Endeavor One, a new Seattle-based virtual reality gaming company composed of AAA developers, has tapped local label Hush Hush to provide the soundtrack for its inaugural product, titled JUMP, which comes out today via Valve’s Steam platform. Endeavor One’s mission statement is to build “the next generation of Virtual Reality experiences while partnering with other local artists, musicians, and educators in Seattle.” Linking up with a relatively young electronic music label is an unusual, bold move for an upstart gaming company. Hush Hush founder and KEXP DJ Alex Ruder has been releasing music at a prolific rate since 2012. Most of it skews toward the contemplative, vaporous side of the spectrum—its subtlety doesn’t make it an obvious fit for the gaming world. I interviewed E1 cofounder Tom Doyle and 14-year game-industry veteran Niles Sankey—who was the design lead and manager on the Halo and Destiny franchises—to find out more about this collaboration and JUMP itself.
The Stranger: Can you describe the premise of JUMP and why you chose Seattle, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Tokyo as settings?
Tom Doyle: The premise of JUMP is simple: Jump to the top of the tallest building in each city in the fewest jumps possible. You can also compete with other players from around the world on the Steam leaderboards to see who can reach the top most efficiently.
Why Seattle, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Tokyo? Because all of these cities have iconic skylines with standout high towers, such as the Space Needle in Seattle. They are skylines that induce superhero fantasies to fly around. Seattle is obvious as to why it is in the game—it is where Endeavor One is based. Detroit is where [I] was born and grew up. Philadelphia reminded us of Batman'sMetropolis and is just a cool skyline to put in the game. Tokyo and New York also have Metropolis-like feeling skylines and tend to be etched in most people's minds.
What is it about Hush Hush’s music that attracted you to approach the label to use it for JUMP’s soundtrack?
Niles Sankey: I've been a fan of Hush Hush for a few years. Initially I was turned on to the label when listening to Alex Ruder's (DJ Alex) sets on KEXP. One of the first Hush Hush artists to really grab my attention was Kid Smpl. The Skylight album, in particular, is one of my favorite albums for when I just want to chill out and feel like I'm in a different world. It's just such an amazing album.
When we were building the high-level experience for JUMP, we wanted to complement the fast-paced challenging parts of JUMP with slower-paced sections that allowed players to exhale, relax, and absorb themselves in the virtual world of JUMP as they prepare for their next challenge. Kid Smpl's music worked perfectly for this. We soon realized that there were a lot of artists on the Hush Hush label that had this unique ability to sonically transport listeners to this ethereal alternate reality. It worked really well for the experiences we wanted to create. We contacted Alex Ruder, and he was super cool and excited to collaborate with us at Endeavor One. Both of our companies have a strong desire to support local Seattle artists, and it's exciting to pair Seattle's music culture with future technologies like virtual reality. We're definitely looking forward to working with Alex and the Hush Hush artists on future Endeavor One virtual reality experiences!
Whom do you see as JUMP's target demo?
Doyle: JUMP will release on Steam VR for $9.99. As for target demo, there are no commercial headsets out on the market, so it is completely an early-adopter market. It is for those who want something with their new toy. It is giving people the chance to feel the exhilaration of bounding through each city.
Below are the Hush Hush tracks used in JUMP:
Kid Smpl "I Think It's Gone"
Hanssen "Everyday With Rachael"
Cock & Swan "Looking Out (Graintable Remix)"
Hanssen "Aquaflexin' (Instrumental Version)"
Lowhitey "Totally Lost"
Big Spider's Back "Pffff"