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What do we want to do with quesions asking about hidden features, hidden areas, hidden mysteries, hidden endings, etc.?

On the one hand, it'd seem silly to ban questions about alternate endings, because getting all the endings is usually considered a "moral requirement" for saying one has "beaten" (or, more aptly, "100%"ed) the game.

On the other hand, hidden areas of a game seems to be way too vast and subjective to be allowable - what counts as hidden, and what doesn't? What will bring people to write one answer with all the areas, and maintain it, instead of adding new items to an existing answer in your own to get your own slice of reputation as seen here?

Where do we draw the line?

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The problem is one of scope. This is going to sound weird, but the essential aspect is, a functional question of this type needs to operate on a definition that is finite, not questionable, and also easily understood.

What makes "hidden features" not work on the network is that any obscure feature can be considered for posting, as long as one measly person wasn't aware of it. This is because it is based on the adjective "hidden", and how hidden something is is based largely on who is the observer.

For a question to really work, it needs to operate on a meaning of hidden that isn't merely that adjective. It also needs to have a confined scope that makes it meaningful to group them in a single question. As Raven notes, a big list of just about everything is problematic. It's unknown if it'll ever get filled, but furthermore it prohibits clearer organization of features. It also makes it difficult to find specific entries if someone is just looking for a specific entry. I know this is a different problem, but a recent post on Apple about Community Wiki speaks of the same issue - one giant vague question is hiding off content that deserves its own place as individual questions on the site. Even ignoring the wiki aspect (which is irrelevant to our case here), we still have the issue of "big list of things no one will properly find".


Hence, the focus needs to be on concrete units that are meaningfully grouped together. Multiple endings, for example, are a very common and understood phenomenon. They make sense to group together, and it works to have a question that combines all of them. Likewise, "secret bosses", where secret is defined as not being a part of the plotline or perhaps being specific to an end-game area, those would work. This latter one shows a point - here I'm defining secret not by the definition of being hidden, but instead referring to a concrete, identifiable, and meaningful subset of the game. This makes for a very understood list, while avoiding the pitfalls of interpretation. An example for hidden areas might be "hidden areas related to Achievements" - though this could itself just be broken up into separate questions for each achievement.

The main issue that can strike this kind of list is how open to interpretation it is, and whether the grouping is meaningful and useful. It is a bad question if the identification of something as "hidden" is up to the observer, and it is a bad question if the collection of information is obscuring useful data by hiding it with a bunch of other random material.

  • So, for example, it'd be useful to e.g. change this question into asking about just one hidden-areas achievement and splitting the rest in their own questions? Although there'd be too much editing to be done there to salvage it. – badp Nov 9 '11 at 15:47
  • @badp I think that, since we have the one accepted answer detailing all of the achievements (sans Rat Man, I guess? I don't know Portal 2 enough...), it may be wiser to currently just make it "hidden areas related to achievements". We could break it into multiple questions but that'll require some cooperative effort. – Grace Note Nov 9 '11 at 15:49
  • How about now? If it looks okay I'll start a bounty to get people to update their answers. (Turns out that visiting all rat man dens does not unlock any achievement.) – badp Nov 9 '11 at 15:56
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Close them if they're bad questions.

If you have a question about how to find a specific area, such as hidden areas related to achievements, that's a valid question (or anything where the existence of the secret itself is not in question).

Asking for a carte blanch list of all possible secrets is not useful, and should summarily be closed.

Precedent:

  • I closed that question because it was getting one item per answer, but then again I also closed this one in a heartbeat and then was forced to reopen it. It is commonly argued that answers shouldn't determine if a question gets to be closed or not. – badp Nov 9 '11 at 15:32
  • What is the difference between me asking "Are there any hidden areas on [map 1][level 1][area 1], [map 2][level 2][area 2] etc" or "Are there any hidden areas in [game x]"? – theorise Nov 9 '11 at 15:32
  • @theorise Absolutely nothing. There is a difference between asking "Are there any hidden areas on map 1" and "How do I get to the hidden area on map 1 (that has already and independently been established to exist)" – Raven Dreamer Nov 9 '11 at 15:34
  • So if I wanted to ask if a game had hidden endings/true bosses/etc. and then how to unlock them, the question would also be closed? What if the game doesn't track achievements or completion percentages? – badp Nov 9 '11 at 15:35
  • @badp "A hidden ending" is specific thing. "Hidden areas" are both ambiguous and overly broad. (And stop editing your comments when I'm replying to them! >:| ) – Raven Dreamer Nov 9 '11 at 15:36
  • @RavenDreamer Yup, makes sense to me, thanks. – theorise Nov 9 '11 at 15:37
  • @Raven It's not like I get notifications of your starting to write a comment :/ – badp Nov 9 '11 at 15:38
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I Have a problem with how quickly new policy was set here

and I disagree with the decision made in this instance

(badp suggested that if I have a problem with it, I should post it in this thread, so I'm hijacking my own answer to say it)

hidden (adjective) 1. : being out of sight or not readily apparent : concealed

This is the definition we appear to be operating on in this context.

Now, what appears to matter more is the word it is describing.

Hidden Areas

Hidden areas are the easiest to define, because most games have a specific progression that you must follow and possibly some obvious optional areas. Hidden areas would be concealed areas that you aren't required to complete the game in a normal manner.

Yes, this does mean some games have more hidden areas than others. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has the entire second half of the game as a hidden area; you won't encounter it if you head straight to the throne room as soon as possible.

Hidden Mysteries

Hidden mysteries is actually referring to easter eggs.

easter egg (noun) 2: a hidden feature in a commercially released product (as software or a DVD)

This definition rolls it into the next term, hidden features.

Hidden Features

Easter Eggs are usually something hidden in a hard to reach spot, quite often a reference to something outside of the game you're playing. Thus, your example on The Bridge of the Pyro's Hadouken taunt wouldn't count, because it's extremely easy to find.

Easter Eggs aren't the only type of hidden feature. There may be hidden game modes that you can only enter by entering certain codes that are not mentioned anywhere in the game. The strangest I've encountered of this type was on the Making of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete Disc for the PS1. If you entered a code during the video, it would load a remake of the game Warlords.

Hidden Endings

Again, hidden is the operative word here. Some games may have multiple endings that are determined by specific decisions you make during the game. These aren't hidden, because they are explicitly determined by you.

Hidden Endings are things like the UFO Ending in Silent Hill, where you must take a very specific set of actions hinted at nowhere in the game to get them.

Chrono Trigger is another game with a lot of Hidden Endings, because they are only accessible if you start a New Game+, then hop directly to the final boss battle at specific points in your second playthrough. These endings aren't canon and include a number of funny things; in one, Reptites have taken over the world and everyone assumes you're disguised as humans, who died out millions of years before.

Cave Story has a hidden ending unlocked by failing to rescue someone at a specific point in the game, then performing specific actions at various points in the game afterward.

What do we do with these questions?

Easter Eggs and Hidden Areas have fairly concrete definitions. Hidden Features is a bit iffier, although if you ignore things that are unlocked as you progress through the game, it's not as bad. Hidden endings are OK as long as you note that they involve decisions that are not done through a normal course of the game, and likely aren't intuitive at all.

  • So in a game such as Hero Core, since you can go straight to the boss after playing 20% of the game, the remaining 80% is "hidden"? – badp Nov 10 '11 at 5:00
  • @badp: If the areas are "readily apparent" (i.e. not hidden) then no. – user2974 Nov 10 '11 at 5:04
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    @badp If you were referring to the Symphony of the Night comment earlier, you need to be aware that the "normal" ending to the game is just one of three. To reach the second and third endings, you have to figure out how to open the hidden room below the clock in the center of the castle (and I won't say any more than that in case you ever play it). – user2974 Nov 10 '11 at 5:24
  • You must have misunderstood me, sorry. When I said "mention it that thread", I meant either in the comments to my meta-policy answer (which you already have done) or as a new answer to that question, giving an alternative. – badp Nov 10 '11 at 14:08
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I agree these are bad questions, but I think they are very difficult to fix if you haven't played the game. For example, badp totally inverted the question and answer to the AC:B question, because he was unfamiliar with the game. The result is a massive spoiler in the question, a mostly uninteresting answer, and a resource that's not going to help the next person asking the actual question. Perhaps a better approach is to leave a note on meta or a comment on the question/accepted answer, and let someone who knows the game fix it. If that doesn't happen in a day or two, then do the edit.

  • A valid point. This is rather why cooperation is key here, I apparently can't stress this enough. After all, if there's one person who may understand the source material well, it'll be the original author. – Grace Note Nov 11 '11 at 12:22
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Any open-ended 'list-type' questions should be Off Topic. While it's hard to draw a concrete boundary, asking a question with a small scope, such as Where are the hidden areas in [level] of [game]? could be ok, assuming there's only a few, but once the list goes beyond 3 or 4 (and especially if the length of the list is unknown) we should close the question. A question such as Where are all the graffiti tags in GTA San Andreas? (large list) or What are all the easter eggs in Skyrim? (unknown) are bad.

As an aside, all these questions should have the tag.

  • 3
    Why should they have the spoiler tag? Those questions would have no spoiler in the title, and that's the only point the spoiler tag can possibly have. If you click on a question title that is obviously spoliery ("Find the secret stuff for me!"), you should expect to see spoilers, tags or not. – badp Nov 9 '11 at 15:40
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    Quantity isn't a very strong deciding factor on its own, especially if it is finite. If the large quantity is useless or suboptimal in its size, that'd be one thing. But if it's meaningful to look at a list of, say, where all the EX Keys are hidden, then I would consider it more productive to have that in one list than to try and break it down. – Grace Note Nov 9 '11 at 15:52
  • @badp: The question text can be revealed simply by leaving your mouse over the question title. Answers need not be marked as spoilers (unless you're segmenting them into different or progressive spoilers), but question text appears in a lot of contexts. – user2640 Nov 10 '11 at 23:11
  • @JoeWreschnig And in many contexts, such as Google or the extended question list, the spoiler markup is ineffective. Covering the whole site in spoiler markup is not the way to go. Only use it when the spoiler bit is only marginal to the answer. Covering the site in spoiler tags is also a very bad idea. Only use it sparingly where the best phrasing for your question involves spoilers - question titles need to be searchable. – badp Nov 11 '11 at 1:24

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