Notes on Jam Sessions DS

One of the things I did today was post a preview of a new "game" called Jam Sessions DS.

Jam Sessions isn't really a game… it's more of a tool… and this isn't my review. What I'm going to write here is really more of an extended section of notes that I couldn't really include in the preview (mostly because I hadn't thought of it and it would've been too in-depth for something like a game preview; this blog entry mainly deals with possibilities for Ubisoft's Jam Sessions that I don't think Ubisoft have thought about).

First of all, it's an interesting idea. When I wrote my first draft of the preview on Tuesday — my first day of working for CBN — I looked at Jam Sessions as if it were a game… which really wasn't the right way to look at it.

It's not a game. It's a tool. No different really to those "learn English games" that have been released for the DS or even the "sort-of GPS games" that have been released for the PSP. They're NOT games and neither is this. From what I can see, it's a tool.

With that in mind, I found I couldn't get to sleep last night. I could sort of. I slept from 10pm till 1am when I awoke with dehydration. I went and hydrated myself for the next hour and then went back to bed. I was sleepy but my brain wouldn't stop working. That's insomnia for me, by the way: my brain holds me hostage.

It was working away at two problems. I later found this out when around 3.30 am — not long before I'd have to "wake up" — my brain went "DING!" and spat out answers to why it was whirring away.

Anyway, it was working away at two problems: one had to do with finding a way to animate my musical and the other was another way of interpreting Jam Sessions. So I brought into work an extra 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable today and downloaded a demo of Guitar Rig. I told Charlie (my boss) the idea and he told me to try it.

This was my idea:

Since Jam Sessions is basically a stripped down beginner's guitar, it makes sense that it can be used to make real music. With that in mind, what if you were to patch the console through to a VST or another audio filtration plugin for something like Adobe Audition / Cool Edit Pro or Ableton Live (or Cubase or Wavelab or Soundforge or what-have-you)?

Would I be able to make real music with the basic feature set of this game?

The answer — after a bit of playing around with the onboard sound for my workstation at work — is yes.

In my preview, there's an mp3 you can listen to and download where you can hear Guitar Rig modifying the sound of the original line I was playing (which was me attempting Dishwalla's "Angels or Devils" very badly).

Now the important thing to remember with what we're doing here is that the type of sound coming from the DS isn't all that important. Granted, the sound is important in that there has to be notes, but since the Jam Session samples aren't pro-quality, all that really matters is that the notes are coming through. That said, the samples aren't bad, they just don't respond like a guitar and they're only one sample for each note so it can become pretty standard and automated even with the harshness control that lies within how hard you "strum" essentially.

So anyway, we've got these notes coming through to the computer that a plugin like say Guitar Rig can modify. That means that other plugins like strings or horns or organs can technically do the same thing.

So I got to thinking on the train home… could you take this one step further?

I made the connection in my preview that this software makes the DS into a sort of theramin in that it's one of those physical instruments. It's not really a guitar, but rather a digital music box.

But I think I got the comparison wrong. I now think that Jam Sessions DS could be more of a MIDI controller and that got me thinking. What if you could patch the DS into a MIDI controller on a high-end soundcard?

Technically, the DS doesn't have that sort of export ability. But two things came to mind:

  1. The Opera Memory Expansion: When Opera released their browser for the DS, it came with the software in a Slot 1 DS card and a memory expansion module that sits in the Slot 2 GBA slot. This is because the DS only has around 4mb of memory on board and you're obviously going to need a little bit more than that when surfing the web.

    So, what if you someone made a memory module that interfaced with Jam Sessions. It would have to be a redesigned version, granted, but what if the memory module served as a form of latency whereby the DS wrote high-quality data to the storage expansion and then transferred from that immediately via a MIDI cable to a computer.

    What I'm asking for is more or less a memory expansion with a MIDI cable sticking out of it… so, let me just cut the middleman out…

  2. The Homebrew GPS Connection: A few months ago, I saw an interesting effort from the DS homebrew community whereby someone had a made patch-card with a cable sticking out of it that allowed them to connect their DS to a GPS unit. They'd written software to work with downloaded Google maps and as such had a Nintendo DS wired GPS.

    So, since the DS can be modified to do things it wouldn't normally do by way of a patch cable coming from a part of the system for one thing, what are the chances it could be done for another?

This is one of those things Ubisoft or Plato (the developers) might actually want to sit up and take notice of since it holds some sense of logic in it. Think about how useful it would be to have a few friends over for a real jam session. Not one of the jam sessions Jam Sessions is suggesting you have whereby everyone plays the same instrument and you have a grand total of two minutes to record the song in.

You bring your DS over to my place. So does a mate of yours and even a mate of theirs. I patch all of them into a high-end soundcard and make Ableton translate each of them in a different way so that one person is actually playing drums, one person is playing guitar, another is playing horns and the final guy is playing keys. You could really really really create music with an application like Jam Sessions DS if the system were modified for the purpose.

I actually now like the look of this "game" and I'm really interested to see the changes made in the final product. While it won't be everyone's cup of tea, it will be a lot of fun to play around with and certainly people who have an interest in using synthetic instruments could easily lend an ear and run this. 

With this in mind, I might attempt to use the Japanese version (Hiite Utaeru DS Guitar M-06) over the weekend to see if I can get some orchestration out of it. It'd be cool if I could make some jazz on it.

Posted in Games, Music, Work
Write a comment