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Used to describe raycasting engines, such as Doom or Duke Nukem. The maps are generally drawn as 2D bitmaps with height properties but when rendered gives the appearance of being 3D.


Used to describe raycasting engines, such as Doom or Duke Nukem. The maps are generally drawn as 2D bitmaps with height properties but when rendered gives the appearance of being 3D.


Refers to the ability to move in the X, Y and Z axis and also rotate around the X, Y, and Z axises.



Axis-aligned Bounding Box (AABB)

A form of a bounding box where the box is aligned to the axis therefore only two points in space are needed to define it. AABB’s are much faster to use, and take up less memory, but are very limited in the sense that they can only be aligned to the axis.


An albedo is a physical measure of a material’s reflectivity, generally across the visible spectrum of light. An albedo texture simulates a surface albedo as opposed to explicitly defining a colour for it.

Alpha Blending

Assigning varying levels of translucency to graphical objects, allowing the creation of
things such as glass, fog, and ghosts. This can be accomplished by using alpha channels.

Alpha Channel

The optional channel of image data in a texture file that can be used as a transparency map, height map, specular map, etc. The format of the alpha channel is usually 8 bits per pixel (256 colors), though certain file formats support different bit depths.

Alpha Testing

A method for creating transparency by checking the alpha value of a given pixel.


An animated storyboard which is used to refine timing, cameras, composition, when a complex shot is needed and static images have trouble making intention clear. When needed, low-resolution animated 3d scenes are used, intermixed with the remaining 2D storyboard panels.

Anisotropic Filtering

A texture filtering method, specifically for non-square filtering, usually of textures shown in radical perspective. Generally speaking, anisotropic improves clarity of images with severely unequal aspect ratios.

Anti-aliasing (AA)

Removes the stair-stepping or jaggies which occur at the edges of polygons or between the texels on the polygons. The way this works is by interpolating the pixels at the edges to make the difference between two color areas less dramatic.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A set of computer instructions or algorithms designed to simulate the actions of an intelligent being to the extent necessary to meet the design requirements of a game.


An acronym for the American Standard Code for Information Interchange, which is an encoding method for text, based on the English alphabet.

Aspect Ratio

A number that describes the shape of a rectangle texture, whether it’s tall or wide. To calculate an aspect ratio, either divide the width by the height, or write it out as width:height. 



Back Buffer

A secondary surface where the current frame’s graphics are stored before they are transferred to the primary display surface.

Backface Culling

The process of removing the unseen polygons that face away from the camera in the game. These surfaces are usually not needed (except sometimes for shadow casting). Doing so can dramatically speed up the rendering of a polygonal scene.

Bezier Spline

This type of spline provides the ability to make a curved line using very few points. The two endpoints of the curve are called anchor points. The other points, which define the shape of the curve, are called handles, tangent points, or nodes.


A term commonly used in games to describe a camera-facing plane. This is a polygon with a texture using transparency, that rotates on various axes to always face the player. Billboards are commonly used for particles, trees, grass, clouds, and UI elements.

Bit depth

This value defines the amount of color information an image holds. Typically 1-bit is two colors
(black and white), 2-bit is four colors, 4-bit is sixteen, 8-bit is 256 colors, and 16-bit is 65536 colors.


An image file, such as JPG, TIF, PSD, and BMP.

Binary Space Partition (BSP)

A BSP tree subdivides 3D space with 2D planes to help speed up sorting. In game development, BSP usually means using solid modeling techniques to carve the basic surfaces of a game level.


A post-processing effect which simulates bright light sources overwhelming a camera or the eye, creating a halo around the brightest parts of a scene.


A Bitmap file type used in game development, for storing source files. This is an intermediary format for use outside of a game engine. Usually then imported and converted into a different in-game format.

Bounding Box

A simplified approximation of the volume of a model, most commonly used for collision detection. It is common place to find referenced in code axis-aligned bounding box (AABB) and oriented
bounding box (OBB).

Bump Mapping

A process of rendering polygons that gives them an illusion of depth.




typically the camera in a game is the player’s view into the game scene. Cameras can also be used
for other views in the game level, for example a virtual security camer can use “render to texture“ to show the player alternate views of a game level.

Cartesian Coordinate

The standard coordinate system. With three dimensions, there are three scalars, x, y, and z used to represent a point at a given distance from a reference point, the origin.

Cel Shading

A technique which causes rendered objects to look as though they are hand-drawn, cartoon


Commonly used to describe a color component that makes up an image. A 24-bit image can have
red, green, and blue channels. 32-bit images have room for a fourth channel, commonly known as an alpha channel.


Any node in a hierarchy that is attached to another node.

Clipping Plane

This plane throws away polygons on the other side of it. This can dramatically speed up the rendering of a polygonal scene, since unneeded polygons can take up valuable processing power.

Collision Detection

The systematic check to see if any intersections are occurring between significant polygons. A common method to optimize collision detection is to use a bounding box to simplify collision


Programmers have to convert source code, written in a high-level language such as C++, into
object code (aka Assembly), so that a microprocessor can run the application.


Defined where any two points can be connected by a line that goes outside the shape. When
visualized the shape takes the formation of the letter C.


Defined where any two points can be connected by a line that goes outside the shape. This is a
shape without indentations and is the opposite of a concave surface.


Artifacts that appear around a bright light source. Often in circular or star like shapes.


Commonly utilized to compute something known as a surface normal. As by the cross product formula, a normal is simply a vector that is perpendicular to some plane. In graphics, this plane is
usually a polygon of some type.

Cube Mapping

an alternative to sphere mapping used in environment mapping, cube mapping gets a ‘screenshot’ looking in 6 different directions and arranges them in a rolled out cube. When applied, the object appears to reflect the environment around it.



Depth Cueing

Scene effect to make objects that are farther away from the camera are rendered with a
lighter color so that they are given the illusion of distance.


Process of creating an illusion of more colors than are really available in the current color depth
by creatively arranging individual pixel patterns.

Draw Call

These calls are based on how many objects are drawn to the screen. A good way to think about
this is 1 material = 1 draw call, and an object with 4 materials = 4 draw calls. This can grow exponentially when incorporating the lighting and shadows in a scene.

Draw Order

the way to define what polygons are drawn in a game engine. Back-to-front draw order means the furthest polygons are drawn first, and the rest are drawn on on top of another, with the last to draw being the one that appears to be in front. This can also be referred to as “sort priority” regarding transparent polygons as well.

Dynamic Lighting

The definition of dynamic lighting is a light source that is updated every frame, as you’d want for moving lights and for characters that move amongst various light sources. The opposite of dynamic lighting is “baked” lighting through lightmapping.




A game engine is what converts all the game assets into the display on your computer screen. Game engines often come with a level editor and other tools which help artists create content that work well in the engine.

Environment Probe

An effect where an object reflects its surroundings, much like chrome.


An expression is a formula used to create procedural animation, often using mathematical elements like sine and cosine. Expressions can automate and greatly speed up repetitive animation tasks.




Face is another name for a Polygon. This term can be used specifically for a single triangle or more generally for a multi-triangle polygon.

Facial Action Coding System (FACS)

A system to taxonomize human facial movements by their appearance on the face, Movements of individual facial muscles are encoded by FACS from slight different instant changes in facial appearance. It is a common standard to systematically categorize the physical expression of emotions, and it has proven useful to psychologists and to animators alike.

Field of View (FOV)

The FOV is usually defined by its width in degrees. A typical FOV in games is around 60 degrees, although players enjoy being able to change the FOV themselves.

Flat Shading

Assigning only one color shade per face.


Fog makes objects become more and more the same color as they recede into the distance. This is similar to real fog, except that game fog is a perfect gradient, whereas real fog usually has some wispy qualities to it. Heavy fogging in a game is used to disguise the far clipping plane.

Forward Kinematics (FK)

A method of manipulating objects in a hierarchy where the animator positions objects and the program calculates the positions and orientations of the objects below it in the hierarchy.

Frames Per Second (FPS)

A measure of animation display rate. Not to be confused with the genre First Person Shooter.

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