How do you prevent inflation in a virtual economy?

Penalty for collision during casual top-down racing gameplay

I noticed Byte56 said these questions about gameplay mechanics are unrelated to this site. I read the faq and I do not remember that asking for advice in regards to game mechanics (rules) and gameplay was mentioned as off-topic.

If this is the case, how is that issue explained in the faq good question guideline? What it does say is that questions about:

game design (level design, gameplay, mechanics, etc)

Are welcome. So how come questions about keeping the gameplay balanced and fun, seem to be inappropriate to some people suddenly?

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If the question was even on the border before, it's way into the "polling for ideas" area now that you've edited it. Again, just my opinion. –  Byte56 Oct 5 '12 at 22:04
    
The biggest problem I see with your question is that it is not just a question, but actually a list of questions. This makes it "chatty" and "open-ended". –  Cypher Oct 5 '12 at 22:16
    
@Cypher That actually was the result of reading the blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective It was actually pretty concise at first, asking only if collisions should affect the (car) engine in a racing game. Then I read the guide which suggested a question should encourage long answers based on personal experience with references, so I decided to elaborate which resulted in multiple questions, some of which asking on what users based their answers on. –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 5 '12 at 22:26
    
I honestly have no sufficient idea on how to pick the best answer. I think that this too is a subjective matter. –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 8 '12 at 9:21
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I wish we could see MORE of these kinds of questions. Lately it seems that the question list is all about math and programming details. There's a lot more to game development than math and programming. –  Tim Holt Oct 31 '12 at 21:22
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6 Answers

I think the general rule that should be applied here is the one wherein if it is reasonable to expect a game developer would be able to give a better answer to the question than somebody in another field (for which there is a StackExchange domain), then the question belongs here.

For example, an economist may have lots of insight into preventing inflation, but an economist operates in the real world where we don't create and destroy monetary value in quite the same way as we do in MMOs, and as such a game developer may have some unique insight into that problem space.

Personally I think the MMO economy question can be argued with science and numbers, but that the other two questions under discussion here are a bit subjective and hard to argue with concrete facts and thus might be ill-suited to this site for those reasons.

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I think the FAQ is either contradicting itself or it needs clarification.:

Game Development - Stack Exchange is for professional and amateur video/computer game developers. If you have a question relating to ...

  • game design (level design, gameplay, mechanics, etc)
  • asset pipelines (creation, storage, editing, etc)
  • game-specific programming issues (engine architecture, game-related APIs, networking, tools, etc)
  • project management (testing, team management, scheduling, publishing, etc)
  • game industry (careers, trends, technology, etc)

Contradicts (IMO)

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Because "Design" by its very nature is subjective which can lead to very open ended, discussion oriented questions. I feel something here needs fixing.

Do we break the SE way and allow open ended questions (within reason - will need to nail down the rules here) or do we narrow the scope of the types of game design questions allowed so that they don't end up open ended or discussion oriented?

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The first quoted section is written and editable by us, the moderators, on behalf of the community. The rest is Stack Exchange-wide, including the one from the second quote. We may choose to disallow game design questions, but we may not choose to allow chatty questions. Also the important thing here is not necessarily asking whether a question is chatty and open-ended in itself, but if the question diminishes the usefulness of our site. –  Ricket Oct 5 '12 at 17:07
    
I really like your point about the important thing being that these questions diminish the usefulness of the site. I always knew that that was the point but I never really thought about it I guess. If you put the emphasis on that and away from the chatty / open ended / discussion oriented parts of the statement then it really makes sense because you can have useful chatty, open ended, discussion oriented questions. This gives me much better perspective on bad versus good questions. Thanks for enlightening me. –  SpartanDonut Oct 5 '12 at 18:48
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"Subjective" isn't the guiding factor about whether or not something is good for the site. There's a blog post that goes into more detail here: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective Basically "does the question require expertise to properly answer" is likely a better summation on whether or not it's a good question (among other factors). –  Tetrad Oct 5 '12 at 20:20
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We moderators do our best to minimize inconsistencies, but the spectrum is full of shades of gray. Pointing out another question that is just as bad as yours doesn't really help defend your question, as much as it just uncovers a question that might have slipped under the radar. Which then complicates the matter further, because we have to decide if it's even worthwhile to close a really old question that obviously doesn't have any activity, making closing the question a pointless activity only for show and consistency.

There's also a bit of a slippery slope effect here, especially when comparing one question to another to determine whether it should be closed or not.

The underlying problem here is not whether your question is about game development - because clearly it is - but whether it is too subjective for our site. Quoting from the "not constructive" close reason:

We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

My opinion on this question is that it does not meet the criteria to be closed, and is a valid question. It clearly won't solicit debate, arguments, or extended discussion (unless someone is really passionate about these penalties :) ), but the issue is whether this is polling, and I don't believe it is, at least not in the sense that we intend by that close text.

Some examples of true polling/discussion questions that should absolutely be closed:

  • What game engine should I use for X?
  • What is the best language for game development?
  • What should I use to add networking to my game?

Gray-area examples of what I'd consider "good" polling game design questions, in the sense that they are asking for answers backed by examples and reasoning:

None of these questions is purely answerable. But you're not really going to find that in a game design question, because design is subjective by nature.

Please also refer to "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" on the Stack Exchange blog - specifically, it presents a set of criteria that you can use to judge for yourself whether a question is too subjective for our site.

Arthur: given all this information, I think there is room to improve the wording of your question. Instead of defending it, could you try editing it to make it a perfect, shining example of a great subjective game design question, that we could point to in the future?

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While this is all good information, I struggle with the FAQ speaking in absolutes which is what all new users are pointed to when they post a bad question. This in itself leads to great confusion as to why one question is closed and another isn't as there is no grey area defined in the FAQ. I wouldn't expect a new user to hunt down this blog post and only then understand why their question was closed and another wasn't. There should be additional clarification in the FAQ at least and probably a link to the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog post as well. –  SpartanDonut Oct 5 '12 at 16:28
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The FAQ is a set of guidelines, and I think it is nicely worded in that context. It uses words like "should", "probably", and "avoid" instead of "can", "definitely(?)", and "don't". The majority of questions that are closed, especially from new users, are clearly out of bounds, and the FAQ is often the only thing we have to point them to (other than suggesting other avenues, e.g. linking them to our chat). Users are certainly welcome to point to other questions to ask for explanation though. It leads to good discussion and clarification. –  Ricket Oct 5 '12 at 17:22
    
I can see that. I also see now that the "What kind of questions should I not ask here" section is expandable and has a link to that blog post. I recall seeing the question examples before but not the link - though that doesn't mean I hadn't just missed it. I've got mixed feelings about it being tucked away until the user clicks the section but I'm glad its there at least! –  SpartanDonut Oct 5 '12 at 18:59
    
@ToddersLegrande Also, if you link someone to a specific section (expand the section and right-click the "link" link and copy its URL, and then link to it), then when that person views the link, it shows them the expanded section at the top of the page. You can try it yourself if you copy the URL, then open a new tab/window and paste it. It doesn't do it if you just click the "link" link. (this comment is confusing...) –  Ricket Oct 5 '12 at 23:08
    
Semantics... We meet again. –  Markus von Broady Oct 6 '12 at 8:38
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Here's my take on them:

How do you prevent inflation in a virtual economy?

Needs improvement. Why? Because of nebulous phrasing like, "your typical MMORPG". What "typical MMORPG" are you talking about? Who decides what a "typical MMORPG" is? Is that some code-language for "WoW-like"?

The question as stated is too broad to really deal with. It needs to be revised to adequately explain the specific mechanics at play, which ones are flexible and which aren't, etc. Otherwise, it's all left up to the person answering it to decide what it really is all about.

Should collisions affect the car engine in a racing game?

Also a bad question. Why? Because it's purely opinion based. Here's what I mean.

If I'm making Mario Kart, collisions affecting car performance is a really bad thing. However, if I'm making Gran Turismo, collisions affecting performance is a really good thing.

But your question doesn't state what kind of racing game. It makes the incredibly ridiculous assumption that there is one correct answer for every possible racing game. There are a multitude of different styles of racing game. What is appropriate for your game depends entirely on what you're trying to do.

In short, it's not specific enough. What you're asking is for people to say which gameplay they like better. Maybe they'll explain why, and maybe they won't. But ultimately, you're not going to convince anyone to change their mind on their preferences, and in the end, the answers will help no one.

If I'm looking to make a Mario Kart-style racing game, you're not going to find an argument that will convince me that it's a good idea to include collision damage. And if I'm making Gran Turismo, you won't convince me to take collision damage out of the game. Thus, nobody comes away with any actual wisdom or knowledge, and it was all just one big waste of everyone's time.


Game design questions should not be so theoretical. They should be about practical design problems: "I have a game that works like this. Players of that game seem to be doing X. I want them to be doing Y. How do I make that happen?"

Game design is about problem solving. How do you make each element of the game fun and interesting in the way you want it to be. GameDev.SE is not about high-level conceptual questions. Design questions should be about the nitty-gritty of actually designing a game from front to back.

Of course, the problem is that most hobbyist game developers will never get that far. And since they seem to be the majority on the site, we get a bunch of high-level garbage questions that never get enough close votes to die.

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It actually does state 'casual' so it is leaning more towards Mario Kart than Gran Turismo which I suspect is more of a simulation than a casual game. - I know it's subjective and opinion based. It does say in the faq gameplay questions are welcome and I personally believe they are subjective by nature. - The distinction you brought up is a good one. If we are thinking of a 'stun' negative effect in rpg games, this is an effect that needs to be used sparingly and only in certain situations and the player should have ways to mitigate it. Now back to casual racing, I wanted to hear opinions. –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 8 '12 at 8:17
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I wanted to hear opinions, sure there is no black and white and I completely respect the way some people prefer to stick to factual answers. I still feel that since the faq says 'Gameplay' is welcome and that is less of a precise science, I could ask about penalties for careless behavior in a racing game I am working on. I would post a link though I felt that would make the question too localized. My question is pretty specific, I want people to put an 'effort' into avoiding walls while still keeping the game fun and addictive. I want a learning curve where the player skill influences success. –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 8 '12 at 8:24
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@Arthur: "I wanted to hear opinions" is not a reason to ask any question on any Stack Exchange site. Even the more subjective ones. Remember: the purpose of the SE model is to build a useable knowledge base for people. The presentation of random opinions ranked by popularity is not helpful in that regard. That's why we don't generally allow poll questions. –  Nicol Bolas Oct 8 '12 at 8:40
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@Arthur: "It actually does state 'casual'" No, it doesn't. Neither the title nor the 3 sentences of question text mention "casual". It used to, but you removed all of the useful details, which made it an inappropriate question for this site. Good subjective questions should not be 3 sentences long. –  Nicol Bolas Oct 8 '12 at 8:43
    
Well, I expected opinions to be backed by reference of games that use this system and it works to create fun gameplay. So lets say I want to hear educated opinions based on facts. I understand what you say about how changing the question lessened it's value for the site, I was referring to the original question in my comment. I should have said 'did' instead of 'does'. –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 8 '12 at 8:43
    
I changed the question slightly based on your recommendations. I think it wasn't clear enough without sharing some details about the game vibe and sub-genre. –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 8 '12 at 9:23
    
After reading your answer and thinking about it, I feel you might benefit from reading this article - the part about being a genius. cracked.com/… It is intended as a compliment with a dash of some lighthearted insight to what you described. "Of course, the problem is that most hobbyist game developers will never get that far. And since they seem to be the majority on the site, we get a bunch of high-level garbage questions that never get enough close votes to die." –  Arthur Wulf White Oct 8 '12 at 9:57
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I disagree with Byte 56 here as well. Almost half of questions is like this, 2 more examples: MMORPG game balancing

How to avoid encouraging micromanagement in strategy games?

Nearly another half are specific questions, that sometimes are moved to SO as being more of a programming than game mechanics (sic!) issue.

Here's what's written in Area51 FAQ: Don't worry about whether a question might be asked on another site. Your goal is to make the best possible site for this community. http://area51.stackexchange.com/faq

Anyway, it looks like Game Development is a community being squeezed from many sides (SO, code review, programmers, and SO's rules not allowing general questions) to a point where it's no longer needed at all!

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The Area51 FAQ pertains to bootstrapping new sites, it doesn't really apply to sites that exist already, in my opinion. –  Josh Petrie Oct 5 '12 at 16:03
    
It also applies more to questions on other sites that should be asked on your specific community. For example the game-development tag on Stack Overflow still gets questions to this day, despite the fact that some of them might be better suited for our community. In the early days, we did indeed panic a little at the idea that valuable questions were being asked on other sites that could be asked here, to give us more value in the eyes of the Stack Exchange gods. I think that's what the FAQ is addressing. –  Ricket Oct 5 '12 at 16:17
    
I disagree. You've linked two questions with high level questions, which are not the same as low level question like the one being debated. Then you go on to say we don't need gamedev at all... –  Byte56 Oct 5 '12 at 16:21
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Byte56, I love gamedev, I just don't see a difference between a valid and invalid question sometimes. I wonder, if Arthur described his problem with more background ("at this moment, a player who completely ignores walls and never releases UP acceleration key is always winning with a player racing more skillful") would make the question better? Because I think what I added in parentheses is obvious enough not to write it down (but maybe I'm wrong) –  Markus von Broady Oct 5 '12 at 16:28
    
I'm not really sure how the question would be modified to make it better. Since it's asking about specific gameplay elements instead of bigger picture design, I don't think there's a way to ask for different ideas about specifics without being off topic. –  Byte56 Oct 5 '12 at 16:36
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@MarkusvonBroady: "if Arthur described his problem with more background [...] would make the question better?" Yes it would. Then, the question would be about a specific game, with a specific designed intent and specific mechanics. Not "racing games" in general. It'd be like if someone said, "Should an FPS be linear or non-linear?" The answers will be solely based on the preferences of the answerer. The only correct answer is, "It depends; do you want the player to have a linear or non-linear FPS game?" –  Nicol Bolas Oct 8 '12 at 7:33
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I think the two questions are at different levels of development. Preventing virtual inflation is a big picture. What specific penalties are is little picture. If the virtual economy question had already decided on money sinks and was then asking "What kind of money sinks could I implement?" Then I think it would be off topic as well.

If your question were to ask something like: "How can I discourage unskilled racing? i.e. drivers running into obstacles, other cars, ect." Or "How can I encourage racers to avoid obstacles, other cars, etc.". Then I think it would be more inline with the virtual economy question.

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So coding questions should be specific, and design questions wide? –  Markus von Broady Oct 5 '12 at 16:59
    
Both can vary depending on what's being asked. –  Byte56 Oct 6 '12 at 2:15
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