Running Simulator 2019
just do it
final project for Music 256A

Ty Sadlier | 2019.12.10
Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University Fall 2019

run with the wind!

run with a bird!

stretch your legs/fingers!


In Running Simulator 2019, you are a runner on a quasi-infinite track. Your fingers embody the legs of the virtual runner. Think of your index and middle fingers as a little person attached to your hand. You are that person now.

Each of your footsteps makes a sound on the pavement. A musical crow will accompany you on your walk/jog/sprint and generate melodies to the tempo of your footsteps. If you stop running and let the crow fly away from you, the melody goes with it.

My idea for a musical running simulator evolved out of one of my initial concept sketches for HW2 (Musical Sequencer). In this concept, a sprawling cross country trail visually represented an underlying generative music system in ChucK, where taking different trailheads triggered new motivic mutation options. The trail metaphor initially emerged as a convenient way of representing branching possibilities in a user-driven generative music system, but it later inspired a whole new narrative approach.

I often find that I get my best musical ideas while I'm out on a run. Whether due to increased bloodflow or the rhythmic induction of feet hitting the ground, new musical ideas form in my head much more freely than normal. After a run, I'm usually scrambling to write ideas down before they disappear. I really liked the idea of creating a musical game that expressed this feeling of emerging musical possibility through movement, and modifying the generative-trail idea was the logical next step.

video demo

Running Simulator 2019 from Ty on Vimeo.



All character movement in Running Simulator 2019 is driven by the trackpad. To move your character forward, swipe down on the trackpad. To move farther in a given step, swipe further along on the trackpad. To look left and right, swipe left/right. You can look to the side whilst moving forwards by swiping downwards at an angle. You can also freely look while stationary by pressing the shift key and swiping on the cursor (note that this will disable movement gestures).

The easiest way to run steadily is to alternate swiping down with your left and right fingers (as if miming a walking/running motion). You can run and turn simultaneously by rotating your fingers and swiping downwards at an angle. See above video for an example of ideal movement gestures.

Any time you touch the trackpad, a new "footstep" occurs. Footsteps trigger a sound and are logged in the BPM counter. As you run, the recorded tempo of your footsteps will control how fast you move and the tempo of the crow's cellular-automata generated music. Press "D" on your keyboard to switch between synthesized music and diagetic sounds.

To use the game’s multitouch input gestures, you must use a macOS computer with a multitouch trackpad (i.e. a Macbook with a built in trackpad or a desktop computer with an external Magic Trackpad connected). Please make sure to disable system-wide gestures on your trackpad, such as Mission Control and Notification Center gestures. Unity can’t suppress these gestures and leaving them enabled means your running immersion would likely be quickly interrupted :( To disable trackpad gestures, go to System Preferences -> Trackpad -> More Gestures and uncheck all the checkboxes.

Unfortunately, Running Simulator 2019 does not currently support cross-platform multitouch trackpad input, so I’ve only distributed macOS source code on this webpage.


asst. references :)