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As an update to the ongoing saga between Improbable and Unity in regards to SpatialOS, Epic Games have now jumped in to take advantage of it. To be clear, I don't consider myself biased in any way towards any game engine, especially as I am not a game developer.

As a quick overview of what happened:

- Improbable put out a blog post, claiming Unity overnight blocked SpatialOS and made Unity out to be a real bad company. Improbable then open source their Unity GDK.

- Unity made their own response, mentioning that they told Improbable a year ago about the issues. Let's be real here, revoking the Unity licenses of SpatialOS wouldn't have been a quickly-made decision. Unity have also mentioned repeatedly now about making their TOS (terms of service) a lot clearer.

- Epic Games and Improbable team up to help developers switch game engines.

To assist developers who are left in limbo by the new engine and service incompatibilities that were introduced today, Epic Games and Improbable are together establishing a US $25,000,000 combined fund to help developers transition to more open engines, services, and ecosystems.  This funding will come from a variety of sources including Unreal Dev Grants, Improbable developer assistance funds, and Epic Games store funding. 

See the full Epic Games blog post here.

I can't help this feeling that Improbable and Epic Games somehow planned this, it feels a little off. To secure a partnership with Epic for rather a lot of money and so quickly, feels like a pretty big PR stunt. Frankly, I feel bad for the folks at Unity as it seems like they've been played here.

Unity does have a lot of issues (especially often on Linux) but this whole situation feels like a made-up farce to make Unity out to be worse than it is. Their terms of service have been pretty poor though, Unity certainly aren't angels and haven't helped themselves.

Again though, this only highlights some of the dangers of using proprietary game engines for your projects. I don't consider myself a zealot in any way towards absolutely preferring open source game engines, especially when closed source alternatives can do a lot of things better, but it should be ringing some alarms bells for developers as a reminder of how they're not really in control.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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48 comments
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the3dfxdude 11 January 2019 at 1:49 pm UTC
I read up a bit on what is going on to know why there is a problem. SpatialOS seems like it's a hosting infrastructure. This part is particularly concerning to an independent game dev:
QuoteCan I host SpatialOS on my own private servers?

You cannot use your own private servers to host the game – the core game simulation is hosted by us. However, you can host any ancillary services on your private servers and integrate them with SpatialOS using our SDKs.

So another words, you spend your time interfacing with and writing simulation code for SpatialOS, you are locked-in to their servers, and you'll be paying them when your users want to play together. If I had limited resource and time, I'd rather write one open, free to use network platform that I can host or my users can use it, rather than use SpatialOS or write in a second option. Granted Improbable is probably targeting the MMO crowd more than anything (that's why I am saying they best are described as a hosting service). But MMO is really targeting the medium to large company, and not the small or independent firm. So I don't know what independent game devs they are helping here.

Now here this part of the response from Unity:
QuoteIn December, we made clarifications to our Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions because we received requests for clarification as the industry is evolving quickly.
...
if you want to run your Unity-based game-server, on your own servers, or a cloud provider that provides you instances to run your own server for your game, you are covered by our EULA. We will support you as long as the server is running on a Unity supported platform.
...
However, if a third party service wants to run the Unity Runtime in the cloud with their additional SDK, we consider this a platform. In these cases, we require the service to be an approved Unity platform partner.

This sounds like that Improbable was trying to use Unity on the server in some fashion without paying them. This wouldn't be that Unity is making SpatialOS impossible to use with Unity, only that Impossible, the company is in breach of license.

Anyway, both companies sound a bit scummy. Unity for their licensing terms that are quite restrictive, and Impossible for pulling a PR stunt for their mistake.

For networking, it does require an experienced dev, but with cloud hosting pretty cheap, I would just do it myself and keep yourself free of proprietary entanglements and save yourself some money. Writing simulation code for 1000's of entities is not hard, probably not harder than SpatialOS. SpatialOS seems best if you are trying to outsource part of your MMO development, that they also fully manage your servers, but that's a business decision. Probably not cheaper and definitely makes it harder to move away later.


Last edited by the3dfxdude at 11 January 2019 at 2:12 pm UTC
alex9k 11 January 2019 at 1:54 pm UTC
Oh, please don't fall back into conspiracy territory again
Kristian 11 January 2019 at 2:41 pm UTC
Unity has a response up on their blog: https://blogs.unity3d.com/2019/01/10/our-response-to-improbables-blog-post-and-why-you-can-keep-working-on-your-spatialos-game/

In the comments section, their community team also writes the following: "We believe that Improbable has traded and continues to improperly trade on Unity’s engineering effort, goodwill, and reputation by using Unity’s technology and branding in a product that Improbable markets as a game development platform. While Unity is committed to enabling the continued success of customers that develop games using the Unity Engine, Unity will not tolerate Improbable’s improper actions."
Mohandevir 11 January 2019 at 3:16 pm UTC
It just feels like a FUD campaign lead by Improbable and Epic to lure developers away from Unity to Unreal.

I might get it wrong, but from what I just read, it's still permitted to use SpatialOS. What is not permitted is Improbable's specific way of doing things:

"We’ve made it clear that anyone using SpatialOS will not be affected.

Projects that are currently in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected by any actions we have taken with Improbable.

If a game developer runs a Unity-based game server on their own servers or generic cloud instances (like GCP, AWS or Azure), they are covered by our EULA."

"Much ado about nothing"? Improbable decided to wash it's dirty laundry in public, with Epic's help?
TheRiddick 11 January 2019 at 3:17 pm UTC
Just wondering, isn't Amazon's lumberyard engine open source and would allow for streaming services with it? Seems that would be a better option for devs to use if they need it. Not sure when Vulkan support will drop for it however, sometime soon hopefully.
Kristian 11 January 2019 at 3:29 pm UTC
No Lumberyard is not open source or free software. It is just royalty free.
TheRiddick 11 January 2019 at 3:52 pm UTC
Well they do provide you with the full source code.
Kristian 11 January 2019 at 4:10 pm UTC
TheRiddickWell they do provide you with the full source code.

True enough, but not on terms that comply with the free software definition or the open source definition. Hence Lumberyard's EULA is not on OSI's list of approved licenses or the FSF's list of free software licenses.
eldaking 11 January 2019 at 4:20 pm UTC
Three terrible companies causing a lot of damage.

One is trying to abuse the already bullshit copyright laws to limit how people can make games (with the probable purpose of pushing its own services). One is trying to use software-as-a-service to take control of how games are run both from users and from developers. One is trying to create a closed store full of exclusives, and opportunistically partnering with the second company to sneakily push their own products using the controversy.

Yeah, this is why software needs to be FLOSS, and also why software-as-a-service is bad. Don't make your games rely on stuff that some company may take away from you because of its new "business interests". And of course, developers shouldn't do this same stuff to your game and players (at the very least, no DRM).
Hal_Kado 11 January 2019 at 4:30 pm UTC
I don't think the people over at unity are in the wrong on this. If someone wants to run their code they need to have a license for it, for some reason Improbable thinks they should be exempt from that. Although one could argue by providing this service they do make the unity engine more attractive to devs....but its ultimately unity's call to make.

Epic getting into it is simply a marketing play, at best to promote the new store and convert people to their engine, at worst those dev grants come with a Epic store exclusivity requirement.
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