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Today I came across this question:

In Age of Empires 3, what is a good build order for the British?

While this topic has been discussed before with a seeming end result of "don't touch them", I'm not entirely convinced we shouldn't touch this question.

The question displays very little effort, and could easily apply to any civilization in the game, and the accepted answer seems a bit shallow, only stating one way to play the British, and even that could be called simply a list of British strengths.

If I were to ask a series of nearly identical questions pertaining to every other civ in AoE3, would those questions be acceptable? I rather doubt it, but I don't see what makes the British so special.

Should we do anything here?

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Quite frankly, I'm not sure what the problem would be with a question about every other civ in AoE3? Spamming bad questions to prove your point wouldn't be productive; after all, they'd be bad questions that don't reflect research effort or experience or an understanding of what concerns the question ought to address most likely, but that doesn't mean that we can't have lots of them. Don't focus on how many variants of a question might exist (different divs, or build types or whatever). Consider the fact that the answers would be so wildly different that they don't start from the same place.

What problem exactly, are you trying to solve here? What I see is a reasonably specific question with a number of answers with quite a bit of specific detail in their responses. Are those responses appreciably similar to the answers you'd get for a question about playing AoE3 as the French or the Spanish or the Cree or the Iroquois? I don't know. I don't know enough about AoE 3 to make that judgment.

I can certainly say though, that if you'd linked say... a question about a build order for playing as Protoss in SC2, and asked if we should broaden it to include Zerg and Terran, I'd laugh in your face. If you'd linked a question about playing Civ 5 as the French, I'd probably argue to broaden it.

What I'm getting at here is that my answer to the previous question holds. Categorical statements are a bad idea:

Now, Build questions in general are a bit thornier, but again, a blanket ban is not the appropriate solution. Yes, a lot of character build questions are really bad questions; cf. . This does not make questions about character builds inherently bad. The main thing is that the question needs to reflect some actual experience - a concrete problem faced by the player. "I want a build that is totally cool and sneaky and uses big swords and magic lasers and stuff" is not a good question. It's unfocused, vague, and doesn't really provide any useful information for answerers to provide a good answer. The thing that gets tricky here, is that the criteria that separates a good build question from a bad one is very often specific to the game in question. A good build question for is generally going to specify a class, any skills that are 'mandatory' to the asker and must be built around, and a desired play style (tanky, hardcore, low-gear dependency magic-find, whatever). A good build question for by contrast, can generally be a bit more vague, and will generally expect it's answers to be as much or more focused on play style as it is on skill selection. Good build questions for tend to be either extremely specific (and focus on whether certain specific skills or spells are useful or synergize as they appear to), or very general and focused more on the meta-strategy of how to pick skills, rather than on particular skill choices. Good build questions about an MMO like will tend to be fairly mathy and depend on optimal DPS/HPS/Threat/Effective Health numbers - however, even with these, there may be multiple answers as different builds will make different tradeoffs and a multiplicity of answers arguing for these many variations is a good thing.

Is this question a bad question? I don't know enough about AoE3 to say. Do you? If so, make the case that it's a bad question, and that it ought to be fixed by being made broader. At the moment, you haven't done so at all - and the number and diversity of answers speaks to the fact that it probably shouldn't be, unless being made broader doesn't appreciably change those answers. Keep the usual heuristic for whether a question is too broad. Yes, some people like to, and are able to, write novels in response to questions. But any answer to a question ought to be able to stand on it's own; questions which compel either an extensive, extremely long comprehensive answer, or a 'one-per-answer' situation often end up being problematic.

  • Basically what I was trying to say, but better. – MBraedley Feb 16 '14 at 2:11
  • I guess I wasn't clear enough in that I don't think it's a good question, as is. I think it's a "bad question that doesn't reflect research effort or experience or an understanding of what concerns the question ought to address" that could be used as a precedent when someone else stumbles across the site and wants to learn how to play the Spanish. The problem? I think it's a broken window. – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 22:52
  • Also, you seem to contradict yourself when you say "I'm not sure what the problem would be with a question about every other civ in AoE3?" and then promptly say they'd be bad questions. Am I missing something there? – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 22:54
  • @John I don't see what the problem is. If you'd like to demonstrate what it is, you're welcome to, but merely raising the specter of them appearing does not rise to the level of a problem in my mind. I'm not saying that this is a good question, but you haven't convinced me that making this one more broad fixes it. – LessPop_MoreFizz Feb 16 '14 at 23:17
  • The main question is "Should we do anything here?". "Make it more broad?" is what I suggest in an answer as a possibility that I'm not convinced is the best one, either. I know no one thinks obscure possibilities are gonna happen until they happen, but can't hurt to be prepare, no? – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 23:32
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As an outsider to the RTS genre, my fear is making this question overly broad. The reason that these games have different races/countries/etc. is because they all play differently, and by extension, should all have different build orders. Additionally, your build order is usually dependent on not only what your opponent is, but also what they're doing. Can you really capture everything to answer such a question beyond the first minute or so? What happens to the asker after that one minute basic build-up?

Aside from my admitted bias against these questions, I would much prefer to see questions about how to counter a race versus how to build one up. It feels to me like a much more concrete problem to solve, instead of asking the relatively useless question of "how do I build a generic army that's okay against everyone" or the incredibly broad question of "how do I build the best army against every enemy".

  • So you'd rather have 14 different "how do I counter <civ>" questions? What do you propose doing with the existing question? I doubt reworking it into a general question on countering would work . – John the Green Feb 15 '14 at 23:29
  • I'd rather have none, but that's not going to happen. For the existing question, I would just leave it as is. Some might think it's too narrow, but I much prefer that to being way too broad or only really allow answers that cover units and buildings common to every race (and by that, I mean same cost, same build time, same unit strength and weaknesses). And by doing that, you've suddenly narrowed the answers down to something completely useless, beyond perhaps the first minute of play. – MBraedley Feb 15 '14 at 23:35
  • You seem to be set on the question and answers including nothing not common to all races. I was thinking rather, there might be a separate answer for each race, or maybe sections within one answer. It doesn't have to be narrow. Broad isn't necessarily a bad thing. – John the Green Feb 15 '14 at 23:42
  • Really don't like separate answer per race. It effectively makes voting meaningless. Separate sections within an answer is problematic, because it makes the answers really long. We don't like that all that much. If an answerer is forced to provide such a long answer, it's an indication that the question is too broad. – MBraedley Feb 15 '14 at 23:45
  • Can I have some sources for "long answer == too broad"? I agree about the voting, didn't think of that. I don't see a problem with long answers, though. – John the Green Feb 15 '14 at 23:46
  • That's not what I said. Don't put words in my mouth. With that said, this is my guide in this instance. There was another answer that I can't seem to find at the moment as well that says pretty much the same thing. So, are you willing to write what amounts to a whole blog post that provides guidance for every race? No? Didn't think so. Too broad. – MBraedley Feb 16 '14 at 0:05
  • Okay, since apparently you didn't say that long answers mean it's too broad, how about a source for "we don't like long answers"? Did you say that? Also, now you're putting words in my mouth. Did I say I wouldn't write an answer? Did I say I would? I might not write a blog post, but some people (cont.) – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 0:32
  • clearly have no problem doing – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 0:33
  • just that (links are long) – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 0:33
  • Where did I say long answers are bad? Tell me, so I can fix it. I don't have a problem with people providing long answers. The fact that someone does provide a long answer doesn't make a question too broad either. My problem is when people are essentially forced to provide a comprehensive (i.e. long) answer, or not answer at all. This, IMHO, is what you're proposing. – MBraedley Feb 16 '14 at 0:40
  • "it makes the answers really long. We don't like that all that much" sounds a lot to me like "long answers are bad". It also sounds like you're saying that every good question should be able to be answered with a short answer. Is that the case? – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 22:46
  • It feels like you're treating everything I'm saying as black and white. Long answers, in and of themselves, aren't bad. Long answers that are only readable if they're broken up into multi paragraph sections are less than desirable. Don't like != bad. Knowingly forcing someone to provide a long answer, however is not a good idea. In that instance, you should really be breaking up the question to allow manageable length answers. – MBraedley Feb 16 '14 at 22:58
  • IMHO, a good question will be completely answerable in 2-3 paragraphs. If answers are going to be shorter than that, the question is probably either low quality, or has a simple, but non-obvious answer. Longer could mean a question that is more complicated than it needs to be. – MBraedley Feb 16 '14 at 23:07
  • let us continue this discussion in chat – John the Green Feb 16 '14 at 23:14
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I am in favor of rewording the question. It's a very bare question to begin with, so I think could be easily morphed into a question asking for builds for each civilization, and general builds.

I don't think the question is bad enough to be removed, but I think it's somewhat low quality, in its current state.

  • Do you expect the answers the revised question will get to be sufficiently good to merit the grandfathered status? – badp Feb 15 '14 at 22:27
  • @badp Honestly, no, no I don't. But fixing questions is step one. I'll leave the answers to more qualified people. Not like the existing answers are that great to begin with. – John the Green Feb 15 '14 at 22:40

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