The world of music games has certainly grown and expanded since the days of the first Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Games like DJ Hero now let players try their hand at spinning up their favorite tracks in a night club, while others like Def Jam Rapstar lets you live out the fantasy of being a major hip-hop artist. In all of this, then, it seems like the next logical progression is to allow gamers to move into the world of mixing audio tracks and getting behind the producer boards, and JamParty: Be the Music, initially for the PC only but hopes for XBLA/PSN later on, is setting itself up to be just that kind of music game.
When you first look at JamParty: Be the Music, it's not your typical music game. Instead of the moving tracks and vocal guidelines that we're used to seeing, JamParty presents you with five different samples at the bottom of the screen, each corresponding to one of the five different colors on your typical plastic music guitar. The reason for this change is that the purpose of JamParty is not to press and strum the right button at the right moment in the song, but rather to create your own musical track by turning certain portions on and off. With five different samples to choose from, which typically includes guitar, bass, and drum tracks, it's up to you to produce the song by turning them on and off. Want to create an epic rock song where you've got the whole band going all out and then it cuts down to just the vocals and drums? You can do that. With musical genres and styles ranging from reggae to electronic, there are a good deal of musical tracks with which players can tool around and mix.
After you've got your song recorded, it can then be exported as an MP3 file that you can upload to your audio device so you can listen to it whenever/wherever you want, or you can upload it to the JamParty website for others to buy (for a very small amount) and download. What's more, the profits from any of your songs that are purchased in this fashion go to you. The developers behind JamParty really wanted this "game" to be a way for all of the music fans out there to get into the next level of music production in an easy enough fashion using familiar devices and tech, and for the folks who truly get into it and produce some creative material to be rewarded for that effort.
Co-op for the game is rather limited at this point. You can have a buddy come over, hook up an additional controller to your PC, and work out between yourselves who is in charge of which tracks. It then becomes a matter of communicating with one another when certain tracks should be brought in or taken out. I didn't get a chance to try this out, but I can definitely see how creative minds could clash. Indeed, the best way for this game to deliver a solid co-op experience would likely only be realized further down the line once some of its vast potential has been realized; and there is plenty of potential for this game.
When the game is released later this month, it will only be available initially as a digital download. About a month or so later, a retail box copy of the game will be released that will include some additional functionality (which, as I understand, would be patched into the digital version at some point), such as the mixing studio that lets you pull different musical tracks from any of the 25+ preset tracks to create a new song altogether. Tracks pulled together in this fashion will be, as one might imagine, at different BPMs, so the software will automatically work out the best average to which to set everything so it still works. Those 25 tracks, though, are just the beginning.
Speaking with the developers from Zivix, they clearly want to expand upon the game as much as possible to include things like songs from independent artists and producers that are available to download and add to the game, and, eventually, even songs from major recording artists. From there, they're hoping to develop the software even further to allow players to record and import in their own musical tracks. Imagine pulling the bass line and vocals from Beck's "Loser," recording a song that fades them in and out just how you want, and then having a friend record a new backbeat on the drums while you lay down some sweet licks on the guitar on top of it all. At the end, you've got a newly mixed song that you and your friend created and that can be shared over the web through the JamParty website.
The co-op experience, at this point, would transition from just being applied to a gaming situation, to branching out and flowing out into the real world. Out of all the music games out there, JamParty: Be the Music truly has the potential to shatter them all by allowing gamers to quickly create and produce their own songs, either as a solo act or as a band, and it will just be a matter of time to see how it develops. That line between music games and music in real life has just gotten a little more blurred.