Flanking Routes

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Alternative ways to reach locations in game worlds which may be unexpected to others.

Games that contain aspects of area control require that players guard access routes to these. Flanking Routes are either access routes that are less likely to be used or ones that will not attract the main portions of combatants. Even so, they can be vital for the outcome since use of them can launch surprise attacks or take over areas believed to be safe.


Flanking Routes are often found in the maps of Real-Time Strategy Games and team-based First-Person Shooters. Both Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Team Fortress 2 contain maps where gameplay needs to go along certain tracks but how this progresses depend heavily on how team make use of the numerous Flanking Routes that exist. In Battlefield 2 sneaking on the left side of the map Strike at Karkand offers marine teams a viable strategy to take a spawn point, while driving jeeps off-road on the western plateau on the Dragon Valley can let them steal one deep inside the Chinese team's territory.

Flanking Routes can also exist in other Strategy Games than Real-Time Strategy Games. A well-known example from World War II which is recreated in Wargames such as the Hearts of Iron series is the possibility of Germany to avoid the French Maginot line by going through Belgium and Holland. However, in most cases flanking in these games depends more on outmaneuvering other forces than on terrain features.

Using the pattern

Flanking Routes is primarily a way to modulate how other features of Game Boards, Game Worlds, or Levels work, e.g. Arenas, Choke Points, Galleries, or Sniper Locations. However, they can also be used to support Laning simply by having several (typically three) alternate routes to the same place.

Designing them consist of providing additional ways of reaching locations in the Game Worlds. Although all accesses to a location may similar and thereby make what is perceived as Flanking Routes depend on what the current game state is, accesses that are intended to always be perceived as Flanking Routes should either be narrower or otherwise less obvious (e.g. by containing Choke Points), or be extra accesses to those that will guaranteed be focus for gameplay. An example of the latter can be found in the Gold Rush map in Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and all payload maps in Team Fortress 2. Here, the attacking team needs to move a tank or cart respectively along a predefined route but several Flanking Routes exist that let defending players various ways of trying to intercept or ambush the attackers.

An option for Flanking Routes is to make them One-Way Travel, e.g. by being down an unscalable cliff side. Another option, in games with Vehicles, is to make them only accessible to those that are either using or not using the Vehicles.

When players can create Warp Zones (which engineers in Team Fortress 2 can) or Spawn Points (which North Vietnamese engineers in Battlefield Vietnam can), this opens up for these to be used as Flanking Routes.


Flanking Routes affect the ease with how Movement can be done in Game Boards, Game Worlds, and Levels. They also affect the usefulness of Galleries and Sniper Locations, and the difficulty of Combat to gain or retain Area Control of many types of areas, e.g. Arenas. They also make Reconnaissance goals more difficult and Scouting goals necessary. They not only modulate how important Choke Points are, but can directly counter the purpose of them. Likewise, they can make Camping more difficult or even make it meaningless.

The existence of Flanking Routes lets players have a Selectable Set of Goals on how to reach or take control over locations, and through this can provide Varied Gameplay. They can make Stealth goals possible since unguarded Flanking Routes may exist, or encourage these goals further if they already are possible. This in turn makes the routes Attention Demanding Gameplay to those wanting to hinder Movement through them and gives rise to Guard goals; when not enough players or Units exist to Guard all accesses this also requires Attention Swapping. Failure to Guard the Flanking Routes can lead to Surprises and Combos in the form of two-pronged attacks.

All these consequences of Flanking Routes make them Strategic Locations in addition to the strategic values of the areas they provide access to. They can also help combatants achieve Surprise Attacks. They however rely on the locations of Avatars and Units and how aware players are of these, so effective use or defense against Flanking Routes requires Tactical Planning. In games with Teams, Flanking Routes provides a possibility for Team Combos in having some team members take the Flanking Routes while other team members distract the opponents.


Can Instantiate

Attention Demanding Gameplay, Attention Swapping, Laning, Scouting, Selectable Set of Goals, Stealth, Strategic Locations, Surprises, Tactical Planning, Varied Gameplay

with Teams

Team Combos

Can Modulate

Area Control, Arenas, Camping, Choke Points, Combat, Combos, Galleries, Game Boards, Game Worlds, Guard, Levels, Movement, Reconnaissance, Sniper Locations, Surprise Attacks, Stealth, Vehicles

Can Be Instantiated By

Spawn Points, Warp Zones

Can Be Modulated By

Choke Points, One-Way Travel

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Camping, Choke Points


New pattern created in this wiki. However, it was first introduced using another template by Hullett and Whitehead[1], and a more detailed description in this template is available[2].


  1. Hullett, K. & Whitehead, J. (2010). Design Patterns in FPS Levels, paper presentation at Foundations of Digital Games 2010, June 19-21, Monterey, CA, USA.
  2. Flanking Route pattern by Kenneth Hullett.


Kenneth Hullett, Jim Whitehead