35+ Game Development Terms

Game development is a vast and complex field. It involves many different disciplines that require specialized knowledge, such as art, programming, design, audio engineering etc. Terms are often used interchangeably by professionals in the industry to describe concepts and processes. This glossary of game development terminology will help you navigate through the complexities of this fascinating field!

  • AAA (Triple-A): AAA is a term used to refer to the top-tier of video games. Currently, it refers exclusively to action adventure titles with big budgets and high production values.
  • Agent: An agent is an actor who will perform tasks on behalf of players in a multiplayer game environment
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence): This is software that powers nonplayer characters (NPCs) within a computer generated world or society—or otherwise simulates human behavior by following some set rules about how they move around in their given space. The goal for AI design is usually either aesthetic realism or intelligence matching humans’ ability for reasoning and problem solving.
  • Alpha: Alpha versions are early builds of video games which developers release as soon as possible so that users can find crashes and bugs before the game goes into beta or gold master.
  • AR (Augmented reality): Augmented Reality is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics etc., typically projected on a mobile device screen or through glasses. AR introduces an additional layer of information to our world that changes how we interact with it.”
  • Asset: An asset in game development can refer to any type of tangible media used within games; including models for characters/objects within the gameworld, textures which provide surface detail and coloration to these objects, rigging data needed for animateable meshes like skeletons and animations themselves. Assets may also include software or scripts which aid in the creation of a game.
  • Baking: Baking is usually done using software like Maya or Unity, but can refer to rendering out an animation file from a video editing suite
  • Balance: Balance refers to how well different aspects within gameplay are balanced with each other so that one does not overpower the others; it also relates to player-character balance, where players have equal abilities and weapons regardless of their character choice (e.g., male or female)
  • Beta : Beta versions are early builds of video games for testing purposes rather than public release wherein developers invite select users to participate before going into gold master. It’s important because it helps identify bugs which would be too difficult for programmers/developers to find in the final stages of development.
  • Bug : Bugs are errors in a game which may include graphical glitches, slow framerates or even crashes to desktop
  • Build: Build refers to an instance of code that is compiled and running on your system– usually referring to video games where builds refer specifically to executable files.
  • Cert (or certification): A certificate certifies that a product was manufactured according to certain standards by an authoritative body such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). There is no single standard for certificates but they typically indicate safety, environmental protection/ green design etc. Certifications also offer assurance about production processes like quality control & contract manufacturing while providing manufacturers with liability protection from third party lawsuits if something goes wrong during production process.
  • Clipping: Clipping happens when the art in your game is not rendered properly to fit within a certain area like a doorway or other open space
  • Consoles: Console refers specifically to devices used for playing games. These can be dedicated systems such as the Xbox One, PlayStation® console or Nintendo Switch but also refer to PCs that are configured with hardware and software resembling traditional consoles; often referred to as “PC gaming”. Consoles may use optical disc technology (e.g., CDs) or digital distribution of downloadable content through networks.
  • Controller Support: Controller support refers to whether or not controllers– either wired/wireless ones designed for video game consoles(i.e., DualShock controller)–or third-party USB peripherals work on specific games or not.
  • Creative Director: The creative director oversees the production process for video games by collaborating with team leads on design aspects such as level layout or character development.
  • Development Kit : Game Development Kits are software tools used to make creating content easier within game engines such as Unity or Unreal Engine.
  • Digital Distribution: Digital distribution refers to the sales of digital media products and services such as video games, ebooks or music through the internet.
  • Demo: Demos are usually a small portion of the game which can be accessed by players before purchase to decide whether they want more.
  • Game designer: Game designers work with the development team to come up with an idea for a game and then execute on that concept. They may do this through scripting, graphics or other means.
  • Game developer: Game developers are people who write code and design levels for video games. For example they might be responsible for programming in-game movement of characters like Mario while others would focus more on shading techniques such as lighting realistically created environments.
  • Game engine: A term used by programmers/developers when referring to the software which is being developed– often including engines (e.g., Unity) but not limited to these alone as toolsets can also include everything from “libraries” (i.e., libraries which aid in animation) to plugins.
  • Gameplay: this is the actual events happening in a video game; it could also refer to how difficult or easy an experience was for the player. This term often appears when people talk about different aspects of gameplay design such as level design, puzzles/mazes, platforming etc.
  • Input: refers to the control that a player has over what happens in a game. Inputs are usually limited and can be any of your computer’s mouse buttons, keyboard keys, or analog sticks on consoles like PlayStation and Xbox.
  • Model: Models are the computer-generated creations or simulations that make up a game world. They can be anything from an animal to a whole city.
  • Multiplatform: When games are made available for multiple platforms (e.g., PC and mobile) at once, they’re said to be “multiplatform”
  • Physics : Physics is part of gameplay design where programmers/developers must take into account how objects behave in relation to their surroundings—their mass, momentum, friction etc. For example the player might have trouble with a certain level because there’s no gravity on it; this would need different programming than if the same level had gravity.
  • Pixel art: Pixel art refers specifically to two dimensional graphics displayed using pixels– usually as small squares like those found in old-school video games.
  • Polygon: A polygon is a three dimensional geometric shape made with straight lines– for instance the game characters would be modeled as polygons. This term often refers to how many sides or “sides” an object has (e.g., triangle, square etc.) when it’s being rendered by computer graphics hardware.
  • Render: The process of converting data and information from one form into another; most often used to refer to image rendering which takes place on screens and other displays such as televisions and monitors.
  • Shaders : Shaders are small bits of code that tell a program how something should look like before any pixels have been drawn; they can also help control things like lighting effects or the appearance of grid lines.
  • Sprite: A sprite is a two dimensional image, often in the form of an animated character or object. It’s also sometimes used as slang for single-frame animation (e.g., for a character jumping).
  • Terrain : Terrain refers to the ground and surfaces that are part of any given game environment– this could refer to hills and mountains but it can also include such surface features like sand or water.
  • Texture: Textures allow developers/artists to add detail to models by applying images on top – this may be done with textures which have been rendered out from programs such as Photoshop; alternatively photo editing software might use techniques like bump mapping where one texture is mapped onto another.
  • Tilemap: A tilemap is a two dimensional image of tiles that can be used as a way to create levels for games. For example, the game’s background might look like this.
  • Vertex : Vertexes are singular points in space- they’re also often called “vertices” or simply “points”. They’re typically defined by three numbers (e.g., X, Y and Z coordinates).
  • VR: Virtual Reality refers to video games which use technology such as headsets that make it possible for gamers to interact with virtual environments; these will usually have controllers like those found when gaming on systems like Nintendo Switch.

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