So while Unity says that the TOS changes don't affect individual game developers with live or in-production SpatialOS games, Improbable says that, with its Unity access cut off, it is no longer able to legally support those projects, fix Unity-centric bugs, or improve the service for those devs.
In a blog post, Improbable explains that the December 5 update to Unity's terms includes a clause, 2.4, that creates a change forcing all operation and development of SpatialOS games using Unity to cease. Unity Technologies could theoretically demand any game using SpatialOS to either halt development or take their servers offline.
Now the lack of clarity in the Terms of Service for Unity - and the ambiguity created by their subsequent statements - places us and developers in a hard situation. Indeed, game dev studio Sensiga expressed their concern with Unity's SpatialOS block on Twitter today.
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. "We are very concerned about this news, and hope it is some kind of mistake".
The $25m fund was announced in a letter co-authored by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney and Improbable CEO Herman Narula, and is presumably targeted towards studios and projects that use both the Unity engine and SpatialOS technology.
Projects that are in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected, he explained. A game engine does much of the heavy lifting in games, such as rendering graphics and handling the physics of gameplay.
Currently, it remains unknown precisely how many games - either in operation or in development - are affected by the change to Unity's Terms of Service, but the developer community has been gripped by widespread trepidation, if not panic. Waleed Amer, lead developer at Arcane Reality and the upcoming indie title Overduty VR, noted that the terms of service change meant that the studio rewriting and converting to another engine would take several months or even a year, wasting valuable time and resource. Six months ago, Unity once again notified Improbable of the violation, but seemingly no action was taken. While not taking responsibility for the chaos, the response went on to suggest that the gaming industry needs to rethink how it business is conducted between developers and content creators.
Unity has since responded, saying Improbable's version of events is incorrect.
We believe we are at the beginning of an unprecedented age of inclusive online games that become parts of our everyday lives. We encourage others with a similar vision to reach out, so we can find ways to make it come sooner.
After yesterday's back-and-forth between Unity and Improbable regarding the future development of SpatialOS games, Epic has stepped into the fray to announce a partnership with Improbable to "help developers transition to more open engines, services and ecosystems". Sweeney said that the funding will come from a variety of different sources, including Improbable developer assistance funds and the Epic Games store. We'll see what happens from here, so stay tuned.