The journey of Galaxy Rebound: Level design breakdown



Greetings travelers,

First let me introduce myself. I'm Ahmed Mohi, the level designer of Galaxy Rebound. I worked with Omar Nash (game designer and programmer) to develop this mobile zen puzzle game. Yup this is us in the photo xD.

Okay before we jump in, I think we need to understand the world of the game and the atmosphere we tried to make.

The game was built to offer players a relaxing atmosphere, so we tried to minimize unneeded art; we made the background space-like to empower that feeling of calmness one gets when looking at the sky at night. It's also the collaboration of every element in the game to give this atmospheric feeling.

My friend Omar used the power of music and sound effects to add more to the overall experience. Every time the main character rebounds from a platform, you get to hear a sound effect with different rhythms that makes the player soothed or welcome to try again, and not annoyed of failing.



Why I wrote all this about the world and atmosphere ?
As a level designer, your goal is to actually build worlds! You turn dreams into visual and interactive worlds! And the first brick you need is understanding the world you're about to create.
If I'm creating a multiplayer fps (First Person Shooter) game, then I need to make sure everything is connected. I'll also need to check that players can navigate through the map easily, and there are no prefect spots for players.

This is a part of what makes a good level for multiplayer fps, but still how should the level feel ?

Is this multiplayer game fast-paced? We'll need a lot of destructible objects, fire everywhere, and maybe make the map a bit small to force players to act fast.
Or maybe game has stealth and tactics; in that case, we emphasize on tactics and that requires more objects in the map to allow players to hide or sneak behind. Maybe have both small and open areas to allow varieties.

The way you actually build your level will impact the way the players play it and that is the feeling or the experience you want to deliver through your level.

So now we understand why we care about the experience or the feeling of game. Let me say that a game's experience is the responsibility of every team member, not just the level designer. Without the appropriate objects, the items or the music, the whole experience you try to deliver will be flawed.

So before jumping into the technical stuff xD let me explain the game mechanics:
There is a little star named 'Sola'. You hold to aim your sola properly so that it reaches a wormhole (your target). The trick is that the sola needs to be the same color as the wormhole to enter it.
The sola changes color by hitting a platform so it takes its color.

Also when developing the levels for Rebound, I tried to keep in mind that the levels need to be clear and challenging.

Clear:
The player needs to always know his goal. You can't put the player in a situation where he doesn't know what to do.

Challenging :
In the world of game design, there is what's known as "Game flow". You need to keep the players focused on your game by keeping them challenged - by solving a puzzle for example - but at the same time, they need to have all the skills they need to solve it.

What does that mean ?
The player starts with zero skills in your game, so you offer him easy levels. Through these levels, the player learns your game. If you keep the difficulty the same even after the first levels, he will surely get bored. So what to do ? You'll need to offer him harder levels, but just hard enough so he tests and uses his newly acquired skills to solve this new challenge.

 In Rebound, the game starts with this  :
 

The white light or circle is the sola (which the player controls and we have already introduced it before in the main menu and in the intro ) .. so what the players try to do or think is to get it through or at least touch the blue wormhole. That results in the sola moving to it but this won't complete the level unless sola is blue, like the wormhole.
The only other blue thing is the platform behind it. So what need to happen is that sola passes through the blue wormhole, hits the platform and turns into blue, and then rebounds to the wormhole.
And you may notice that we also wrote hints to help the player.

To make sure the players learn these mechanics, we introduced the same level again but in a different way:


As you can see, if the player learned the controls then it's easier to aim left. Even if he still aims the same way it, will work too but will offer him more visual feedback with more time (the sola rebounds to the left platform then back to the wormhole ) so he notices that the sola needs to be blue.


In the third level, we changed colors to make the players aware that there are more colors and also changed the arrangement of them and put only 2 green objects in the level. The player already knows his goal ( the first green object ) so the remaining green platform is the one he should try and hit.


Okay , the game has more than 70 levels, how to come up with all these levels ?
well I can't give a definitive answer to this, but I can say that you need to always ask your self: what if ?

What if we changed the position of this platform? What if we changed the color of this? Or made this shape with these objects? Or changed the place of the sola? Always ask yourself and try different and weird things!
Take players' feedback early on. It helps you come up with new ideas and helps you avoid mistakes early.

When I worked on Rebound, I started with sketches on paper like these two :
 




I'm not really an artist xD , but I simply sketch my ideas and the answers to them (when making 70 levels, I sometimes forget the answers to my own puzzles xD ).

Well I think I kinda made a long post :D so I hope you found some information that could help you with your own work. If you need any kind of help, feel free to contact us or leave a comment!

And ah! If you are interested in our little game, feel free to download it but don't forgot to drop us your feedback :D

Google play :
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.MO.Rebound

Windows phone :
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/games/galaxy-rebound/9wzdncrd2t81


~ Ahmed Mohi
Co-Founder and Game Developer at 2024 Studios

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