This question is similar to "do "mod-development" questions belong here".

What is our stance about game customization using built-in tools provided by the company, as opposed to customization using external tools? For example, many games come bundled with a map editor, allowing the creation of new maps or levels. Should questions regarding that map editor belong here?

  • I really like a place where doing these questions, but if Game Dev QA site hosts them, I would prefer to go and migrate them there
    – user59
    Commented Jul 19, 2010 at 7:37
  • If gaming won't welcome these questions, maybe gamedev will? I started a discussion there, Do mod- and map-making questions belong here?.
    – Zommuter
    Commented Jul 19, 2010 at 8:59

5 Answers 5


Distinctions should be made.

Questions about using bundled modification tools

  • "What does 'external height' field mean in the Darwinia map editor?"
  • "What's a good tutorial to start making Quake 3 maps?"

These questions definitely belong here, in my opinion. They are about using tools provided with the game itself, and are in no way related to game development or design.

Questions about editing game files

  • "How do I make a Dwarf Fortress skin?"
  • "How do I customize the Allegiance hud?"

These questions usually belong here, in my opinion. Even when not facilitated by external graphical tools, they usually only involve changing data structures exposed by the game itself.

Questions about adding new features to a game

  • "How can I add cats to IVAN?"
  • "How do I make a new gun in UT3?"

These questions definitely do not belong here. Personally I would vote close, then still give a quick answer (or rather comment?) with pointers to where to ask instead.

You can add cats to IVAN -- but you must change the game's source code. This game is closed source, so you will need to ask the developers on the game forums.


You can add the tickling gun to UT3 -- but you must change the game's source code. I do not have the expertise to tell you where to change what how, but the guys at Game Development sure can. Why not ask there?

  • I disagree. Even a map editor is game development, and should be kept there. Most gamers don't know anything about map development. Besides, there is a dedicated site for it, why not send them there? (I know it's in private beta now, but it won't be for long)
    – user56
    Commented Jul 17, 2010 at 18:55
  • @Arda Do not assume that any site that is not already live will exist. We can decide that something is off-topic for us, but we cannot rely on there being a destination for it if it is not yet confirmed to exist (and therefore, we cannot use it as a reason to mark things as off-topic).
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 17, 2010 at 19:47
  • Gamedev is live, only private, unless sites can be pulled before going to public?
    – user56
    Commented Jul 17, 2010 at 20:45
  • @Arda It's not live, it's in a Beta. They can pull the plug if the activity on their site isn't sufficient, just like with us. We can direct people over there to ask questions right now, but we can't cite it as a reason to mark a question as off-topic. Work off of our scope, not the scope of other places.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 12:19
  • I still wouldn't see game development as a gaming scope unless it applies to all players of the game, like LBP. While GameDev lives, redirect them there. If it doesn't pull through, we can always change our policy.
    – user56
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 13:16
  • 1
    @Arda I don't disagree with game design being out of our scope. I'm just establishing that we don't construct our scope based on other sites, we construct it based on our own desire. I think that regardless of whether the GameDev site lives, we shouldn't field game design questions.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 15:26
  • Nevermind map making isn't automatically game design. Game design is "how can I make this level more interesting?" or "how to make the game just the right difficulty?", not "how to add a mirror in a Prey map?".
    – badp
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 15:47
  • @Grace while I agree in principle we shouldn't be concerned with the existence of other SE sites, in reality it is worth considering. Would this question belong better on site X definitely clears up a lot of the grey area. That said, regardless of the existence of GameDev site, we shouldn't field game design questions.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 17:36
  • 1
    @tzenes Once the site exists, then we have a strong argument for making it off-topic. But I reiterate, it isn't actually live yet. If we put our coins on the Game Dev site surviving (which I'd like it to, I did follow it), and it ends up falling flat, then we stand to gain more heat in the likes of "You didn't allow game design because of the Game Dev site but it didn't make it, so now it should be allowed!". Which is why our scope is best designed without considering possibilities.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 17:43
  • @Grace I think we can always redefine our policies to include Game Dev topics, but I don't think the reverse is true. If we include Game Dev now, I think we will fracture that community and prematurely terminate Game Dev (ie. keeping it from getting critical mass). It would be nice to operate in a bubble and consider only our community, but I think we have to consider the repercussions on other SE.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 20:32
  • @tzenes Once again, I appear to be miscommunicating - I am not advocating keeping game design here. I don't think it belongs on our scope. I don't think that even if the Game Dev site falls, that we should field game design.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 20:39
  • @Grace As I mentioned earlier I agree that regardless of the existence of a GameDev site, those questions do not belong here. I just think that in response to these kinds of questions we have to consider how our actions affect other SE.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 1:34

Think about what the purpose of building a map is in the game. There's two reasons it is done - as a required part of game play to get the full experience (what I'm guessing that Little Big Planet falls under), or as an accessory that creates a new experience. The latter is the only one that really needs to be in dispute.

If anything, a map editor is one of the best ways to get into basic game design matters. Yes, it's not the same scale as developing a completely new game. But what it does is introduce the matter of design-work for creating new content in a game. This new content not derived from normal play of the game, but to upgrade the current game play. Which is not really different whether the game provides standard tools for the task or not. Asking how certain elements in a map editor works or how to setup events in a map editor, is really not different than asking how certain elements in game development software work or how to setup events in game development software. The content and nature of "How can I set a trigger when someone moves a Marine into the lower right corner in StarCraft map editor" is no different than "How can I set a trigger when someone moves the player character into the lower right corner of the map in RPG Maker XP". It is not very easy to justify the former without justifying the latter - there aren't any sensible grounds.

We can field questions that result from people playing with new content - playing with user-created maps and mods. But we're not intended as a resource for creating this content. Allowing map editors really just opens the gates for all manner of game design - because there really is minimal difference in the principles behind them.


I vote that these kind of questions should not belong here.

The line between map-making and mod-making is anyway blurred for many games, and I think the questions map-makers are likely to ask are probably much closer in spirit to other questions on the game-dev site.

However, if an integral part of a game is to make customized content, and making that content is also sort of internal to the game and not a different aspect of it - for example, if you can get "high scores" for map-making - then it might be relevant after all.

  • Perhaps Game Dev wants them?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Jul 17, 2010 at 10:00
  • Why not ask there?
    – badp
    Commented Jul 17, 2010 at 13:18
  • 4
    For games like Little Big Planet and ModNation Racers, creating maps/mods is a main part of the game and encouraged as part of the gameplay experience. I think those questions are acceptable in that case, as with those games, you don't need to be an expert developer to create things, as the tools have been purposely made accessible to the community as a whole.
    – FAE
    Commented Jul 17, 2010 at 22:30
  • 3
    Exactly. That's different from like Source mapping (TF2, L4D etc) since that actually requires certain expertise.
    – user56
    Commented Jul 17, 2010 at 22:48
  • The kind of expertise you need an expert Q&A site for?
    – badp
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 15:48
  • A game dev QA site, yes.
    – user56
    Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 16:55

Since voting on the GameDev-question indicates these questions are welcome there (and assuming it'll succeed through beta) we can redirect (and later hopefully just migrate) mapping and modding questions over to GameDev.


I addressed both modding and map editing in the mod-development question, so I thought I would add a link for a cross-reference:

Do mod-development questions belong here?

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