Interviews// DJ Hero 2: Jamie Jackson, Creative Director

Posted 21 Jun 2010 14:50 by
SPOnG: I'm curious to know how you approached the direction of arranging the tracklist and mixes for DJ Hero 2, compared to the first one ? whether you narrowed the genres a bit or went for a broader scale. I remember you mentioning that one Dan Neil (of Freestyle's in-house production team) went scouring Youtube to see how popular your new tracklist is...

Jamie Jackson: Yeah! Well, to make sure that comes across the right way, what Dan didn't do was look for the most popular tracks on Youtube and allowed Youtube to dictate our setlist (laughs). In America last week someone said, ?I can't believe you let Youtube dictate what you put in the game,? and I said ?No, no, that's not what we did.? He checked the popularity of these songs after we decided to put them in our setlist.

Dan did the same thing after we finished DJ Hero 1 ? it's just that he does stuff like this. He's mad. But he has to be to do what he does. For him it just became his pet project ? once we had locked the setlist down for DJ Hero 2, he did this little mad experiment. He probably spent seven days without sleep investigating this, knowing Dan.

But, as for how we actually picked the songs ? basically, because DJ Hero 1 did so well, and we got a lot of awards and coverage for it, the artists and labels suddenly had something they could look at and go ?Oh, this is real.? Whereas we were going to them before and the game hadn't been announced ? then it got leaked a bit and everyone started saying ?This is going to be crap.? As a result, the labels and artists didn't really have anything they could put confidence in, from their side of things.

This time around, they're all going ?Yo, can I be in the game? I want to be in the game.? And the choice and scope of the game opened up massively ? it meant we got options to go for more current or recent music, more pop-based music... loads of different avenues opened up. It was really all about Dan and his team, going through this giant list of music from all these different labels that we never had on board before. And it was a case of ?Right ? what do we pick??

We ended up with 70-plus tracks in there - and we've got five slots left, with twenty great mixes that the boys have made and it's a really hard choice to decide which five of those twenty will go in to complete the set. It wasn't a case of having 65 and then thinking ?Shit, how are we going to get another five?? It was the other way around, so it was kind of a nice problem to have.

One more thing on the music ? we've also balanced it a little. I think we skewed too much towards hip-hop in the first game, and here we've changed it up a bit and added dance and pop tracks in there to keep it balanced. And just because we've taken the guitar mode out doesn't mean we've taken rock music mashups out. We've got a Metallica mashup in there for example, it's pretty cool.

SPOnG: Seeing what Neversoft is doing with Guitar Hero this year ? making it very story-based, adding exaggerated themes and visuals ? is that something you might look to do with DJ Hero at some point?

Jamie Jackson: 'I don't know' is all I can say at the moment, which I appreciate is a really boring answer, but... our audience isn't the same as the Guitar Hero one, and what I think those guys have done this year is amazing. It really speaks to the long-term Guitar Hero fan, loud and clear.

I don't know if DJ Hero has the same sort of fanbase with the same sort of expectations. We've introduced Empire mode this year, which is kind of our way of putting a story in there ? and then the Guitar Hero boys came up with this super-slick, awesome storyline! And I'm thinking 'Ugh, we're gonna get judged against that now' (laughs).

The way we approached things in terms of story is very much a case of dipping our toes into the water, in giving consumers something a little bit different. There's now a reason to go through single-player, but our focus is making all of you play together and enjoy playing together. So, I don't know. We'll see how it pans out, but I think ultimately our audience is slightly different.

SPOnG: You demoed the Accumulator mode on stage ? you said that you'd explain it in more detail later on. It's now later on.

Jamie Jackson: (Laughs) That's a good way of putting it. So, Accumulator is one of our new multiplayer modes, along with Checkpoint, Streak and Battle. For Accumulator, we did this thing in DJ Hero 1 and... I don't know if anyone knew about it, but when you play two-player, whoever got the effects down first scored the double multiplier points for it, and locked the other guy out.

It became this unprecedented, awesome feature by... I don't want to say 'by mistake', but I'm not going to sit here and say we fully designed it to be that way. It just sort of became quite cool and everyone was trying to race each other to the point, and they'd drop their streak trying to get it. We saw that, realised how cool it ended up being and decided to build a full mode around that.

At the same time, we wanted to do multiplayer modes that levelled the playing field between Expert and Medium players. So Accumulator sort of does that, really. It's all based on banking your streaks ? you can see your streak coming up the timeline in the middle, so you can see where you are against the other person.

And then when you feel brave enough to take your hand off a particular part of the deck ? be it the crossfader or the turntable ? you just hit the Euphoria button and it banks that score. You get three banks throughout the track, you can earn more banks if you hit a Perfect section. It's really good for levelling the playing field because experts tend to stick at it a bit longer and maybe screw it up, while a medium might play it a bit safer and end up beating the higher level player.

You also have Streak mode as a multiplayer game, which is the same kind of principle ? you bank your highest streak ? but it doesn't add up like it would in Accumulator. That's an imaginative title, right there. And in Checkpoint, all the tracks are basically marked up with different checkpoints, so instead of something like a Head-to-Head mode where you race to the end with the biggest score, you win checkpoints. You can have a stinking start and a great finish, and end up winning.

SPOnG: One of the things I noticed in the multiplayer Battle mode was in the Freestyling ? suppose one player goes one direction on the crossfader and the other player goes a different way. Wouldn't that cause something of an audio clash? How did you work around it?

Jamie Jackson: Well, it all goes back onto that awesome gameplay element that we chanced upon in DJ Hero 1, where the player who gets to the point first will have their mix played out. We've also added a feature called Rewind, for those head-to-head modes ? you can win one at the end of a particular section, and it gives you the chance to score that section again while locking the opponent out. But if the other player gets a higher note streak, they can win the Rewind off of you.

SPOnG: Boring question to end on but it has to be asked ? with so many third party microphone peripherals out there, how many will be compatible with DJ Hero 2, or do you not know that yet?

Jamie Jackson: We don't know yet, but we're aiming to be compatible with all game mics. There are issues with the wireless mics regarding lag, and our take will be that if we don't feel that the fidelity is good enough, then we perhaps won't support it. It would be a shame to have a feature feel a bit ropey because there's a problem with the mic.

SPOnG: Yeah, I think with SingStar and Lips they make up for that with a whole lot of reverb, don't they?

Jamie Jackson: ...No comment (laughs).

SPOnG: Thank you for your time.

Jamie Jackson: Cheers!
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