1. A Theory of Flow Pt. 1

      written by noklu
      Well, it's been a while since I, noklu, have had the time to type out a post for this 'ere site. But here I am, revealed at last! This post is the first summary of a thread in our Game Design Discussion forum -- I'd love for more people to come in there and contribute. In fact, I'd like to come back and develop this concept further so I would love some feedback in the relevant thread, or at the bottom of this post. Also, I think I must shamelessly plug our race competition which has another few weeks of life yet.



      Flowing Along

      Flow is a word that is frequently thrown around by designers, critics and players. From it’s dictionary definition, it is easy to see why it is so popular -- it means ‘to move along steadily and continuously in a current or stream’. That is a concept that is considered desirable by designers and optimal for players. However, as with any idea, a complete expression of it does aid understanding and the practical application of the concept.

      Flow-Values

      The concept of flow that is frequently used typically means the generalised ability of players to move around a level. In other words, a map with poor flow is difficult to move about -- this can be caused by bumpy floors, tight corners or narrow passages. A level’s flow is also influenced by the movement of players. An area controlled by a red sniper, tank or shotgunner is hard to move through by a blue player, which indicates that flow varies depending on a game’s progression. The contributing factors are ally and enemy locations; weapon and vehicle spawns; and, objective locations. Typically, a level that flows well presents a good first impression.
      That only takes into account flow on a broad scale, but it also exists on a local scale. Every locale within a map provides a certain ease of motion to players. It can be difficult or it can be hard. To aid in the comparison of areas, I use a concept called a ‘flow-value’. One can imagine it as a number, where a high value equals good flow (often achieved by plenty of dance-floor). However, it is better understood as a comparative tool. Saying “this map has a high flow-value” is exactly the same as saying, “This map flows well.” However, the use of flow-values allows easier comparison by reference to concrete quantitative expressions rather than vague qualitative statements. That being said, flow-values are not, strictly speaking, a numerical tool, but a comparative tool. I mainly make use of it so I can better explain the concepts of flow -- it is easier to understand “the flow-value decreases” than to say “flow is worse”.

      Choke Points

      Choke points are special areas which have low flow-values. These areas can effectively become the equivalent of a power weapon, and typically net the players holding the choke point many points. A working definition of choke points is any place that one or two players can hold while outnumbered. They typically have low flow-values, but this is not the required condition for a choke point -- the ability to hold an area while outnumbered is key. Choke points can include long narrow alleys, constricted rooms with small entryways or wide fields that can be controlled by a sniper. These places only become choke points when a player controls them or even when a player with a certain weapon is present. Choke points are not intrinsically bad for gameplay, but they can easily become unbalanced. Balanced choke points improve lasting impressions and bring strategy to a level.

      11 comments:

      Zombified panda said...

      Nice write up, i like the "flow-value". Flow is one of the harder things to explain to someone when reviewing a map, so i'm going to steal that value chart of yours! thanks

      Tyler said...

      I think flow value would be beautifully represented by a bell curve chart. On the vertical axis, level of flow and on the horizontal axis the amount of dance floor. Starts low, swings high, and drops low again.

      Choke points however I don't agree with too well... Your description brings to mind actual "choke points", which discourage movement and and encourage campy gameplay. I think a more viable description would be "positions of strategic advantage", or essentially holding the high ground. Its a position that offers considerable advantage over a region of the map, but it should also be reasonably approachable. A solid rule is to always have 3 avenues of approach to any such position.

      Noklu said...

      Yes, what you say about choke points is precisely what I intended. I'm going to come back with a post purely on choke points, so never fret! 


      And the bell curve would be a rough generalisation of it, yes. Of course, there is going to be a whole host of other factors: height differences, weapons present etc. But roughly, it should look somewhat like a bell curve. The trick is: where is the maximal playspace? and should we actually be aiming for that? Again, all questions I'm coming back to.

      Noklu said...

      That's really what this post is intended for: to help people explain flow.

      Tyler said...

      Btw fellas, um.... I've matured a bit (sounds bad for a 24 year old man to say) since last year. Is it possible I can haz unban? Been gaming with Mr Saddo and Nooooch a bit lately and realize this community is much cooler than the others as far as people go. MrGreenwithaGun managed to convince me to come back.

      Noklu said...

      Just to let you know, there is a thread from some weeks ago discussing the very same thing. It has kinda been interrupted by Godly repairing his computer, busy admins and other stuff. So, I'm sure it will be looked at soon enough -- so be patient!

      Tyler said...

      My god, I almost cited this article today for one of my fellow forgers from MLG. The basis for the debate between myself and said forget is that completely unrestricted movement options on a map is better for gameplay/flow than to have restraints that direct movement into specific directions.
      That being said, this is probably one of the more useful lessons/posts I've seen here. :D

      Noklu said...

      In essence, this post synthesises a number of other ideas and lessons that Godly has already expounded upon and then offers a theoretical framework behind those lessons that, I hope, extends understanding of those concepts. But thank you for your praise. 

      Tyler said...

      It's been over a month... No new lessons? 

      Noklu said...

      There's an article lined up, but I don't know if Godly has taken a look at it yet.

      Anonymous said...

      Someone who had asthma and who requires something, then feels wonderful, could or could not be healed - even if the "sensation great" portion lasts for a long time [url=http://best-vaporizers.net/]best vaporizer[/url] There are plenty of reviews to look for on the web too volcano vaporizers Investigate these with a critical eye as knock-offs products are rampant and quality is suspect http://best-vaporizers.net/ best portable vaporizer The physical sensation of holding and smoking a cigarette is there but the function and longevity is limited by its size ?