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Glossary of games terms meaning :


2D Games – Games that use graphics created in 2D graphic software and are usually produced by an X and Y array of pixels.  2D games have a flat appearance.


2.5D Games – Games that use graphics created in 2D graphic software, but where the illusion of 3D is created by using design techniques such as parallax projection and top-down perspective.


3D Modeling - The process of developing 3D assets using a 3D software package.




Aliasing – A 2D graphic that has a jagged edge due to limited number of pixels.


Alignment Game - Players attempt to align up objects and/or arrange objects into specific patterns.


Ambient Light – Light that is scattered from various objects in which no discernable source is



Antagonist – Is the person or some other force that works against the main character.

Anti-Aliasing - A technique of smoothing out the appearance of the jagged edges by picking colors between the object color and the background and making a smoother transition along those edges by putting those colors at each jagged edge


Art Designer – Person responsible for the visual elements of the game.


Audio Engineer – Person responsible the sounds, musical score, background music and ambient

sounds used in the game.


Backlight – A light located behind the subject which helps separate objects from the

background, giving a more defined space.


Balance Factor - Determines the degree and direction in which the head and/or hips swing out

from their original vertical alignments when a biped bends over.


Biped – A 3D model that walks on two legs.


Bitmap – A 2D graphic created by the use of small blocks of color (pixels) arranged in rows.


Bones - Structural objects that are located within a polygonal mesh and aid in the movement of the object.


Bromley, Martin – Given credit for creating of one of the original game paths in 1951 with the launch of SEGA.


Bump Mapping – A process used in 3D modeling programs to simulate bumps or wrinkles on the surface of an object. Bump mapping does not involve increasing the number of polygons of the object, but rather alters the shading parameters to create the illusion of bumps.


Cartesian Coordinates – Points are defined with respect to their location within an X, Y, and Z world. Cartesian coordinates are used to specify vertices, edges and polygons when designing a 3D model.


Casual Player – The average game player as opposed to hard core players.


Closed Game System – The rules of the game are a closed environment where there is no outside exchange.


Cloud Computing – Internet-based computing. Computer games are housed on Internet and provides a new consumption and delivery model for games.


Cinematics - The fully rendered movies used for intros and 'cut-scenes. 


Competitive Analysis – Illustrates to the publisher how your game idea compares to the competition and explains why your game will have a competitive advantage.


Console – An electronic hardware device consisting of computer memory, a graphics card and ports for attaching game controllers. Examples include the Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation III.



Convexity – The process of varying the level of difficulty of a game level or between levels.


Cooperative Play – Involves two or more players who cooperate against the game system.


Decision Tree – A map showing all of the possible choices involved in a game.



Depth of Field - Determined by the camera-to-subject distance and is a measure of how near or far the subject appears to be. Animators use depth of field effect for two purposes. The first is to reinforce the illusion of depth in the scene and the second reason is to focus your attention on the items or actors they feel are most important.


DirectX – Graphic card software developed by MicroSoft® and found in the Xbox 360 game console.


Displacement Mapping – The use of a texture of height map to create an effect where the actual geometric positions of points over a textured surface are displaced.



Douglas, A.S. Dr. – Professor at the University of Cambridge who created the first graphical

computer game.


Easter eggs - Hidden areas in a game containing messages such as the level designers' names or

pictures, or political or humorous messages.


Edge – A line connecting 2 vertices.


EEPROM – Solid state storage used in early handheld game devices.



ESRB – Entertainment Software Rating Board sets the standards for video games to help parents

to select games suitable for children.


Explicit Rules – Rules that control the formal structure of the game. These rules are written

 the instruction page.


Facial Motion Capture - The recording of different facial features useful for animating

      emotions such as smiling, grimacing, and showing anger.


Field of View (FOV) – Is exactly what is in the camera’s view.


Fill Light – The light create by the ambience of other lights as they reflect throughout the scene.

The fill light softens the scene and helps remove unwanted shadows.


First-person Camera - Shows the world as if the player had a camera attached at eye level.


First Person Shooter (FPS) – A video game where the player shoots or fires bullets against a

computer generated object or an avatar representing another player.


Fixed Camera - The camera does not move at all and the system displays the player's character

in a succession of still shots.


Formal Game Elements – The parts of a game that includes the players, objectives, procedure

rules, probability, resources, conflict, and boundaries.


Game Concept - The background, backstory and developing story that occur during a game.

Game Concept Document – Pitches your game idea to a game company to see if the would be interested in developing and marketing your game.

Game Design Document (GDD) – A long, in-depth document that shows the publisher your

game in detail with sketches, design of any special game elements and the rules of play.


Game Engine – Software that simplifies the development process and produce games in

different platforms.


Game Proposal Document – A well thought-out and prepared proposal of a game which

includes a game overview, game treatment, competitive analysis, budget, and schedule.


Game Tester – Person responsible for testing and analyzing the game for defects, glitches and



Game Treatment – The primary selling tool which quickly orients the publisher to your game and includes your game’s unique selling points, genre and platform.


Game Writer – Person responsible for the storyline of the game.


Gantt chart – A type of bar chart that shows a project schedule (pipeline) for the development

of a video game.


German Style Board Game – Also known as a European-style board game. The main

characteristics include a board that is created as the game progressing making each game a new experience, keeping all players involved until the end of the game, and a limited amount of time to complete a game usually under one hour.


Group Brainstorming – Process where members of a group generate ideas as a team without

regards to the value of any given idea. The purpose is to create a list of

possible options or choices.


Hard Core Player – A person who plays games over many long sessions and have desires to

extend existing games creatively. These players have higher frustrations levels.


Hero’s Journey - A basic story format used by many game designer which includes (a) the

departure, (b) the initiation, and (c) the return.


Hook - A unique or must-have feature in a game that will attract players simply because they

haven’t experienced them before.


Higginbotham, William – Head of the Brookhaven National laboratory that created Tennis for

Two  to entertain visitors. Tennis for Two later served as the model for Pong.


Hop and Bop – A platform game where enemies are defeated by jumping on their heads.


Icon – A small 2D graphic used to create hyperlinks in Window’s software or to act as a unique

graphic to initiate a game.




Illuminated Texture – Textures that have a lighting effect such as self-illumination and seem to

glow. Examples of objects with illuminated textures would include frosted glass.


Implicit Rules – Rules that are unwritten and unbinding. These rules are usually stated at the

beginning of the game. Good sportsmanship is an example.


Individual Brainstorming – When you write down every idea that pops into your head to help

generate a list of options or choices.


Inverse Kinematics - Determines the range of motion in order to achieve a desired pose or

movement (walking, running, or standing idle).


Interactive Camera – A camera system that is somewhat automated and the player can partially

control where the camera is pointing.


Interface Designer – Person in charge of making sure the interface in appropriate for the game



Isometric - A method for the visual representation of three-dimensional objects in two

dimensions in which the angles between the projection of the x, y, and z axes are all the

same, or 120°.


Key Light – The primary light source in the scene.


Lens Effects Lighting – Any of a number of lighting effects such as halos, glow, and particles

created through the process of rendering.


Level Designer – The person who creates the game levels from the design document.


LOD – Level of detail. Used by game designers to reduce the polygons in a scene.


Luminance – Refers to the transparency and opacity of objects to allow light to filter through in

subdued ways.


Masking – A technique where only the pixels you want to see of your sprite are drawn and the

others are disregarded. Creating an outline around the sprite to aid in collision.


Mental Fun – Games that improve our mental skills and intelligence.


Mesh – The outline shape or wireframe created by all of the vertices, edges and polygons.




Metagame – Refers to the game beyond the basic game. Features tactics that lie outside the

intended game use that exploits errors in programming.


MIP Mapping - (MIP stands for the Latin multim im parvo, meaning "many things in a small

space.") In a 3D video game, the game engine, via the graphics card, assigns a higher

resolution textures to a character that is close to the camera and reassigns lower

resolution textures as the character moves away from the camera to improve the

efficiency of the graphic card. MIP mapping saves processor time and improves anti

aliasing by allowing the computer to start with pre-filtered, pre-scaled textures at the

most appropriate resolution for each frame.


MMOG – Massively multiplayer online game consisting of thousands of players from around

the world playing at the same time.


MMORPG – Massively multiplayer online role-playing game.


MMORTS – Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game.


MMOFP  - Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter game.


MOD – A game modification usually created by game players. Some game company’s release

toolkits to help players to create the modifications.


Motion Capture – An advanced technological process of recording the location of various

points in a character and applying the movements onto a 3D model.


Mood – Refers to the meaning of colors that are responses to visual stimuli.


Multilateral Competition – A game structure in which three or more players directly compete.

This pattern is typical of multiplayer games such as board games.


NPC – Non-playing character


Normal – A normal is located underneath each polygon in a 3D mesh. The normals are used to

calculate the angle of light coming from each light and alters the polygon to become

lighter of darker.



Normal Mapping – An advanced technique used by 3D game designers to assign visual

characteristics of a high polygon count character to a low polygon count character. A normal calculates the normal angels from the high polygon character and assigns the values to the low polygon count character.


NURBS – Non-uniform rational basis splines is an advance technique to create 3D shapes using

curves and surfaces.  Most often used for organic and freeform shapes.


Non-zero Sum Game – A game where individual players neither win nor lose, but creates a

situation where all of the players (team) can benefit.  In non-zero sum games points are awarded and the group who earns the most points usually wins.


Object – A term used in 2D game graphics to describe a character or asset that has events and

actions assigned.


Octree Structure – A process used by game engines dividing the game level into a series of 8

cubes. The numbers of polygons are calculated within each cube and if the number of polygons exceeds some pre-determined number, the cube is divided again.  When a game’s camera intersects an octree cube, all of the polygons within the cube are processed.


Opacity Mapping – The use of black and white maps to hide certain parts of an image.


Open game system – A game environment consisting of a group of players across several games

and many different game sessions.


OpenGL – Free, open source graphic card software used to process graphic information.


Parallax Mapping – An enhancement of the bump mapping or normal mapping techniques that

works by displacing the texture coordinates at a point on the polygon giving the illusion

of depth.


Parallel projection - Axonometric or top-down perspective intentionally producing an illusion

of depth.


Patch Modeling – Process of creating 3D models using a series of planes that can be joined



PC – Player character


PERT Chart – An organizational tool, developed by the Navy, to help manage large projects.


Physical Fun – Games where movement plays a significant role such as dancing or hand-eye



Pipeline – The general flow of events of the game design and creation process to make sure that

all required parts are completed on time and within budget.


Point Light – A light that emits light in all directions, cannot be focused, but can cast shadows.

Can be thought of a bare light bulb.


Polar Coordinates – A two-dimensional coordinate system where a point is defined from a

fixed point and an angle from a fixed direction. The polar coordinate system is often used in 2D games to define the direction of gravity or missile.


Polygon – a square-shaped plane that consists of at least 4 vertices and two more triangles.




Polygon Count – The actual number of polygons (or triangles) that an object contains. Important

to game design because most graphic cards are rated by the number of polygons per second that can be processed or rendered.


Polygon Culling – The process of eliminating 3D polygons that lie outside the viewer’s

(camera’s) field of vision to increase processing speed. 3D game engines do not process the objects that lie behind the camera.


Premise – The time, place, and characters that move the game forward.


Primitive – Basic geometric shapes like spheres, cylinders or cones that are the building blocks

of more complex 3D objects.


Probability – The randomness that is built into the game. Examples of ways to add randomness

would be the use of dice, spinner, shuffling a deck of cards, assigning health, or the use of a random number generator.


Programmer – A software engineer concerned with the core mechanics of the game.


Progressive Action – The procedures that define how the players move through the game such

as select a card off of the top of the deck or players taking turns.


Protagonist – Is the main character and is usually presented with a problem that drives the



Quadruped - Character that walks on four legs.

Rank Order – Process or prioritizing numerically a generated list of ideas.


Resolving Action – Procedures that help to bring a conclusion to the game and includes how

much health a player has or how many points are needed to advance to the next level.


Resources – Includes items such as money, houses, territory or player health that play the same

role as resources do in real life.


Rigging – The process of adding bones to a mesh in order to create movement usually with the

help of inverse kinematics (IK).

Role-Playing Game - A genre in which each player controls an avatar that interacts with other

players, completes tasks to gain experience and acquires items.

Run and gun – Side-scrolling platform games that attempt to combine platform games with

shoot ‘em up games


Serious Games – Games that educate teach or help the player to learn a new skill.


Shadows – The area of darkness created when light does not bend around objects. In the 3D

world, shadows work hand-in-hand with light for an overall effect. Shadows help to

ground objects and prevent the illusion that the object is floating.


Side-Scroller Camera - Shows the world from the side and are more common in 2D games than

3D games.


Social Fun - Games that use storytelling and tap into the human desire for social interaction


Spot Light – A light that can have its shape adjusted and points into a particular direction.


Sprite – A term used in 2D game graphics that refers to a small, 2D game character or asset.

Sprites do not usually have any actions associated with them.





Starting Action – The procedures that get the game into play such as shuffling the cards or the

distribution of money.


Storyboard – A series of connected pictures that tells a continuous story about the flow of

events and levels of a proposed game.


Social Fun – Games that use storytelling and have social interaction.


Texel – A pixel within a texture image; a unit of textured space.


Texture – Term used to describe the 2D material, image or surface that is applied to mesh.


Third-Person Camera - Shows the world from an over-the-shoulder view, the player can

actually see the character in the camera view. 


Tracking Camera – A camera that follows the character’s movements.

Turn-Based Strategy (TBS) – Game separated into well-defined and visible parts or rounds.

The player in a turn-based game is usually allowed time to consider the results of a turn before taking actions.


Unilateral Competition – Where two or more players compete against one player. An example

would be dodge ball.


UVW Coordinates – The variables assigned to the positional coordinates of a texture in much

the same way as X, Y, and Z coordinate variables describe positions of polygonal vertices.


UVW Unwrapping – The process of removing the default texture of a 3D object to create a 2D

image that can be brought into a 2D graphic package.  The graphic artists

can create and develop the 2D texture which will later be reassigned to the 3D object.



UVW Wrapping – The technique of applying a 2D image onto a 3D object. The texture can be

moved or rotated to achieve the correct placement of the texture.


Vector Graphic – A 2D graphic created using algorithms to calculate the X and Y locations of



Vertex – A single point in 3D space.


Virtual Reality – (VR) The simulation of reality through technology.


Volume Light – A light that filters through fog, dust or smoke in which you can actually see the

rays of light creating a cylinder.


Zero Sum Game – A game between two players that results in only one player winning. The

player who wins is assigned +1 points and the player who losses is assigned -1 point.  The sum of the points of both players equals 0. Examples include Tic-Tac-Toe, Checkers, and Fox and Geese.


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