Jeannie Novak

composer, performer, author, editor, game developer, photographer, tech entrepreneur

      "Descent" (synth version) from Horrorshow: Mad House

"Descent" - Image by Lynna (Courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

Photo by Lynna (Courtesy of Shutterstock)

Halloween is right around the corner, so the Horrorshow trilogy will be the focus of my remaining October Music Monday posts :) “Descent” — which was featured in the Gravedigger’s Local 16 podcast — is the first piece from Horrorshow: Mad House … and it sets the stage for a journey into the depths of madness. The Horrorshow project is the basis for a series of short stories and a possible film. “Descent” (synth version) is available on Bandcamp as a free download in honor of #‎musicmonday

      "Visitation" (synth version) from Horrorshow: Mad House

"Visitation" (Photo by dimitris_k - Shutterstock.com)Photo by dimitris_k (Courtesy of Shutterstock)

"Visitation" — a work in progress, recorded live (based on an improv) in my modest home studio. This is a transitional piece in Mad House — part of the Horrorshow concept collection originally created for Halloween haunts that I hope to transform into a story or film. The piano version was a finalist in the Instrumental category for the American Songwriting Awards — but the synth version (below) is a little creepier. Free download available on Bandcamp in honor of ‪#‎musicmonday‬

      "Deadend" (synth version) - from Horrorshow: Ghost Town

"Deadend" (Photo by Vladislav Shurpenkov - Shutterstock.com)

Photo by Vladislav Shurpenkov (Courtesy of Shutterstock)

"Deadend" — a work in progress, recorded live (based on an improv) in my modest home studio. This is the closing piece to Ghost Town — part of the Horrorshow concept collection that I hope to transform into a story or film. It was composed specifically for the Halloween maker community, which expressed a need for somewhat creepy saloon and ragtime music for their Western-themed haunts. The piano version was a finalist in the Jazz/Ragtime category for the American Songwriting Awards — but I actually prefer the echo-y, muddy synth version (below). Free download is available on Bandcamp in honor of #‎musicmonday

      "Badlands" (piano version) - from Horrorshow: Ghost Town

"Badlands" by Jeannie Novak (Photo by Paul Matthew Photography - Courtesy of Shutterstock)

Photo by Paul Matthew Photography (Courtesy of Shutterstock)

"Badlands" — a work in progress, recorded live (based on an improv) in my modest home studio. This is the opening piece to Ghost Town — part of the Horrorshow concept collection that I hope to transform into a story or film. It was composed specifically for the Halloween maker community, which expressed a need for somewhat creepy saloon and ragtime music for their Western-themed haunts. The piano version — which is not nearly as creepy as the synth and ambient versions — was a finalist in the Instrumental category for the American Songwriting Awards. Free download is available on Bandcamp in honor of #musicmonday

      "Caprice" (from SYNCH)

Caprice (from SYNCH) - still image from *Coney Island* (Castle Films, 1940 - Courtesy of Prelinger Archives)Coney Island (Castle Films, 1940 - Courtesy of Prelinger Archives)

"Caprice": Original solo piano improvisation performed and recorded live. Part of SYNCH — a collection of nine solo piano improvs synched to public domain footage (Dark Side of Oz-style) from the Prelinger Archives. This was my “cool-down” piece during the session; it almost didn’t become part of this project — but it seems to work perfectly with the deceptively whimsical footage of Coney Island’s great amusement park in its heyday, which reveals unexpected dark underpinnings. Nominated in the New Age category for the American Songwriting Awards. Check out the “synched” YouTube video (along with detailed info on the music and footage) by clicking on the image above. Free audio-only download also available on Bandcamp in honor of #musicmonday

      "Flow" (from SYNCH)

Flow (from SYNCH) - still image from *Auto-Lite On Parade* (Jam Handy Organization, 1940 - Courtesy of Prelinger Archives)Auto-Lite on Parade (Jam Handy Organization, 1940 - Courtesy of Prelinger Archives)

"Flow": Original solo piano improvisation performed and recorded live. Part of SYNCH — a collection of nine solo piano improvs synched to public domain footage (*Dark Side of Oz*-style) from the Prelinger Archives. The constant “flow” of the music seems to work well with the film, which primarily takes place in an automobile factory in 1940. Nominated in the New Age category for the American Songwriting Awards. Check out the “synched” YouTube video (along with detailed info on the music and footage) by clicking on the image above. Free audio-only download also available on Bandcamp in honor of #musicmonday

EGW (Entertainment & Game World) Interview

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I finally received a copy of the EGW (Entertainment & Game World) magazine containing my interview - published earlier this year! Since it was translated into Portuguese, I’ve included the original interview below in English. Topics include everything from the Game Development Essentials series and even my first book (Creating Internet Entertainment - written with Pete Markiewicz) to Novy Unlimited, Indiespace, MOOCs, and music :)

EGW: What were the most exciting parts/changes in Game Development Essentials (3rd Edition) [GDE3] for you as an author?

JLN: There were several exciting changes in GDE3. The most interesting difference for me is the expanded discussion of game goals and platforms. GDE1 and GDE2 contained a large chapter focusing on goals, genres, platforms, modes, etc. The chapter had grown so large that I decided to chop it in half and focus on more in-depth discussions. Trends in game development such as mobile, social, and serious games were not discussed as extensively in the earlier editions.

EGW: How do you think a non-professional/non-developer might benefit from another great book in the GDE series?

JLN: The book (and others in the series) is very accessible to the general reader. All books are written in a conversational style. The general reader learns about the wide range of games available, why people play them, and how they’re made. I think GDE3 (and previous editions) in particular really does a great job of covering all these bases — so that the introductory game development student, professional interested in entering the industry, and potential player alike can benefit.

EGW: I’ve read some of your previous books like Internet World Guide to Maintaining and Updating Dynamic Web Sites (a good one, indeed!) back then in… well… some years ago. Back then, your writing were more “technical” — and now we feel it’s closer to the reader, almost like a friend telling us the most exciting things about the game industry. Have you ever realized this change in writing?

JLN: [Wow — I can’t believe you’ve read this book! For historical reasons, you might want to check out an even older one: Creating Internet Entertainment.]

That book and two others (Creating Internet Entertainment and Producing Live Webcasts) were written almost a decade before the first book in the GDE series was written! The focus with this publisher (different from the current one) was to create more technical books for the high-tech community — primarily in the web development area. Unlike the GDE series (which can even cross over into high school curricula), these books were intended solely for professionals rather than students or the general reader. I would say that Creating Internet Entertainment definitely pushed the boundaries, though — since it was written during the early years of Indiespace (Kaleidospace, LLC), the company I co-founded with Pete Markiewicz in 1994 during the “Wild West” era associated with the growth of the Web. There are some interesting anecdotes in that book that were more accessible to the general public and entrepreneurial minds :)

EGW: “We’re gamers. We’re doers. We understand reddit and The New York Times,” says the Novy PR presentation. Is this segmentation the key for success for PR companies specialized in games?

JLN: One of the primary reasons the PR/marketing division of Novy Unlimited was created was because some other game PR firms contain staff members who do not understand the game industry — whether as players, educators or developers. We have experience with all three, and we keep up with current trends. Although these other firms might have a background in traditional PR, they sometimes don’t properly prepare mobile clients for the App Store, create thoughtful and timely messaging for indie clients, or even cultivate relationships with the newest breed of online game journalists. Referring back to the quote, they might understand the New York Times, but they often don’t “get” Reddit! In order for firms to succeed in the fast-growing segment of game PR, they need to be gamers, information junkies, and be active participants on all social networks.

EGW: When I first interviewed you almost 4 years ago, you told me it was so hard to find time to play piano and sing as much as you’d like to. Are you still teaching and recording piano and voice?

JLN: I was performing and teaching when you last interviewed me, but I wasn’t recording. The good news is that I created four different original music projects last year: Moonrise (voice/piano songs recorded live), Reign of Fire (re-release of astronomy-based solo piano concept album), SYNCH (piano improvs synched to public domain footage from the 1900s-1950s [!]), and HORRORSHOW (Mad House, Ghost Town, Big Top - horror-themed synth, piano, and ambient pieces). All playlists are available on YouTube, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp :) I plan on doing some more recording projects this year, and I’ll go back to performing again as I free up more time. (A few years ago, I performed an hour’s worth of game themes at IndieCade; I might record these for a cover project!)

EGW: In the past you, were part of a Second Life dev team. How do you see this MMO scene nowadays? What’s going to be the future of this genre?

JLN: “MMOs as Online Distance Learning Applications” was also actually the topic of my master’s thesis! I feel that this idea has evolved into what is now known as “MOOCs” (massive open online courses); this trend, along with “gamification,” has helped open the public’s minds to the MMO/course crossover. I think we’re going to see more advances in this field, and I hope to be a part of it! I’m currently working on an educational game that could be a content piece to a larger learning management system (LMS). We’ll see :)

EGW: Do you feel that the game industry is already bigger than the movie industry nowadays?

JLN: I used to quote the old Business Week article (c 2000) that touted how the video game industry overtook movie box office receipts. This sent part of the traditional industry into a wide panic, and it also catalyzed a migration of many dissatisfied producers, artists, and writers to “interactive entertainment” (i.e., games). The game industry did not plateau after this, and it has experienced more growth fueled by the mobile segment (which has in turn caused the casual and indie game scene to flourish). Even computer games, which were faltering, have also made a comeback — in part due to Facebook, Steam Greenlight, and the social and indie push. Bigger than movies? Maybe in worldwide dollars — but the culture hasn’t completely caught on yet. Mobile is one key, since people of all backgrounds have experienced playing a game on their phone (even if it was originally limited to Snake).

EGW: We understand you were here in Brasil a couple of times. How did you like the country?

JLN: I have always enjoyed visiting Brazil! The people are so friendly, the food is wonderful, and the country always has a ‘rhythm’ — even during the holidays while many people have gone to the beach. I’ve always stayed in São Paulo, so I haven’t seen other major cities yet. My husband and Novy business partner (Luis Levy) is from Brazil, so we visit his family when we’re there. Someday, I hope to travel to the Amazon, Bahia, Brasília , and Rio.