Osmos Rage, part 4: Roadside Assistance

Posted by on Feb 3, 2010 in Osmos, Rage | 23 Comments

Given the Achievement stats on Steam, it’s pretty clear that the last few Force levels are where people are really getting stuck. In particular, F3A-3 and F3C-3. (F3A-2 is a fair bit easier since version 1.6.0.) So let’s dive right in. (Now might be a good time to make a pot of tea.)


Zen Attractors 3 is all about efficient orbit manipulation. For those interested in some deeper reading on the subject, start here and here, paying attention to Hohmann transfers in particular. But I’ll present enough material here to get you transferring Osmos orbits with the best of them. (Strangely, I was unable to find an easy to understand “how to efficiently manipulate your obit” tutorial on the web. I guess it doesn’t come up very often in everyday life.)

Take a look at the leftmost image in the diagram below. (Click any image for a larger version.) The red circle is an Attractor, the blue circle is you, and the green circle is your target. Both you and your target are moving in a circular, counter-clockwise orbit. Note that because your orbit is closer to the Attractor, it takes less time to come full circle than for your target.

orbit 1 orbit 2 orbit 3

The first step is for you to speed up to grow your orbit (by clicking behind your mote a few times), as in the middle image. You are now in an elliptical orbit that intersects your target’s orbit. Note that your new elliptical orbit shares a point with your old circular one, and you will continue to return to the point where you “made your move” (ie. clicked to fire mass). Now it’s just a matter of time. You may not come close to hitting your target in your first trip around the Attractor, but if you wait a while, you will. And when you get close, a few judicious clicks should be enough to catch your target. Remember you can warp time: speed it up if you’re waiting for a good fly-by opportunity, and slow it down when you’re close and want time to think and perform micro-adjustments. That’s the basic recipe!

Here’s a video example for good measure. (About two-and-a-half minutes to complete the level. Watch in fullscreen.)

For completeness, the rightmost image above shows how to complete a Hohmann transfer (ie. moving from one circular orbit to another). By speeding up again when reaching the apoapsis (the “far end” of your orbit’s ellipse), you can grow your orbit to the new, larger circle. Again, note that you will continue to return to the last point where you adjusted your speed. (And you will no longer return to a point on your original, smaller circular orbit.)

To shrink your orbit, simply do the reverse: slow down to go from diagram 3 to 2, and slow down again to go from 2 to 1.

Note that you can make these adjustments anywhere in your orbit, but it’s most instructive to view them in this way. Experiment away!


Once you find Zen Attractors 3 easy, it’s time to tackle Epicycles 3. The first thing to practice is efficient orbit escapes and how to fall back into orbit around an outer-Attractor. This is what the tutorial level F3C-1 is for. Practice moving from Attractor to Attractor, and watch how clicking affects your epicyclic orbit. Once you get a good feel for this, you should be able to put all your skills together and beat F3C-3.

Personally, I prefer to visit each of the three outer-Attractors in turn, absorbing their satellites, then absorbing an outer-Attractor, and finally moving into the central Attractor’s orbit to absorb its satellites and finally the Attractor itself. Any remaining outer-Attractors will then leave the “blobiverse” due to their inertia and be absorbed by the red, circular border. But there are multiple ways to do it. A good discussion on strategies can be found on the Steam forums here.

Here’s a video example of how to do it. (It’s over seven minutes long. Refill that teacup and watch in fullscreen.)

As was wisely pointed out by pez0 on the Steam forum: “Think before scooping up the orbiting attractors! If you come from behind in orbit, they’ll accelerate you forward really hard, causing your orbit to expand and you to crash into the wall. This is because gravity isn’t mutual – you accelerate but the attractor does not. Momentum is not conserved so don’t be afraid to dump huge amounts of mass into the attractor to slow yourself down as you’re pulled into the gravity well. You’ll get the mass back immediately when you absorb the attractor, but you’ll retain the change in momentum.” It’s true; in these levels, Attractors’ velocity is not affected by satellites, including you, so momentum is not conserved. Without this physical “cheat” in the game’s design, the Epicycle levels wouldn’t be stable enough to play. So include that technique in your arsenal. I actually use it in the video around 6:19 to slow down as I’m absorbing the first Attractor. (Though it’s hard to make out since I’m firing mass right into the Attractor.) Thanks pez0!

One final note. All levels in their default form are winnable — randomization is never necessary. It’s true, if you randomize enough you may get a particularly easy configuration, but I don’t recommend this strategy. The randomization feature is there to offer players variety, not luck.


So there you have it, the end of our “Osmos Rage” series. Hopefully all this helps you really enjoy the final stages of the game — that’s why we made them in the first place! And who knows… maybe people will even learn something along the way.

Except you video makers out there. You guys’ll never amount to nuthin’! ;-)


  1. charstar
    February 3, 2010

    Regarding these Osmos Rage posts, I think the analysis is correct that the current videos/trailers do tend to play up the chilled-out aspect of the game while not letting on that it is after all a puzzle game and it can get quite tricky. Also, I think it’s awesome that you guys decided to tune up the difficulty progression a bit (not that I had a problem with it). That said, please don’t go overboard. Osmos is _fantastic_ so please don’t apologize too much. Some of the later levels were terribly vexing, but that’s what kept me playing! Who are these wussies who keep complaining anyway?? :) What’s the point of being able to plow through a game in a day or less and then have nothing else to do with it but toss it aside? While the aesthetics are quite advanced in Osmos, the game play hit a bit of an 8-bit nostalgic spot; it gave me just the right number of holy-freaking-crap-this-is-hard moments.

    Osmos is awesome. These wussmotes just need to toughen up a bit.

  2. Torley
    February 5, 2010

    Friendly greetings in twentyten!

    The uncanny depth of Hemisphere beckons me. I wasn’t expecting such a hypnotic aesthetic at bedtime, and I can say “Zen experience” without cliché. The overall elegance reminds me of gameplay-focused classics on my C64. Somewhere in all of this there’s a metaphor to the womb.

    The ambient tunes are also gorgeous, except for times where I’m about to be absorbed — I wish tense dissonance cued me to that near-death fact. Perhaps you can consider it for the future?

    That being said, I compose ambient music (e.g.,, http://torley.bandcamp.com/track/011-hyper-suspension ) and am wondering how to insert my music in the stages? I’ve read there’ll possibly be a level editor and this sounds like it’d be an attractive part of the package.

    Thanks much in advance for the response and KEEP BEING CREATIVE, YEAH!

  3. zenpunk
    February 9, 2010

    what charstar said. spot on.

  4. zenpunk
    February 9, 2010

    heya.. .big fan of your game… just wondering…

    Does orbital slingshotting work in game?…
    Is that something that will just work naturally in a gravitational sim like this, or does it have to be ‘programmed in’? I was trying to do that a bit (bringing myself close to the sun then firing thrust at the closest point) especially on the levels like the one where you have very little fuel to get yourself out to the far orbit to grab the 1 small blob. It seemed to work… i finished the level (loved it!) … but wasn’t sure if I was helping or hurting myself by first slowing down (go get close to sun) before speeding up at the close point.

    Just wondering..

  5. eddybox
    February 13, 2010

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone! We also believe that the difficulty is well tuned now, and it’s good to hear our players feel the same way. :)

    @zenpunk: Yes, gravity assists just work naturally! Thanks for asking, it’s one of those details I’m really pleased with. You can get the effect with the outer-Attractors in Epicycles, and with any Attractor in Warped Chaos. It’s not as important as in “real life” of course, since Osmos is many orders of magnitude easier (hah! ;-) ) than planning an efficient course in our solar system (as the relative distances are soooo much greater), but the effect is there.

    @Torley: cool tune, thanks for sharing. There isn’t a supported way to override the music in Osmos, but you can always set the music volume to zero and then play any tune you like in a separate player. As for the level editor, it keeps getting bumped for “more important” things, but we’re still keen to get it done at some point — and we’ll make sure to allow custom music when it happens.


  6. Baja Boojum
    February 21, 2010

    Great game- thanks!

    I’d appreciate if you would make the first video on this page (F3A-3: Zen Attractors 3) available for download on Vimeo. The second video (Epicycles 3) is downloadable.

    I play Osmos offline on a netbook and am rarely connected. It’s alot more helpful if I can watch it while in the game.


    • eddybox
      February 21, 2010

      @Baja: Done, F3A-3 is now downloadable. :)

  7. Artiem Down
    April 18, 2010

    Wow, love the game, and the difficulty, so thanks a whole lot for this, i was getting really frustrated at the final levels, so this helped a lot.

  8. 54x
    April 29, 2010

    Well, I certainly agree with you that there’s a place for those levels in the game, but I do agree that the difficulty ramps up way too steeply. For those of us who don’t do something once and then learn it forever, it would have been nice to have more than one level training us in some of the advanced concepts that we need to use extensively on the Force levels, for instance, and maybe a sentient blob or two demonstrating it on a Sentient or Force level for us, just in case we’re really thick-headed. :)

    But anyway, great game, and perhaps someday I’ll feel inclined to put in the time to complete all of it. :)

  9. shteev
    December 19, 2010

    Thanks for this! I tanked through almost the entire game in a day, but I felt that that difficulty level of F3C-3 hit me like an anvil. (I loved the ambient levels, and swore a bit at the later Sentient ones :) ). I could tell that my problem was with efficiently changing orbits from one attractor to another, but I just couldn’t figure it out by myself. The tutorial video was just what I needed!

    I do think that the difficulty of the levels ramps up a bit quickly, and that adding more levels might have helped; the random feature doesn’t really cover it (although, kudos on a great idea, it’s a lot of fun to go back and play earlier levels again with a twist, and its nice to be able to replay randomised levels as well).

  10. Sobou
    December 30, 2010

    If this game was just the Ambient and Sentient levels, it’d be a hell of a lot better than what it is. As it stands, all of the levels that deal with gravitational orbits make this game anything but a “relaxing zen-like experience of joy and fun” like you guys oh so love to promote. I haven’t been relaxed at all during it.

    Even with the tutorials here, it’s hard to control and manage the orbits and I spend upwards of 20 minutes on a good attempt only to twitch and completely ruin what I’ve had.

    There’s a reason why only 2.0% of all Steam users have beaten all of the Force zones. You have taken a good-on-paper concept and made stages based on it that are so frustrating that it ruins any inclination to have a fun and relaxing experience.

  11. Galaldir
    January 5, 2011

    This game is really addicting, nice graphics and the music is chilling, all in all a Osmos is a beautiful game, but… it is also a terribly frustrating one.

    Forcing the player to complete the (personally) near impossible force levels F3C-2 and F3C-3 just for getting the rest of the Ambient levels unlocked is a design flaw beyond any understanding. I would be fairer if the A4* and S4* levels get unlocked after completing the corresponding A3* and S3* levels.

    A save game or time rewind function would make the whole experience more enjoyable.

  12. dartigen
    September 1, 2011

    Strangely, I feel like I’ve learned something about planetary orbits. I think because Epcicycles reminds me of part of Microsoft Encarta that demonstrated different types of orbit (circular, elliptical, decaying and some weird ones).

    Admittedly, I am kind of annoyed that I don’t have the last tier of the S zones open, but I’m a completionist. I want to finish every level in the game. I’m not someone who’s happy to play the same level over and over (it took me 6 attempts over as many days to get Black Hole Sun, and I hated playing the same damn thing each time).

    But it’s not the game itself that’s the issue – it’s a physics-based game, much like Portal, and like Portal some people will breeze it in two hours, some people will spend two hours on a level.
    It more that it’s marketed as a relaxing game, not as a challenging one that will force you to think and react quickly.

    I had trouble with Epicycles and most of the orbiting levels because I didn’t quite understand the mechanics of altering orbit in the game just from what I was seeing. I was wondering – does it also work for other particles if you fire motes into them?
    (I think I’ll take another crack at Epicycles when I’m more awake…and play it slowed right down.)

  13. Ali
    December 21, 2011

    I think the main thing about F3A-3 is putting time to MAXIMUM when circulating the orbit. I passed all game on slow/medium time but this level I just couldn’t pass until I learned how to put time to maximum speed. When I did – passed it the same minute

    F3C-3 is the only one left to unlock all zones. Find it rather hard but not impossible. Got really close several times but didn’t have enough mass to absorb the central attractor.

  14. stian
    August 17, 2012


    what is ZEN and what are Zen Attractors?

    i really like the word ZEN !

  15. trlkly
    July 7, 2013

    Too bad the force levels are all unplayable with that camera spinning around so fast, and an inability to zoom out far enough where it doesn’t do that. My problem is not the logic. It’s that trying to play the game makes me too dizzy to concentrate on any logic.

  16. Anon
    July 23, 2013

    Have to agree with the complaints about this particular part of the game. After playing (and immensely enjoying) the Ambient and Sentient parts of the game, this set of levels came across as a huge disappointment.

    I didn’t think I’d have to say this, but it is possible to make something challenging and require strategy to complete (like the other two zone branches) whilst not making it insanely frustrating to play.

    Did you simply forget how to make levels that were legitimately enjoyable and thought provoking (other than the thought of throwing your computer out the window) after the other two were made, or was it all just a fluke?

    I’m currently slugging my way through F3A-3, constantly telling myself to not uninstall the game every time the slightest little thing goes wrong, after having spent several hours just trying to beat these three levels. I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to last.

    Huge disappointment to an otherwise perfectly enjoyable game.

    I realize this is over 3 years late, but just thought I’d throw in my two pennies worth too.

  17. DaSH
    November 8, 2013

    thanks for the tips, never managed to beat these 2 levels yet, but here goes… really want to unlock the final set of levels (I really enjoy playing the Ambient ones). Any chance of an Osmos 2 (or some other equally awesome new game) someday? Best of luck to you guys!

  18. Harmonex
    November 17, 2013

    I have to say that I’m also stuck on F3C3, but I’m loving it. The challenge of the force levels is the only reason I still play this game after purchasing it a year ago. Had I been able to beat it on the same day I started, I’d never touch this game again.

  19. Harmonex
    November 17, 2013

    And of course I beat it right after posting that…using the techniques I have learned, I shall vanquish the new levels.

  20. David
    February 24, 2014

    I am playing Osmos for iPad. I echo the experience reported by many posters here about the insane difficulty of the Epicycles levels, particularly Epicycles and Epicycles 9.


    I have ONE two-part question for you:

    I am troubled by your video showing the solution to the equivalent level of the Epicycles 9 for the iOS version of the game (F3C-3 for the PC version). I feel that your solution was NOT a legitimate solution since YOUR MOTE did not absorb ALL of the attractors. Instead, you leveraged the outer border to kill off the attractors. The instruction shown at the beginning of the level implicitly implies that “you” (not the outer border) need to absorb the attractors, thus your proposed solution skirted around this criterion.

    Is it possible to actually BEAT this level with YOUR MOTE absorbing ALL of the attractors? In other words, did you ensure that the total amount of mote materials are available in the setup so that the level can be beaten this way (accounting, of course, the loss of mote materials needed for travel)? If so, have you verified that the level on the iOS version can be beaten this way as well?

  21. David
    February 25, 2014

    I am posting my answer to my own question from my previous comment, mainly for prosperity so that other gamers playing Osmos who have the same question may seek the answer here.
    I have finally beaten the game (Osmos for iPad, v2.3.1), completing all of the Odyssey and Arcade game modes in the single-player campaign, including all of the Epicycles levels. I can confirm that it is possible to beat Epicycles 9 (the last level) by using your own Mote to absorb all 4 Attractors (3 peripheral Attractors and 1 center Attractor), without leveraging the outer red border to mop up any Attractors as seen in the video of the developer’s stock solution for F3C-3.
    As expected, the steps to beat this level using this added restriction are extremely difficult to execute. It is critical that you keep your taps to a minimum. The total amount of matters from Motes and Attractors are just barely enough to execute this strategy. Here are the steps:
    1. From your starting position, spin around the peripheral Attractor to absorb near all of the Motes. Periodically check the Motes around the center Attractor. You may stay orbiting this peripheral Attractor as long as the Motes orbiting around the center Attractor have not coalesced to be too large.
    2. At the apex of your current swirling trajectory around the peripheral Attractor, tap to change course of your Mote to the center Attractor. Once you are close enough, hit a few smaller Motes. These hits will automatically (and should sufficiently) alter your trajectory into an orbit around the center Attractor.
    3. Use the Hohmann technique to intercept the smaller Motes while still in orbit. Once you are the biggest Mote there, fast forward time until almost all of the remaining Motes orbiting the center Attractor have been absorbed. This is safe to do as long as you make sure that your orbit does not decay. By the time you finish absorbing, sufficient time will have passed so that the smaller Motes orbiting from each of the other untouched peripheral Attractors will have all coalesced into a single Mote, the size of which will be smaller than your own Mote (if you did the steps correctly thus far).
    4. Break orbit from the center Attractor and fly into the first peripheral Attractor from where you left earlier. Aim your trajectory so that you will be colliding with the Attractor from a CLOCKWISE direction. It is extremely critical that you do not come in a counterclockwise direction, which you indistinctly want to do. Aim for a head-on collision with the Attractor. This way, once collided, you will only need to slightly adjust your new trajectory so not to hit the outer red border. Readjust your trajectory to continue to travel in a CLOCKWISE direction, staying just inside the outer red border, to meet the next peripheral Attractor.
    5. Once you are close, absorb the largest Mote orbiting the peripheral Attractor and do a head-on collision with the Attractor. Again, because you are colliding from a CLOCKWISE direction (whereas the Attractor is orbiting in a counterclockwise direction), after the collision, you will only need to slightly adjust your new trajectory so not to hit the outer red border. Readjust your trajectory to continue to travel in a CLOCKWISE direction to meet the last peripheral Attractor. Repeat the process to absorb the the largest Mote orbiting this last peripheral Attractor and do a head-on collision with this Attractor.
    6. You have now absorbed all 3 peripheral Attractors. If you did the steps correctly thus far, your trajectory will automatically change toward the center. Let your Mote travel back to the center. Decay any forming orbit make a head-on collision with the center Attractor. By this time, if you did all of the steps correctly, you will have accumulated enough mass to absorb the center Attractor and beat the level.
    May these tips be helpful to you! Enjoy the game!

  22. eddybox
    March 4, 2014

    Thanks a lot for the comments and tips, David! Very cool stuff.

    Indeed, as you discovered and explained, it *is* possible to complete the level by visiting each of the outer attractors in turn. I went for the shortcut in the video for the purposes of brevity. You’re right that I didn’t technically absorb all the Attractors, but felt it was a legitimate “enough” way to beat the level. Many ways to skin that cat! ;-)

    Thanks again!