[Update] One of the games mentioned in the article below, Lazarus, is now now running again.
Developer Spilt Milk Studios announced via twitter earlier today that their game Lazarus would shut down due to the ToS changes from Unity. However, a recent update by Spilt Milk has confirmed that Lazarus will remain live until "the servers are forced down or we're told t turn them off."
[Original Story] A massive change to the Terms of Service for developer engine Unity has shaken up the gaming world.
Unity's new ToS included changes, which took place in early December of last year, included a rewriting to clause 2.4, "Steaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions." Specifically, the clause now bars external services who use cloud-based technology. Per the clause:
Without limiting the foregoing, you may not use a managed service running on cloud infrastructure (a "Managed Service") or a specific integration of a binary add-on (for example, a plugin or SDK) or source code to be integrated in the Unity Software or Your Project Content incorporating the Unity Runtime (an "SDK Integration" to install or execute the Unity Runtime on the cloud remote server, unless such use of a Managed Service or SDK Integration has been specifically authorized by Unity.In addition to this, third party proprietaries can't be integrated with the Unity Software, without complete authorization by Unity itself.
The new ToS has affected several third party proprietors, such as British multinational tech company Improbable, creators of the SpatialOS cloud service multiplayer platform. Improbable officially announced on their blog today that, due to the changes in the ToS, and further confirmation by Unity, all games that have used SpatialOS are now under a breach of terms to operate or create Unity games using SpatialOS, including current games in development and production. Unity has also revoked Improbables ability to continue work with the engine as well, hindering their ability to support previously released games.
Improbable notes that this change occurred while Unity was in "open commercial negotiation with the company to find a way to do more together." Improbable is looking to continue talks with Unity, but in the short-term hundreds of games both in development and released will be affected by the change.
"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," stated the blog post. "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."
Improbable is taking steps to currently help developers, including setting up an emergency fund for partners and offering development support. They will also be open-sourcing under the MIT license the SpatialOS GDK to assist individual customers.
Word of the loss of SpatialOS spread quickly, with several online games immediately being affected the news. One of the more high profile titles affected by the ToS change was Scavengers, with their first trailer revealed last month at The Game Awards. Several games, such as Lazarus by Spilt Milk Studios, have already announced the closure of their servers due to the dispute, while unannounced projects, most notably an MMO project from Claus Grovdal, CEO of Sensiga Studios, noted on Twitter that they are "very concerned about this news, and hope it is some kind of mistake."
Other studios have taken a more cautious tone, such as Bossa Studios, the developers of Worlds Adrift. "Bossa's main priority is you, our players." a spokesperson said through their official Twitter account. "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. Rest assured you will be the first ones to know if this situation causes any disruptions to your experience. For now, Worlds Adrift is operating as normal."
The problems with the new ToS may also go beyond the SpatialOS system, as noted by Flying Oak Games developer Thomas Altenburger on Twitter, meaning hundreds of games are now in legal jeopardy for violating the new terms of service.
We have reached out to Unity for a comment, but they have yet to reply to our inquiries. We will update this story as it develops.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Leave your comments below.