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As we are making the Minecraft mod technical questions ban super-duper official with a close-reason and everything, I feel that this question remains in dire need of a satisfactory answer:

Why just Minecraft?

What about Minecraft, and Minecraft modding specifically, makes the game so extraordinary that we are drafting our very first rule targeting one and only one game? Why is Minecraft special? What could make a game in the future become just as special as Minecraft?

There are quite a few games with lots of mods out there. I'm sure there are elventy bajillion combinations of mutually incompatible mods for, say, Skyrim. Why are technical questions involving Skyrim mods on-topic, then?

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    Please do understand: I do not really care about banning tech support questions about Skyrim mods, or not banning those about Minecraft mods. I do care that when we do make hard and fast rules like this, we do so carefully. I think that having a close reason that specifically mentions Minecraft is quite a terrible idea, especially without a question like this getting an amazing answer that backs it up. – badp May 22 '15 at 17:08
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    I raised this during the discussion and the consensus seemed to be to focus on the specific problem (every other question being a Minecraft crash). – Studoku May 22 '15 at 23:54
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    Let's talk like we aren't here... Aren't you bored of Minecraft and Minecraft Mod Crash etc. questions? – Ave May 24 '15 at 19:11
  • Greetings from Game Dev SE! We sometimes also get excessively hard tech support questions, though they're usually about game development tools: Our meta on development-tool questions might be helpful if you want to come up with similar guidelines. – Anko May 29 '15 at 11:14
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    I'm coming out with a follow-up post about this on Monday. "Here's my crash report" should definitely be off-topic. "How do I get my AE system to [thing]", or "How do I energize a hungry node in Thaumcraft" being off-topic is crazypants, because it would alienate 95% of the millions of people playing the game every day. I think I have a better solution, which entails flat out rejecting crash reports while providing just-in-time help linking to a canonical "How do I debug a buggered mod?" post, which ultimately leads to ask the mod author. More to come. – Tim Post May 30 '15 at 3:56
  • @tim I'mma let you finish™, but the latter question isn't technical support and no one here wants to ban it – badp May 30 '15 at 7:09
  • Question, has this been implemented and if so, what do we flag questions such as this as? Off topic -> Blatantly off topic? – Codingale Dec 9 '15 at 20:43
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I think Mods, and even Minecraft are a red herring - they produce most of our issues, simply because of the sheer quantity of Minecraft questions, and because of the specific kinds of ways in which Minecraft fails, which are uniquely problematic, but not unique to Minecraft.

What kind of Tech Support questions are we good at, regardless of the specific game in question?

  • Configuration - especially things like running games at non standard resolutions, or managing file locations.
  • Clearly defined, reproducible gameplay bugs.
  • Specific, well defined, and widely known issues, often associated with specific error codes, as opposed to verbose crash dumps.

What kind of Tech Support questions are we bad at, regardless of the specific game in question?

  • Anything involving a crash that doesn't recur in a clearly defined, reproducible manner.
  • Anything involving a verbose crash-log that requires significant effort and decoding in order to even have a chance at retrieving potentially useful information.

Which then leaves a fairly clear boundary for what kind of tech support questions we don't allow: anything involving a game crash that is not repeatable and reproducible. A sample close reason for this might look like:

Questions seeking Technical Support For Non-Reproducible Issues, as well as Technical Support Based on Crash Dumps or Logs are off topic. Without clear steps to identify and reproduce your problem, the Q&A format isn't an appropriate format for in-depth troubleshooting, and tends not to produce results that are useful to future visitors. Your best option is probably to contact the manufacturer of your hardware, or the developer of your game or any mods you might be using, as appropriate.

(Actually, that's 100 characters too long. Here's a shortened version that I don't like as much. Suggestions welcome.)

Questions seeking Technical Support For Non-Reproducible Issues, as well as those Based on Crash Dumps or Logs are off topic. Without clear steps to identify and reproduce your problem, the Q&A format isn't an appropriate format for in-depth troubleshooting. Your best option is probably to contact the the developer of your game or any mods you might be using, as appropriate.

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    I'm not sure "Non-Reproducible" is a good term. The user can probably reproduce the bug 100% of the time. The problem is that they don't know what about their system makes the bug reproducible -- if they did, they'd know how to fix it. – badp May 23 '15 at 11:37
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    @badp yeah, I couldn't think of a better one. The point is, I think there's something salvageable in "The game runs great, but crashes whenever I equip The Sword of Pizzaslaying, and only when I do that" which can't be found in most crashes. I'm open to new wording to describe those cases, or to simply being convinced that they aren't worth a carve out and we should go to 'no crashes without a clear error code/description' though. – LessPop_MoreFizz May 23 '15 at 14:06
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    I disagree with the second bolded part. The major issue here is that this is dependent on the amount of information you even get. If a game just crashes with "Error 37" it is on topic, but not if "Error 37" is accompanied with a crash log that helps with identifying the issue? – MrLemon May 24 '15 at 12:43
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    @MrLemon questions ought to be clear and specific. A verbose crash dump is neither of those things. Just as, on StackOverflow, it's appropriate to post a clear excerpt of problematic code, but not necessarily the entire source of the project you're having trouble with. If your question amounts to challenging answerers to go looking through a haystack to find the needle which represents your actual question, maybe your question isn't very good. – LessPop_MoreFizz May 24 '15 at 13:06
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz I agree that full on crash log questions are bad, and should be voted down and potentially put on hold as unclear. This site has tools for dealing with bad questions. The issue here is a very specific type of question that is usually accompanied with an unhelpful crash log. Banning everything with a crash log is akin to putting everyone with a cough in quarantine because he might be infected with Super-AIDS. – MrLemon May 24 '15 at 13:41
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    I disagree that Mods are the red herring here: Modding almost any game is likely to cause many issues that wouldn't be present in the original game. (It cuts both ways btw, some mods can FIX issues in games, but that's not the point). Think of tech support like a car. A car that we (the experts) have the manual to (game forums, support articles, official patches etc). We can workaround or fix anything in an unmodded car, but if someone comes in with a sedan with monster truck wheels and complaining about the fact it won't drive up hills, (cont.) – Robotnik May 25 '15 at 4:06
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    there's not much we can do except say "Replace the wheels with more sensible ones, or get a bigger engine". Same goes for modded games. The "owner's manual" for a modded game likely doesn't exist. The game wasn't supposed to have giant crabs walking around with tank guns, so our solutions usually amount to "Remove the tank-crab mod". To summarise: vanilla games are "clearly defined", and issues with them are "reproducible", to use your point above. Modded games are not. – Robotnik May 25 '15 at 4:09
  • non-reproducable is a term used in software development, to show someone else can't reproduce the issue. If the user couldn't reproduce it, they wouldn't have a problem anymore anyway. If they can (the user), then the issue is with their specific setup and is too dependant on their setup to fix. – djsmiley2k May 26 '15 at 11:35
  • I think the key here is troubleshooting. If the asker wants a clear list of the steps of installation, for example, that's fine, because the steps are the same for every user. But if they did all the steps and it just doesn't work for some other personalized reason on their system, that comes down to troubleshooting that requires a back and forth, which doesn't work in Q&A format. Questions that would require a discussion rather than one question and one general case answer can't be on topic, and crash dumps are usually that. – Whelt May 28 '15 at 14:33
  • I don't have enough reputation to edit this post. Can you remove the <sub></sub> tags from the last bit so that I can read it without squinting? (Oh, I guess I can copy it into Notepad. Ahhhhh, much better.) – Rainbolt May 29 '15 at 13:38
  • Alright, after wordsmithing this in Notepad for sometime, I have a suggested alternative wording that is much shorter than your current one but makes it extremely clear what is on topic and what is not: "Questions seeking technical support are on topic as long as they include clear steps to reproduce the issue. Without clear steps to identify and reproduce the issue, the question is off topic." There is still some redundancy, but the redundancy is intentional (if you read something twice, you aught to understand it pretty well). – Rainbolt May 29 '15 at 13:49
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Ok, I've thought about this a bit more:

We're not banning Minecraft mod tech support

We're discussing what the close reason should be for unanswerable Minecraft mod crash questions - which we get a lot of - and are nearly all unanswerable.

With that in mind...

We should aim for this description to be general enough, so that unanswerable crash questions relating to other games are also covered.

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    UNanswerable is a terrible metric, it's not because you can't answer a question that noone can. If unanswerable is a closereason, I can go and close every single LoL question. Because I can't answer any of them. – Arperum May 24 '15 at 18:13
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    @Arperum Let me clarify: I'm not saying unanswerable because we don't have the expertise, I'm saying that the expertise doesn't exist, except maybe outside of the mod developer. – fredley May 24 '15 at 18:28
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    @fredley By that logic, no one could ever troubleshoot anything without being a developer of said project, which simply isn't true. – corsiKa May 25 '15 at 22:59
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    I've seen quite a few questions closed on other StackExchange sites as unanswerable, for which there were actually answers, but the closers assumed there were not, due to lack of knowledge. Hopefully unanswerable-closed questions will have an easy/visible way for people to say "Er, I actually have an answer" effectively. – Dronz May 26 '15 at 17:43
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Short Answer

Because modded Minecraft tech support questions are a problem, similar questions for other games are not. 99% of the time we can't provide a fix, even with a crash dump, and the best we can do is identify what's breaking.

Long Answer

There's a few factors which mean that Minecraft mod tech support is an issue:

  • Minecraft crash questions usually consist of dealing with a crash dump.
  • Minecraft modding goes deep enough that crashes are frequent, especially when mods are combined.
  • Mods are often combined into modpacks, leading to a very large number of variables to try and deal with.
  • When Minecraft crashes, to a non-technical player, there's no observable difference between it being a Minecraft problem or a mod problem.
  • Minecraft (I'd wager) has a younger player-base than most other games. These people are sometimes less able to understand and articulate a technical question well.
  • Minecraft is still the largest tag on the site, and mods are hugely popular due to their use by popular YouTubers (appealing to the younger players).

I did a bit of searching. Another heavily modded game, Skyrim (our second largest tag) has three mod/crash questions. The nature of modding in this game is very different, and all three have accepted answers.

Given the massive scope of Minecraft mod/packs, part of the reason this decision has been made is that 99% of the time there isn't a good answer, or there isn't an answer at all.

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    Exactly. Admittedly I haven't tried modding that may games, but for minecraft you're actually modifying the java files themselves-that is way deeper than, say, eu4, where there isn't even a fully developed scripting language. With modded minecraft, debugging involves understanding and figuring out entirely new code rather than adjustments to the variables of the code like most other mods. – lorentzfactor May 23 '15 at 1:50
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    Since this is positively scored, I have no choice but to dismantle it point by point: 1) Sure, but this is not exclusive to Minecraft. 2) Frequency is not relevant, see #6. 3) This is often not the issue. Users can put together mods without packs. 4) This can be troubleshot by backing things up, removing mods, and trying again. 5) Literally could not be any less relevant. 6) Only slightly more relevant than 5, but again, minecraft technical issues being a large group of questions doesn't make it any less arbitrary of a category. – Unionhawk May 23 '15 at 4:05
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    @Unionhawk Yes, it's arbitrary, but only Minecraft specifically is a problem today. If other games in the future cause similar problems, then it would make sense to try and figure out how to generalize the rule, but until then you're solving a problem that doesn't exist. – Troyen May 23 '15 at 19:05
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    @Troyen You're not looking at the big picture. The problem is not that these questions are about minecraft. It is that they are very often not reproducible. – Unionhawk May 23 '15 at 19:14
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    @Unionhawk - We never had a problem with other tech support questions before Minecraft. A lot of the times with other tech support questions the answer is well known because it's a common-enough problem. Modded minecraft doesn't have this luxury. I feel banning other tech support questions because we have a problem with Minecraft ones is a serious jump in scope. And the one SevenSidedDie was worried about when he wrote this comment – Robotnik May 24 '15 at 4:59
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    @Robotnik I, and others, feel that including game specific language in an off topic reason is not only stupid but dangerous for the health of the site. – Unionhawk May 24 '15 at 5:53
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Good question. I think the main reason the discussion centered around Minecraft is because it has been the most active and most problematic category of technical issues questions by several orders of magnitude. But the notion that Minecraft technical support in particular is problematic as a category is... troubling. Singling out one game in particular just because it is popular is extremely problematic.

If we're going to disallow technical issues questions, let's just disallow them, rather than focus on one game that has been producing them. Banning Minecraft technical issues questions in particular is extremely arbitrary at best, and at worst, gives an appearance that we just don't want to deal with Minecraft anymore.

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    We don't have to decide a binding rule right now. I'm happy to say "Minecraft mod crash questions no, others yes, unless they turn out to be universally unanswerable as well". Currently no other games' equivalent questions are as @uni-versally unanswerable as MC, but if they are, they can be added to the bucket. – fredley May 22 '15 at 17:44
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    @fredley Citation needed on "universally unanswerable" – badp May 22 '15 at 17:47
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    Also I think we don't quite have to go all the way and ban ALL technical support questions just because we can't deal with those revolving around Minecraft mods. A reasonable middle ground could be banning just questions involving mods of any game. – badp May 22 '15 at 17:49
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    I agree, @badp I think the issue is once you open the door to user created mods you have to deal with a bunch of non-standard pieces of code written by completely unrelated individuals with basically no documentation. The only people who can likely answer these questions are the creators of the mods themselves, and it's unlikely that they'll compare whatever they modded to a list of every other mod in existence for compatibility issues. – two bugs May 22 '15 at 19:52
  • +1. I don't use MC mods so there's no my skin in this, but I find it troubling that the community here is willing to close a well-written question about a reproducible bug just because 20 previous questions from different users were poorly written or non-reproducible. How would you feel if for instance Physics SE banned Ohm's law on the grounds that it generates more requests to do someone's homework for them than actual questions? – Dmitry Grigoryev Apr 3 at 11:07
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We need answerable questions. Many Minecraft questions, featuring complications from mods, do not meet the Real Questions Have Answers criteria.

From the end of that article, there is this:

real questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions.

I personally believe that several of the questions that have come up do not meet this point.

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    Questions involving crashes due to complicated interactions between mods DO have answers, they just don't necessarily have answers that are easy to discern and verify. What is the ten billionth prime number has an answer, we just don't know it. It's still a real question. – Sconibulus May 23 '15 at 0:22

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