JAM Live Music Arcade interview
At PAX East 2012 this year, we got to get some hands on time with the upcoming JAM Live Music Arcade game for XBLA and PSN, which lets you put your own spin on a bunch of popular songs. While we anticipate the game's release, we were able to get some questions answered by Matt Cannon, the Producer at Zivix.
GameZone: Tell us a little about Zivix and your background in music.
Zivix Team: The majority of our team has some level of musical background, from instruction to producing, and some of us are in bands that tour locally. Our audio team has significant studio experience and our music director actually runs his own record label on the side. Additionally our lead engineer has 25 years working with music software. Zivix 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 5 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 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. Thus we moved to bring this new experiential format and accessible music creation to the living room on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Our team continues to push the limits and expand upon musical ideas; and we hope to stay active in this industry for years to come.
GameZone: There is absolutely no shortage of music games on the market, what makes JAM Live Music Arcade unique?
ZT: While other music games provide a great entertainment value in their own way, we’re not trying to sell you on the illusion of being a rock god or a guitar savior. Instead, we’re giving you a tool to remix music on your own terms, where the reward is the result of your own creativity and actions. We’ve disassembled songs into their basic parts, allowing users to jump in and participate to reconstruct them however they like; learning something about how a song is made while they do. JAM shouldn’t be confused with a complicated music sequencing program either. It was built for simplicity and accessibility from the ground up; and literally anyone can get into the flow of music the moment they pick up the controller and activate that first guitar riff, synth, or bassline.
GameZone: How musically inclined does a player have to be to enjoy JAM Live Music Arcade?
ZT: We usually answer this question with, “No experience necessary.” If you do have a musical background, it’s a little easier to grasp how deep you can really go. The more you play the more we have found the player starts to develop an ear and a relationship with timing and transitions; thus the results keep sounding better and better. The controls are a bit more advanced than the standard Guitar Hero / Rock Band setup, but if you can play those, you can make music right away with JAM.
GameZone: What can you tell us about the current set list, and why did you pick the bands/songs that you did?
ZT: We wanted to include a diverse set of genres to give players the most variety as possible. With 32 songs to choose from, there’s bound to be a little something for everyone. As we get feedback about what fans enjoy, we’ll release DLC contingent with that. As Zivix is based in Minneapolis, we started the search for music locally by licensing from some of the top artists around here (such as Owl City and Atmosphere), and as we gained momentum the search broadened and we were able to lock down some larger national and internationally renowned acts. The improvisational format of JAM can work well with any style of music, so we felt with the first release of the series, we should show off that versatility.
GameZone: Is there a way for me to share my creative genius with my friends on Xbox Live? Even if they don't have the game?
ZT: 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.
GameZone: The Jam mode is obviously the draw behind JAM Live, tell us a little about the Arcade Challenge Mode.
ZT: Arcade mode was included to serve multiple purposes. On one hand, we wanted to include a competitive mode for players coming over from traditional music game experiences; now they have a new way to challenge themselves. It also gives users a guided way to learn controls and play-techniques as they experience examples of well put together JAMs. It gave us a chance to showcase what is musically possible, and as it uses the same controls as JAM mode, this knowledge directly translates over to freeform play. Users can also save their recorded jams from JAM mode, and load them up in arcade mode to challenge a friend to recreate their performance.
GameZone: Even though you have the ability to control every instrument, it's still a one player experience, is there a reason for not including multiplayer?
ZT: The experience was originally built around a single player, and it was important for us to execute this in the right way first and foremost. We did experiment with a few multiplayer ideas as we really like the idea of being able to jam with friends. In the end, we decided to hold off on a multiplayer version in this initial release and based on the success, it’s high on the future new feature list. With many of us around the office being musicians, we find that it’s pretty fun to bring out a real guitar or keyboard and jam along with co-workers playing the game.
GameZone: Are there plans for DLC as far as new songs go?
ZT: Yes, our music producers are still hard at work and we have some lined up to release soon after JAM comes out. As we mentioned earlier, we’d really like to cater to the users and give them the types of content they ask for. With the recent massive popularity of Electronic Dance Music, and the natural fit of these types of songs in our remixable format, you can expect to see a good amount of new stuff in that area, as well as some classic hip hop and mainstream rock content.
GameZone: Is there anything you would like to add about JAM Live Music Arcade?
ZT: The best advice we have to give is to sit back and turn up the volume. This is a different experience than most of the games people have seen before. It brings the creative mash up aspect of some of the old music mixers of the past into a live environment that anyone can sound great in. We’re not trying to be the next guitar hero, nor are we trying to replace pro-tools or ableton live. Instead, our product finds new territory landing somewhere in between, and we believe it’s an experience a lot of people are going to enjoy. Go try out the free demo on May 16th, and let us know what you think.