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Proposal: Worldbuilding

Correct me if I am wrong, by skimming trough the discussion I did not see this topic brought up.

I am concerned about this as I am a user of a few tools that came up with some games. The tools aim at editing existing worlds into a game, or even creating an entire new one. Some games tolerate the use of these tools so that people could craft and later share or sell their creations (some simulator games in the STEAM network allow for this).

So, would questions regarding use of such tools be considered appropriate here and on-topic? On one hand, these tools are directly related to world building process, and some of them allow very deep and covering definitions of world objects (from the 3D models to the physical properties used by the game engine, object placement and composition, sounds and many more). On the other hand, these could become too specific for the particular tool or platform, which I am not sure is the aim of this site.

I'd be happy to know your stance on this.

  • wouldn't adding a tag for building tools (like the technology/arts and so on tags) allow people who aren't interested in this kind of information simply move on to another discussion, and therefore solve the problem? – Shear Dar May 21 '14 at 13:18
  • If I understand correctly, you suggest tagging such questions as [build-tool] or something. This could be great, but I was rather asking if the entire concept of involving such tools in the Worldbuilding site is feasible. I mean, would such questions be on topic here at all? – Ivaylo Slavov May 21 '14 at 13:23
  • how hard would it be to create a new site and relocate relevant discussions to it if needed? – Shear Dar May 21 '14 at 13:36
  • @ShearDar, I'm afraid I am losing your point. I am asking if this is a topic that could be addressed by this site (Worldbuilders), or its agenda is deemed different by the people who propose it - I suppose it is them who could answer best. If they say so, I could then contribute with some experience I already have in this area, or use it to improve my skill there. Creating a new proposal is hard, as you obviously need the support of a dedicated community and maintain the whole lifecycle in Area51, that can take months. Why do so if I can help this site that is already in progress? – Ivaylo Slavov May 21 '14 at 13:42
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    my question was aimed at saying that we should give it a try, and if the topic overpowers others it might be easier to create a specified site for it, as you already have active followers. – Shear Dar May 21 '14 at 14:03
  • @ShearDar, I see. I thought it was somewhat directed at me as to propose another site rather than raise this question here. I have misunderstood your intention, for which I apologize. – Ivaylo Slavov May 21 '14 at 16:49
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    no need for apologies :-) – Shear Dar May 21 '14 at 19:14
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We bumped up against this only a tiny bit during the definition phase, so I'm glad this question is being asked.

Also, what follows is just my opinion, so if you disagree, please add your own answer, explaining why you think it should be different and we'll see how the votes play out.

My opinion is that questions related to specific software packages should not be allowed.

And my reasoning for this is that (a) we don't want to be tech support for a hundred different programs, and (b) it's a slippery slope.

Let me go into a bit of detail on both of those. Consider the question, "How do I export my world from [Program X] so that I can load it into [Game Engine Y]?" A question like this most definitely not about worldbuilding in any form or fashion. This might be on topic for something like the Game Development stack exchange, but it's a question that should probably be answered by the makers of Program X.

Even a question related to some aspect of actual world construction has problems. "How do I get [Program X] to generate a mountain in a specific spot?" is not really a worldbuilding question.

If the question can be stated in a way that is unlinked from the specific program, it's probably OK. "I'm using [Program X] to generate a 'Lonely Mountain' type situation, which I'm told only happens through volcanic activity. What differentiates a volcanic mountain in appearance from one created through other processes like earthquakes?" In this case, while the correct answer may map to certain attributes of the specific terrain generation tool, the correct answer can be determined in a way that is not tied to any specific tool.

To provide some detail about it being a slippery slope, consider the following. There's a broad spectrum of software out there that could be considered worldbuilding tools.

On one end, you have tools that are very generic. They're essentially just repositories for storing information about an abstract world or universe that you're creating, and perhaps some things built in to help you brainstorm or get ideas. An example of this is Aeon Timeline. While my gut feel is that I still don't want to be doing tech support for even this type of program, I could be convinced that it's OK.

But then you start drifting into the other side of the spectrum and you find yourself in the realm of world editors. Something like Minecraft, which in a sense is a whole game that's kind of about building a world, is already starting to get very questionable. "How do I wire up a pressure plate to an iron door?" seems very off-topic to me, and "How do I build mountains in Minecraft so that they look natural?" is only a little better.

Keep going down the spectrum and you get to things like "How do I put a bonus/prize in a block in [some Breakout Clone level editor]? Or even "How do I decide how often is too often to have an extra life bonus/prize in a block in my Breakout Clone?"

We want to keep the focus on worldbuilding. Using a level editor is, in my opinion, not worldbuilding anymore. If a person has worldbuilding questions that have come up while using a specific program, we want those questions. But if it's a question about how to use a tool that they happen to be using for worldbuilding (which are going to be legion), I think we have to send them back to the customer support of said program.

To the point of it being a slippery slope, it will be easier to draw the line at "We can't answer questions about specific software products for doing worldbuilding. We are focused on general worldbuilding principles and practices," than it would be to draw the line at, "We sometimes allow tool-specific questions, but it depends on [some stuff]."

That's my opinion anyway.

  • It is good to have these considerations explicitly stated, and even included later in the help center as guidelines for off-/on-topic definitions. By referring to existing world editing software I personally refer to ways of properly binding an object's properties so that it is rendered as much of "alive" as possible (with working effects, triggers and etc). For instance "[Program X] requires use of [some special shader] in the 3D model for transparency to appear correctly". I fear this could really become too technical though. Thanks for the thorough explanations. – Ivaylo Slavov May 21 '14 at 16:56
  • I think it depends on the question, you shouldn't ask about how to use software but to ask about what software to use is okay right? – Pobrecita Jun 15 '14 at 23:21
  • @iliveunderawesomerock, there does seem to be quite a bit of support for software recommendations, as evidenced by the other two answers on here. I'm not personally against questions like this, but it does seem to bump up against Stack Exchange's general policy against list questions. I'm honestly not sure where we go with that. It would definitely be on-topic in the chat room. That much I'm sure of. – rbwhitaker Jun 16 '14 at 16:00
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RB I would agree that supporting the programs is definitely not on-topic.

Requests for software that can do X on the other hand I think are worth including.

For example:

  • I want to create and render a 3d map, does anyone know a program that can do this for me. (Mind you there is a Software Recommendations SE as well)
  • I need a program that will allow me to document locations and their attributes and allow markers on a 2d/3d interactive map (dare to dream)
  • I need an effective file system/content manager focused on world-building

These I can see supporting because we are providing recommendations as opposed to support.

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I second James' position in that supporting programs is off-topic, but asking for suggests are worth including. I do know that there is a software recommendations SE, however I believe that world building software is specialized enough that we could address it with our conflict.

As long as we are discussing software, how about discussions on software development directed at world-building? For example, awhile back there was released a simulation of plate tectonics for procedural generation of landmasses. Problem was that it was done on a flat surface, I've been thinking about porting it to run on a sphere. Would discussions of doing this be considered on-topic? Again I know that there are a number of software development / programming SE sites that we may want to cross-post on, but I'm not sure of the response on those sites given the limited scope of world building.

  • How about "I'm using X program to simulate plate tectonics, and I'm getting Y weird result. Is that a realistic result that could occur under Z conditions?" – Jerenda Sep 8 '14 at 17:50
  • I would thing so. As long as the question was one more of is the result realistic (how ever that is defined for world-building), versus how do I use tool X. – thurizas Sep 8 '14 at 19:24

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