deliver next-generation multiplayer are now endangered due to their choice of game engine. Live games are now in legal limbo.”
SpatialOS has been used by independent developers like Bossa Studios to make games such as Worlds Adrift, a massively multiplayer sandbox online game. Those kinds of titles often require large teams to create due to their complexity, but SpatialOS’s cloud-based tools made it more realistic for smaller studios to create online worlds.
We have reached out to Unity and Improbable for comment and will update this story if either company responds.
In response, Improbable is working to get Unity to reverse its decision. It is also setting up an emergency fund to help developers dealing with this event.
“For now, we believe this unfortunate and counterproductive action to be an error in judgement or coordination failure within Unity,” Improbable notes. “We are urgently working to clarify this situation and believe that a swift resolution may be possible.”
Improbable chief executive officer Herman Narula responded to GamesBeat’s inquiries into the situation.
“It’s clear that this is an issue that has left many game developers reeling at the implications of a sudden change in their terms of service,” Narula said. “It’s not just a change that impacts Improbable’s business, but the industry at large — developers shouldn’t have to live in fear that their creative enterprises and livelihoods could be at risk. Developers depend on interconnected services, and when a decision is made that adversely impacts they way in which they operate, everyone loses.”
“This isn’t a decision that just affects Improbable, but the development community at large. Its implications are numerous, having an adverse impact on smaller teams; studios set up to innovate and push boundaries,” Narual told GamesBeat. “These aren’t necessarily the big revenue generating studios, but a small group that could define the future of our industry.”
Epic Games responds
Even Tim Sweeney, the founder of Unreal Engine studio Epic Games, responded to the situation. He assured developers that a similar situation would not happen with his company’s engine.
The Unreal Engine EULA ensures everyone has source access and can share their code changes with each other. And it does not allow Epic to retroactively modify it. The current version can be used forever under the current EULA.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) January 10, 2019
Epic Games also responded to inquiry from GamesBeat, noting that Unreal Engine has no plans to do what Unity did.
The gaming world reacts
The new has been met with negativity from many within gaming. Vitor de Magalhães, who works for Improbable, noted that indie teams he has brought into SpatialOS will now have to stop development because of Unity’s decision.
It's so disappointing to see amazing teams be punished for trying something new. Not only that but we've had our Unity licenses revoked without warning so can't even support existing customers. This sets a worrying precedent that I hope can be resolved.
— Vitor de Magalhães (@VitorSDM) January 10, 2019
Al Wyvern, an independent game developer from Ireland working on a space station-building game called Station Architect, worries that this move sets a trend of Unity being anti-indie.
This is a scary situation for anyone who has devoted time and money making a game in Unity with SpatialOS.
[Update: 1/10/19 — 11:32 p.m., : Epic and Improbable have set up a $25 million fund to enable developers to move their projects to Unreal, away from Unity].