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Recently,one of my questions (0 net votes, 3 reopen votes, 1 delete vote), How does the export/import feature work in Kittens Game?, got put on hold as off-topic because "it is about save game decryption. Decryption is not a gaming skill in any sense, not unless it's in-game". So I made a search in the Help Center and Meta, but didn't get anywhere an answer about if this is on- or off- topic. I also asked the closers of the question; they said it's off-topic, check the Help Center.

The Help Center (What topics can I ask about here?) states this:

If your question generally covers things such as …

  • Gameplay strategies and tactics
  • Puzzle solving or obstacle clearing
  • Game mechanics and terminology
  • Plot and characters in games
  • Game-specific hardware and utilities

… then you are in the right place to ask your question!

Please note, however, that site policies prohibit questions of the following types:

  • Game and Mod Development (try the Game Development Stack Exchange instead)
  • Speculative questions about developer intent, with respect to both mechanics and narrative
  • Requests for game identification based on personal recollection alone
  • Catalogues (listing games that fit specific criteria or are like an existing game)
  • Shopping advice and recommendations
  • Speculation of the future of the industry and of upcoming releases
  • Piracy, and support with pirated games.

And the definition of Game mechanics is:

Game mechanics are constructs of rules or methods designed for interaction with the game state, thus providing gameplay.

So game saves and their coding are game mechanics, and are not anything on the prohibited list, thus are on-topic. Am I right, are they on-topic? Because I think this is a question type that hasn't been asked.

And a side question: Can my question be reopened?

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    The (en)coding of game saves doesn't really fit in game mechanics. It looks more like game development to me. IMHO only general questions about game saves would be on-topic. "[...] rules or methods designed for interaction with the game state [...]" would apply to a save itself, not how it's constructed. – dly Oct 6 '16 at 6:20
  • @dly OK. But for further specifications, could you please highlight to me which part of the "game mechanics" definition it doesn't fit into? (To prevent misunderstanding: I'm not trying to save my post here) – RudolfJelin Oct 6 '16 at 13:38
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    Moderators are exception handlers. Their opinions are not the be all end all of Arqade. – Frank Oct 10 '16 at 14:43
  • @Frank Yep. The main thing is that they are authorised. They have power and respect. A normal user, me, even you, or anyone in fact doesn't have so much. – RudolfJelin Oct 10 '16 at 18:08
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    @RudolfL.Jelínek It doesn't fit the definiton of game mechanic because of the word designed. A save file is not designed to be edited by third party programs. That being said I agree with the answers here that it's bit ambigous what you are actually asking for. Are you asking about how to decrypt the save file? Or how to edit it to get something you want? I think the latter would be on topic but not the former. – Aequitas Oct 11 '16 at 1:37
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I think the issue here is an over-literal interpretation of our scope. What you want to do is edit a save file, a game related task that (I think) is clearly on topic. What you appeared to be asking was how to decrypt a string, something that is, barring unusual circumstances, off-topic.

I believe this is a situation where you may have benefited from less detail, I think if you hadn't included the Save string at all, you may have gotten a more positive response.

Incidentally, I'm inclined to agree that the method of Save file storage is not really a question about Game Mechanics(which tend to ask how a game works in-game), but I believe it is on-topic under the Game-Specific Utilities clause.

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    I believe the question falls under utilities. Its not really asking how the save works, but how to edit the save. – user101016 Oct 6 '16 at 16:12
  • I think we should have a tag for these types for questions. save-files or save-locations? – Stevoisiak Sep 9 '17 at 19:55
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I think the question could be clearer. Fundamentally you seem to be asking if it is possible to generate and/or manipulate the text. Such a question allows answers such as trivial techniques or the use of a tool. I think we are fine with that.

Examples:

How to edit save game file?
How can I edit saved games in Civ V?
Editing Kerbal Space Program save files for KSO

However, I don't think we should allow questions that are directly looking for a method of decrypting the text. So if your question is specifically asking how to decrypt your text then you may be better asking game dev or reverse engineering stack exchanges.

  • As examples go, the only one that I'd consider valid is the one for KSP; that one's in plaintext, although even that is obtuse, to a degree. The one for Civ V is a software rec, and the Skyrim one has no real gaming skill to it at all. Just, find software, push save file into it. – Frank Oct 6 '16 at 13:56
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    @Frank - KSP should be on-topic because it is trivial. I think that is reasonable for gamers to answer, and a gamer to ask. As for game rec, that is the same for asking for "ways to do something in a game" style questions, and someone suggests a mod. Those seem to be on-topic, as I remember. – user101016 Oct 6 '16 at 14:01
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    @Frank - as long as it is a general question, and not asking specifically for a mod, utility etc then we don't seem to treat them as game recs. – user101016 Oct 6 '16 at 14:02
  • The Civ V one specifically does ask for a software editor, actually. I can see your point for the Skyrim one; pre-edit, it was about how to edit save files on the 360, leading to the steps in the top answer. Maybe kinda sorta on-topic, but I'd still lean towards not. – Frank Oct 6 '16 at 14:06
  • I agree, especially that it could be clearer - +1. – RudolfJelin Oct 6 '16 at 14:06
  • @Frank - okay, civ v I agree, looking beyond the question title. – user101016 Oct 6 '16 at 14:16
  • So it seems it should be reopened - and has 4 reopen votes now - pretty close! – RudolfJelin Oct 8 '16 at 18:24
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How a save file is encoded does not fall into game mechanics at all. Game mechanics are how things in-game work; pull this lever, the companion cube comes out of that chute. Drop your new cube onto a pressure plate, and you see a checkmark. Yup, got it right. Things like that.

Save files are most definitely out of game. They aren't generally meant to be manipulated or modified. Decoding how they work can't be considered a gaming skill, because each and every game will code it's save file differently, and are often deliberately obtuse, specifically to prevent tampering. This kind of decryption isn't in a gamer's expertise; the game isn't going to tell you when you've got it right, or lead you down the path to doing so.

If it's not in-game, it doesn't count as game mechanics.

  • So, by your opinion, pressing the right mouse button, flicking a lever, or finding easter eggs can't be considered gaming skills, because each and every game does something else when you click/search for it? Sorry, though I understand your point, can't agree. – RudolfJelin Oct 6 '16 at 13:52
  • No, I'm saying if it doesn't happen in-game, it doesn't count as a gaming skill. There are related areas we help with, but that should generally be the cutoff. In-game? Yes. Out of game? No. Also, pressing the right mouse? Really? That's not a game mechanic at all. Ever. – Frank Oct 6 '16 at 13:53
  • I was talking about what the game does after a right click. And all crash issues are off topic in your opinion? No. Dot. And by the way, thanks for the down vote. – RudolfJelin Oct 6 '16 at 13:57
  • As a general rule, we're actually pretty terrible at tech support. I would not be adverse to getting rid of all of them; they generally result in low quality guesses as answers and a ton of discussion to try to figure it out, all of which we don't want. What the game does after a right click would be on-topic. How to press the right mouse button would not be. See the distinction? We're about observing what actions in-game result in changes to the game state, not how to manipulate the real world. – Frank Oct 6 '16 at 14:03
  • I agree that we're bad at tech support, partially due to the strict Q&A rules. But gaming is overlapping with the real world a bit too much in my opinion. – RudolfJelin Oct 6 '16 at 14:09
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    Yeah, it is. Especially with things like augmented reality and VR headsets. But that doesn't mean we support the real world; we need to draw distinctions between what we can do, and what we don't. – Frank Oct 6 '16 at 14:10
  • Yep. This place is like a blank spot on our map of allowed questions that covers the boundary of off/on-topicness. – RudolfJelin Oct 6 '16 at 14:13
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    This specific question? No. It's very clear that save game decryption is not something we support. – Frank Oct 6 '16 at 14:14
  • Well, for me, +1, thanks for sharing your opinion. – RudolfJelin Oct 6 '16 at 14:35
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Given that the game natively exports and imports these save files, and that this then determines what exists in-game, I see your question as asking how to create desired states in the game.

To me, that's clearly on-topic.

I agree that the phrasing could use some work.

  • I'm not a native English speaker, and I often use Google translate to help me while writing a post. I would be happy if somebody would take the time to rephrase my question instead of stating it's badly worded.. – RudolfJelin Oct 7 '16 at 12:39
  • How in any sense is decrypting save games on-topic? – Frank Oct 7 '16 at 13:27
  • @Frank To respond, I would just repeat what it says in the answer here: "Given that the game natively exports and imports these save files, and that this then determines what exists in-game, I see your question as asking how to create desired states in the game." – DCShannon Oct 8 '16 at 3:25
  • By that logic, Notepad would be on-topic, because it helps you alter a save game's state. Along with Word, Excel, you name it. That's way too broad. – Frank Oct 10 '16 at 14:44
  • @Frank I don't even have any idea what you're talking about. The game whose state you were altering would be what you're asking about, not Notepad. – DCShannon Oct 10 '16 at 15:14
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    And yet, the save state is deliberately encoded. To prevent exactly that. Again, how is decryption, in any sense, on-topic? Plain-text? Yeah, okay, not a fan, but I can see how we would support that. But figuring out how a save is put together is a coding skill, not gaming. – Frank Oct 10 '16 at 15:20
  • @Frank I'm okay with the assertion that that question may have been better on another SE. Being more suited to a different SE is not a close reason. – DCShannon Oct 10 '16 at 15:46
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    Being unsuited to ours is. – Frank Oct 10 '16 at 16:27

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