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I've been mulling this over for a bit, trying to attach the various bits and pieces.

One of our blanket bans is that we don't allow questions asking about why game mechanics or other bits were designed the way they were. I don't need to hash out why we don't allow them, as it's a rather well-discussed topic.

I've noticed that there seems to be a disconnect between asking about design choices, and whether developers have said anything about their design choices.

This one comes to mind. It was closed yesterday, and just as quickly re-opened, and used the answer as justification that it's a valid question. Never mind that questions have to stand on their own.

This OpenTTD one got closed, and so far, has stayed closed. It has no answer, however, so it's harder to challenge the validity.


Is there an actual difference between "Why did the developers design it that way?" and "Have the developers said why they designed it that way?"

  • 3
    The first one was likely reopened because portal – GnomeSlice Jul 10 '13 at 17:35
  • I regret that I have but one close vote to give to that question. – user9983 Jul 10 '13 at 17:45
  • That first question seems like it could be edited to avoid being a question about developer intent. – Sconibulus Jul 10 '13 at 17:59
  • @Sconibulus Your edit doesn't change the intent of the question. It's still, "Is this addressed anywhere?" – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 18:07
  • Now I'm sad there is no gamedesign.stackexchange site. – Ids Jul 10 '13 at 18:53
  • @ids gamedev.stackexchange.com does answer real design questions. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 14 '13 at 0:29
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz I thought it was more about implementation, and less about design. – Ids Jul 15 '13 at 16:13
  • @ids mostly, but there are on topic design questions there. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 15 '13 at 16:31
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Question:

What's the difference between "How can I beat Boss X?" and "Can I beat Boss X with method Y?"

Answer:

There isn't one. They're the same question, you've just taken the answer from the first question and converted it into it's own question. If both of these questions were asked we'd close the second question as a duplicate of the first.

How does the above example differ from "Why did they developers do it that way?" and "Have the developers said anything about X?"? Answer: It doesn't. Asking if the developers have said anything about X is just taking the answer from "Why did the developers do it that way?" and turning it into a question. In other words you're just playing jeopardy.

The reason "Why did they design it that way?" is off-topic is because it can only be answered by the developers, either directly or indirectly. If a developer hasn't answered the question in the past then the only way the question can be answered is if they happen to be browsing Arqade and see the question. If they have answered the question in a past interview then the question could be answered by linking to said answer, but it's still being answered by the developers, and is therefore still only answerable by the developers. If that interview never existed the question would have been impossible to answer. The interview existing doesn't suddenly mean anyone playing the game can answer the question, the can only answer it by quoting what the developers have said. Contrast this to the question "How can I beat Boss X?". I don't need to depend on a third party to answer the question, I can answer it myself by playing the game. The same isn't true for "Why did they design it that way?", where I can only answer it if the developers have said something. I'm completely dependent on the developers having answered the question.

All of these above reasons apply to "Have they developers said anything about X?". I can only answer this question if the developers have already made a statement about it one way or the other. I can't answer this question by playing the game. I'm 100% dependent on the developers to have already answered the question for me.

Take the following hypothetical example of Why is GLaDOS white?, and assume the answer is "The developers thought it looked fancy", and compare it to Did the developers make GLaDOS white because they thought it looked fancy?. All you've done is take the answer from the first question and converted it into it's own question. It's still only answerable by the developers. If the Portal 2 developers haven't stated why they made GLaDOS white then no one can answer either question, because unless you find a source from the developers saying "We haven't made any official comment on why we made GLaDOS white" you can't answer the question. In other words, only the developers can answer the question. If they have stated why they made GLaDOS white, then it's still only answerable by the developers.

Taking this example a bit further, let's instead compare Why is GLaDOS white? and Have the developers stated why they made GLaDOS white?. This is just asking "Is the first question answerable?", which is not an acceptable question for Arqade, because it's a meta topic. We would reword it into Why is GLaDOS white? and then close it. It's similiar to how we would reword Has anyone posted a video detailing how to beat Boss X? into How can I beat Boss X? and keep it open. In both cases the asker is really asking one thing, but just wording it in a different manner. After all, if a user asked Has anyone posted a video detailing how to beat Boss X? and someone just replied with "Yes", with a link to the video, would they just accept the answer without looking at the video? Of course not, that's completely ridiculous. They'd view the video since what they really want to know is how to beat Boss X. The same applies with Have the developers stated why they made GLaDOS white?. If a user asked this question and someone replied with "Yes" with a source detailing what they said they wouldn't just accept the answer without looking at why the developers made GLaDOS white, because what they really want to know is why the develoeprs made GLaDOS white. They've just worded their question in a way to make it look like they're asking something which is on-topic, when it really is not.

Conclusion

The two types of questions, Why did the developers do X? and Have the developers stated why they did X? are exactly the same question, just worded differently. Both wordings of the question suffer from the exact same problem, in that they are 100% dependent on an answer from the developer to be answerable.


I'd like to also address one of the example questions @fbueckert listed in his question:

https://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/111914/where-is-the-developers-rationale-about-the-copy-paste-feature-in-openttd

This quesiton was originally Why isn't there a copy/paste feature? and was closed. It was then edited to Where is the developers' rationale about the copy/paste feature in OpenTTD? and re-opened, before eventually being closed again. This is a perfect example of the scenario I detailed above. The user just reworded their question to make it sound like they were asking something else, but in reality they they are still asking the exact same question. He's still asking "Why did the do it that way?", he's just now asking "Where did they say why they did it that way?". It's the same question, and closing one version by opening the other is just non-sense.

You're just voting based on whether or not a question hits those specific keywords, which is ridiculous. We don't judge questions based on whether or not they hit those few magical keywords, we base it on what the person is asking. Punishing users for not hitting the few magical keywords is nothing short of completely ridiculous and is not how the Stack Exchange network is supposed to be run. It's the exact opposite of how it's supposed to be run.

  • I was originally only planing for this to be a few sentences long, but it got a bit away from. Hopefully I still got my point across. – Wipqozn Jul 12 '13 at 16:05
  • Another example would "Recommend me games similiar to Portal" versus "Has anyone on Reddit made recommendations on games I'd like if I also liked portal?". They are the same question, just worded differently. – Wipqozn Jul 12 '13 at 16:13
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    One question invites speculation. The other does not. That's where the (only) difference lies. – Sterno Jul 12 '13 at 16:30
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    Most of these examples are not questions that people would actually ask. We don't have to make policy to prevent questions people don't ask in the first place. – SevenSidedDie Jul 12 '13 at 16:58
  • Second, our real example questions do not "really want to know" what the developers were thinking. They "really want to know" where this lost documentation of dev statements can be found again. By your own logic, they are not identical questions with different words, they're actually different questions. – SevenSidedDie Jul 12 '13 at 17:00
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    @SevenSidedDie You must be reading something different than me, then, because I don't see that at all. "Really want to know where the documentation is at" can literally be boiled down to, "Really want to know what the developer motivation is", because there's no other reason to ask that. – Frank Jul 12 '13 at 17:30
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    @fbueckert The fact that A implies B does not mean that B implies A. Just because Documentation implies Developer's motivation does not mean Developer's motivation implies Documentation. Motivation invites speculation and opinion while documentation implies evidence. – Batophobia Jul 12 '13 at 17:49
  • @DavidStarkey For what other reason are you looking for documentation? There is literally no other reason to search for that documentation. You're trying to find out why a game was designed in a specific manner. It matters not whether it has been answered or not. You're still conflating an answerable question as an acceptable one, which is a disconnect you need to resolve. Hitting specific keywords in your question does not automatically mean your question is on- or off-topic. The base problem inherent in the question is. – Frank Jul 12 '13 at 17:56
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    @DavidStarkey Speculation is not the primary reason "Why did they design it that way?" questions are not allowed. Like I said in my answer, the primary reason is that they can only be answered by the developers and no one else. – Wipqozn Jul 12 '13 at 17:56
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    @wipqozn What you're saying is "Speculation Qs are banned. Some Qs about dev intent require speculation. Therefore all Qs about dev intent are banned, even when no speculation is required." Do you see the problem? – SevenSidedDie Jul 12 '13 at 18:44
  • @fbueckert It has nothing to do with keywords. It has everything to do with intent. Regardless of how a question is worded, if you ask a question that invites speculation and opinion then it is a bad question. Again going back to the help page subjective questions are expected to be constructive, meaning they: inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”, tend to have long, not short, answers, have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone, invite sharing experiences over opinions, insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references – Batophobia Jul 12 '13 at 18:49
  • @DavidStarkey And the intent is to learn the motivation behind the developer's actions. Thanks for agreeing with me. – Frank Jul 12 '13 at 18:51
  • @SevenSidedDie See this comment – Wipqozn Jul 12 '13 at 18:54
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    @Wipqozn Developers may be the only ones that can answer, but if they mention it in an interview or some type of bonus content then the information is available to be answered. Besides, according to fbueckert answers cannot speak for the question. – Batophobia Jul 12 '13 at 19:02
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    @DavidStarkey Dude. This is where site policy gets decided, and enforced by the community. So, yes, it can be said that Meta is site policy. – Frank Jul 12 '13 at 22:10
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The difference is that Why did the developers design it that way is able to be interpreted as subjective while Have the developers said why they designed it that way is a simple Yes/No question.

The first option is likely to be agreed as a bad question, so I will ignore it for now.

The second clearly has an answer. This answer can be definitively answered. The only problem is, if the answer is "No" how do we PROVE it?

I suggest we limit these questions even further to narrow down the vast expanse that is the internet. For an answer to be accepted, it must not only have a source, but a valid source that gamers will accept as trustworthy.

Due to that, we can narrow down "Have the developers said" to the developer's website and major news sites interviewing the developer. If it does not exist there, it is either common knowledge or not reliably known. This brings up a secondary issue:

While in the present the answer may be no, the developer may have an interview at a later time in which the reasoning is explained. This is an issue that plagues all of our answers, though. Games are updated all the time and things change. Just look at the Minecraft Update 1.6. I'm sure many of our answers have been messed up there, but this is a debate for a separate meta.

EDIT

It has been raised that the question needs to stand alone, so I will refrain from mentioning answers since answering the question is apparently not part of the issue here.

The questions have already been shown as different, so why should Have the developers said type questions be allowed. For one, if someone is asking the question, then they are looking for an answer. Whether this question comes from an issue they are facing or pure curiosity is not relevant, although issues tend to be more accepted than curiosity.

Also, these questions (which are still restricted by the other criteria) are about games, so this would be the appropriate SE for them, should it be decided to allow them.

As far as why these questions should be allowed, I ask "Why not?" It seems the purpose of this site is questions and answers, so why should we be limiting the questions you can ask?

Here are the reasons I've heard for not allowing these questions:

  1. They are difficult to answer

    I disagree. Yes/No questions are fairly simple to answer. We do these types of questions all the time. The only difference is that instead of looking at the game's wiki or a forum, answers will have to come from the developers (either game bonus content, developer website, or interview). I'd also like to point out that the help page states:

    The answer to your question may not always be the one you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. A conclusive answer isn’t always possible. When in doubt, ask people to cite their sources, or to explain how/where they learned something. Even if we don’t agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember: we’re just trying to help.

  2. They invite speculation and opinions

    This is a problem with the answers more than the question. If I ask a question about the ending of a game that can also invite speculation, but we accept many of those types of questions. As far as the question goes, Have the developers said makes the speculation disappear. If I use that, I have specifically stated in the question that I am not interested in opinion, I want to know about what the developer has said, if anything.

  3. It's hard to prove an answer of "No"

    If I can state that the developer's website (or game's website), major news outlets, and the game itself do not mention why, then that is sufficient proof. If a source is found other than those, it is likely unreliable and would fall under speculation.

  4. It's not about playing games.

    These questions are often times about some of the core concepts in the games we play. The Portal example mentioned is even answered in developer commentary inside the game (if I remember correctly). For example, if I asked "Has Bungie ever mentioned why they made Halo an FPS?` it is most definitely about the game. It may be partially about the game development, but it is mostly about the game.

  5. There is no problem to be solved

    Sometimes questions are asked out of curiosity rather then problems. For example, if I ask What changes in TF2 when using Pyrovision Goggles?, there is no issue to be solved. I am simply curious as to what happens. The same thing can happen on other SE sites.

Edit 2

Additionally, some of these "Did the developers say..." questions could really just be about special content. For example, if you pre-order the super-mega-ultra-delux version by spending $1,376,845.73 (USD) on Kickstarter, then you get the game, every piece of concept art for it, all the notes and documents relating to the game, a trip to the International Space Station with the developers, and a ticket good for one handshake with every world leader. I only got the base game, but I am curious about what the super-mega-ultra-delux version has in it and if it explains anything that didn't make it into the game. Perhaps even if the developers had a reason for it not making the final cut.

In this example, I am asking about content that is not in the game, but is available to those that have a special edition of the game. Say I found a Minecraft concept art online of a female character and wonder if the developers ever mentioned why they did not include female models in the game. The answer could very well be No, that is just a concept art piece that never made it to the final product. As of the present time, Notch has never stated why it was not included, nor has anyone at Mojang. If you want to add genders, here is a link to a mod: *link*. Of course the answer could also be, Notch has mentioned why Minecraft was built without gender. You can read his statement [here](http://notch.tumblr.com/post/28188312756/gender-in-minecraft).

Both answers are equally valid. The question is valid, despite not being about a real issue in the game. I'm sure it is even interesting to more then just the OP. Another Minecraft related example of this would be all the Herobrine questions.

Alternatively, you can get bad questions like Has Notch ever said why there are cows in Minecraft. We also get poorly worded questions in (other places)[Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Basic PC needs that are under accepted criteria for questions.

These types of questions can be acceptable and even interesting and highly voted. Just because many of them are bad does not mean we should have a blatant ban on any question that is not related to an actual problem. As @SevenSidedDie said in the comments below:

bad questions are downvoted, not closed, and close votes are not superdownvotes.

Edit 3

As far as the intent of the question, that is going to ultimately be in the perspective of the OP. However, let's assume both types have the same intent. After all, asking either question usually desires an answer of the developer states.

However, the intent of a question can be hidden if the wording is bad. The latter asks, in a definitive manner, "What has the developer said, if anything". So yes, wording makes a huge difference.

Now for the alternative. Given that we should not expect every possible scenario to be listed here, I will do my best to offer 1 case in which the meaning behind the 2 different wordings is actually different. In other words, the 2 questions must be asking different things.

Assume the first question is Why didn't the developers implement an auto-save feature? The second question would then be Have the developers ever mentioned why they didn't implement an auto-save feature?

Say I posted the first question and my intent was to complain about something on the internet. I know this is hard to imagine, but just stick with me. In this scenario, there really is no question to be answered. The OP wanted a discussion or people to agree with them. According to the Arqade FAQ, these kinds of questions are not allowed, so if this truly is the intent then it should be closed.

Now, is it possible for the second wording of the question to give this same intent. In other words, if the question was edited into this new wording, would it still be asking the same thing. I would have to say no. If you are specifically asking Have the developers ever mentioned... then I think it required to be about the developer's reasoning. You are not allowing interpretation nor opinion. You are asking about something specific. I do not see how asking such a question with this wording could be about basic internet complaining.

Therefore, yes the wording makes a difference. Not just in a manner of there being different words, but the 2 questions are actually asking different things.

TL;DR Yes, there is a difference. Have the developers said removes the possibility of opinion. Question wants the DEVELOPER'S WORD and ONLY the developer's word.

  • 2
    A question has to be able to stand on it's own, without an answer to be valid. You propose allowing these types only if they're answerable. How do we determine if they're answerable? – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 17:47
  • You have failed to address the fact that there is no problem being solved. – user9983 Jul 10 '13 at 17:50
  • @fbueckert Most questions are answerable. If you want some blanket statement to distinguish answerable questions from non-answerable questions, I don't think one exists. Besides, isn't that kind of the point of moderators and voting? – Batophobia Jul 10 '13 at 17:51
  • @OrigamiRobot Separate issue. OP here is "What is the difference between X and Y". Whether or not the question involves a problem to be solved is irrelevant. – Batophobia Jul 10 '13 at 17:54
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    You're not addressing the issue. A question has to be valid, on it's own. It doesn't get a pass/fail if it's unanswerable or not. – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 17:55
  • @DavidStarkey The question is why is X being considered on-topic while Y is not? What is the functional difference? – user9983 Jul 10 '13 at 17:56
  • @fbueckert How are you going to determine any question, by itself, without looking at answers. The purpose of questions IS answers. If I ask "What does GLaDOS stand for", you judge that based on a number of criteria, including if it can be answered. The question is no different then "Has Valve ever stated why they called it GLaDOS". Both are questions, both can be answered. – Batophobia Jul 10 '13 at 18:00
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    @OrigamiRobot The Portal one talks about the Game, the OpenTTD one says "I found a broken link, where else can I find that information" – Batophobia Jul 10 '13 at 18:03
  • You're conflating being able to answer the question as the whole of the problem. It's not. There's more to the problem than that, and your proposed solution still doesn't address HOW we're supposed to determine if the question is answerable or not. – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 18:06
  • Objective questions can still be bad questions. ITG, for example, is objective. – Invader Skoodge Jul 10 '13 at 18:11
  • @StrixVaria The objective cases of ITG, i.e. those including screenshots of the game, are good. The subjective ones, i.e. those with a subjective description based on memory, or a user's own rendition of the art/sound may have been like, are closed. – Schism Jul 10 '13 at 18:12
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    @fbueckert We don't have to prove the answer is "no." If the answer happens to be no, but nobody knows/can prove it so, the question will remain unanswered. That's not great, but it's definitely the site operating by design. – SevenSidedDie Jul 11 '13 at 3:18
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    @fbueckert Here's an acceptable answer: No, the developers have not stated anything about this to any reliable source as of yet. You can then link to unreliable sources or offer developer commentary on similar issues if reasonably relevant. – Batophobia Jul 11 '13 at 4:02
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    @fbueckert That argument doesn't have legs: bad questions are downvoted, not closed, and close votes are not superdownvotes. – SevenSidedDie Jul 11 '13 at 5:01
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    @fbueckert "Only in the event the question type is allowed in the first place. These are not, even when the wording is altered slightly to make it an internet search instead of mind reading." Dev-intent are banned because they're asking for mind reading. If they didn't need mind-reading, they wouldn't have been banned. These questions don't need mind reading, so saying "they're the same" when they're different in exactly the measure that was pivotal for banning the first sort makes "same" not true. Yes, perhaps googling is not our job, but that's a different discussion. – SevenSidedDie Jul 12 '13 at 3:02
1

It's not possible for us to tell when a question of this sort is unanswerable, without being psychic. "Unanswerability" is a worthless metric for policy. If the motive for closing developer-intent questions is to avoid needing to be psychic, we can't have the policy require us to be psychic to determine unanswerability.

That's why SE encourages trusting in the long tail to either answer questions or make them effectively disappear.

It’s fine — expected, even — for there to be a “long tail” of questions that are too obscure, too narrow, or just plain unanswerable for whatever reason.

Emphasis mine. It's expected that we'll have such questions. We have no reason to say that unanswerable questions should be off topic merely for the Shroedinger's sin of being unanswerable. A question needs to fail some other topicality test.

Why does SE expect this? Because we can't actually know just by looking at a question that it's unanswerable, so we let The Future take care of that problem for us. (That's what's happening with the OpenTTD question, and again, I believe that's SE working by design.)

When we can't know whether a question is in fact unanswerable, we can't judge that it's should be closed because it will never be answered. What we should do, in fact, is let the software do the job it was designed to do, and leave the question open. Let it rot, or let it be the source of a Necromancer badge, whichever fits the truth about its answerability. Either way, we save effort, confusion, contention, and eliminate yet another way we might appear unwelcoming to new users for no actual system benefit.

There may well be other good reasons for closing "did the devs say" type questions! I don't dispute that. But "unanswerable" is a criteria that we are fundamentally unable to use. And if the practical impossibility of using it as a metric is not convincing enough, then perhaps that using it is simply contrary to the site's design may be convincing enough.

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    The issue is that this is a particular flavor of 'unanswerable' questions that tends to invite bad answers, rants, and speculation. We've seen this happen many times over the years, and I don't see any reason to expect the behavior to change. Given that, I don't see the marginal benefit in inviting the increased cleanup activity that comes from trying to figure out which is which. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 11 '13 at 11:03
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz Please don't conflate different kinds of questions. Developer intent questions: yes, absolutely agreed, and I'm glad they're banned. Asking where X-information-about-a-game exists on the internet? That has nowhere been established to invite bad answers, rants, and speculation. Why should it matter whether it exists on the Internet because it issued from a developer's mouth or from (e.g.) inspection of game code? Is there a special "developer taint" on that information now that means we must pretend it doesn't exist objectively? – SevenSidedDie Jul 13 '13 at 22:18
  • Allow me to clarify; the fact that, somewhere out there, a given question has an answer is just as poor a metric for acceptability as the idea that nowhere out there does such a thing exist. To wit; simply rephrasing an "ask the devs" question to be "have the devs ever talked about..." Doesn't fundamentally improve bad questions. (Cont...) – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 14 '13 at 0:10
  • (C) It's just the magic words fallacy all over again - rewriting a question so that it includes - or excludes - some kind of magic SE keyword that isn't explained anywhere but an old meta post doesn't improve that question, or the quality of content generated in its answers. We don't want ask the devs questions because they are often poorly disguised rants, often attract bad answers, are rarely of any practical use, and don't overlap all that much with what we as a community have defined as our core expertise. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 14 '13 at 0:11
  • Put another way; just because a question can have a good answer, doesn't mean that it cannot attract bad answers. Some types of questions do this more than others, and we deal with different types of questions that are magnets for bad content in differing ways, in accordance with our priorities as a community. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 14 '13 at 0:17
  • league-of-legends attracts nightmarishly bad content, but we, as a community have decided that to not allow these questions wouldn't be appropriate, given our scope. Game-rec and ITG offered similar content issues, and we came to the conclusion that in those cases, the pearls weren't worth the sand. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 14 '13 at 0:17
  • You're welcome to argue that the pearls of game design questions are worth the sand, but simply stammering about how it's possible for there to be pearls is not convincing; nor, under any circumstance, will I find a 'magic words' argument to be of any worth. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 14 '13 at 0:18
  • ... I should've just written an answer. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 14 '13 at 0:18
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz Do we actually have a problem with people rewriting bad, ask-the-dev questions into magic-word acceptable forms? That's not what the OP is asserting, to my awareness. I believe the argument is that since "where is it said" questions could be rewritten as ask-the-dev questions, they are the same in intent if not form, therefore they are banned by prior precedent. I'm arguing that no, they're not the same, the intent is not the same, and we don't actually have a practical problem that needs to be solved here. – SevenSidedDie Jul 14 '13 at 3:27
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz Should I have specified "dishonestly" rewriting? That is an example of actual lost documentation of a design decision. It was rewritten to be a more accurate reflection of what they're seeking (location of resource) so that it didn't mistakenly seem like asking for mind-reading. Do we actually have a problem with people disguising actual-mind-reading questions by draping them in wink-wink "did they say anywhere" language? – SevenSidedDie Jul 17 '13 at 18:33
0

I will first note that I'm a relatively new user, so I had to read a few meta posts to catch up on discussion. In addition I don't frequent chat as often as I should, so there's that. :P

From this meta post (Game canon questions which extend beyond the context of the story and its material):

We allow plot questions because we have canon to address it. We don't accept extracanonical questions because we have no material to use.

If something is mentioned in the game, it is by definition canon. If something is mentioned by the developer, then it is also canon, even if it's from an external source, like an interview or a blog post (or a commentary node). By previously established consensus, canonical questions are allowed.

From this meta post (“Why did They design it that way, anyway?”, and why do we allow or disallow these?), I gather that the general consensus can be summarised by this:

The other problem I see: They're not real questions. Beyond the facet that many aren't answerable, they contradict this guideline from the FAQ:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

Arguably, lore questions in general are not based on actual problems. They also tend to be "why" questions. They're allowed on the basis that they can be answered without discussion. A question asking about developer intent that can be answered because the developers themselves have given an explanation can most certainly be answered without discussion; there really is only one answer.

Furthermore, guidelines are not equivalent to rules. "Should" does not mean "must." Guidelines exist to aid in determining whether a question is a good one or not, but they are not the be-all and end-all.

Typically, questions about developer intent are closed because without a canonical source, they are unanswerable. There can only be speculation. In this case, it makes sense to close the question -- there's no point in leaving it open to answers if there are no answers that are not purely speculative. However, where there is a canonical source, the question is answerable and should remain open.


I suppose up to this point, I have avoided the question at hand: that is, whether there is a difference between asking why, and asking if a developer has said why. I'm going to say no, there is no real difference between the two kinds of questions.

Is that really the point of the post though? The post invites discussion about whether or not questions should be closed if they're about developer intent. But why do we close these questions? Not simply because they fall under this category. There are no such umbrella categories where we always close every question (with the exception of piracy-related questions) -- even ITG questions are allowable if they can be answered because they have screenshots. I put forward that questions about developer intent should remain open if they have clear, canonical answers, and closed if they do not and can only be speculated upon.

tl;dr Developer intent should be treated like lore and plot questions. Questions that are unanswerable should be closed, whereas questions that have been directly addressed by the developer, the game, or other canonical sources should remain open.

  • How do we determine if a question has or has not been answered by the developers? Are off the cuff statements allowed? Is an obscure blog buried in the bowels of the internet allowed? It also requires an answer in order to determine if the question should be allowed or not. – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 20:54
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    The standard of "can this question be answered" to determine a questions cromulence is... suspect at best. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 10 '13 at 22:34
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My understanding of not allowing design reasoning questions is that we are unable to provide definitive or authoritative answers to those types of questions. The only ones who can are the developers themselves, and any answer provided not coming from official sources would be speculation at best.

Questions that are worded as "Has it been explained why this is so?" is just routing around the off-topic ban. They suffer from the exact same problems as design questions:

  • They will attract speculation and rumors, without sources.
  • It's incredibly hard to prove that it has not been addressed. The best you can do is say that you, personally, are unable to find the reasoning. Unless you have an AI that can troll the entire Internet, anyways, in which case, I want to talk to you.
  • It doesn't play to our expertise, which is playing games. It leverages Google-fu, which is itself a fantastic ability, but is not our core skill.
  • There's still no problem being solved. At best, this is a rant. In the event that there's a problem within the question that CAN be solved, we should be editing the question to remove the design aspects, and bring the real problem to light.

These problems are not addressed by re-wording the question into an "acceptable" format. My vote is to close them with the same criteria as design questions, because that's exactly what they are.

Look at the revision history on the example question. It was closed as a design developer type question, and the edit literally words around that to get it re-opened. We're taking it at face value that what he says exists actually DOES exist. The motivation for finding that information is to learn the developer intent, I think everyone can agree. Apparently this re-wording was acceptable, as the motivation was abstracted enough to hide it, and finding things on the internet can't be equated to reading developer's minds.

We try to boil questions down to their basic essence in order to help users, and try to re-word them to bring those problems to the forefront for solving. This loophole is no different; the problem is he's looking for developer intent, and can't find it.

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    +1 I agree 100%. There isn't any difference between the two, they're the exact same question, just worded slightly differently. – Wipqozn Jul 10 '13 at 17:35
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    "The only ones who can are the developers themselves, and any answer provided not coming from official sources would be speculation at best." The Portal 2 question has the answer within the game itself from the developer themselves as part of the developer commentary. None of the problems you're raising apply to it. – badp Jul 10 '13 at 18:07
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    @badp All questions have to stand, on their own, without an answer to support them. Unless you self-answer it, in which case, there's rather no problem being solved at all, is there? Without the answer, this is still a, "Why did the devs do X?" question. – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 18:08
  • @fbueckert So? The question exists to be answered. The question can be answered without creating any of the problems you cite. The question is fine. I'd really drop the part about "solving a problem" because plenty of questions the site does allow aren't about "solving a problem," like it or not. – badp Jul 10 '13 at 18:10
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    @badp All questions exist to be answered. That's the whole point of a question. That doesn't mean we WANT all questions, or can even answer all questions. In the event someone is complaining about a game being too difficult or something, I want actual problems brought to the fore, and not obscured by what seems like a rant. We can solve problems with games. We can't solve rants. – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 18:14
  • @fbueckert Tell me where the rant is, because I don't see it. (This is the original revision of the question.) Fact checking is very much configurable as "a practical problem" that can be answered objectively. – badp Jul 10 '13 at 18:23
  • @badp That question doesn't have a rant. It's trivia, which has no real bearing on playing or not playing. I'm addressing other design type questions, where the rant may be hiding an actual problem we can help with. – Frank Jul 10 '13 at 18:24
  • @badp What is the practical use of the information the question is asking for? – user9983 Jul 10 '13 at 18:25
  • @OrigamiRobot What is the practical use of knowing lore? – Schism Jul 10 '13 at 18:26
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    @OrigamiRobot That is a standard you've just made up out of thin air. We do not require practical use for questions. – badp Jul 10 '13 at 18:26
  • @Schism Understanding what's going on with the story can definitely have an effect on the way you play a game. – user9983 Jul 10 '13 at 18:27
  • @badp No practical use for the answer == Not a practical problem. – user9983 Jul 10 '13 at 18:27
  • @OrigamiRobot There is little difference between lore (i.e. the story and reasons the developer put something in the game) and developer intent where the developer has said something (i.e. the reason a developer put something in the game). – Schism Jul 10 '13 at 18:29
  • The Portal question stands on its own fine. We take plenty of questions where the user isn't quite sure if what they're asking for exists and it has never raised an eyebrow, except for some reason when it's about development history. There's no difference between "I heard you can get such-and-so military unit, how can I get them?" and "I heard this thing happened during development & was documented, how can I learn more?" – SevenSidedDie Jul 11 '13 at 3:28
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    I'm under the impression that the argument is that questions about development should be OT because they're just mind-reading questions with different phrasing. If the argument is actually that they should be OT because they're outside our expertise, that is an entirely separate argument and conversation that shouldn't be conflated with this one. – SevenSidedDie Jul 11 '13 at 3:52

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