Note: This page will be constantly updated over time with more and more terminology.
This page is a collection of some of the common terminology you’ll find in the game development industry. It is written to act as a dictionary to help give detailed definitions to words and phrases you might hear in your day to day adventures in the industry.
- AA (Double A)
- An unofficial name given to studios, publishers or developers that are larger than the Indie offerings but don’t quite fit the criteria for AAA.
Example: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fall Guys are seen by most to be AA.
- AAA (Triple A)
- Triple A is term given to games, game studios or publishers who release games that require large budgets (and usually large marketing budgets) to create and release.
Example: Halo Infinite and Call of Duty are classed as AAA, Inscryption and Super Meat Boy are not.
- Games that are no longer sold or supported by whomever owns the rights to the title. It is a common misconception that Abandonware titles are in the Public Domain or are Copyright Free - this is incorrect in most cases but usually it does not make financial sense for a company to chase copyright infringement of Abandonware titles due to to their lack of commerical value.
Example: The Oregon Trail (1971) is classed as Abandonware.
- Action Game
- A genre of video games that emphasizes fast-paced, physical challenges, often involving combat, platforming, or other forms of reflex-based gameplay. Action games require quick reflexes, precise timing, and skillful execution of moves or attacks. They often feature linear or semi-linear level design, with a focus on combat encounters and set-piece moments.
Example: Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, God of War, and Ninja Gaiden are classed as action games.
- Adventure Game
- A genre of video games that typically focuses on exploration, puzzle-solving, and narrative-driven gameplay. Adventure games often have a slower pace compared to action games, with a greater emphasis on storytelling, characters, and world-building. Historically Adventure games featured point-and-click mechanics, where the player interacts with objects and characters in the game world to progress the story. These days, however, Adventure games tend to involve more open-ended exploration of a game world, with puzzles and challenges scattered throughout.
Example: Myst, Monkey Island, Life Is Strange and Firewatch are classed as Adventure games.
- Artifical Intelligence (A.I)
- A.I in video-games means the fake brain the computer uses to make non playable characters act and react to certain conditions in video-games. This can be something as simple as a character that moves to a location (pathfinding) to a highly reactive enemy character that can anticipate the player’s next move and act accordingly.
- Art Style
- The distinctive visual style used in a game, including character and environmental design, color palette, and graphical effects.
- Arcade Game
- Originally, an arcade game referred to a type of video game that was played in public spaces such as arcades, bars, and restaurants. These games often featured simple gameplay mechanics, quick reflexes, and high scores.
- Nowadays, the term “arcade game” is used more broadly to describe games that feature similar gameplay mechanics or a retro aesthetic, regardless of whether or not they originated in actual arcades.
- The term is sometimes confused with “Hypercasual Games”.
- Example: Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Geometry Dash and Crossy Road are all classed as Arcade games
- A digital representation of a player within a game that is customizable to represent the player’s preferences or identity.
- Any resource created for use in a game, such as artwork, music, sound effects, or code.
- Behaviour Tree
- A behavior tree is a tree-like data structure used in video games for AI decision-making. It is made up of nodes that determine the actions an AI character will take based on certain conditions.
- A pre-release version of a game made available to a limited audience for testing and feedback purposes.
- A development milestone in game development where the game is feature complete and ready for testing by a larger group of people to identify and fix bugs and issues.
- Beta Tester
- Beta testers may provide feedback on gameplay mechanics, level design, and other aspects of the game during Beta testing.
- Boss Battle
- A type of encounter in a game where the player faces off against a powerful and challenging enemy, often at the end of a level or section of the game.
- Example: Bowser in Super Mario Bros., Ganon in The Legend of Zelda, The End in Metal Gear Solid 3 and Father Gascoigne in Bloodborne are all classed as bosses and fights with them are classed as Boss Battles.
- Branching Dialogue
- A narrative technique used in video games that allows players to make choices that affect the direction and outcome of the story. It involves creating multiple paths and outcomes that are dependent on the player’s choices throughout the game. Branching dialogue is often used in role-playing games (RPGs) and interactive fiction games to give players more agency and immersion in the story.
- A compiled version of the game’s code and assets that can be played or tested. It is a package that contains all the necessary files and data for a specific version of the game.
- The result of the customization of a character’s abilities, skills, and equipment by a player to maximize their effectiveness in combat or other activities. It is a way for players to create unique and specialized characters that suit their playstyle.
- Build Health
- A term used to describe the overall health or stability of a game build or version, which can be affected by bugs, crashes, or other technical issues that may arise during development.
- Bullets-To-Kill (BTK)
- Refers to the amount of bullets required to kill an opponent. Usually used in reference to shooters.
- Central Processing Unit (CPU)
- A component that acts as the brain of a computer or console.
- A name historically given to an AI character, usually in competitive or co-operative modes, to distingish them from a real player in situations where they are intended to act like a real player.
- Certification (Cert)
- The process of testing and verifying that a game meets specific technical and content requirements set by console manufacturers, digital storefronts, or other platforms prior to release.
- Character Class
- In RPGs, a character class is a predefined set of abilities, skills, and attributes that determine a character’s strengths and weaknesses.
- In general game development, a character class is a predefined set of abilities, statistics, and attributes that define the behavior and role of a player-controlled character in a game.
- Example: In an RPG, A Priest, Cleric or Warrior Class are classed as Character Classes
- Example: In Unreal Engine, “ACharacter” is a C++ class that is a base Character Class
- Cheat Codes
- Secret codes or commands that can be entered into a game to unlock new features or abilities, often hidden by the developers as easter eggs.
- Example: The “Konami Code” (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start) is classed as the most infamous cheat code.
- A designated point in a game where progress is saved, allowing players to resume the game from that point if they fail or quit.
- In racing games, checkpoints are specific areas on a track that a player must pass through in order to complete a lap or race, and failing to pass through a checkpoint results in a penalty or disqualification.
- Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery | Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)
- Software development approach that involves frequent integration and testing of code changes, aiming to deliver high-quality software products quickly and efficiently.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- A collection of servers in multiple locations used for fast servicing of data. Sometimes the term is misused in reference to any external content storage platform (Google Drive .etc).
- A cinematic sequence within a game that advances the story or provides context for gameplay.
- Debugging is the process of identifying and resolving errors or bugs in software code, in order to improve its functionality and ensure it runs smoothly. It typically involves a range of techniques and tools, such as testing, troubleshooting, and code analysis.
- Denial Of Service Attack (DoS)
- A malicious attempt to slow down or terminate connections of servers by flooding the target with requests and/or junk data.
- Dialogue Tree
- A dialogue tree is a branching path of dialogue options in a video game that allows players to choose their responses and influence the direction of the conversation, often affecting the outcome of the game’s story or the player’s relationships with other characters.
- Dialogue trees are commonly used in role-playing games, adventure games, and in games that feature branching dialogue
- Difficulty Level
- Difficulty level refers to the level of challenge presented by a game, and can be adjusted to suit different player skill levels or preferences. Games with higher difficulty levels typically present more challenging enemies, obstacles, or puzzles, while games with lower difficulty levels may offer more forgiving gameplay mechanics or options to make challenges easier to overcome.
- Easy, Medium and Hard are common difficutly levels.
- Digital Rights Management (DRM)
- Refers to copy protection, usually software-based but historically has been hardware based - tools utilized to stop people illegally sharing games.
- Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS)
- Similar to Denial of Service, Distributed Denial of Service attacks are a DoS attack using multiple endpoints to send the requests and/or junk data.
- Domain Name System (DNS)
- Used to map domain names to IP addresses. It plays a crucial role in online multiplayer games by helping to ensure that players can connect to the correct servers, and it is also used to manage websites and other online services associated with a game.
- Downloadable Content (DLC)
- Additional content that can be downloaded and added to a game after its initial release, often including new levels, characters, items, or features.
- Term used to refer to a product that does not have DRM (See: DRM).
- Dungeons are typically maze-like areas that players navigate to progress through the game’s story or to find loot.
- Sometimes used to describe any self-contained location that presents a challenge for players to overcome, such as a tower or fortress.
- The Temples from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Undead Burg from Dark Souls and The Catacombs from Diablo all count as Dungeons.
- Easter Egg
- A hidden or secret feature or reference within a game that is not directly related to the main game content.
- Examples: The UFO in GTAV, Jill’s Sandwiches in Dead Rising and the Wolfenstein 3D Level in Wolfenstein: The New Order are all classed as Easter Eggs.
- Endgame refers to the content that is accessible only after the player has completed the main story or objectives of the game. It often includes additional challenges, quests, or rewards that extend the gameplay and provide players with a sense of accomplishment. Endgame content can range from new areas to explore, more powerful enemies to fight, and unique items or equipment to obtain.
- Engine (Game Engine)
- A software framework used to create and develop video games. Game engines provide a set of tools and libraries that allow developers to create game assets, design levels, program game mechanics, and manage assets such as graphics, sound, and physics. They typically include a rendering engine for graphics, a physics engine for simulating movement and interactions, and a scripting system for creating game logic. Game engines vary in complexity and functionality, from simple 2D engines to sophisticated 3D engines used for high-end console and PC games. Studios either use a proprietary engine (See: proprietary engine) or use a popular third-party solution, such as Unity or Unreal Engine.
- Example: Unity, Unreal Engine and Snowdrop are are classed as Game Engines.
- Experience Points (XP)
- Points awarded to a player for performing certain actions or completing objectives in a game that accumulate over time and can be used to level up a character or unlock new abilities.
- Fast Travel
- A feature in open-world games that allows the player to quickly travel to previously visited locations without having to traverse the entire game world again.
- Fog Of War
- A gameplay mechanic used in strategy games where unexplored areas of the game map are obscured or hidden from the player.
- Free To Play (F2P)
- A game that does not require an upfront payment to play.
- Example: Fortnite and Genshin Impact are popular Free to Play games
- File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
- An internet protocol used for transfering files between computers. Sometimes used as slang for “Send me this file directly”.
- Example: “Can you FTP me the previous build?”
- First-Person Shooter Game
- A genre of video games that features a first-person perspective and shooting gameplay.
- Example: DOOM, Call of Duty, Halo and Serious Sam are all classed as First-Person Shooter Games.
- Game Design Document (GDD)
- A highly detailed, descriptive document that acts as the central hub for the design of a project.
- Refers to the interactive and playable aspects of a game, including mechanics, controls, and objectives.
- Gameplay Loop
- Gameplay loop refers to the core sequence of actions a player performs repeatedly throughout a game to achieve the game’s objectives. This loop typically includes tasks such as exploration, combat, puzzle-solving, and resource management. A well-designed gameplay loop is critical to keeping players engaged and invested in a game.
- The process of applying game design principles and mechanics to non-game contexts, such as education, marketing, or personal productivity, to make them more engaging and motivating. This can include adding elements like points, badges, leaderboards, and progress bars to encourage participation, or using feedback mechanisms like immediate rewards or feedback loops to encourage desired behaviors. Gamification can also involve creating challenges, quests, or other game-like experiences to make activities more enjoyable and immersive.
- Examples of Gamification: Fitness apps that reward users for achieving daily step goals, language-learning programs that use a points system to track progress, and loyalty programs that offer rewards for repeat business
- A term used in many online games to describe groups of players who band together to achieve common goals or share resources. Guilds may have different names in different games, such as clans or alliances, but they generally serve the same purpose: to provide a social structure for players within the game world. Guilds can be used for a variety of purposes, such as coordinating large-scale raids or battles, sharing resources like equipment or money, or simply providing a social community for players. Some guilds may have formal structures and hierarchies, with designated leaders and officers, while others may be more informal and loosely organized. Joining a guild can provide players with a sense of camaraderie and purpose, as well as access to resources and support from other players.
- The visual elements of a game, including character models, environments, and special effects.
- Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
- Component within a computer or console that focuses on handling graphics and rendering.
- A gameplay mechanic that represents a character’s or entity’s ability to withstand damage and continue playing the game.
- Health Bar
- A visual representation of a character’s remaining health points in a game.
- The area of a game character or object that can be damaged or interacted with by other game elements.
- Hypercasual Games
- Simple and addictive mobile games that can be played in short sessions, often featuring one-touch gameplay mechanics. These kinds of games are usually made for people that do not usually play video-games often and are usually free-to-play.
- The term is sometimes confused with “Arcade Games”.
- Example: Crossy Road, Flappy Bird and Temple Run are classed as Hypercasual games.
- Indie (Independent)
- This has changed in meaning from the past; it used to mean indepedent but now means a game developer (or studio) that creates games with either no publisher or a small-mid sized publisher.
- Example: Stardew Valley and Celeste are classed as Indie, whereas Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring are not.
- An inventory is a collection of items that a player can carry or access in a video game. It is often used to manage resources, equipment, and items the player has collected throughout the game. The inventory system can vary greatly between games, but it usually allows the player to view, use, and organize their items as needed.
- A popular project management tool usually used for sprints and issue tracking. This term is sometimes confused with “Projet management tool” due to its overwhelming use in studios across the industry.
- The process of assigning specific actions or commands to specific keys or buttons on a keyboard, gamepad, or other input device, allowing players to customize their control scheme to their preference and play style.
- Kill-Death Ratio (KD) / Kill-Death-Assists (KDA)
- A number generated from kills divided by deaths, usually used in shooter games. In some titles, such as League of Legends and Halo Infinite, assists (helping another player kill someone without firing the killing blow yourself) are also counted (KDA). Note that some games count how much an assist is worth differently (Halo Infinite counts an assist as 0.333 when a kill is worth 1).
- Example for KD: 10 kills and 5 deaths is a 2.0 KD [Kills / Deaths]
- Example for KDA: 10 kills, 5 deaths and 5 Assists is a 3.0 KDA [(Kills + Assists) / Deaths]
- Line Trace
- A technique originating from computer graphics rendering involves projecting a straight line or ray from an origin point out into the scene. This technique is commonly used in video games for collision detection, selecting objects, and creating visual effects. It is sometimes referred to as a Raycast.
- Level Design
- The process of creating playable and engaging game environments for players to explore and interact with. It involves the placement of objects, obstacles, enemies, and other elements to create a cohesive and challenging gameplay experience.
- Level Designer
- A level designer is responsible for creating the game levels, including their layout, objectives, and challenges, while also ensuring that they are fun and engaging for the player. This role involves working closely with other members of the development team, such as artists, programmers, and game designers, to ensure that the levels are integrated seamlessly into the game.
- Level Of Detail (LOD)
- This is the system where the further an object is from the camera, the less detail is rendered. The closer an object is, the more detail is rendered on the object.
- Software that developers can use to help build a game or game engine. Middleware can include things like physics engines, audio software, and networking libraries that can save developers time and effort by providing pre-built solutions to common problems.
- Example: WWise, Bink Video, FMOD and Simplygon are all examples of Middleware.
- A type of in-game purchase that allows players to buy virtual items, currency, or upgrades with real money. They are called “micro” as they are usually small amounts of money compared to the cost of the game itself.
- Mixed Reality (MR)
- A combination of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality with the aim of offering experiences that use interactions in both the physical and virtual worlds.
- A term used when describing both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in the same context.
- NAT Punchthrough
- A technique used in network programming to establish a direct connection between two devices behind NAT (network address translation) devices, without requiring manual port forwarding.
- Network Address Translation (NAT)
- A method used to remap one IP address space into another by modifying network address information in the IP header of packets while they are in transit across a traffic routing device. NAT is commonly used by routers to allow multiple devices to share a single public IP address, and it can impact network performance and limit some types of network connections.
- Non-Playable Character (NPC)
- Similar to other terms for AI controlled characters in a game but tends to refer to static characters that offer story progression or for A.I that is noticibly more dumber than a real player.
- Non-Viable Build
- A character or gameplay strategy that is not able to progress or compete effectively in a game due to its lack of strength or viability, rendering it ineffective or not worth pursuing.
- A version of a game that is unplayable or crashes frequently due to bugs or incomplete features, making it unsuitable for testing or release. This can occur during development as a result of errors in code or problems with assets, and may require significant debugging and fixing to become viable
- Pay To Win (P2W)
- A game that does not require an upfront payment to play but there are items you can purchase that make you better than other players (and make it easier for you to win).
- Example: APB Reloaded was considered to be a Pay-To-Win Game
- This is the name given to a system that allows an AI controlled character or object to find a path to a location within the game world. Normally, a starting point and destination are fed into pathfinding systems and other variables are then layered on top to find the clearest logical path for the AI controlled entity to take.
- Physically Based Rendering (PBR)
- A rendering method that aims to render realistic game worlds by using realistic lighting and surface models.
- Usually an internal event where some (or all) of the team play a build of the game to check for quality, bugs, test a new feature or to get a “feel” for how the game is currently playing.
- Propietary Engine
- Proprietary engines refer to game engines developed in-house by a game development company or studio, which are not usually licensed to third parties. These engines are usually customized to the specific needs of the developer and offer greater control and flexibility compared to off-the-shelf game engines. However, developing a proprietary engine can be costly and time-consuming.
- Example: Crystal Tools (Square Enix), Decima (Guerrilla Games) and Snowdrop (Ubisoft) are examples of Propietary Engines.
- Quality Assurance (QA)
- A part of a game development team that regularly checks builds for bugs and problems.
- A technique originating from computer graphics rendering involves projecting a straight line or ray from an origin point out into the scene. This technique is commonly used in video games for collision detection, selecting objects, and creating visual effects. It is sometimes referred to as a Line Trace.
- Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
- RDP is a protocol for dialing into a computer and controlling it remotely. The term is generally used loosely for anytime you remote into a machine (such as with Parsec, Chrome Remote Desktop, Remote Desktop Connection) .etc.
- Example: “I’m working from home today so I’ll RDP for the playtest”
- Soulslike / Soulsborne
- A subgenre of action role-playing games that are inspired by the gameplay mechanics and design philosophy of the Dark Souls, Bloodborne or Elden Ring series.
- Example: Titan Souls, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Mortal Shell and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin all count as Soulslike games.
- Technical Artist
- A role that bridges the gap between the technical and artistic aspects of a game. They work closely with both the art and programming teams to ensure that the game’s visuals are both visually stunning and technically sound. Technical Artists often handle tasks such as creating shaders, optimizing game assets, and developing tools and pipelines for the art team to use.
- An artist with a technical background.
- Technical Designer
- A role that focuses on creating and implementing game mechanics and systems, often using scripting and programming skills. They work closely with game designers to ensure that their ideas are translated into functional and efficient game systems. Technical Designers are responsible for maintaining and improving the technical aspects of a game’s design throughout its development cycle.
- A designer with a technical background.
- Technical Design Document (TDD)
- A document that acts as a blueprint for the software engineers and details requirements, core features and how they should be implemented as well as the tools required to make said features work. This document normally includes answers to questions such as what game engine is going to be used alongside high level diagrams of feature implementations and how the project is going to utilize the technologies of the target platforms. Not to be confused with a Game Design Document (GDD).
- A system that collects data and sends it back to the server at specific intervals (or events). Usually used for collecting statistics of player behaviour.
- The amount of data that can be transferred between a client and a server over a network in a given amount of time.
- Time-To-Kill (TTK)
- Refers to the time it takes for a specific item to kill an opoonent. Usually used in reference to shooters.
- Turing Test
- Test to see if an A.I can fool someone into thinking it is a real player.
- User Experience (UX)
- Commonly confused with UI (User Interface), User Experience is all about the experience for the end user. This is the bridge between Game Design and the player, ensuring that the experience “feels good” for the player.
- User Interface (UI)
- A discipline focused on how the end user interfaces with the in-game menus and HUD (Heads-Up Display)
- A term given to the collection of menus and visual components that allow the user to interact with the game.
- Example: Title Screens, Main Menus, player Health Bars are all examples of UI.