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Soothe your soul with 'Panoramical,' a game of musical manipulation

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Panoramical doesn't fit into an existing game category. It's not an action game, simulator, point-and-click, FPS or any other traditional gaming genre -- but it is magical. Panoramical offers a form of musical meditation, allowing players to manipulate gorgeous 3D landscapes with a gamepad, keyboard and mouse or MIDI controller, all backed by music from David Kanaga (Proteus, Dyad) and overseen by Argentine designer Fernando Ramallo. Plus, it features a host of guest musicians, including LittleBigPlanet 2 co-composer Baiyon, Samurai Gunn composer Doseone and Luftrausers composer Kozilek.

Gallery: Panoramical | 13 Photos

"I was pretty overwhelmed by this huge project," Ramallo tells Engadget. "Having that external push of people I respect and that really believed in my project was essential for me on keeping momentum during the hardest parts of development."

Panoramical features 15 distinct worlds with 18 different audiovisual dimensions each. Players control each dimension by moving the mouse, joystick or MIDI knobs to create unique, flowing landscapes and songs. It's a creative experience, and the visual output would fit right in at a nightclub, flashing and waving behind the DJ booth in time with the music.

In fact, Ramallo is marketing Panoramical directly to DJs with the Panoramical Pro license. For $100, DJs get permission to showcase Panoramical in public, support for a video feed and open sound control, an automatic play mode that keeps the visuals moving, all future DLC and updates and a direct line to the developers for questions and suggestions. The game alone, no DJ kit included, is $10 and it's out now on PC and Mac. There's also something for hobbyists and Panoramical fiends: a limited-run, $125 MIDI controller specifically designed for the game. Or whatever Panoramical is.

The MIDI controller page describes Panoramical as a "videogame-like interactive experience." In a YouTube video, Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman describes Panoramical as "a new kind of game" and "an immersive musical adventure through space and time." Ramallo isn't entirely sure what to call it, either.

"We don't have a lot of vocabulary when it comes to describing audiovisual experiences that aren't about anything in particular except being beautiful or moving," he says. "The quickest associations people make to these are psychedelia or synesthesia, but Panoramical isn't trying to replicate any of them."

It's difficult to market something that doesn't have a clear label, Ramallo says. He even had help in the marketing department from Saltsman himself. Panoramical was one of the first games in Saltsman's Finji incubator program, which helped Ramallo set up contracts and marketing campaigns, and taught him how to talk about the game to peers and press.

"It took us a long time to figure out how to talk about it," Ramallo says. "It's hard, because it's something that you get right away when you're in front of it, and you twist a knob and see pretty colors and music explode, even for people that don't play games at all. You move something; pretty stuff happens; and as soon as you realize that's it, there's no objective or points or anything, you're hooked."

He found additional, financial support from Indie Fund and Fez studio Polytron Corporation. This allowed Ramallo and Kanaga to work on Panoramical without worrying about contract jobs or releasing a smaller version of the game.

"If Panoramical had existed without this help, it would've not had as much of an impact or reach, by far," Ramallo says. "It was also really good for me personally to feel like part of a team."

Panoramical might make more sense as a virtual reality experience, since it relies heavily on full-screen, immersive visuals, and Ramallo is open to that idea. "We made a couple of experiments and got a good response, so maybe," he says.

Overall, he wants people to enjoy Panoramical, regardless of how they play it or what they call it.

"I really hope everyone keeps an open mind about what an interactive experience should be and just give it a shot," he says. "My biggest hope is that having it out there as a thing anyone can get can make other developers excited to make more beautiful, abstract 'interactive stuff that feels nice.'"

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