In this question, we softly addressed the acceptability of the subject. There's no contribution other than my own answer, and it's not exactly a very attended post, but build questions haven't really come up all that often since the start of the site.

Assuming for a moment that we're still okay with accepting build questions (as, for the reasons I explained in my earlier answer, builds always have some "core" aspect that is very much concrete for us to use as the subject matter of questions, otherwise they wouldn't be "builds"), my question is, how do we sculpt them into proper authoritative and objective Q&A?

This comes up because this question, as it is phrased, is very much a subjective and open-ended question about the "best" build. Looks pretty close-worthy to me for that alone. But then I looked at our highest voted build question, which pretty much asks the same thing, sub "late-game" for "early-game" and minus the explicit usage of the word "recommend". Neither of those attributes actually change the nature of the question, yet we rolled with it.

We can attribute the lifespan of that early question on account of both it being long before we starting to watch out for quality issues and mayhem, and also the fact that it got an incredible answer that isn't a mere recommendation, but an analysis of different builds and how they are constructed. There's a reason it's climbing up to be our first Great Answer candidate.

We can't rely on age and answers alone, though. As the question stands, it's bait for polling, and I'd like to avoid that. How can we revise questions like the DotA so that they can attract high quality answers instead of just random recommendations? How do we make our examples not look like the "What is the Best X" that everyone loves to jump on everywhere else? Is it possible? Or is it the kind of thing we have to keep eyes on, and just trust our answerers to salvage?

In summary, how can we guide questions that start out like this to end up like this?

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    Get tzenes to answer? – Matthew Read May 17 '11 at 14:40
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    "end up like this?" - frankly, I don't care for that question either. It's a bad question in my eyes - it's just way too broad, though as I am a novice player myself I certainly understand the appeal. I think it's only the great answer by tzenes that helped make the page as a whole a good one. – Oak May 17 '11 at 16:05
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    @Oak "end up like this" is mostly referring to the element as a whole, which indeed is primarily good just because of the answer. As noted, the question remains practically the same as the DotA one, so I would not mind touching up both of them if it was possible. I'm just not sure where to start. – Grace Note May 17 '11 at 16:08
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    I agree with @Oak - much like the MissigNo Question we discussed a few weeks back, it is a poor question that received a great answer. Tzenes' answer notwithstanding, I would close it, if it appeared today. – Raven Dreamer May 18 '11 at 23:05

Character build questions should be as specific as possible. Askers should, at minimum, specify the exact scenario they are trying to build a character for. In that light, the DotA question could be rephrased as: "I'm having trouble late-game as Demon Witch? Are there any item changes I should make for games that seem to drag on forever?"

Or: "I'm having trouble with late-game as Demon Witch against CC-heavy teams. Is there a particular build I can make to become less susceptible to CC?"

I don't think the question is flawed in principle, but it lacks the needed detail to narrow the focus down.

There are two ways we can target these problem questions. The first is to simply ask the author to be more specific via edits (and then reopen if the question has since been closed)

The second, and perhaps more subjective, is to make an inference about why the author is asking the question, and write an answer to specifically relate the underlying cause with the vague question originally asked. Or, alternatively, to make the answer as specifically broad* as the question itself.

*by this I mean: be incredibly specific about many distinct interpretations. This is what Tzenes does in the aforementioned question: he first lists as many build orders as he knows of (rather than simply listing one and saying: use this), then goes on to describe how these various builds differ. This option usually means a lot of work and effort on behalf of the answerer.

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  • One of the reasons I myself haven't ask any specific build questions on the site is that I was worried that they would be closed as too localized as per the "not applicable to the worldwide audience" clause. I was running under the assumption that the many variables regarding skills/level/gear/loot/build goals/etc. would make the question less applicable to other people and too specific to one user. So this isn't the case? – FAE May 22 '11 at 15:30
  • @Fallen Are you the only person in the history of humanity that picked that specific build? Even if that was the case, can the question be somewhat generalized so that it's still of use to you, and to others that are in a similar-but-not-quite-the-same situations? – badp Aug 9 '11 at 13:02
  • @badp I'd imagine not! But in my past experience in asking for guide help elsewhere, it seems that it's often a topic that lends itself to a lot of back and forth discussion as well as the acquisition of several "answers" (other build guides) that would, here, end up being a list question. This is especially difficult for MMO's, which are constantly changing because of developer updates. The problem I see with generalizing a build question is that people often ask for feedback/input on subtle/fine points that make their build distinct. So then they'd have to sacrifice usefulness for them > – FAE Aug 9 '11 at 13:16
  • personally in order to make it a question more applicable to the "broader audience of the internet." For example, in one of the MMO's I play as my main, City of Heroes, there are 14 classes, each with a Primary and Secondary powerset. The resulting combinations you can make are quite high, not even counting the fact that there are hundreds of different ways you can "gear" yourself with enhancements. I always thought that build questions for that MMO would end up too specific. – FAE Aug 9 '11 at 13:19

Maybe if we can get the askers to specify what they already tried:

"I've been trying to get Brill's bonus in Guild Wars two with my team : Monk, Elementalist, Ranger and heroes, but did not managed to. What should I need to tune to get the job done ?"

Better formulated question, showing that the user is not just trying to get it the easy way (gaming Can I haz teh code?) but want to understand and improve himself, would trigger better answers.

This is what I always ask on SO to have a base to begin with. Maybe the same cure can be applied on gaming.

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