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Background: This recent question about Unity's machine identification was put on hold, while this question about installing Unreal Engine 4 survived the close-vote queue. Both have comments about whether to close them. (Links to further case studies would help.)

Our site tour states that we accept questions about "game-specific programming issues (engine architecture, game-related APIs, networking, tools, etc)".

What (if any) are the exceptions? When does a tools-question become too much about the tool and too little about game development? Where should such questions be asked instead?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't really a full answer so I'm posting as a comment - I think the question is possibly more about when should mods unilaterally close something. I think the first (closed) question wasn't in need of any immediate attention and could have stayed open until it received the standard 5 close votes, if it even ever made it to that point. \$\endgroup\$ – SpartanDonut Mar 15 '15 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ That said, the original question posed here is still a good question to answer... just my two cents on the scenario as it went down :) \$\endgroup\$ – SpartanDonut Mar 15 '15 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SpartanDonut The linked questions were intended as examples. I'm interested here in the guidelines we should use—their enforcement is separate. (You might like this Meta SE question about when moderators should insta-hold questions.) \$\endgroup\$ – Anko Mar 15 '15 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know. Which is why I said the original question is still a good question to answer. \$\endgroup\$ – SpartanDonut Mar 15 '15 at 21:41
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This question has come up around our big sister Stack Overflow.

I like Kevin Bourrillion's guidelines:

Where-to-post summary:

  • How do I? -- StackOverflow!
  • I got this error, why? -- StackOverflow!
  • I got this error and I'm sure it's a bug -- file an issue!
  • I have an idea/request -- file an issue!
  • Why do you? -- the mailing list!
  • When will you? -- the mailing list!
  • You suck and I hate you -- contact us privately at me@glennbeck.com!
  • You're awesome -- aw shucks!

Jon Skeet adds:

Topics requiring "deep" knowledge and discussion are likely to be best on a specialist list - whereas questions which "dabblers" can answer easily would do well on SO.


Here's an attempt to condense those into guidelines that would work on GDSE:

A tools question is on-topic if

  • the tool in question is specifically for game development, and
  • the problem can reasonably be answered by that tool's users.

A tools question is off-topic if

  • the tool is not game-development-specific, or
  • the problem can only reasonably be answered by the tool's developers (it's about a bug or feature request, or requires deep knowledge that isn't present in user-facing documentation).

Consequentially:

That question about installing UE4 is on-topic because UE4 is game dev specific and users can be expected to know how to install it.

That question about Unity's machine identification is probably off-topic, because although Unity is game dev specific, the question isn't reasonably answerable by a user: The hardware changes necessary to invalidate Unity's license are undocumented and would require a large amount of experimentation for a user to derive. (It sounds like a documentation bug report actually.)

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The questions are actually pretty different in my opinion.

The Unreal question is about using the interface provided by Unreal to modify the available components. In this case, it's a fairly large component, being the engine itself. This is a standard workflow task that everyone will come across when installing the engine.

The Unity question is asking how Unity does something in the background. There's no standard workflow task about it. It's not something inside the tool that people use, it's asking what Unity looks for in changes to the machine for their copy protection feature. How the tool works in the background is not something that's game development specific.

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