Instant Jam: What's It All About?

By Lee on September 14, 2010, 12:27PM EDT

It's a Guitar Hero knock-off, but it can do what Guitar Hero could never dream of. It's a game you can play on Facebook, but it's not a Facebook game. You play it in your browser, but it's not really a browser game.

It may sound confusing, but Instant Jam is actually the simplest of games with the simplest of ideas: What if everybody could play a music game featuring every song they own, for free?

Let's start at the start. Instant Jam is the debut game from Instant Action, the new company founded by ex-EA and Westwood bigwig Louis Castle. Bringing with it new technology, distribution and monetisation ideas, Instant Jam may well lead to a quiet revolution. Or a noisy one, depending on your choice of soundtrack.

Ostensibly a Rock Band-esque rhythm game, Instant Jam is playable with the vast majority of Guitar peripherals cluttering up bedrooms and living rooms across the world. Just like its predecessors, it tasks you with hitting a series of notes with a well-timed corresponding button press and gives you bonuses for doing this for sustained periods of time.

Beyond this it offers unlockable backgrounds and guitar designs, leaderboards and perks and all the other RPG-ish, carrot-dangling stuff you would expect of an online title. In this respect, Instant Jam is a familiar experience. Rather uniquely, however, it's not the game itself that's remarkable, but its execution.

Instant Jam allows you to play any song in your music library. It's not hamstrung by licensing issues, or royalty rights or any of the other hoop-jumping that the likes of Harmonix have to negotiate. All you have to do is own the track.

So if you've always dreamed of playing along to Stairway to Heaven or Muse's Uprising or some other rock nugget, dream no longer. Instant Jam can make it happen. With a song list that already tops 2000 tunes, the odds are it's already there.

And if it isn't, it's coming. Rather than employ software to generate the song sheets for the game, Instant Action have a team of experts crafting each one individually. Castle claims they can turn them out at a fair old rate too. The list of songs is constantly growing.

Now to the Facebook and browser bits. Instant Jam is currently playable in Facebook through your browser. But it is actually far cleverer than that. Whereas true browser games have a limited amount of grunt, Instant Jam neatly side-steps any constraints by taking a hybrid approach.

What does that mean? Well, it means that you download a small portion of the game at the outset, and once it's installed, the rest of the data is shared through the browser. Accordingly, Instant Jam is able to crunch far more information at any one point than your typical browser fare and look quite pretty while it's at it.

At the moment you can play Instant Jam only through Facebook, but the plan is to make the game available to host anywhere from big websites to personal blogs.

So in many ways Instant Jam represents the democratisation of the music genre. The core of the game is unremarkable, perhaps, though perfectly well-executed, but in bringing a staggeringly huge library of tracks, some nifty technological tricks and a clever distribution model together - all for free, Instant Jam is overflowing with potential.

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