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Worlds Adrift, Lazarus and other MMOs at risk from Unity dispute over SpatialOS

Possible crying over Spilt Milk

The future of several MMOs using SpatialOS cloud server tech is in question over a dispute between Unity Technologies and SpatialOS studio Improbable. The dispute is over a change in Unity's terms of services in December. Improbable released a statement saying that Unity have now revoked their Unity development license. So far, Spilt Milk's early access space shooter MMO Lazarus briefly went offline, but is tentatively up and running for the time being. Bossa's steampunk ship-builder Worlds Adrift will continue as normal for the moment.

The dispute between Unity and Improbable seems messy. Improbable claim that the change was unexpected and occurred during negotiations with Unity Technologies. Other developers claim that issues were known of as far back as 2017. Whatever the truth of the matter, developers are rightfully worried. Unity Technologies could theoretically demand any game using SpatialOS to either halt development or take their servers offline.

Fingers crossed that it doesn't come to that, as I doubt many smaller MMO studios could afford a change in networking tech or engine late in development.

"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," Improbable said in their statement today.

"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."

So far there's no word on what's happening with Klang Games's upcoming farming and colony-building MMO Seed, but they appear to be in the same boat as Bossa and Spilt Milk. At present, only games using both Unity and SpatialOS are at risk. The upcoming Mavericks: Proving Ground and its 1000-player Battle Royale mode are using CryEngine, and Improbable say they have positive relationships with Epic and Crytek.

Hopefully we'll hear from those companies soon, confirming that everything is safe and secure for developers on that side of the fence.

We've reached out to Unity Technologies for any kind of official statement, but haven't received any response yet.

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Dominic Tarason