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By adhering to a strict non-open-ended, non-chatty, question/answer format, it becomes pretty much impossible to help people to improve their game design. So instead of covering questions that actually distinguish GD from other SE sites, we end up being a somewhat specialized sub-site of SO, with mostly programming related questions. For example, I couldn't find a single question about a specific story or story element, a specific character, or a specific task or obstacle that a player faces in a game.

Here are some examples of questions that I would like to ask and answer:

  • "How could I change this mechanic X to make it a better fit with my general theme, which is Y?"
  • "What could be a twist for the hero's call in my particular hero's journey-like story that involves the notion of death? Please consider this plot summary when giving answers ..."
  • "How could I make this enemy X more engaging in terms of interactivity? Here is a summary of the controls and X's abilities and AI so far: ..."
  • "I would like to add some peripheral game mechanics to my game that depend on real world data or events. The game mechanics should involve player interaction and underline the concept of greed (or sin in general), which the game is based on. Here is a summary of the other parts of the game: ... Any ideas?"

Personally, I felt discouraged from asking these questions both by the FAQ and by not seeing any similar questions on the site. Just to be sure, I asked in the chat whether or not these questions would be welcome on GDSE, and the reaction was that they would most likely be closed, and that they should rather be discussed on gamedev.net or some other discussion-based platform.

Is this actually common sense among GDSE users? Would you vote for closing any of these example questions? Or do you think that we should be more lax when it comes to SE's question/answer format to see more game design questions like these?

My personal opinion is that all of these questions can be "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face" (FAQ). True, there is not just one answer for any of these questions, so the pros and cons of any given answer might be debatable. Some questions are also open-ended in the sense that there is no limit to the number of suggestions that people can make. They can even have a tendency to be chatty in the sense that each suggestion can lead to further comments, edits in other answers, or even new answers. Despite these tendencies and slight deviations from a strict question/answer format, I would definitely opt for allowing these questions. They fit in SE's core template of questions, answers, and upvoting interesting questions and helpful answers. And, more importantly, it would make GDSE a much more useful website for game developers in general, and especially for game developers who are not also (or only) programmers.

Edit: Nicol Bolas and Tetrad pointed out that game design questions like the ones I mentioned need to provide sufficient context and specific guidelines as described in this community wiki entry on Writers.SE's meta site: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/a/167. I updated my example questions to indicate how context and guidelines could be provided in these cases. The answer is linked in Writers.SE's FAQ. I think we should have something similar for game design questions, including a link in our FAQ. Maybe we should open up a new answer and make it a community wiki in which we can specify our own criteria?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with the need for a set of guidelines for these kinds of questions. The Writers.SE FAQ entry seems a good starting point. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Aug 27 '12 at 23:06
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Here are some examples of questions that I would like to ask and answer:

  • "How could I change this mechanic to make it a better fit with my general theme, which is X?"
  • "What would be an interesting twist for the hero's call in my particular hero's journey-like story?"
  • "How could I make this enemy more engaging?"
  • "I would like to add some peripheral game mechanics to my game that depend on real world data or events. Any ideas?"

The problem is that those aren't questions. Those are titles to questions.

Whether a question is acceptable depends on the content of the question. For example, take, "How could I make this enemy more engaging?"

This might be a reasonable question, assuming that "this enemy" and "more engaging" are suitably well defined. If someone has a clear purpose that a particular enemy is supposed to achieve, and can adequately describe that purpose in their question, then it would be an example of a Good Subjective question (though it is also borderline "too localized").

But the Devil is in the details; if those details aren't present, then it's not particularly constructive. The question could be posed much more nebulusly:

I have an enemy that flies around in my game, shooting at the player. What can I do to make this enemy more interesting?

There's no way to answer this question. Not without knowing a lot more about the game itself. How does the player move, what can the player shoot, how does damage work, etc. Without these details, there's no way to answer this question.

Even with these details, "more interesting" needs to be explicitly stated. How should the enemy be made "more interesting?" What options are on the table? Cloaking, movement modes, etc, what can be suggested that would fit within the game?

Such questions would work rather like questions on Writers.SE: you need context to be able to ask them in an answerable fashion.

Ultimately, Stack Exchange isn't for everything. Speculative design questions are just too indeterminate to be reasonably answers. If you're just bouncing ideas around, you need a forum, not SE.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I totally agree that every of my example questions needs a lot more context to be answerable in any meaningful way. I assumed that this context would be provided at some length at the actual question. You also mention a more fundamental problem, though: Do questions on GDSE have to be wide enough in scope to be potentially applicable to problems of other users as well? If so, all of the questions I mentioned could end up being "too localized", for once the context you talked about is provided, the scope of the question becomes, by definition, quite small. \$\endgroup\$ – BerndBrot Aug 27 '12 at 20:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's worth pointing out that very few questions on this site right now are closed as too localized. Those that are closed are usually things like "you forgot to put a semicolon here" kind of dumb programming mistakes. So I wouldn't really worry about it. Reading the faq and meta discussion on the writers SE is probably a good idea for how to author questions that, by their very nature, are somewhat subjective. \$\endgroup\$ – Tetrad Aug 27 '12 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tetrad and Nicol Bolas I assume you refer to this answer on Writers' meta site: meta.writers.stackexchange.com/a/167. I'll add it to my question to highlight the requirement that game design questions that ask for critique and suggestions have to provide specific guidelines and context. \$\endgroup\$ – BerndBrot Aug 27 '12 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nicol Bolas - regarding the "I have an enemy that flies around in my game, shooting at the player. What can I do to make this enemy more interesting?" example. Of course it is possible to answer that question, but there probably isn't an objective answer to be found. Is the reason such questions are regarded inappropriate that they lend more to subjective discussions and suggestions rather than the kind of objective answer a more specific technical question would get? \$\endgroup\$ – JmD Aug 31 '12 at 1:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nicol Bolas - part 2 - To stick to the example question at hand - you mention the lack of contextual information - but there are implicit contextual information just by the fact that there are several psychological as well as physiological factors that are more or less common to most humans, that could be taken into account when trying to answer what would make something more interesting. But maybe such facts are off-topic regarding what information SE-Game development is about? This is no critique, it is just me wondering about the boundaries of the forum. \$\endgroup\$ – JmD Aug 31 '12 at 1:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ "there are implicit contextual information just by the fact that there are several psychological as well as physiological factors that are more or less common to most humans, that could be taken into account when trying to answer what would make something more interesting" Such as? Do you have some literature or references on the subject? What papers or studies have you read concerning the gameplay of "things that fly around and shoot at the player?" \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Aug 31 '12 at 1:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JmD: More importantly, gameplay does not happen in a vacuum. In a level-based game, what is "interesting" on level 1 is not "interesting" on level 20 anymore. The player's gotten better since level 1 and wants more of a challenge. How many of that kind of enemy has the player seen by now? Do you want it to challenge the player's dodging reflexes or their aim? Or both? I can keep asking about context forever, because context is everything about answering this question in anything even remotely like a meaningful way. Without that context, it's just people blathering about what they like. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Aug 31 '12 at 1:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nicol Bolas - What I'm referring to regarding psychological and physiological factors are things like; too predictable patterns (of for example the behavior and motion of an enemy) tends to get boring whilst a too unpredictable patterns gets frustrating. Small movements in the periphery of the field of vision is something we humans react very fast/hard to. Certain colors have strong signalling functions (they are somewhat dependent on cultural context, but not entirely), certain postures are experienced as more threatening than others etc etc. \$\endgroup\$ – JmD Aug 31 '12 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nicol Bolas - As biological entities in general an mammals in particular we humans are hard coded to react in certain ways to certain stimuli. These are things that can be exploited when trying to achieve specific reactions in different game scenarios. But my question was if this kind of information is beyond the scope of this forum. And btw - in your second response to my previous comment you have yourself presented an answer to the question you deemed un-answerable; make the the enemy harder to defeat as you progress in the game ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – JmD Aug 31 '12 at 4:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JmD: "too predictable patterns (of for example the behavior and motion of an enemy) tends to get boring whilst a too unpredictable patterns gets frustrating" But that depends on what you're trying to do with your game. Side-scrolling shooters rely on predictable patterns, because the whole point of the game is for the player to memorize those patterns and react to them. That's how the player gets better, by knowing what's coming and having the best plan in place to deal with it. Context always matters. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Aug 31 '12 at 9:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JmD: "in your second response to my previous comment you have yourself presented an answer to the question you deemed un-answerable; make the the enemy harder to defeat as you progress in the game" But that's not a good answer in context. Again, take side-scrolling shooters. Their enemies, by and large, don't change. They get harder by throwing more enemies of different types at you in a predefined pattern. Making an enemy harder in later levels is almost never what they want to do. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Aug 31 '12 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nicol Bolas - off course the context of the game itself matters, I absolutely agree with you. My point is that there are answers - albeit quite general in nature - we can give based on the non-game-specific context of us being humans with certain species-based behavior. To get more specific answers the Q&A just have to deepen and get more game-specific. What's the harm in that? Or is that kind of progressively narrowing-down type of Q&A not suitable for this forum? \$\endgroup\$ – JmD Aug 31 '12 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ In many cases, context also matters for programming-related questions. In the past few weeks, I posted quite a few OO and database design answers to questions which did not provide much context at all. In these cases, all I could do was to give a relatively generic answer, some pointers as to what they could think about, or links to certain design patterns. Some of these questions could never have been answered authoritatively. In fact, none of my answers ever did. Many could even have led to debates. And yet, none of these questions and none of my answers were ever downvoted or closed. \$\endgroup\$ – BerndBrot Sep 1 '12 at 9:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ "How could I change this mechanic to make it a better fit with my general theme, which is X?" << this is a subjective one, and opinion-based. \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Masuelli Dec 28 '15 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most of these questions are just opinion-based. Some of them even fit better in worldbuilding.se \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Masuelli Dec 28 '15 at 15:45
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I agree that we should welcome design focused questions and I think we do. The problem is that there seem to be much more programmers than designers that know and appreciate the stackexchange sites/format.

While questions focused on design aspects of a game are seldom, they are welcome. Some examples:

I guess the only way to get more quality questions of this type is by attracting game-designers to our site.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for digging out these questions. Even these do not really qualify for what I'm looking for, though: 1) and 2) are general questions about quests and dynamics, rather than questions about a specific quest or a specific way of achieving a dynamic. 3) and 4) are not about specific game design elements, either; they just ask for references to other games. 5) and 6) are again focused on implementation rather than design (as in game design). 5) comes closest to an actual design question, and the question having a score of 21 shows how much people like it. \$\endgroup\$ – BerndBrot Aug 26 '12 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BerndBrot Well, the point was to show that we generally welcome questions other than programming-questions. Maybe you could link to some questions that were unrightfully closed/downvoted by the community? I can't change the fact that there are only a few such questions here... \$\endgroup\$ – bummzack Aug 27 '12 at 6:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that the problem is not that interesting quesitons are closed, but that they are not being asked in the first place. Personally, I felt discouraged from doing so by the FAQ. I then asked in the chat whether or not questions like the ones I posted would be welcome on GDSE, and the reaction was that they would most likely be closed. Would you close any of the example questions? Would you be in favor of changing the FAQ to attract more game design questions? \$\endgroup\$ – BerndBrot Aug 27 '12 at 12:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BerndBrot I think your examples could be good questions. Generally I'd love to see questions that cover the whole range that is game-development and not only programming questions (I think that was the purpose of this site from the very start). You might be right about the FAQ and the general tone around here and it's good you brought this up. Hopefully some more community members will join this discussion. \$\endgroup\$ – bummzack Aug 27 '12 at 13:00

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