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Game X Timeline

Meet Game X. It's an online game. A rather popular online game, in fact. That doesn't really matter, though. Whenever the game has to be maintained, this happens:

Game X with downtime

This is the natural course of online games. It goes down, so that something can be done to it. Nothing wrong with that. We can't play it during the downtime, but questions can still be asked about it, because we have played the game, and remember how it works. It's a reasonable assumption that mechanics will stay the same.

As time goes on, Game X continues to be played. The developers have announced a content update for the game! Celebration ensues! More stuff to do! More things to kill! They haven't given us a release date for this content, but given us a sneak peek at what they plan to add. Our "chart" now looks like this:

Game X with unreleased content update

(Yes, I'm using Excel. Sue me.)

At this point, questions regarding the Content Update would be off-topic here. We have nothing to play, nothing to go on, except what the developers tell us. Anything about the base Game X would sill be something we'd help with, though.

A bit more time passes, and the developers announce a beta! More celebrations, yadda yadda. They will keep the regular game going, and the Content Update becomes a separate instance:

Content Update beta

Notwithstanding NDAs or other legalese, we would allow questions about both instances. Both Game X, and Content Update. Since both can be played, there is no speculation going on here.

Alas, the beta has now ended, and much dismay was had. But rejoice! We now have a release date for the Content Update! It's not quite ready yet, but it will be soon.

Content Update releases soon

At this point, we'd still continue to accept questions about Game X. Questions about Content Update, though, become somewhat sticky. We had a body of work to reference. With Content Update, there's the implication that changes will be made in between the time the beta ends, and when it will be released. If there wasn't, there would be no need not to release as soon as the beta concludes. What those changes are, nobody knows. Our only sources at this point are the developers yet again. We can no longer verify the accuracy of what Content Update contains.


This is the dilemma we are currently facing with Reaper of Souls, the Diablo 3 expansion.

This isn't a scenario we've really run into before; betas usually run right up to the release date, and the amount of downtime between beta end and release is usually small enough to render the chances of asking speculative questions rather small. Trust Blizzard to give us a completely new scenario.

I think there's merit in deciding how we want to handle this.

Game X Content Update Beta End, Questions about Content Update

How do we handle questions about currently unplayable content that we used to be able to play? Unreleased content that carries the implication of change between what we could play, but no longer can.

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    I can't imagine the end product changing that much between the beta and release, myself. Sure they're definitely making adjustments, but I can't imagine they would bother to have a beta if they were going to change everything anyway. It's a bit awkward to answer a question of this nature either way now, since we are in that weird territory, but I don't think askers should have to make such a small semantics change as specifying that they are asking about the beta for it to magically be okay. – Unionhawk Mar 24 '14 at 2:28
  • I like my title, thanks. It's too much of a mouthful to put the entire question into the title. – Frank Mar 24 '14 at 2:28
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    I really think this would benefit from a more descriptive title. – GnomeSlice Mar 24 '14 at 2:51
  • How about that, @GnomeSlice, Frank? – Raven Dreamer Mar 24 '14 at 15:30
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Leave them open

There is a fundamental problem with closing these questions just because it currently isn't playable: We can ask questions before, and after the downtime, but not during it. We see the same problem with our existing "unreleased content" policy already: People will complain if it's even just an hour within release.
What if the downtime only takes half a day? Can we also not ask questions during that downtime? At what point do we ban questions because the downtime is too long? When does the ban start? The very moment it's no longer playable? Maybe even half an hour before because, hey, it's impossible to verify answers in half an hour! This is nonsense.

We have information to go on to answer these questions - information from the beta. Whether or not that information is going to be accurate when the content releases is irrelevant. We need to maintain and update our answers anyway, regardless of how the changes are deployed.

Trying to enforce a temporary ban is seriously overcomplicating things. The content was released, the info was available, and the question might as well stick around until the actual release drops. Anything else is just paranoid fear of potential changes that might invalidate answers. If the answer doesn't draw from actual data from the beta, it's speculation either way - and we vote accordingly. There's no need for special rules here.

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    I'll also point out that often (not always, but sometimes), the betas that happen immediately prior to release are for stress testing the servers or infrastructure, and not for content. In that case, what they might change serverside is irrelevant, since the majority (if not all) of the game assets are already locked in. – Raven Dreamer Mar 24 '14 at 15:32
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    I'm always surprised by how often we make judgement based on having immediate answers. Who cares if a question sits unanswered for a few days, weeks, or months. When the content is there, then we can come back to it. Until then, it's not like we are going to fill up the Stack Exchange servers with too many questions. – Batophobia Mar 25 '14 at 22:15
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Close questions about Content Update, allow questions about the Beta

As I've said before, information from the beta of a game isn't really all that more reliable than, say, a promise from Molyneux about what's going to be in one of his games; the actual content can change before Content Update is released. In fact, the very fact that there was a beta suggests that the developers are open to changing it; they may elect to delay the release in favor of another beta with wide-sweeping changes based on the first beta.

If we allow questions about a not-yet-released update based on a beta thereof, then why not allow questions about a not-yet-released game based on pre-release marketing, E3 demos, trailers, etc.? No, that's not rhetorical; I'd like to see an answer from the people in favor of leaving such questions open, because ultimately, neither one is a very good indicator of the future.

In short, the question "How do we handle questions about currently unplayable content that we used to be able to play?" is misleading; we never used to be able to play the content, or at least, we don't know for a fact that what we played is what we're going to play when it hits, because the actual update is Unreleased.

I guess what I'm really arguing for, is that we treat Content Update Beta for what it really is; a separate, independent version of the game which was available, and ran its course. Questions about it are perfectly fine, but its existence doesn't magically make the actual, future version any less off-topic.

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    Do we really need to separate games into different versions and then have to ask the question again when the content is actually released and the beta content is no longer available? That's just overcomplicating things. – 3ventic Mar 24 '14 at 11:37
  • @3ventic We treat it the same as we always have treated questions that change if/when a game updates; we update the existing questions/answers where applicable, and leave them around if they're completely obsolete. See here and here for instance. As I said; the beta should be treated as just another version of the game. – Billy Mailman Mar 24 '14 at 12:30
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    If we're treating the beta as just another version of the game, why should we bother with the "this question is about the beta" runaround? – Unionhawk Mar 24 '14 at 16:02
  • @Union Not sure what you mean. – Billy Mailman Mar 24 '14 at 16:10
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    Are you really comparing actual working game (beta) to pre-release marketing and designer propaganda? – Alok Mar 24 '14 at 16:12
  • @Alok For the purpose of how much they tell you about what some future version of the game will look like, yes. I've seen it before several times that what got released for a game was not what had been in beta, or was only part of it, or included things withheld during beta, or was delayed and changed based on the beta, etc. – Billy Mailman Mar 24 '14 at 16:20
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    Then we update the questions & answers, as we do for other things needing maintenance. Regardless, PR blabber <> actual working code imho, even if it may change later (and this isn't the most common behavior by far) – Alok Mar 24 '14 at 16:31
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    If the beta is just another version of the game, then what's the difference beta and the release and why should we care? – Unionhawk Mar 25 '14 at 0:00
  • Beta is something that exists, and that people have played. The release is something in the future, that we can't be certain about. – Billy Mailman Mar 25 '14 at 0:48
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    But the beta is pre-release content of the content being released in the future. What's the difference? – Unionhawk Mar 25 '14 at 0:53
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    @BillyMailman So ban questions about Minecraft, DOTA2, and any other game that is constantly being updated. After all, no promises that features won't be cut or new things getting added. – Batophobia Mar 25 '14 at 22:14
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    So if someone words a minecraft question as asking about "upcoming features in 1.8", then it's off-topic, but if they ask that very same question about the "1.8 snapshots", then suddenly it's okay? – Unionhawk Mar 26 '14 at 2:55
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    @Unionhawk Yep. The snapshot is released content. The upcoming release isn't. MC especially tends to shift rapidly from snapshot to snapshot, since they have a tendency to release half-coded features, patch based on feedback, and what makes it into the actual release can thus be quite different from any given snapshot. – Billy Mailman Mar 26 '14 at 3:10
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    @BillyMailman My point is that it's generally assumed that the snapshots, in general, reflect the content in the next major version of Minecraft. And in general, while stuff is subject to change, everything in a given snapshot usually makes it into the next release version. So why should such an assumption/small nuance of wording make that much of a difference? – Unionhawk Mar 26 '14 at 3:15
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    If an answer is made obsolete because of a new version, then we should update it. What I'm saying is that we shouldn't have to indicate the version of the game that a question is specifically asking about just to futureproof answers. As such, we shouldn't have to specify that a question is asking about a beta just because the answers might change upon actual release. – Unionhawk Mar 26 '14 at 3:23

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