a music-driven desktop
game in a synesthetic
march-june 2023 / 10 weeks
1 designer (me!)
3D modeler + animator
Unreal Engine 5
Movements was a capstone project built in a single term at Dartmouth with two teammates.
As the sole designer and asset creator, I designed, built, and animated all models and UI;
led level design; and assisted with technical art— and learned UE5 on the way!
download the game
a game in which players use magical instruments on-
beat to navigate a world of dancing nature.
How might we illustrate music, mechanically and environmentally, in
a 3D world?
How might we prompt players (who have at least some familiarity with typical desktop
gameplay) to notice the soundtrack and relate it to their own actions?
Music is integral to a cohesive experience in any game. However,
players rarely pay attention to it.
They don’t need to: rather than playing a functional role, music traditionally acts as a
unifying, ambient layer without mechanical significance.
The greatest design challenge lay in drawing
attention to the importance of music.
Most players, accustomed to music as a
background feature, did not notice the
Through iteration and extensive user testing,
we made various changes including adding a
UI graphic to map the beat for the player.
As they progress, players pick up instruments
that equip them with different mechanics.
In the cave they find a drum that sends out a
shockwave when struck; in the meadow, a
horn that sends them jumping high into the
sky. Both only work when used on-beat.
After its first use, a track featuring the found
instrument is added in and more visual
elements are activated in the scene.
The goal in each setting is to progress to the
‘next environment’ while evading moving
In the cave, players maneuver falling boulders
to reach the meadow, where they duck swaying
trees in their path.
If struck, players return to the start of the
present level without losing progress.
The world consists of two primary
environments: the cave and the meadow.
Custom soundtracks (composed by one of the
developers) play in each, and scene elements
like vines, waves, and trees dance in-time.
The cave is a shorter-form introduction to the
structure of the game, while the meadow
poses a larger puzzle.
meet the project
click to play
(illegible, i know— but hey, it’s all part of the process!
click it to head over to a super high-res dropbox copy.)
The level design evolved from many a whiteboard scribble, as well
as extensive collaboration and conversation with the team.
Hover over the level maps to see my whiteboard sketches that inspired them!
I designed, built, and custom-textured asset packs for the landscape.
After researching existing kits, I created 40+ environment models with, I promise, clean
topology! hover over the cave below to see it in wireframe.
While the cave flow was entirely modeled in Maya, I implemented Unreal Engine 5’s
terrain tools with my own assets to sculpt, paint, and populate the meadow.
While some ambient elements used a synesthesia plugin, obstacle
movement required greater precision and custom animation.
I made these by importing the audio into Maya and interpreting beats-per-minute into
frames-per-second, then moving to match. All obstacles were rigged and skinned for
easy import into the game engine.
To ensure a leafy meadow without sacrificing visibility, I implemented stylized tree
shaders that not only simulated moving leaves but also faded out when too close to the
To give the game a sense of soft-worldbuilding lore, our character was
a mysterious adventurer.
Designs drew from games like Sky: Children of the Light and Legend of Zelda: Breath of
the Wild, as well as brainstorming sketches and DALL-E 2 iterations.
instruments & ui
To further boost the soft-worldbuilding, natural feel, the instruments
resembled animal-inspired relics.
When players found and picked up the physical instrument, the corresponding icon
spawned and the beat-visualization UI activated.
The character was rigged and skinned by hand, and the scarves at the belt were adjusted
in-editor: to make them flow with the player, I experimented with UE5's cloth tools. outside
of big jumps, it flowed well!
thank you for reading!
like what you read and want to hear more? please get in touch below.
built with framer by macy 
Movements was a capstone course project built in a
single term at Dartmouth College with two teammates.
As the sole designer and asset creator, I designed,
built, and animated all models and UI; led level design;
and assisted with technical art.