There isn’t a day that goes by that the gaming industry isn’t embroiled in some kind of petty drama that would make TMZ cloy. The latest drama centers around a spat that the company Improbable had with Unity regarding the SpatialOS cloud platform and Unity’s terms of service. This drama came at the expense of Unity trying to announce its own cloud development platform, which was buried under all of the digital tumult.
Originally Improbable stated that the change in Unity’s terms of service made it incompatible with the SpatialOS cloud service and that Unity had banned them in result of updating the ToS. According to PC Gamer, they chronicle the fallout and the resolution, where Improbable first made the claim about being banned due to the ToS, and then backtracked after Unity corrected them on the claim, following Epic Games founder, Tim Sweeney, criticizing the passage that Improbable pointed to in Unity’s terms of service.
We put enormous effort into the Unreal Engine EULA to ensure everyone has access to the full source, can share all their changes with other licensees (including commercially), and can operate lasting services and business around the engine with confidence.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) January 10, 2019
Sweeney used the opportunity to sell developers on the idea that the terms of service and end-user license agreement for the Unreal Engine 4 is a lot more clear cut than Unity Technologies.
Unreal Engine is open to everyone on equal terms, including competitors. There’s a Unity Ads plug-in. There’s native Steam support. At the peak of our UWP argument with Microsoft, they maintained a GitHub fork with support and we referred mutual customers to it.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) January 10, 2019
However, this isn’t entirely true about Unity’s terms of service.
In fact, the passage that they’re referring to from the terms of service has not been updated for years. In fact, it’s been there for as far back as 2016.
The passage is located in the Unity software additional terms agreement under section 2.4, which states…
“You may not directly or indirectly distribute the Unity Software, including the runtime portion of the Unity Software (the “Unity Runtime”), or your Project Content (if it incorporates the Unity Runtime) by means of streaming or broadcasting so that any portion of the Unity Software is primarily executed on or simulated by the cloud or a remote server and transmitted over the Internet or other network to end user devices without a separate license or authorization from Unity. 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 or a remote server, unless such use of the Managed Service or SDK Integration has been specifically authorized by Unity.”
The company made a tweet about it to correct some of the developers who had run with the info that was being spread around online.
This isn’t true. At the core, the Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions terms are still the same as before. We are currently working to clarify the ToS.
— Unity (@unity3d) January 11, 2019
Unity also corrected Improbable by posting their own blog post on January 10th, 2019 to explain that Improbable being banned from using Unity had nothing to do with the passage cited in the terms of service, but had everything to do with Improbable violating the terms of service by not getting permission to use certain Unity services with SpacialOS.
In the post, the Unity team states…
“At the core, the Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions terms are still the same as before. We received feedback that the language was ambiguous, so we updated our Terms of Service to be clear on our distribution and streaming restrictions. We will continue to listen to the community and clarify as we can.
“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. These partnerships enable broad and robust platform support so developers can be successful. We enter into these partnerships all the time. This kind of partnership is what we have continuously worked towards with Improbable.”
Following Unity correcting the misinformation that had been spread around about the terms of service, Improbable also updated their blog post, writing…
“To start, we just wanted to apologize to the incredible community of game developers we’ve seen engaging in discourse today. We apologize that this event we instigated has created so much uncertainty, confusion and pain for so many developers who really do not deserve this.
“We hope some of the efforts of our team and partners have helped a little, and we have plans on how we can do even more, which we hope to announce soon. Once again, please reach out if we can help in any way.
“But honestly, we don’t believe that today was about Unity or for that matter Improbable. Ultimately a commercial dispute between two companies, in which both sides have certainly made errors, should never threaten access to essential technology used by a large number of developers. A world where this happens frequently will be a world with very little innovation in gaming.”
Lost in all of this noise is the fact that Unity has started their own cloud streaming development platform.
Over on the Unity website there’s an announcement for the game server alpha testing for the new real-time cloud server infrastructure.
Some people think that Unity was enforcing the terms of service on Improbable to bolster their own cloud server solution.
Unity appears to be denying this charge, falling back on the explanation that the issues with Improbable were longstanding well before the announcement of their cloud services.
Either way, there was a lot of needless bickering and finger-pointing taking place that turned out to be completely pointless.
On the upside, at least Unity and Improbable both noted that following this incident, they would be taking a more punctilious role in updating and clarifying their terms of service.
(Thanks for the news tip zac za)