We sat down with the minds behind JAM Live Music Arcade and learn about a new approach to the music genre allowing players to immediately build and customize their music with any one of the 30+ licensed songs (including hits from Modest Mouse, Fallout Boy, Fatboy Slim, Owl City, Rise Against, Atmosphere and more).
Q: The current state of the music genre in today’s gaming market is incredibly different from just a few years ago. Does this faze you with this ambitious title?
We are actually very happy with the timing of JAM Live Music Arcade. The dust has settled on the many derivative versions of Rock Band (RB) andGuitar Hero (GH), which has assisted in the perception that we are not just another traditional music game. There continues to be an evergreen appetite for music-centric games as we have seen from Dance Central, Just Dance and the plethora of singing products. We feel the time is right for a high quality new approach to the music genre that truly places the music in the hands of the player.
Q: Through what we’ve seen of the game so far, it seems like you allow for guitars and controllers to be used with the game. Are there plans to bring on any other instruments later, like the drum sets from Rock Band or DJ mix stands from DJ Hero?
We spent a lot of time working on the user interface that currently functions really well for the guitar and is quite playable on the gamepad. Throughout development, we have experimented with other controller options and ultimately decided that we wanted to ease the player into this new experience through accessibility yet endless possibilities. We are excited to gain customer feedback and look forward to future versions adding more peripherals and even more capabilities.
Q: This title offers so much but I haven’t seen any real mentions of multiplayer. Can this be done with a friend or is it a personal experience?
The experience was initially created around a single player, and it was important for us to execute this in the right way first and foremost. While there is no multiplayer to speak of, we have played around with a variety of options and ideas and feel that a multiplayer aspect in future versions would definitely be a great addition. One thing we have fun with at Zivix, having a lot of musicians on staff, is bringing out a real guitar or keyboard and improvising and collaborating along with the JAM player. Aside from that, you can always record your JAM and challenge a friend to recreate it in Arcade mode, or just pass the guitar back and forth showing off what you can do. It can be as fun to watch as to play with an experienced player.
Q: What kind of plans do you have for future expansions? This game seems like it has an endless list of possibilities not just with songs and artists, but also with instruments and other things.
You hit the nail on the head… we have had a ton of really cool ideas which made it extremely challenging not to reach too far. Our goal with this first release was to keep it accessible to anyone interested in playing with music, so we didn’t want to intimidate anyone with extremely complex features and modes. With that said, someone who wants to explore the game as deep as it can go will be satisfied with how far they can take it. In the future, we definitely envision deeper remixing capabilities from preset hot swapping, to looping functions, and a sequencing or studio mode. We’ve also talked about incorporating other instruments and including voice recording. We could take it as far as allowing people to import their own music samples to create fully owned original stuff, but we’re happy with the open sandbox experience that we’ve given players for now. We’re happy to build what the players ask for after that…as chances are, we’ll love that stuff too!
Q: Do you think this game is going to appeal to the larger audience past the ones interested in a more in-depth music experience? Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero drew their appeal from their simplicity – JAM appears to contain so much more to focus on.
When it comes down to it, we know everyone likes music, and everyone likes the feeling of creating music. Most people want to play but either don’t have the time or can be intimidated by picking up an actual instrument. GH and RB gave you the excellent feeling that you were creating music, however it was just an illusion of doing so. We really can say that if you can play those games, you can make music with JAM. If you can look past the more detailed HUD and relatively complex sounding features, JAM is at its core a fairly simple experience. Load up a song, activate tracks, listen and create. The freeform experience is not guided though, and in the end, your experience will really be dependent on your own creativity and drive to explore the sounds. We did our best to maintain simplicity and to provide in-depth challenges that walk you through almost all of the nuances so the player is armed for the task. These challenges, the arcade mode and how the player moves through the jam list help build that foundation for people to have an awesome music experience. If you want to make music, you can certainly do it with JAM; how deep you take it is up to you.
Q: Where did the idea for this title come from? How were you able to compress so much into just a downloadable title?
The company was founded on the premise of making music more accessible for everyone, and we are pursuing multiple ways to make that happen. Currently Zivix has five patents on a finger sensing technology that is soon to be announced as a peripheral device (for any mobile device, computer or smart TV) to teach and have fun with music. JAM was a by-product of our R&D on this technology when we created a simple piece of software that let you activate music loops via our peripheral. It became clear that we had something cool when we saw focus groups jump out of their seats when they could fire off guitar riffs, drum beats and be in control of the music in such a simple and intuitive manner. We saw the success of other music games out there and said we could design this for use with all of those extra music controllers people have in their living rooms. Thus we moved to evolve and bring this new experimental format and accessible music creation to the living room on the PlayStation and Xbox. Regarding the download size: From day one we tried to pay attention to file sizes as we all know music files are gigantic, we painstakingly worked with every format of compression on the planet balancing quality and size. In the end the download is still a little large but we packed in 32 songs with multiple levels of depth and we feel that our music quality is up there with the best ever composed for the console. Though our goal was always to go for a digital download, by the time things were wrapped up we think we could have stood on our own as a boxed title; lucky for the fans, we think they’re going to get a great deal for the amount of content we’re offering!
Q: You have an impressive list of songs and artists for the game already. What kind of plans do you have for future additions? Also – it seems you are up for being contacted about adding songs into the game later; does this mean that more local bands would be able to get their music into your game?
Since we have so many ties to the music industry with our team and overall passion for music we set out to support indie artists both locally and across the world. We also knew that major bands are very important to compete with the other music games in the market. Due to our format being so unique, we handpicked the music for its fun factor, its variety and making sure we provide the player a very broad experience across genres to showcase the games versatility. Our hope through DLC and future versions is to become a platform for new artists as well as major artists to showcase their songs in a much more intimate way, really allowing fans to participate with their music. We’ll definitely listen to players about what kinds of music they want in DLC form, and could be running some contests for bands to get featured.
Q: Is there any feel of competitiveness to this game? Many games focus on the idea of reaching an end point or beating a boss of some sort and I’m not sure if that can truly fit into this game.
At the core, this game is about experiencing music in a new way: exploration, expression and feeling how amazing it is to fire off a guitar riff, hit a drumbeat, add a keyboard and just create your own personality. We have seen competition in the form of “Hey, listen to this,” or “Let’s see what you’ve got!” Generally, people playing in groups are very positive with each other and it’s more of a “showing off” type of competition. Strictly high score speaking, we’ve included an arcade mode where there is a traditional follow the leader mode that provides a score and some leaderboard competition. This arcade mode also helps show off some cool play techniques and teaches the player how to get better in the live jam mode. As we mentioned earlier, you can take the experience as far as you’d like, and after you’ve beaten all the challenges and unlocked all the jams, there will still be endless possibilities to create.
Q: Are you able to upload or download songs that other players have remixed? Sharing of MP3s or potentially video captured performances were some of the original goals of the product.
We had also planned to allow a mode where you could mash-up any content from all 32 tracks, but due to the many music licensing challenges, we were forced to leave these features out of the current version. However, if you have a video camera or camera phone it’s pretty easy to find a way. We’re really excited to see what people come up with; in the end it’s about being creative and we hope people will want to show off some of their performances. The music world is changing fast, so it could be that next time around we’ll allow for exporting and sharing of creations, it’s something we definitely want to see.