The general question I'm talking about goes like this:

I'm looking for a new framework to use for my next 2d/3d/native project, what should I use?

And the answers go like this:

  • Unity
  • XNA
  • OpenGl
  • Other stuff

But only if you're lucky, the current example which kicked off this question does not even have alternatives to Unity. The problem I see with these questions is:

  • They're too localized
  • They may be biased, depending on who gets its hands first on it.
  • Additionally, the questions are ambiguous and vague.

The reason I'm asking this is because I'm not that familiar with the scope of GameDev, but those questions feel a little wrong. Are these on-topic questions? Or am I correct in my assumption that such questions should be closed?

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My main problem with "which tech should I use?" questions is that they're only answerable by the one asking (requirements determine candidates, tests/prototypes do the rest). But if not, such a question is borderline irrelevant (lack of requirements) and perhaps indicative of fear of getting started (on the wrong foot). See analysis paralysis. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analysis_paralysis –  LearnCocos2D Nov 17 '13 at 16:25
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4 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I'm of the opinion that these questions decrease the usefulness of the site. They make the site more chatty and weaken the overall presentation of the place. And since we get about 3 of these questions a week (or at least it seems like we do), it comes up frequently.

Sadly, I'm not in the majority on this. I try to close these questions where possible. However, because many users see these as "borderline" cases, they're hesitant to close them. And of course not closing them makes them hesitant to close the next one. And so on.

On Stack Overflow, this stuff would be burninated quickly and efficiently. That site has enough people on it that those who see it for the damage that I believe it is, and would quickly close it. And there wouldn't be enough non-"borderline" people on the other side to re-open, so it would stay dead. However, that doesn't happen here due to a lack of viewership.

It is the tolerance of questions like these that make me feel like this is just another form of gamedev.net with a different kind of forum. Hence I spend more of my time on SO, where there are real questions with real answers to deal with.

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Where on the Internet are the appropriate places to ask this class of questions and receive very good answers? –  Ansis Malins Oct 10 '12 at 18:45
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@AnsisMalins: You could try chat, but in general, there is nowhere to answer these questions with anything approaching authority. Everyone has their opinions, everyone has their ideas for the tool someone should use to do X, and none of them can in any way be determined to be "right" unless you establish extremely rigid criteria (at which point it's only right for that person). –  Nicol Bolas Oct 10 '12 at 19:14
    
but at least at that point, options have been presented. Then it's up to the end user to make a selection from the options that have been presented. –  Brad Parks Feb 13 '13 at 0:42
    
@BradParks: Stack Exchange is not a polling site. –  Nicol Bolas Feb 13 '13 at 0:58
    
@NicolBolas: Thanks for your feedback. As always, let the people decide ;-) –  Brad Parks Feb 13 '13 at 1:11
    
@BradParks: We did decide: polling questions are not allowed on any Stack Exchange site. That's SE policy. –  Nicol Bolas Feb 13 '13 at 1:20
    
@NicolBolas: And like any good policy, it can be questioned. That's what these "meta" sites are about. Establishing policy, and if the people want it bad enough, changing policy. None of these policies are writen in stone. Most will change, for what it's worth, my vote goes for being more lenient with this than strict. Thanks again. –  Brad Parks Feb 13 '13 at 1:37
    
@BradParks: GDSE is for setting GDSE policy. But GDSE's policies can't go against what SE is all about. We can't start allowing discussion or other non-SE stuff on our site. If you want to change SE polices, you need to take it up on Meta.SE. But be warned: any such suggestion on your part will be downvoted into oblivion, and such questions will likely be closed as non-constructive. This policy isn't going to change anytime soon. –  Nicol Bolas Feb 13 '13 at 2:14
    
@NicolBolas: Once again, thanks for your feedback. Have a good one. –  Brad Parks Feb 13 '13 at 12:39
    
Thanks for the insight, and +1 for the Trogdor reference :-) –  sws Feb 19 at 14:20
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If the question really is as simple as in your opening quote ("I'm looking for a new framework to use for my next 2d/3d/native project, what should I use?"), then it's way too broad to be a real question and should be closed.

If the question, however, is specific enough -- provides a solid list of requirements or a clear idea of the specific problem the asker is trying to solve with the recommended technology, it might be worth keeping around. Maybe.

I generally take in a on case-by-case basis and if I think the question is too broad or is going to have several equally valid answers I'll at least vote it down, and usually vote to close it as a duplicate or otherwise off-topic.

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I am 100% with you, i got one of my questions closed though i wasn't just asking "what should i use" , i had requirements, and set of tools which i could use, and was asking what's best to use of these , to satisfy the requirements ! question got closed ! –  Ronan Dejhero Jul 30 '13 at 2:41
    
If 2 or more tools/techs satisfy all requirements, then it doesn't really matter which one you use, right? You can then consider other factors, price, support, documentation, update frequency which are overall more important than features in order to close in on one. Sometimes, you just have to make a decision without knowing which one will be better. –  LearnCocos2D Nov 17 '13 at 16:32
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Edit: Mark Trapp wrote a pretty good answer on Programmers about a very similar issue.

http://meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/1625/982

To wit:

questions that ask how to do something (where the "recommendation" per se is not the point of the question) are on-topic, questions that ask what will do something (where the "recommendation" is the point of the question) is off-topic

However, that mostly applies to the Programmer SE site itself.

On Stack Overflow itself there's another question with a similar answer: http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/116821/deciding-which-technology-to-use-questions

The problem with these questions is that unless you are very specific about your requirements all you get is either a list of people's favourite technology or an argument in comments about which technology is "better".

...

The truth is that these days, unless you have a really specific problem, there can be little to choose from between technologies. This means that your question is either "not constructive" or "too localised".

So I'm inclined to agree with the other answers here now that those are generally off topic. I've updated the FAQ.


Looking at meta.stackoverflow I came across these questions:

http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/82924/which-stack-exchange-site-will-tell-me-what-programming-language-to-learn

http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/116821/deciding-which-technology-to-use-questions

The core of the argument can really be summed up by the blog post I've been adding as comments to a lot of these types of questions (and part of the answer to that question), at least ones that name specific tech:

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/gorilla-vs-shark/

The only reason I've been lax on shutting them down with a vengeance is that there usually is some kind of detail. At this point in time, I kind of feel that "which tech can do X, Y, and Z" does have an answerable question and is useful to people. And a similar question that's "which can can do X, Y, and W" isn't an exact dupe of the first because the requirements are different. So like ChrisF said in his answer to the second question, it's all about being specific.

If there are no constraints than it's not a real question. But where that line crosses from answerable to not isn't completely well defined. Like if they're looking for something that's "easy" or "fast" it's sometimes hard to answer that aspect of it.

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A downvote without a comment doesn't help me. –  Tetrad Jan 14 '12 at 10:52
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This is Meta. A downvote means "I disagree". As stated in my answer, I disagree that these are borderline cases that represent answerable questions. I disagree with the idea that because something might be useful to someone that it belongs on this site. As I stated, I believe that tolerating these questions only harms the site, watering down the useful content with chatty discussion stuff. Stack Overflow doesn't tolerate it, and neither should we. –  Nicol Bolas Jan 14 '12 at 19:30
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My concern with the "which tech can do X, Y, and Z" approach is that if you have enough "X, Y, and Z" requirements to make the question answerable in a useful way, then the question has probably become too localized to ever be useful to anyone else. –  Trevor Powell Feb 1 '12 at 3:35
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I really disagree with the answer and blog post in the context of GameDev. When starting a new project (especially as an amateur) choosing the right tool makes a world of difference. If you want to make a simple FPS with pretty graphics, Unity is a far better choice than GameMaker, and this is valuable information to someone unfamiliar with both. And given how many tools and libraries there are for games, you will eventually be unfamiliar with some class you need to use. Equating these question to programming language wars is unconstructive. –  Superbest Mar 29 '12 at 22:37
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A couple of points against marking these as offtopic and closing them...

  1. If you just want to attract game developers with plenty of experience who know exactly when to use X compared to Y and the benefits of A vs B that's fine. For those starting out, the choices can tend to be a bit bewildering - they will often come up with these kind questions as a first attempt at using the site. Closing them off and getting downvoted would probably be a disincentive to these potential users.

  2. Off-topic questions can often generate great on-topic answers. Case in point one SO question here "why doesn't XCode run on Windows" that seems silly to someone with a bit of experience, but it wasn't closed, hence it did attract a great answer.

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As a professional game developer, I find "which technology" questions exceeding boring and intellectually non-stimulating -- even when appropriately presented with a high-quality problem description and list of requirements. Having a lot of these questions discourages me from visiting. –  Josh Petrie Mar 27 '12 at 15:24
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And while I agree that off-topic questions can have good answers, that doesn't change the fact that they are off-topic and are better suited for another community. GDSE doesn't have to be everything. –  Josh Petrie Mar 27 '12 at 15:25
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"For those starting out, the choices can tend to be a bit bewildering" Let's turn it around. What are these people going to contribute to the site? We need new users, certainly. But we don't need Help Vampires. And these kinds of questions are usually asked by creatures of the night. We need users who have actual problems, not starting-out "what should I use" kinds of stuff. The same goes for SO; questions like "what language should I learn" and such are not acceptable there. –  Nicol Bolas Mar 28 '12 at 5:43
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