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In Light of Unity TOS Changes, Epic Games and Improbable Reaffirm Commitment to Devs

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The fallout from Unity TOS changes continues as Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, and Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable, pen a joint blog post to reaffirm their commitment to developers. 

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Recent changes by Unity to their terms of service have raised concerns among developers about their future ability to choose freely among engines, middleware SDKs, stores, and cloud service providers. Worse, it has left some live and in-development games in legal limbo. Read more HERE.

Epic Games and Improbable would like to jointly reaffirm our commitment to giving game developers the best combination of engine and other technology backed by interoperable standards that work for everyone, while respecting developers’ ability to choose partners and software components freely.

Not content with highlighting their differences with Unity, Sweeney and Narula go a step further to setup a $25,000,000 fund dedicated to helping developers in limbo with the events of the day.

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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. 

Key phrase: more open engines, services, and ecosystems.

View the full blog post here.

Learn more from our post and discussion about Unity's TOS changes and impact to Improbable:

 


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This could be a big gamble on Epic's part.

25 million is a lot of money, and if they plan to invest all of this on getting developers of unity cloud hosted games onto the UE4 platform, they must be expecting to get it back in shares of profits from the games when they release.

That is putting a lot of confidence in these developers to release and turn enough of a profit to get a return on that investment. I wonder if other things were agreed behind closed doors, like Epic now owning some share in SpatialOS in exchange for helping them out and the good PR they have generated?

Either way it doesn't help Unity's cause and things like this can cause irreparable damage to reputation regardless of the original intention behind the ruling.

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1 hour ago, Brain said:

25 million is a lot of money, and if they plan to invest all of this on getting developers of unity cloud hosted games onto the UE4 platform, they must be expecting to get it back in shares of profits from the games when they release. 

I think this is PR money with added benefit of some developer conversions.

This might pay for itself if few million copies of these games get sold but it doesn't need to.

Epic's been burning money recently for PR and investment.

Their store fee is always 12% (even if you use Unreal) but other engines are welcome and they give out one free game every two weeks.

It's not even that much between them considering the investment that Improbable got and how loaded Epic is due to Fortnite.

And Tim Sweeney seems genuinely against walled gardens (his UWP reaction), he was bashing Unity on his Twitter for this. :P

Unity is scribbling around in their ToS during a riot and these two just announced they'll throw money at people.

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$25M is a lot of money for most devs, but Unreal is playing a different game with much higher stakes. The market they live in is worth billions of dollars a year, and if they can peel off 2% of Unity developers for a few tens of millions in good will dollars that'll basically pay off in no time.

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And yet you failed to post a news post where Unity pointed out the whole Improbable thing was because they had been in breach of the TOS for a year?

Way to tell only the liars side of the story guys 👍

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I'm SO curious how this all will end for Unity and what the new ToS is gonna say.

 

Some somewhere have pointed out how Unity3D approached Improbable about their alleged ToS breaking soon after they got the $500 million investment. Investment was in May 2017 and Unity approached them 'over a year ago'.

Someone also pointed out that maybe part of 25 millions comes from Improbable's money that they have stashed away planning to pay Unity for becoming a partner so now that negotiations died they use it for anti-Unity pro-Unreal PR budget instead. Sounds reasonable but it's not like Epic couldn't bankroll that themselves and it's essentially an Unreal advert in every tech media outlet done on the cheap.

OTOH Improbable still lists Unity GDK on their website and if you didn't know from elsewhere you'd think it's fine to use which is very misleading since Unity's blog post exemption (see below) is only for existing developers using it. They had it up there even when their doomsday "pull the plug on your game cus it violates new 2.4" post was up and before Unity responded.

 

Unity also updated their blog post twice so far:

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Update: We understand there are still some questions about our TOS. We’re currently working to make the TOS clearer. If you are worried about your particular situation please write to terms@unity3d.com and we’ll address your question.

Update (Friday 4:30PM Pacific): We’ll continue working over the weekend to clarify the language to make our intention as clear as possible rather than rushing and adding to the confusion. Rest assured we will never do anything that works against the better interest of developers. We’ll have an update in the next few days. Thank you for your patience.

 

And there's a comment under it by Joachim Ante from Unity (he also wrote the blog post but he is posting from his 'personal' account so his comments aren't blue like other employee's comments are) that 2.4 isn't intended to apply to game developers (the "morphing Unity into a different game engine" part sounds especially strange to me):

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1. We are saying that existing games that have started production already can continue to do so. We are giving those developers & Spatial OS an exemption. We do that because we believe developers should never be held hostage over such a dispute.

2. We believed that we would come to an agreement with improbable.

3. We are working on an update to the TOS that does that.

The intention is that nothing in section 2.4 should apply to game developers specifically.
As a game developer you should be able to do whatever you like with the unity runtime in the cloud or your own servers.

The intent of section 2.4 is that “Third party cloud service providers” can’t build their own platform on top of the unity runtime without having a partnership with us. Where the Unity runtime is executed in the cloud with custom SDK extensions, essentially morphing Unity into a different game engine and then selling it as a platform / service that builds on our technology. We are super happy to partner with anyone, and obviously do so with many many companies.

 

And here's the (still up on their website) 2.4 from December (they didn't update it yet):

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2.4 Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions.

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.  Additionally, you may not integrate the Unity Runtime with a Managed Service or  SDK Integration and offer that integration to third parties for the purpose of installing or using the Unity Runtime on the cloud or a remote server. For a list of Unity authorized streaming platforms, Managed Services and SDK Integrations, click here.This restriction does not prevent end users from remotely accessing your Project Content from an end user device that is running on another end user device.  You may not use a third party to directly or indirectly distribute or make available, stream, broadcast (through simulation or otherwise) any portion of the Unity Software unless that third party is authorized by Unity to provide such services.

 

I still don't get why Unity is such a control freak (e.g. 2.3 above 2.4 pretty much prevents mass made physical digital art pieces, LCD picture frames and embedded appliances UI from being made in Unity):

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2.3 Embedded Software Restriction.

You may not directly or indirectly distribute your Project Content installed on more than 1,000 electronic devices or systems if your Project Content provides the user interface or primary functionality of such electronic device or system without a separate license from Unity. This restriction does not prevent you from distributing your Project Content pre-installed on personal computers and consumer electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets, televisions or set top boxes as long as your Project Content does not provide the user interface or primary functionality of such device.

 

This all also doesn't explain who would get in trouble and how for you uploading a game to streaming platform (the ones that get input over the network to cloud from user and send user the graphics and audio, like PS Now, but that one is approved) other than the four they approve.

The cloud gaming platform never agreed to any ToS, they just run your exe (or is this what's forbidden or assumed to be agreeing to a ToS, but you do not get prompted with any pop up or told to pass some --agree-to-tos option to the exe like some software tells you to do), and Joachim said 2.4 doesn't apply to game developers.

Twitch isn't listed as approved so it'd be curious to see if Unity would shut down (or claim they could due to ToS violation, since they apply it unevenly already but seem to claim they could shut down all SpatialOS games right now if they didn't give them an exemption) a Twitch plays Pokemon style even if it was a game made on Unity that's being played.

And if 2.4 doesn't apply to game developers at all then why did current developers running and making games on SpatialOS get an exemption from it (or is it a temporary fix until they add language to 2.4 saying that it doesn't apply to developers).

 

And people thought GPL was limiting and viral. :P

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@FRex  I'm not sure you're understanding the distinction between how SpatialOS was mis-using the Unity Runtime(themselves) as opposed to other sites(itch.io) where they just host a Unity Runtime-Integrated Distribution created by another Licensed Developer.  This is a big distinction and one that makes all the difference in this situation.  Improbable isn't just some vulnerable developer out there trying to get by.  They are a massively venture funded company with every responsibility to pay their own bills and read/comply with licenses just like every other company who pays through the nose for access to these technologies at this level.

The only thing that happened here was a single non-paying customer of Unity's got shut off.  Then they(Improbable) tried to make it look like it was about something more noble, because they had the leverage of a poorly written TOS to help do so.  They might even get away with it to some extent...  Hard to say just yet, I think Monday will be interesting.

And as far as Unity going after some of the 500mil.. 

If you had a customer who owed you money but you're not going to make a big scene because PR..  Then all of a sudden they win the lottery..  What do you do?  You try to get what's owed is what you do.  And then if/when they refuse you simply because they think they can, you're supposed to just keep letting them breach your TOS?..  No, you shut them off, without any publicity and hope they take the high road and amicably resolve the situation, not go to the public opinion machine and try to make you look like the big bad boogy-man.

Edited by Septopus

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The use of Clause 2.4 in this whole matter is nothing more than a red herring.

It did need addressed though, and I'm glad it's getting attention.. but really..

Edited by Septopus

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37 minutes ago, Septopus said:

I'm not sure you're understanding the distinction between how SpatialOS was mis-using the Unity Runtime(themselves) as opposed to other sites(itch.io) where they just host a Unity Runtime-Integrated Distribution created by another Licensed Developer.  This is a big distinction and one that makes all the difference in this situation.

Then what is the distinction and which point of old ToS was broken? Unity won't say other than saying very vague stuff in blog post that also contradicts the ToS and then literally say "oh, we made an exception for now, keep using it all". And I'm not sure where did you pull itchio from, they aren't a cloud hosting or SDK maker.

 

37 minutes ago, Septopus said:

Improbable isn't just some vulnerable developer out there trying to get by.  They are a massively venture funded company with every responsibility to pay their own bills and read/comply with licenses just like every other company who pays through the nose for access to these technologies at this level.

It's irrelevant who they are or how much money they have. This is about Unity's attitude and supposedly Unity breaking negotiations and updating ToS and cancelling keys out of nowhere, seemingly because their patience ran out during the negotiations.

 

37 minutes ago, Septopus said:

The only thing that happened here was a single non-paying customer of Unity's got shut off.  Then they tried to make it look like it was about something more noble, because they had the leverage of a poorly written TOS to help do so. 

If Unity can't get their ToS clear and then interprets all vague stuff in its own favor that reflects badly on them.

Improbable was paying for licenses with which they made their SDK and people who made games in Unity had to pay for it or qualify for free tier as they always do with any store or cloud.

 

24 minutes ago, Septopus said:

The use of Clause 2.4 in this whole matter is nothing more than a red herring. 

Then why was it changed literally a month ago, just before this started and why does it look like it targets Improbable's SpatialOS specifically with what was added and why does Improbable claim that Unity said that's what they broke now?

 

37 minutes ago, Septopus said:

And then if/when they refuse you simply because they think they can, you're supposed to just keep letting them breach your TOS?

I'm still waiting to know which part of Unity's ToS Improbable broke over a year ago with SpatialOS. Unity has not said yet and Improbable claims they didn't break the old ToS. I think so too and I don't see Unity's point. I agree they break new 2.4 since it's literally aimed at them.

 

Like I'm not an idiot, my M. Eng. of CS included patent, copyright and trademark class and I'm fairly well versed in these from own reading. I'm an amateur and if I make some shitty 2D game I use only FOSS tools. Unreal, Unity, Epic and Improbable could disappear tonight and I'd not care. So why am I not siding with Unity on this if this is so clear cut? What am I missing?

Edited by FRex

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19 minutes ago, FRex said:

It's irrelevant who they are or how much money they have. This is about Unity's attitude and supposedly Unity breaking negotiations and updating ToS and cancelling keys out of nowhere, seemingly because their patience ran out during the negotiations.

Knowing you are in violation of a TOS for more than a few weeks is too long, knowing for more than a year is ridiculous, that is by no means out of nowhere... smh..  My patience would have run out with Improbable a LONG time ago if all I was interested in was money.

19 minutes ago, FRex said:

If Unity can't get their ToS clear and then interprets all vague stuff in its own favor that reflects badly on them.

True, and they stated they would be working on it over the weekend.  We all hope they sort it out the right way.

19 minutes ago, FRex said:

Improbable was paying for licenses with which they made their SDK and people who made games in Unity had to pay for it or qualify for free tier as they always do with any store or cloud.

None of this has anything to do with normal unity developers.  Making an SDK/Platform out of the Unity Runtime is the caveat that 2.4 was intended to address, according to your own quotes from Unity.  This is a partner level agreement who's negotiations failed.  \

Section 2.4 sucks, everybody agrees there..

19 minutes ago, FRex said:

Then why was it changed literally a month ago, just before this started and why does it look like it targets Improbable's SpatialOS specifically with what was added and why does Improbable claim that Unity said that's what they broke now?

Improbable is going to claim whatever they can that makes their side of the story look better...  feel free to prove me wrong there. ;)   I'll say I was wrong if I am.

19 minutes ago, FRex said:

I'm still waiting to know which part of Unity's ToS Improbable broke over a year ago with SpatialOS. Unity has not said yet and Improbable claims they didn't break the old ToS. I think so too and I don't see Unity's point. I agree they break new 2.4 since it's literally aimed at them.

I'm sure it's the very same clause, the fact is, legal language is only revised when it has to be.  It's generally only updated when somebody finds a loophole.  Finding a loophole might mean you have a legal right to act on it, but it doesn't make it moral.  jmho..

19 minutes ago, FRex said:

Like I'm not an idiot, my M. Eng. of CS included patent, copyright and trademark class and I'm fairly well versed in these from own reading. I'm an amateur and if I make some shitty 2D game I use only FOSS tools. Unreal, Unity, Epic and Improbable could disappear tonight and I'd not care. So why am I not siding with Unity on this if this is so clear cut? What am I missing?

There are two parties involved here, one was using the IP of another against the legal interpretation of that IPs Terms of Service.  I'm not trying to sway you, nor anybody else, I personally don't care what comes of any of this either.  I just think that important facts should not be dismissed because BIG COMPANY BAD and so-and-so wrote a blog and offered $25mil to "help"..  There's an aweful lot of misdirection and PR work going on here for it to be entirely what they say it is.  Which is likely why Unity is waiting out the sh*t-storm for a more level-headed Monday morning.

Like I said, just my humble opinion... 

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