1. A Theory of Flow Pt. 3 - Choke Points

      written by noklu
      In the beginning, The Forge created Forge World. Now Forge World was filled with players, forgers and designers, and The Forge watched over them all. And The Forge said, "Let there be flow," and there was flow and The Forge saw that it was good and he separated high-flow from choke points. But some players were enticed by the fruit of the knowledge of camping, and warped The Forge's good intention for choke points into camping spots. Now others before me have undertaken to draw up an account of The Forge's intentions for choke points, and I simply relate this universal vision for choke points.

      Why Choke Points Fail

      If flow is simply the measure of a player’s ability to move through an area, then a place with a low flow-value is hence a bad thing. This is a fairly common assumption that appears, on the face of it, to be a sound principle: avoid choke points. However, the implication of avoiding low-flow values is that high flow-values are better – is this the case? I would think that designing a level to only possess high flow-values results in rather bland gameplay. It would lack the rich variance of holding and containing areas; of defense and ‘push-and-pull’ gameplay; of bases and all objective-based gameplay!

      Choke points have gained the reputation for being a bad thing due to a number of well known choke points: the Construct lifts from H3 spring to mind as do the comparable lifts in the original Zealot (before the soft-kill zone). The issue is that these choke points are not representative of choke point's broader potential. It is certainly true, however, that these examples of choke points are classic ‘camping spots’ and negative for gameplay, but it is not true that all choke points must be bad for gameplay. These examples are brilliant examples of how not to manipulate choke points for successful design.

      The major reason why these choke points are unsuccessful are that they lack any purpose. Design is a purpose-oriented discipline; everything must have a reason to be present. Obviously, this reason is often for enjoyable gameplay. It is evident that repetitive gameplay is less enjoyable than gameplay that varies. If one wants long-term enjoyable gameplay, then choke points are a valuable tool to achieve that purpose. The above examples from Construct and Zealot do not serve any such purpose. I suspect that the Zealot zero-gravity lifts, in particular, were introduced more as a gimmick than to provide better gameplay. To avoid this, it must be kept in mind that each choke point require a specific and deliberate purpose for your map.

      Proper Choke Point Design

      How, then, should a choke point be designed? In the same way as one plans the location of any incentive. Indeed, if a power weapon is only considered such by virtue of its potential for carnage, then a choke point should be considered on par with power weapons or other incentives. Players at a choke point are able to defend it against superior frontal firepower and so obtain the objective faster, whether that objective is points or flags. They do this by possessing high ground, effective cover, or long sight lines and so have an advantage over opponents. Controlling the choke point means that a route for attack or flag carrying has been removed. However, it is important for opposing players to be able to overwhelm or flank the choke point, otherwise the game devolves into the camping spots like above.

      It is important to realise that a choke point is only successful if it works with other areas of the map. A lone choke point at the only base entrance will add nothing to overall gameplay but will detract from it. A choke point that is combined with flanking positions and paths that requires effective teamwork to neutralise the position will allow more complex and enjoyable gameplay. It is worth noting here that for complex gameplay to occur, one need not have an extremely complicated map with a multitude of paths. In that situation, the choke point typically becomes devalued, and a choke point is only worth having if it will be used, just as weapons are pointless if they are not used.

      While all choke point are those with low flow-values, the better choke points are those that successfully improve the gameplay of the map. A successful choke point is on par with power weapons and introduces long-lasting value to a map due a choke point’s potential for strategic thinking and dynamic gameplay. However, as with anything, it is important to consider the overarching vision: is a choke point needed, or has it just been added as a gimmick?

      Go Forth, and Multiply...

      And The Forge said unto thee, "There are not enough deliberate choke points that are well-designed. Learn and master the methods of balancing networked flow-values and apply them in creating choke points. Map diversity shall flourish, and all shall benefit." The Forge slipped away into his mountainous home above the realms of Forge World and meditated on the future. A future where choke points have multiplied. And The Forge saw that it was good.

      A Theory of Flow Pt. 2

      4 comments:

      darksai2540 said...

      Not bad. ;)
      I'm surprised you didn't hit on the choke points on The Pit. The use of narrow tunnels and/or doorways are possibly the most over used form of a choke point, and IMO, often times part of a lazy design...
      Personally, I favor maps that influence flow through the use of vertical movement in a cyclical pattern. Take the forge map Crossroads by Sephiroth (one of the co-designers of Onslaught in H3): On the outskirts of the map, all the ramps clockwise until you reach a drop off to the lower level. This forces players to move in a predictable pattern, but the availability of flanking routes through the use of jump ups (or a JP pickup also at that locale) at the drop of, as well as the bridges intersecting the map, players are not locked to that one particular movement option.
      Check out the fileshare of: II Sethiroth II and download Crossroads to see what I mean.

      BTW: This is SecretSchnitzel (Tyler)... Stupid thing logged me in as my old e-mail account. Grrrrrr....

      Noklu said...

      Yes, I didn't quite specify a number of examples that I could use --  I remember a forgetac winner for Objective that had simply atrocious base design -- and there are certainly other maps with bad choke points. However, it has been a while since I played H3, and I feel that lifts are often are far worse choke point. My suggested type of choke points is basically a mini-stronghold, oriented in a particular direction, but weak to flanking assaults. 

      Captainpineapple44 said...

      Awesome article Noklu. Good job, you made a great point about how usefull of chokepoints can be in map design while remaining  really entertaining. Loved it :)

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