SpatialOS is a cloud-based multiplayer service that's used by a variety of MMO titles; Unity's new terms forbid managed services from installing or executing the Unity Runtime on the cloud or through a remote server, and that's essentially what these SpatialOS games do. Though the terms of service were changed on December 5, Improbable says Unity confirmed directly to them this week that the update "specifically disallow [s] services like Improbable's to function with their engine".
Although Improbable believes the "unfortunate and counterproductive action" to be a simple error in judgment or coordination failure on Unity's part, the company is anxious by the fact the change occurred during an open commercial negotiation with the engine maker. Lazarus developer Spilt Milk reports on Twitter being told that servers would be shut down today as a result of the dispute, but the deadline came and went without any action. The Worlds Adrift servers will thus remain live for now.
From here, Improbable says that it will continue trying to solve this problem with Unity, with the ultimate goal being a reversal of this particular ToS change.
"All existing SpatialOS games using Unity, including production games and in development games of all developers, are now in breach of Unity's license terms", SpatialOS developer Improbable said in an announcement today. Improbable also says it is continuing to talk to Unity in an effort to reverse the decision, though its license to work with the Engine has now been revoked. One such service says the current terms would definitely prohibit the tools now in use by many games. At present, only games using both Unity and SpatialOS are at risk. "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 creator Improbable broke the news in a blog post, and explained Unity has also revoked its ability to continue working with the engine for breaching the newly changes terms of service in an unspecified way. An emergency fund is also being set up to assist developers who will be left in financial difficulty. "Bossa's main priority is you, our players". "Whatever is happening in the background outside of our control, our focus is ensuring players are looked after and your memorable experiences in the game are protected".
Improbable was not informed about the termination of its licenses, a representative told me, and Unity hasn't informed Improbable about its customer support plans for the developers affected.
While SpatialOS is now the most public tool affected by this change, the vague wording in the TOS leaves the door open to much wider - and more distressing - lockdowns for Unity devs.
We've reached out to Unity Technologies for any kind of official statement, but haven't received any response yet.