I have posted this question and it seems that a bunch of guys in the chat have decided that a game has to be publicly available to be able to ask questions about it.

Considering this is what the community really wants: When is a game publicly available?

Obviously:

  • When the game is released.
  • When a game is free to play and everybody can create an account.

It is not publicly available:

  • When there is no playable version of the game.
  • When there are a limited amount of Beta keys.
  • When you cannot play the game even if you are willing to spend money.

But what about:

  • Everybody with a preorder gets a Beta key?

This is currently the case for Starcraft 2 HOTS. Everybody can preorder on Amazon and get a free Beta key. I argue that this is publicly available, as everybody can just buy (preorder) a copy and play (the Beta). There is currently no limitation on the amount of Beta keys.

If the community decides otherwise we should have at least some official rules for this.

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This would be a good thing to clarify; we don't really have a set policy other than, "publicly available". And we had a site promotion for Mists of Pandaria with the beta run, so that sort of sends a conflicting message. I'm interested in seeing what people think. –  Frank Nov 23 '12 at 2:15
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Where is the "publicly available" policy? The FAQ forbids speculation, which is reasonable, but I'm not seeing anything that bans answerable questions on future releases. –  Decency Nov 23 '12 at 6:15
    
@ayckoster Is that beta key for SCII HOTS only available for people that pre-order on amazon? Do you have a link to details about it? –  Jed Daniels Nov 25 '12 at 18:40
    
What about "Demoes only available to Xbox LIVE Gold members"? –  CyberSkull Nov 26 '12 at 10:53
    
@JedDaniels: No, there are different ways to get a beta key, but the easiest way is to preorder on amazon.com. There are other vendors that provide similar services, checkout teamliquid.net/forum/search.php?q=hots+beta+key –  ayckoster Nov 26 '12 at 12:45
    
@fbueckert Mind responding to my above question? –  Decency Dec 2 '12 at 5:20
    
@Decency Mostly it was the unofficial guideline; otherwise, "unreleased" would apply to Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, and lots of other games that are available, but have no official "release". It doesn't matter anymore, though, as the community consensus seems to agree with agent, so any game, so long as there's a playable version available, is fair game. –  Frank Dec 2 '12 at 15:05
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@fbueckert It was mostly my concern for the future- I wasn't sure if there was a list of hidden rules somewhere that people were actually trying to enforce- that would be rather nonconstructive and bureaucratic. If there are written policies that don't match to how they're written, wouldn't a preemptive meta topic be more fitting than voting to close something without any grounds? –  Decency Dec 3 '12 at 0:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 28 down vote accepted

The reason we close pre-release questions is that they are speculative. (That, and it causes weird corner cases once the question is no longer speculative...)

If a "pre-release" question about a game can be asked and answered without speculation because an alpha/beta/early version exists, regardless of the number of people who are/could be in possession of said game, it should be left open. (Unless there's some other reason to close - bad questions are bad questions, regardless of topic/game)

Trying to gauge the number of people who have a game and make a decision about whether or not it should be answered based on that information is problematic. IMO, there's no compelling reason to distinguish between the current openness of the alpha/beta/whatever.

If we get to the point where a good, non-speculative pre-release question is attracting speculative answers, then those aren't answers and should be flagged/deleted and potentially the question protected.

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But the question isn't speculative tho, because there is an awnser in the comments –  Lyrion Nov 23 '12 at 7:12
    
@Lyrion, this is my point. I'm in favor of letting this question be open. –  agent86 Nov 23 '12 at 7:32
    
I agree, thats why i voted for your awnser, it was just a basic statement –  Lyrion Nov 23 '12 at 7:43
    
@Lyrion, alright then, glad we agree :) –  agent86 Nov 23 '12 at 8:22
    
Part of the process includes being able to verify the answer; something written on a gaming website, while reputable, prior to game release, is not verifiable until we get the game in our grubby little hands. –  Frank Nov 23 '12 at 22:49
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@fbueckert, if you can't verify the answer personally, then consider abstaining from answering the question and/or voting on the answer - just like any other question you can't verify the answer to because you don't have access to the game. If we start excluding questions because the number of people in the community who have access to the game are limited, there are a lot of way that breaks down. Think, for instance, a game that is out of print, terribly unpopular, or otherwise rare. –  agent86 Nov 24 '12 at 1:13
    
I wasn't talking about games that are very limited, I'm referring to anyone (beyond the gaming press) being able to play it. As in people seeding questions based on articles written pre-release. –  Frank Nov 24 '12 at 4:57
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@fbueckert, banning questions pre-release (when a pre-release version exists or not!) does very little for content seeding except delay it. If I read a preview and pre-author a bunch of questions, what does it matter if I wait until midnight on release day to spam the site with them? They're not speculative at that point, but they're still terrible questions. Excessive content seeing is a user problem moreso than a question type problem. –  agent86 Nov 24 '12 at 13:45
    
If there's a release available to play, then we should judge whether or not it the question speculative based on the question. For instance, we can determine whether or not they show research effort, even asking "what have you tried?" like we do with other questions. –  agent86 Nov 24 '12 at 13:46
    
Increasingly, the "gaming press" includes people like us - I've been tapped in the past to review a game for the Arqade blog, for instance. For that, there were several thousand copies of the game released to "gaming press" blogs. Therefore, I'm a bit hesitant to say that a "gaming press" only release means that a question is necessarily speculative. (Although I didn't ask any questions about it, and personally would discourage it, I don't in particular see it as a reason to ban it outright in all cases) –  agent86 Nov 24 '12 at 13:51
    
I am more and more glad each day that I voted for you. Thank you for bringing light to such situations. –  ヴァイシャリ Nov 26 '12 at 13:50
    
So if 4 people in the world have access to a beta version, we should allow questions on it? –  user9983 Nov 28 '12 at 0:24
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@OrigamiRobot, if those people are playing the game and have questions, fine. If people are asking speculative questions and using the existence of a beta to justify it, not so fine. We don't need a special rule to kill off bad, speculative questions, though. In general, I don't want us to close a good question because access to the game is in some way limited. However, I'm certainly not in favor of using the existence of a limited access release to allow speculative questions. –  agent86 Nov 28 '12 at 2:08
    
At the same time, at some point it just becomes too localized (not that they should be closed for the reason of the same name). –  user9983 Nov 28 '12 at 2:23
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@OrigamiRobot So what? Worst case scenario is the question sits unanswered. I mean, I asked a question about a game on Steam almost a year ago, and it's gotten 0 answers and 57 views. Obviously not a terribly popular game that anyone cares about. And I'll probably never get an answer. Is it hurting the site? Is it a bad question? If it were the exact same question but about a game not on Steam, that only people who had, say, Kickstarter early access to, would it suddenly become a bad question? Why? –  Sterno Nov 28 '12 at 19:05

Rule of thumb: If a game can be played by people who are not members of the press/industry without signing an NDA, than it's fair game, with an exception for things like event-previews; i.e. we don't want Q&A's about the PAX Floor Demo of one level of Hot New Shooter #37.

If you're in a closed beta that you got an invite for because you signed up on a website, or because your cousins best friend works at Blizzard or whatever, and there is no NDA, go nuts.

If the game has only been played by members of the press, then no, not fair game. Members of the press have their own channels for Q&A, and we aren't here to read magazines for you.

If the game has only been played by people who have signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, then no, not fair game. We're not interested in encouraging anyone to break one of those, and until the NDA is lifted, such questions are fundamentally not properly answerable. Any answer would represent de facto illegal content, and/or speculation/second hand regurgitation of press reports, neither of which represents a Good Answer.

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"with an exception for things like event-previews" That would fall under good-ol' "too localized because time-sensitive" anyway. –  user98085 Aug 7 '13 at 12:25
    
@FEichinger If there is anything I have learned in a few years around here, it is that if I don't make a statement like that explicit, somebody will come around and use it to try to poke holes in the rest of what I have to say, or in something else I have said which is totally unrelated to this subject. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Aug 7 '13 at 12:28
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Related: Should Moderators enforce NDAs for software vendors?. The answer there is pretty emphatically "no". –  Sterno Aug 7 '13 at 12:44
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@Sterno SO != Arqade. They set their rules, we set ours. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Aug 7 '13 at 12:46
    
Agreed. I wasn't trying to use that link as a hammer to shut down discussion. But related issues on Meta.SO often have some good insights. –  Sterno Aug 7 '13 at 12:47
    
@Sterno In this case, I don't think the two situations are equivalent. If nothing else, the NDA is a nice bright red line to let us separate real betas that we don't want questions about in an era in which the term 'beta' has become somewhat meaningless. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Aug 7 '13 at 12:48
    
This seems like a softer stance on what I've proposed. The no NDA clause makes it much more clear cut, though, which is why I support this. –  MBraedley Aug 7 '13 at 13:29
    
The meta post linked by @Sterno, Should Moderators enforce NDAs for software vendors? - is now in the network-wide Meta Stack Exchange (was previously in Meta SO) and is mod-tagged 'faq'. Does that mean that it is now also Arqade policy? Are the mods here in Arqade following the consensus there? (i.e. to not enforce NDAs) –  galacticninja Nov 3 at 8:26
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@galacticninja we're not 'enforcing NDA's'. We're restricting content based upon our own standards of 'widespread availability.' We aren't concerened with the NDA's legal weight, but it's existence is a useful and simple mechanism to determine whether a title meets our standards. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Nov 3 at 12:42

I gave a detailed answer a little while ago, so I won't totally rehash that. So here are the key points:

  • If it's been released, anywhere in the world, you're good.
  • Public, unlimited access, and open beta is probably fine, as long as questions are limited to what's seen in the beta and the beta is probably indicative of the final release.
  • Beta access as an award for pre-ordering is probably fine. Extreme examples would be games released using the Minecraft business model, which are obviously fine. There might be an edge case in there, but I don't see it off hand.
  • Limited access beta, and anything more restrictive is a no go. If another average member wouldn't be able to play, then it's too localized.
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Seems reasonable, but I don't see how beta access as a reward for preordering can be seen as anything other than equivalent to buying the game. –  Decency Nov 23 '12 at 6:14
    
@Decency Agreed. It's basically just the minecraft model, but "Oh noes, it's a AAA game that has a definitive release date so it's not released yet!" seems to be why this question was closed. –  Mr Smooth Nov 23 '12 at 6:17
    
You guys are right. I've edited my answer. –  MBraedley Nov 23 '12 at 11:41
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"The average site member couldn't play/answer this" isn't really the network-wide definition of Too Localized. See this –  Sterno Nov 28 '12 at 19:08
    
Sterno: That would be the guideline, with the reasoning being that the question is too limited in "geography" (which is really used to represent population anyway) and timeframe (since when a closed beta ends, you usually can't play it anymore). –  MBraedley Nov 28 '12 at 20:19
    
For "limited access beta" vs "Beta access as an award for pre-ordering ", where would kickstarter sit? –  deworde Apr 15 '13 at 11:10
    
@deworde Just backing a kickstarter isn't enough, because the game isn't done yet (or at least not released). It's basically pre-ordering without beta access. If beta access is an award for backing, then, according to agent86, when the beta is released, you're fee to ask questions. Personally, I take a more pragmatic approach, and think it should be when a beta is available to non-backers. I don't think this will end up creating a big divide since I foresee most kickstarted games releasing something of a beta to non-backers shortly after backers get their access. –  MBraedley Apr 15 '13 at 13:10
    
Sorry, that's what I meant, for example Solforge's kickstarter. –  deworde Apr 15 '13 at 13:23

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