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Like Guitar Hero? You'll love Instant Jam

Streaming-games company InstantAction is launching its own game that puts that same experience within Facebook--you can even use a guitar controller.

Instant Jam logo

Game-streaming technology company InstantAction is launching its very own title on Monday that puts a Guitar Hero-like experience inside of Facebook, and soon on any other site.

Called "Instant Jam," the new title brings the same general gameplay as most music rhythm games, with users having to key in the notes from popular songs as they rush towards the screen against colorful, and animated backdrops.

It requires no special software downloads or hardware on the part of gamers. Instead, it uses the embedded game technology the company debuted early last year to stream visuals from its server farm.

More than the gameplay, InstantAction's approach to curating Instant Jam's music library is what sets the game apart from anything else out there. It cross-checks your own music catalog against the tracks its employees have coded for chords. When it finds matches, gamers can play their own music tracks using their mouse and keyboard, or a compatible USB Guitar Hero or Rock Band guitar.

Music tracks that it has, but that the user doesn't, can be bought through Amazon's MP3 store or iTunes using regular money or with Facebook's credits. And unlike in a game like Rock Band or the Guitar Hero series, those tracks then continue to exist in the user's music library, and are not relegated to just being able to be played within the game.

Insant Jam won't just be limited to Facebook though. InstantAction's CEO Louis Castle, who CNET met with last month to talk about the project, said that like other games using the company's technology, Instant Jam will be able to be embedded and played on third-party Web sites. The goal, Castle explained, is to get a system in place that will let bands or band fan sites create playlists of music from a particular group, then embed it so that users can play just those tracks.

Instant Jam
Look familiar? Instant Jam shares a similar gameplay style to Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. You can even use a controller from one of these games to play it. InstantAction

Behind the scenes, Instant Jam is using InstantAction's proprietary streaming technology to render all the 3D graphics on its own servers, then pipe it through as something that will run on any machine. Castle said that bands and their labels will have the option to customize these 3D backgrounds for particular songs, just like music games on consoles have done.

To match up music tracks in a user's library with the ones in the company's database, InstantAction is using a song fingerprinting technology that Castle compared to what companies like Shazam and Soundhound use. "It's similar to Shazam, but we're not using the same technology," Castle explained. "It actually analyzes the waveform, like a digital file matching. For big files, like several megabytes, we can see what the signature is."

The Instant Jam store
Instant Jam's add-on store. InstantAction

Like many other popular games on Facebook, such as PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz, Lexulous, and Farmville, Instant Jam offers only asynchronous gameplay. Built on top of that is a framework that encourages people to challenge friends, and share songs with friends in return for more chances to play.

The number of songs you can play is limited, though it's refreshed throughout the day. A user can also buy additional play credits for real-world dollars, though when CNET talked to Castle, that pricing structure was not yet finalized. Credits can also be spent for in-game items like new guitars, power-ups, and notes that can be easier to hit and reward more points.

As of last month, Castle said that Instant Jam was up to a library of around 2,500 tracks--all at four different difficulty levels. Included in those are 400 some tracks from Rolling Stone magazine's top 500 songs of all time list. Castle explained that the staff members who code the note progressions into these tracks can run through a full album in a matter of hours, and as the service continues on, its library will keep growing.

Instant Jam will be launching in beta as part of this week's GamesCom in Cologne, Germany.

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