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