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As some probably already know, I do not think that it's good to have a close reason that is specific to a single game.

So why is this a problem? It drives some people off the site, I don't have any numbers for it though. Not all of them are going to try to change the site before leaving, I tried, because this really is a problem for me (I can't be the only one, right?) on an otherwise fine site (as far as I can tell, it took me some time to even hear about this). I wish you all the best, bye.

I'm obviously talking about the off topic reason about technical support for modded versions of minecraft. It looks like the community agrees with this as you can see in this question that asks why we would make a close reason that is specific to one game.

I believe that this is a real issue for the same reasons as Unionhawk stated in his answer to the question I linked above:

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.

I agree with most of it, except for this part, because this would be a bit too broad and throw out the good with the bad:

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.

The problem seems to basically be that there is no workable definition for what makes a game "like minecraft", other than "it's minecraft". So that's what this question is about. What definition other than "minecraft" would be narrow enough to only affect games that would suffer from the same problems as minecraft, while not being specific to a single game?

An ideal definition would work for every game, but it would only make questions off topic that are bad by the same metric that technical support questions for modded minecraft would be bad (it also wouldn't nessessarily make all questions about technical support for modded minecraft off topic, only the bad ones, which seems to basically be all of them).

It can be narrow enough to only affect minecraft, but it shouldn't be specific to a single game. If a similar game gets released that would result in the same kind of bad questions, then the definition should work for that game, too.

I was a bit surprised that I couldn't find any question that already asks about this, I've been told that there has been a lot of discussion and that seems to be true, but I couldn't find a single question that actually tries to solve this.

Here are some quotes that can serve as inspiration, or to see why they don't work.

I hope that they help with finding a workable definition. Some may be taken a little out of context, but I don't think that I've created any strawman (please tell me in the comments if you think that I misrepresented someone). They didn't nessessarily try to make a workable definition.

highly moddable games my original answer

The problem with this definition is that it would affect other games where tech support questions about modded versions aren't bad, like Oblivion, Skyrim, or Fallout. (loosely quoted)

The common denominators seem to be crash reports and unclear error codes (NullPointerException, for example. That could mean a lot of things). Original answer by Unionhawk

I couldn't find any comments about this, though it would probably affect games where the questions aren't as bad.

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. Original answer by LessPop_MoreFizz

I couldn't find any comments about this.

unanswerable crash questions Original answer by fredley

UNanswerable is a terrible metric

[...] user created mods [...] with a bunch of non-standard pieces of code written by completely unrelated individuals with basically no documentation. Original comment by two bugs

I couldn't find any comments about this.

Questions seeking Technical Support requiring In-Depth Troubleshooting are off topic. This includes questions involving technical support for highly modded games. The Q&A format is not an appropriate format for these questions. Your best option is probably to contact the the developer of your game or any mods you might be using, as appropriate. Original answer by MrLemon

There's a good amount of subjectivity in this suggesting. When we're creating close reasons, it's generally a good idea to pull as much subjectivity out of it as possible.

  • This is my last attempt to actually solve this issue. If there are no good answers in about a week, then I'll give up and never bring this up again. – user232393 Sep 22 at 12:19
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    What problem would this solve? What questions about modded games crashing are currently open that should be closed? – Wrigglenite Sep 22 at 12:36
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    @Wrigglenite The problem is that the rule is specific to a single game. Questions aren't bad, because they are about minecraft, quesitons are bad, because they are bad (I'm not sure how to word that any better). I think that this answer summarizes it fairly well in the first few sentences. – user232393 Sep 22 at 12:43
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    I think it's laudable to try to be consistent across the board. But...I'm having trouble seeing how any other modded game question has the issues that make Minecraft modded question off-topic. I'm all for consistency, but there's no reason to throw the good out with the bad. – Frank Sep 22 at 13:08
  • @Frank I'm not suggesting to throw the good out with the bad, as "technical support for modded versions of games" would, I'm trying to focus on what makes things bad and to clearly define why they are bad, so we have a consistent way to throw out all the bad while leaving alone the good. Questions about technical support for modded versions of minecraft are not bad, because they are about minecraft, they are bad for different reasons. – user232393 Sep 22 at 13:14
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    @Frank Would you for example be fine with throwing out all "unanswerable crash questions"? This obviously wouldn't work as a definition (as I pointed out in the question), but it would be a consistent definition that would apply to all games and wouldn't throw out the good with the bad. There would be no point in keeping those questions if they are unanswerable. – user232393 Sep 22 at 13:24
  • Related (and I happen to agree per my answer on that question) – Unionhawk Sep 22 at 13:29
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    Would you for example be fine with throwing out all "unanswerable crash questions"? Thing is, answerability is an incredibly poor metric on whether we should keep a question. It is less consistent, and way more contentious; there's lots of these modded Minecraft questions we could answer, but don't, because a simple policy of, "No modded Minecraft tech support" is easier to enforce and be consistent with. – Frank Sep 22 at 13:47
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    I wouldn't say they're all good; a question being answerable doesn't make it a good question. That's two different qualities; it's not good to conflate the two. I don't see how the metric could work; it's predicated on premise that answerability makes a question off-topic. If there needs to be a change, it should not be based on anything at all related to answerability, but our ability to support, maintain, and level of quality. – Frank Sep 22 at 14:23
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    Hypotheticals don't help. You're arguing a situation that doesn't exist, trying to define a solution for something you have no idea how to fix. I'd prefer we wait until we have a concrete reason to need to broaden the closure of more tech support questions. I feel like we'd be trying to borrow trouble that currently seems to be working fine. – Frank Sep 22 at 17:20
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    Okay. So find us that game. Give us something more concrete to base this off of. I don't know of any other game that has this nexus of modability, popularity, and massive code conflicts. Once we find that, then we can see how to make this more general. – Frank Sep 22 at 17:33
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    "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Even at the peak of the popularity of highly moddable games such as Skyrim and Fallout 4, we didn't have a similar issue with tech support questions about those games similar to the ones Minecraft currently has. – galacticninja Sep 23 at 2:00
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    Is there any evidence that anyone other than you has been driven off Arqade by it having a game-specific close reason? – pppery Sep 30 at 19:15
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    @bearb001 - For what it's worth, I admire and appreciate the effort in trying to make the close reason not Minecraft-specific, even if I disagree. My response wasn't a personal attack but a defense of a policy that I believe in. I know it sucks being on the opposite side of popular opinion here - I've been there, too many times to count. Anyway, if this is the straw for you, then I'm sorry to see you go, but I truly do wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, whatever they might be :). – Robotnik Sep 30 at 23:44
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    IMO, broadening the policy to also apply to other non-problematic games will drive more people off the site, compared to keeping the current policy. I can only imagine the pain that new users (and post reviewers) will have to go through as arguments on whether the blanket-ban policy applies to their questions are being made, with close/reopen votes back and forth, comparisons with Minecraft, meta posts, etc. The current close vote reasons: 'Unclear what you're asking' and 'Too Broad' work fine with the problematic tech support (modded or otherwise) questions anyway. – galacticninja Oct 1 at 7:43
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The close reason is very specifically: Technical Support of Modded Minecraft. Here's the definition from the Help Center:

Troubleshooting and diagnosis of modded Minecraft, including crashes, startup errors or other abnormal behaviour caused by modding

It might seem pedantic to point this out, but it leads in to my later point - this is a specific rule to a specific problem we faced as a community.

But why is it a rule for a specific game?

Because it is the only game that has faced the particular issue of having a majority unanswerable set of tech support questions. But don't be fooled into thinking that Minecraft is a special case: we have other game and tag-specific rules too!:

  • We banned 'How do I attack this base' questions from Clash of Clans

  • We considered banning all Pokemon Go Tech support but didn't, because the questions easy to answer (and mostly duplicates).

  • We discussed banning Vanilla Minecraft tech support a couple of times too, like during the discussion about banning Modded Minecraft Tech Support. Again, we didn't, because supporting vanilla Minecraft is an order of magnitude simpler, to the point where the majority of vanilla Minecraft issues were captured in a single question.

  • Even Game Identification, a single-tag topic area, has had similar scope discussions play out. We went from all questions being allowed, to all of them banned, to "only allowing cases where the OP provides some evidence".
    I have to fit this here because it doesn't make sense anywhere else but: this single-tag topic area gets its own close reason, but Minecraft with 36 tags doesn't deserve one? Think about it.

But what about the close reason?

If we broaden the close reason to encompass all games, then we are broadening the policy to encompass all games, and I for one am not on board for that particular slippery slope. Tech support is on-topic. Mods and Modding are on-topic. To ban other technical support of mods because Modded Minecraft causes us issues would be like banning dogs from the park because an Elephant stomped through it.

The point is that - much like our site's guiding principles - our rules are based on actual problems we face as a community. Certain games have topic areas that are just simply problematic for us, and there's no good way in which to broaden that policy to fit all games. Especially not just to make a close reason template not target an individual game.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Wipqozn Sep 23 at 18:16
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I don't really see a problem here. As guidelines, those close reasons demarcate the limits of what this community can be asked about. Those guidelines shift and evolve, along with this community's territory.

If a certain problematic situation, which is exceptionally hard to solve, is found to generally be tied to a specific game (or console, or genre, for that matter), it shouldn't be a problem to mention that specific title (or console, or genre) among the closing reasons, since it explicitly and without ambiguity indicates what is considered off-topic.

On the other hand, I can appreciate Unionhawk's reaction to this, and think I would have agreed with them when the problem initially showed up: the shifting and evolving I mentioned should be dealt with fundamentally, by design, not superficially, and especially not retroactively.

But as the damage has already been done, I don't see how generalizing a very particular problematic case can benefit the community, as generalization will start covering terrain we don't have problems with. This seems to be in alignment with Robotnik's answer.

If we consider the alternative situation, in which the problem with Technical Support for Modded Minecraft (TSMM) was never brought up, we could have had an incredible amount of unanswered questions, most OP's of which were long gone, but with the general consensus of what is considered germane on Arqade intact. I wonder if that situation is preferable.


Alternatively, is there - in theory - a way to solve TSMM questions, if enough information is provided? What if users were asked to provide logs, crash files, DirectX dialogues, the works?
Or does the biggest problem lie with Java, and its general errors?
(Or should this be posted as a new Q&A thread?)

  • Alternatively, is there - in theory - a way to solve TSMM questions, if enough information is provided? What if users were asked to provide logs, crash files, DirectX dialogues, the works? Or does the biggest problem lie with Java, and its general errors? (Or should this be posted as a new Q&A thread?) If you suggest that we should open minecraft tech support questions again, but with a requirement to add certain information, then I guess that's probably a different question, unless you can flesh it out complete enough to make it a valid alternative answer that can stand on it's own. – user232393 Sep 23 at 13:31
  • I am mainly hoping to get a quick yes or no from someone knowledgable in that field, to see if that would make a viable alternative to the problem. If that could work, the insolvable cases might simply due to an OP's lack of information. Still, that's only a side note to my answer :) Edit: can you find yourself in my answer, by the way? I mean, empathize with that standpoint? – Joachim Sep 23 at 13:55
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    While I'm fairly active in minecraft questions, I have no idea whatsoever about crashes, so I guess you'd have to look for someone else. A java stacktrace should definitely be enough to find any problem, assuming you have access to the code. It tells you what kind of problem happened (NullPointerException, IOException, etc) and in what line of code the error occured. You can then look at that line of code and see how that line may break and then try to figure out why it breaks in that way. As I said, it would require access to the code, which can't be assumed in here. – user232393 Sep 23 at 14:05
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    That was tried, @Joachim. It's what we did before we banned them outright. We had a canonical. We asked for that info to be provided. Most often, the people needing help don't know how to provide that; they're just trying to get a game working, and don't know enough to provide what we'd need to help them. That's why we outlawed them in the first place; we were being flooded with all these questions we couldn't help with; the asker's couldn't even help us help them. – Frank Sep 23 at 14:06
  • If the code is provided, reduced to a minimal reproducible example, then it would be better suited in stackoverflow. – user232393 Sep 23 at 14:06
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    At least with vanilla Minecraft, the surface area is limited enough to break it down into some workable solutions. Expanding to include mods makes it incredibly unwieldy. – Frank Sep 23 at 14:08
  • So our best bet in finding the solution to problem X is that someone has had the same problem before and has already solved it, therefor being able to explain how it was solved. Modded minecraft has this extreme amount of different factors that weren't put together in that exact same way before to cause the same issues. That, and what @Frank just said, is what makes them so hard to answer. (correct me if I'm wrong). – user232393 Sep 23 at 14:10
  • Thanks for the enlightenment, @Frank and bearb001. I had a notion of the particular difficulty of dealing with modded Minecraft. So that alternative is (and was) a dead end.. – Joachim Sep 23 at 14:23
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Agreed. I've held this view since 2015. We can't just moderate reactively. We should have identified the specific issues we had with this category of questions back then, but instead we chose to take a shortcut. I advocated against this shortcut back then, and I continue to do so today, we should never single out specific games when considering topicality. What we did back then is like if SO decided that JavaScript "why is this code not working" questions, in particular, were off topic just because there were a lot of them. Absurd.

That being said, in order to broaden the close reason, we will need to have a serious discussion on broadening the policy. I for one believe that this is a discussion worth having, and has always been worth having. We should never limit our policy imaginations to issues we currently face. We must, in all things, consider what our specific issues with a class of questions are, and CONSIDER WHETHER OR NOT OUR DECISIONS MAY ALIENATE A PORTION OF OUR COMMUNITY.

ahem

To that end. I propose the following:

Requests for technical support of modded games are off-topic, including crashes, errors or other abnormal behavior caused by modding. See Where can I ask troubleshooting questions about modded games? for other places to go, or clarify your question if the issue persists without any installed mods.

Is this a contrarian take? Absolutely. But I'm tired of this issue being dismissed as "well, we're not currently having other issues, so there's no problem with having close reasons specific to specific users' areas of expertise." There is, in fact, a big problem with this actually.

At the end of the day, this decision has always been shortsighted. The real question is, do we want to continue to be shortsighted, which may work well enough I guess, or do we want to do an analysis of why, specifically, these questions are bad. I have a feeling that I know the answer. Disappointing.

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