Game Development Essentials

branch of usability that focuses specifically on addressing players who have disabilities (e.g., visual, audio, motor/physical, cognitive)

action/”twitch” game
genre that involves quick reaction time and eye-hand coordination (e.g., fighting, racing, platformer, music and rhythm games)

action-adventure game
hybrid genre that combines quick reaction time and eye-hand coordination with puzzle-solving, exploration and story elements

active interface
interface that involves direct player feedback, interaction and choice (e.g., menu and action systems)

adaptive/interactive music
music that changes to confirm to a player’s actions within the game

adventure game
genre that involves puzzle-solving, exploration, and story elements

area under the marketing umbrella that focuses on reaching the player market through paid ads in media outlets such as television, radio, magazines, newspapers, and web sites

aerial/top-down perspective
perspective showing the game as seen from above (i.e., bird’s-eye view)

artistic sensibility (in contrast to functionality) used to establish a game’s visual style

ally archetype
character who helps the hero or protagonist progress through a story; may also assist with tasks that might be difficult or impossible to accomplish alone (e.g., Han Solo and Chewbacca from Star Wars franchise)

alpha phase
development phase coinciding with the point at which the game is playable from start to finish

alternate reality game (ARG)
interactive narrative sometimes used as part of a promotional campaign that combines the real world with multiple media and game elements (e.g., I Love Bees “fake” hacked web site – commissioned by Microsoft for the launch of Halo 2)

technique that involves creating movement, used most often in conjunction with character art
character (usually, but not always, an enemy or villain) that is opposite to the protagonist and conforms to the shadow archetype

application programming interface (API)
interface that allows for a pre-built solution so that a programmer does not have to use the underlying code (e.g., SGI’s OpenGL, Microsoft’s DirectX)

proprietary standalone game platform, consisting of a display screen enclosed in a cabinet, that is found in public venues—such as video arcades, bowling alleys, amusement parks, and pizza parlors; most arcade games are played standing up—with player controls consisting of buttons, joysticks, or a combination

area of game development that involves creating visual concepts or assets; basic game art tasks include concept art (drawing), modeling, texturing, and animation

art style guide
documentation created to establish the “look and feel” of a game and provide references for other members of the art team

artificial intelligence (AI)
“intelligent” behavior created artificially and often most commonly exhibited by the game’s non-player characters (NPCs); involves logical responses to stimulus, pathfinding, strategic planning, and dialogue

technique used to increase sales by having members of an internal team associated with a particular developer or publisher pose as players and post positive reviews for that company’s game; tactic is frowned upon and often backfires

area of game development that involves creating, capturing, editing, recording, and implementing sound, music or voiceover assets

augmented reality
environment that includes both “virtual reality” and real-world elements; may involve superimposing visual game elements onto the real world through devices such as goggles and portable game platforms (e.g., smartphones and “AR-ready” devices such as the Wii U controller)

auto-save/checkpoint save
save option in which the game auto-saves as it progresses (often at certain checkpoints), allowing the player to leave and return at any time without explicitly having to save the game; offers the most immersion and the least amount of player control

ability to project stereoscopic 3D images without requiring additional accessories (such as goggles or glasses); utilized by the Nintendo 3DS handheld and HTC EVO 3D smartphone

sole character controlled by a player; may be a direct manifestation of the player (e.g., “Mii” player character created for the Wii)

historical information leading up to where a game (or story) begins

gameplay element that ensures a game is perceived as consistent and fair by players

music video game division of Japan’s Konami that launched a series of games involving the creation of music or rhythm patterns (e.g., Dance Dance Revolution, Karaoke Revolution); led to the emergence of the music and rhythm genre, which included games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band

beta phase
development phase following “alpha” where bugs are fixed, all assets are integrated into the game, and the entire production process ceases

beta/playability/usability tester
volunteer recruited to test a game during the beta phase to ensure it is usable, playable, functional, and engaging; testing usually does not occur in-house but in the privacy of the tester’s own home and might consist of stress or progression testing, in which a game is played from start to finish

Boom generation
generation of players (also known as the “Baby Boomers”) born roughly between 1943 and 1961 that came of age during the “counter culture” of the 1960s

defect in code that causes a game to behave in unexpected ways

casual player market
traditionally, those who only play games occasionally; today, “casual” refers to the type of game played—one that is short and easy-to-learn such as many mobile and social games

art of rendering objects to look like hand-drawn cartoons—in contrast to photorealistic renderings; used in games to give a 2D look to a 3D world (e.g., Borderlands)

character arc
process of character growth and development within a game (or story)

character triangle
powerful three-way relationship among characters in a game (or story) where contrasting characters with opposing needs are connected (e.g., love triangle, career triangle)

sequence that runs like a movie—usually appearing at the beginning or end of a game; often breaks immersion because it lacks player control

cohort analysis
method of study that assumes people of a certain age group/generation do not necessarily change over time (e.g., Michael Apted’s 7 Up film series, which follows a group of people born in the same year over time—every seven years

community management
customer service role that involves maintaining the online player community after a game’s launch; responsibilities include disciplining players who “misbehave,” helping new players get accustomed to the game’s rules, answering in-game questions, and accepting player feedback

compatibility/format tester
tester who works for a publisher and focuses on whether a game has cross-platform compatibility—functioning equally well on all target platforms and physical interfaces; compatibility testers work on computer games, while format testers work on console games

programming tool that takes source code and translates it into a different target programming language that the computer can understand so that it can be executed

concept art
technique that involves creating static views of game art assets using pencil sketches or 2D digital renderings

concept development
development phase that begins when an idea for a game is envisioned and ends when a decision is made to begin planning the project

concept/pitch document
documentation completed at the end of the concept development phase that conveys the goal and purpose of the proposed game

proprietary game platform, consisting of a base and controllers, traditionally played in the home and hooked up to a television set; originally special-purpose—only for games—but now moving toward multi-purpose entertainment centers

construction and management/process simulation
simulation genre that involves the ongoing maintenance of a real-world system (e.g., Sim City and Tycoon franchises)

hardware used to control the game experience—often containing buttons, sticks, and pads; type of input device traditionally associated with the console platform

hybrid of “cooperation” and “competition”—re-coined in technology by Raymond Noorda in 1992 to characterize Novell’s business strategy; used in gameplay and game theory to illustrate multiplayer dynamics, where players might cooperate and compete simultaneously

co-op play
player mode in two traditional variants—“co-op two” and “co-op multiplayer”—where players team up to player against the game itself

crunch time
interval that sometimes occurs at the tail end of production where a development team will work massive hours of overtime in order to ship a game on schedule; usually happens as a result of poor project management or publisher demands

sequence that appears as a “mini-movie” within a game with the goal of to develop characters, introduce new environments, advance the plot, or establish goals for a new section or level; traditionally breaks immersion due to lack of player control, but newer games are making use of “interactive” cut-scenes with player feedback

programming tool used after a program is compiled to find any bugs in the code and help fix them

defeat/loss condition
condition under which players will lose the game

statistical information such as gender, age, income level, education level, marital status, ethnicity, and religion that might be associated with the player market

area of game development that involves creating game concepts, storylines, gameplay, levels, interfaces, and worlds; often confused with game art, game design provides more of an engineering, problem-solving approach to building functional systems

developer diary
record of the game development process created and shared by members of the development team; often seen as an effective public relations strategy because it informs the public about a game prior to launch with legitimate information rather than “hype”

development studio/developer
company that creates a game from concept to release

used in games to refer to verbal interactions among any number of characters (although it technically refers to two-person verbal interaction)

direct control interface
interface style in which the player steers an avatar around the screen

downloadable content (DLC)
content created for a game that is released separately from the main game; traditionally developed during post-production but now being created during production

dynamic balance
balance that occurs once the game is set in motion by the players—allowing them to truly interact with the game through destruction, maintenance or restoration

gameplay component consisting of results that arise from the creative use of a game in ways that were not anticipated or planned by the game’s development team

exaggerated antagonist
larger-than-life, bizarre, and sometimes even comedic villain who might even dominate the story due to being more interesting than the protagonist (e.g., Dr. Evil in Austin Powers and most of the villains in Batman—such as the Joker, Riddler, and Cat Woman)

explicit challenge
obvious, intentional, and immediate challenge (e.g., exact timing required to jump over rolling barrels or the appearance of a locked door—which always suggests the challenge of unlocking it)

extrinsic knowledge
knowledge gained outside the game world that is applied to the game (e.g., Minecraft requires players to apply real-world knowledge such as “wood burns” and “ore melts” in order to build structures)

first-person shooter (FPS)
shooter in which the player has a first-person perspective and cannot see the player character onscreen

focus tester
tester (often a target potential player) who is recruited to play a game to determine which aspects are most appealing; focus testing is normally conducted by the game publisher’s marketing department

fog of war
gameplay device often used in strategy games in which players cannot see enemy units that are beyond the sight range of their own units; in this case, players are given imperfect (incomplete) information and must rely on inference to estimate the location of the enemy units

technique of reproducing everyday background sounds (e.g., such as a key turning in a lock, footsteps, and doors swinging shut) by mimicking the sound sources; named after Jack Foley, who re-created noises in a sound studio that were not easily captured on a movie set and then synched them to the action on the screen

plot device that ominously alerts the audience about an important event or change that will happen in the future

frequency modulation (FM) synthesis
early computer-based audio technique that uses algorithms to re-create and combine sound waves of different shapes, frequencies, and volumes

game design document (GDD)
documentation usually created by the design director or lead to provide a design reference guide encompassing gameplay, storyline, characters, interface, and game rules

game engine
system and/or underlying code designed for the creation and development of electronic games (primarily console or computer); core functionality may include graphics, physics, sound, animation, artificial intelligence, and networking engines

game master (GM)
term originating from the “dungeon master (DM)” role in paper-and-pencil role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons as one who guides other players through the game; currently used in online multiplayer games for one who plays an important role in supporting players—including a member of a customer service or community management team

game mechanic
rule intending to determine a game’s complexity, level of interaction, and balance while providing a fun and engaging player experience

game rating
code assigned to a video game by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) as part of a voluntary system; traditional retailers and hardware manufacturers often only accept games that are rated by the ESRB

interactive aspects of game design—such as choices, challenges or consequences that players face while playing a game

game theory
discipline that focuses on the types of conflicts that exist in games, and how players might respond to these conflicts

application of game design principles (e.g., achievement badges, levels, leaderboards, progress bars, virtual currency, gifting, competition, and mini games) in non-gaming contexts

Generation X
generation of players born roughly between 1962 and 1981 that came of age during the 1970s as divorce, suicide, murder, and incarceration rates skyrocketed

game category based on a combination of subject matter, setting, screen presentation/format, player perspective, and game-playing strategies

data related to geographic location—including country or even a region within that country—that might be associated with the player market

gold phase
development phase following “beta” where a game content is “locked” and the game is manufactured or published in preparation for launch or release

guardian archetype
character who blocks the progress of the hero by whatever means necessary—until the hero has proven his or her worth (e.g., sphinx who guards the gates of Thebes in Oedipus)

proprietary game platform modeled after console systems; usually special-purpose—only for games—and convenient for portable play

hardcore/core player market
those who play games often and who are more likely to immerse themselves in a game that might last weeks or months rather than just hours or minutes

heads-up display (HUD)
onscreen interface that is overlaid onto the entire game action screen

herald archetype
character who facilitates change in a story and provides the hero with direction (e.g., Princess Leia in Star Wars, whose call for help motivates Luke Skywalker to take action toward a specific goal.

hero archetype
central character or protagonist in a story or single-player game—often a player’s avatar—representing the shadow character’s opposite

Hero’s Journey
story pattern introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces where a fictional hero must leave his community and embark upon a dangerous journey—usually to recover something or someone of value; adapted by Christopher Vogler to screenwriting in The Writer’s Journey and also applied to game storylines

Hollywood three-act structure
story pattern common in the film industry which consists of a beginning (introducing the main character’s problem), a middle (focusing on obstacles that prevent the problem from being solved), and an end (emphasizing a resolution of the problem after an ordeal involving the removal or defeat of the obstacles)

exaggeration of visual reality, which can sometimes make a game more dramatic

idle movement
character movement that occurs when that character is “waiting” for the player to resume control or make a decision involving the character

“state of consciousness” where a player’s awareness of the real world is diminished (or even lost) by being engrossed in a game environment; in this case, a game’s story, gameplay, and other elements are so powerful and engaging that players find themselves deeply caught up in the game world

imperfect/incomplete information
gameplay element in which players are provided with only a fraction of the information needed to make the best decision—requiring inference (e.g., closed-handed card games, fog of war)

implicit challenge
covert or “stealth” challenge that is not specifically added to the game but is an emergent feature of the game itself (e.g., dividing resources in a strategy game, tuning a car in a racing game)

visual representation of information, data or knowledge that may aid in the learning process (e.g., Rob Beeson’s The Gamer Brain)

input device
hardware-based controller, remote, keyboard-mouse combination or any other device (e.g., steering wheel, microphone, dance pad) that players use to input information into a game

integrated development environment (IDE)
programming tool that integrates applications into one environment—allowing increased productivity by removing the need for time-wasting swaps of applications

intellectual property (IP)
original content created and owned by an individual or internally by a development studio, without the involvement of any external licensor

game component that allows a player to have perceived control (over decisions characters, environment or other resources) and inhabit a co-author or storyteller role; games have a higher level of interactivity than traditional media such as film

interface design
creation of the layout, content, navigation, and usability features of a game interface (physical hardware or visual software that connects the player to the game)

process of ensuring that a game is usable for players worldwide, without the need for language-based versions

intransitive relationship
symmetrical balance in a game that represents a circular relationship between characters, items or other elements—with each resource having the ability to defeat and be defeated by another; sometimes referred to as “rock paper scissors (RPS),” from the traditional game where rock beats scissors, which beats paper—which in turn, beats rock

intrinsic knowledge
knowledge gained within the game world (e.g., memory of spells, combination moves, maze layouts, and character personalities)

isometric perspective
perspective showing the game as seen from a 30-45 degree angle; allows for the creation of a pseudo-3D world

iterative development
process traditionally used in software and web development—and adapted for game development—that incorporates a circular, three-stage process (design, prototype, evaluate); often used as the core of Agile methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, and Lean

animation technique in which the animator creates each pose of a movement and sets sequential keyframes to generate animation files

level design
creation of environments, scenarios, or missions in an electronic game using level editors and graphics software; levels may have certain objectives, flow, duration, availability, relationships, and progressions and will incorporate both time and space

copyright holder that licenses original content to another entity (such as a developer or publisher) to adapt (e.g., New Line Cinema, which licensed the rights to the film The Lord of the Rings to Electronic Arts)

life stage analysis
method of study that assumes people’s beliefs change over time (e.g., people get more conservative as they grow older)

linear storytelling
narrative following a physical and temporal straight line—beginning with the most distant events and ending with the most recent ones

local area network (LAN)
computer network covering a small local area; LAN-based multiplayer games, which allow players to share the game on a LAN without sharing the screen or input device, were especially popular in network-equipped business and educational settings because workstations were already connected to a LAN—while players would physically transport their computers to a friend’s network-equipped home in order to join a LAN party

local multiplayer
player mode in which all players sit in the same space and play a game on the same machine—sharing the same screen using separate input devices; common mode of play on console systems

process by which versions of a game are developed to address distinct languages and cultures

looping music
music sequence that repeats to provide a continuous soundtrack—best used in a start screen or other menu system rather than during an in-game sequence; when a loop is long enough, the player may not notice that the music is repeating

term that originates from the blending of “machine” and “cinema”—representing the use of a game engine/level editor and underlying assets to tell a more traditional linear story (e.g., Red vs. Blue series, based on Halo), which has helped to provide independent filmmakers with creative, low-cost options

company that develops the hardware associated with a game platform (e.g., Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo)

discipline that involves targeting the game to a particular player market—persuading it to play and/or purchase the game; involves sub-areas such as advertising, merchandising, promotion, public relations (PR), and sales

massively multiplayer online game (MMO)
multiplayer game that is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously online; the most common variant of an MMO is the MMORPG—an expanded version of a role-playing game (RPG)

area sometimes associated with marketing that involves the release of companion products such as action figures, plush toys—or even movies, cartoons and novels set in the game world

Millennial generation
generation of players born roughly between 1982 and 2002 that came of age in the 1990s during a new population boom; characteristics include online communication through social networks, team-based interaction, lack of privacy, more confident, and female-dominated

mistaken antagonist
character that initially appears to be a villain but turns out to be “innocent”; not to be confused with an “anti-hero”—or a protagonist with villainous tendencies

portable, multi-purpose platform such as a smartphone or tablet that is used to play games—and also to make phone calls, browse the Internet, take photos, read e-books, and access/download music

modifying, expanding, and otherwise customizing the content of a game through the use of a level editor; often created by player communities, “mods” can heighten the value of a game through free promotion—and some have led to the creation of new commercial games and franchises (e.g., Counter-Strike – a Half-Life mod)

technique that involves creating a character or object’s size and stature in 3D (from 2D art assets)

usually a lengthy speech given by a game character for the purposes of illustrating that character’s emotions or personality characteristics—or to reveal that character’s inner thoughts

story pattern that legends and myths of all world cultures share—a concept that was introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces

technique in which an animator captures the motions of real people—placing markers on joints of the person to track movement and create motion data

technology that allows players to control actions in a game through physical movement; used in console platforms such as Nintendo’s Wii, Microsoft’s Kinect, and Sony’s Move

multi-user dungeon (MUD)
text-based multiplayer real-time virtual world conceived by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle at Essex University; focused heavily on social interaction and player design—leading to the massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) of today

musical instrument digital interface (MIDI)
industry-standard protocol that incorporates several different devices that work together to create sound (unlike closed systems that stores instrument sounds and plays the finished process through one device—such as tracked audio)

verbal commentary made by a game’s narrator (a non-player character or often unseen character whose only role is to provide commentary or backstory details

non zero-sum (NZS)
game theory component that involves situations in which players do not have completely opposing interests—which fosters cooperation

non-linear storytelling
narrative following a branching storyline that occurs often in games; tied to the freedom of choice perceived by the players, who might take any number of paths through a game

non-player character (NPC)
game character that is not controlled by the player but instead is created and controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence system

omnipresent perspective
perspective allowing the player to view different parts of the game world and take actions in many different locations (even if parts are hidden at times); allows a player to look down on the game world from above

technology platform in which games are played through a wide area network such as the Internet

online multiplayer
player mode in which a game is played through the Internet by several players simultaneously

parallax scrolling
perspective technique in which the camera moves vertically or horizontally, with different layers moving at different speeds to give the feeling of depth

parasocial interaction
effect that can occur when audience members become so attached to characters that they come to believe they exist in real life

passive interface
interface with the purpose of informing a player without involving any direct player interaction (e.g., map, status, score, power, health)

pattern recognition
challenge that (along with matching) is common in puzzle and action games requiring reflexive, “automatic thinking” to master them

perfect/complete information
gameplay element in which the players are aware of the state of play at all times (e.g., board games); yields logical challenges, where players assimilate the information and use it to decide on the best course of action

persistent-state world (PSW)
online game (most often a massively multiplayer online game) that is accessible 24-hours per day and does not end when a player logs out of the game— allowing the player’s character to “persist” in time

physical/manual interface
hardware-based input device that acts as a bridge between the player and the game

real-world behavior that is programmed into a game–such as collision, particle effects, body dynamics, gravity, water viscosity, and even motion

system on which a game is played or format through which a game is delivered (e.g., arcade, computer, console, handheld, mobile, online, tabletop)

action sub-genre where players move quickly through an environment—often jumping and dodging to avoid obstacles, and sometimes collecting items along the way (e.g., Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario Bros., Ratchet & Clank, Braid)

player-centered design
concept usually associated with interface design in which the target players’ needs, tasks, and choices are emphasized (rather than designing a cool, complex, cutting-edge or flashy interface)

player character
character, object or other “entity” in a game world that is controlled by the player

player control
component of game storytelling and gameplay in which a player is able to manipulate the game in some way (e.g., character customization, navigation, choice, modding, communication), allowing the game to change based on who is playing it; players are active rather than passive—in sharp contrast to an audience watching a movie or a television show

player forum/community/newsgroup
online group that focuses on a particular topic such as a game; group members are usually power users or fans of the game—which makes them ideal people to reach when launching a viral marketing campaign

player/game market
people who play games; market is segmented into players based on geographics, demographics, and/or psychographics

player matching
community management technique that matches players to make it easy for players to find prospective opponents and team members with similar skill levels

player mode
mode that directly correlates to the number of people playing a game—ranging from single-player to massively multiplayer

player vs. environment (PvE)
term used in online games (usually massively multiplayer) that refers to fighting computer- or game-controlled rather than player-controlled enemies

player vs. player (PvP)
term used in online games (usually massively multiplayer) that refers to fighting player-controlled rather than computer- or game-controlled enemies

player suits
concept created by Richard Bartle in his 1996 paper, “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs” (Journal of MUD Research), where he proposed that multi-user dungeon (MUD) players fall into four categories based on playing card suits; “hearts,” “clubs,” “diamonds,” and “spades” are socializers, killers, achievers, and explorers—respectively

process by which the development team tests a game for bugs and flaws before bringing it to market—focusing heavily on playability and the “fun factor”; playtesting can be open (external) or closed (internal)

story element that focuses on how a story unfolds rather than what the story is about; plot elements serve to guide the story along

point-and-click interface
interface style in which the player moves an avatar by clicking on a desired destination onscreen; the player may also click on various objects to access them

point-of-view (POV)
game element relating to how the player character is experienced—through first-person POV (in which the player sees through the eyes of the player character) or third-person POV (in which the player sees the player character onscreen at all times)

reflections by members of the development team, often shared with the public through a blog or other online discussion, on the development process associated with a game that has been shipped; usually covers what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be done to improve the process in the future

game development phase that occurs right after production—usually after the game has been released, launched or shipped; often consists of marketing, customer support, and community management

summary (consisting of 1-2 sentences or a short paragraph) of a game’s purpose and overall theme—often appearing on packaging associated with the game; intended to intrigue prospective customers—enticing them to purchase or play the game

game development phase that occurs before production; involves concept development, planning, documentation, and sometimes prototype creation

prisoner’s dilemma
classic game theory example that illustrates what happens when all players try to compete with each other in a situation in which their interests are diametrically opposed—causing them often to make selfish decisions; four possible outcomes to this dilemma are “reward,” “punishment,” “temptation,” and “defeat”

game development phase that occurs between pre-production and post-production; involves alpha, beta, and gold phases (and sometimes prototype)

production/quality assurance/regression tester
tester who often works in-house in a paid but temporary position at a developer (production) or publisher (quality assurance); may involve regression—seeking to uncover new errors after changes have been made

area of game development that may involve the creation of the underlying code for a game’s engine and/or internal tools (e.g., database, graphics, audio, level editor)

project plan
plan often assembled by the producer that outlines the path taken to develop the game—including raw task lists, dependencies, overhead hours that are used to create a real-world schedule; the final project plan is broken down into a resource plan, budget, schedule, and milestones that will help track the project

area under the marketing umbrella that focuses on putting together events, contests, trials, giveaways, and merchandise to get the public excited about a product

term coined by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave that refers to the combination of a producer and consumer; although the roles of players (consumers) and developers (producers) are usually separate from each other, the line can become blurred—with players becoming co-authors by making certain decisions while playing the game, customizing characters, and building physical environments and levels; player communities participate in the “prosumer effect” by modding and creating fan sites, art, and fiction

character (usually the player character) that is opposite to the antagonist and conforms to the hero archetype; the protagonist is the main character and must always drive the story forward—acting instead of reacting, making things happen instead of waiting for them to happen

development phase or goal (occurring just before or within the production phase) that involves creating a tangible, preliminary version of the game; the prototype might be a high-fidelity, digital prototype—or a low-fidelity prototype (often a “paper prototype”), which might allow for a quick in-house test to ensure solid game mechanics and the “fun factor”

data (often qualitative) consisting of the values, attitudes, lifestyles, and behaviors or a particular market

public relations (PR)
area under the marketing umbrella that focuses on letting the public know about the game—often long before it is released—by targeting the news media and game-related press at magazines, newspapers, radio, television, and web sites

company (usually separate from the development studio) that funds, markets, and distributes a game

quality assurance (QA)
involves establishing standards and procedures for the development of a game—including process monitoring, product evaluation, and auditing (ensuring that games meet the documentation, design, programming, and code standards set by the game developer and publisher; the QA role is often combined with testing as part of the same team, though sometimes one or both roles will be outsourced

save option in which a game can be saved instantly at any time during the game (usually by pressing one button); allows for more immersion and speed at the expense of flexibility and player control

effect that is used on a game environment allowing players to navigate through the game environment and perceive/interact with details that might determine whether or not they can progress through the game; may also be used to give the effect of reflection (on water, glass, and other elements

reaction time
gameplay challenge inherent in action games—especially significant when the speed at which a player responds to a challenge is directly related to the speed at which the player’s character reacts in the game

realistic antagonist
mild-mannered, fairly “normal” character that is actually a villain (which often makes them “creepier” than the average villain character); stories with realistic villains often have more colorful protagonists

real-time strategy game (RTS)
genre in which players must manage a limited set of resources to achieve a particular goal in real time, which can result in micromanagement and multitasking to avoid disasters caused by having to focus on all resources at once

feature allowing a game to be played to the end and played again (often many times)—still providing an enjoyable and unique experience each time around

resource management
challenge that involves having players manage settings and actions associated with resources such as characters, weapons or powers—common in strategy games

resource plan
spreadsheet that lists all the personnel on a project, when they will start, and how much of their salaries will be applied to the project; often part of the project plan

role-playing game (RPG)
genre originating from Dungeons & Dragons paper-and-pencil fantasy role-playing games introduced in the 1970s; players take on roles such as fighters, wizards, priests, elves or thieves—exploring dungeons, killing monsters, and gathering treasure; characterized by a strong storyline with emphasis on character development and advancement

animation technique in which an animator photographs and traces over live action movement, frame by frame, to add realism

area under the marketing umbrella that focuses on maintaining relationships with buyers from online and offline retail stores, wholesalers, discount stores, video rental chains, and hardware manufacturers to ensuring a game is carried and has priority positioning

traditionally, a feature of the construction and management/process simulation genre in which there is no goal involved and players can do no wrong; currently often synonymous with a “free-roaming” mode in a game (in contrast to a story-based mode)

save option the allows the player to interrupt play and save the game to a series of named slots or files (depending on platform) maintained by the game; offers increased player control at the expense of immersion

environmental feature that includes the total size of physical space and relative sizes of objects in a game; sometimes the environment and objects are scaled to relative size—especially in games that attempt to emulate reality (e.g., simulation games); however, important objects such as keys, weapons, and ammunition are often exaggerated to that players can easily spot them—and scale can be distorted in games with aerial or isometric perspectives so that players can see structures and characters

scripted event
storytelling device that usually involves a brief sequence that is either time-based or triggered by a player’s actions; an event might contain small portions of dialogue or action with the purpose of either building character, conveying backstory, or redirected the player toward a new goal

serious game
often considered a genre in its own right, a term to describe a game created for a non-entertainment purpose (such as education, information, recruitment, persuasion, and marketing)

story element that represents the world that is being explored by the player (including location and time period)

shadow archetype
character in a story representing the hero’s opposite, or antagonist—often the ultimate evil character

side-scrolling (flat/side) perspective
perspective in 2D space used to create the illusion of 3D space—illustrated by the player character moving from left to right horizontally across the screen while the background moves from right to left

signature movement
character movement involving an action or gesture that showcases personality and character type

Silent generation
generation of players born roughly between 1924 and 1943 that came of age during the Great Depression and World War II and grew up to became the first mass consumer audience and later initiated a “midlife crisis” that resulted in splintering the nuclear family system they had strengthened during the 1950s

simulation game
genre that attempts to replicate systems, machines, and experiences using real-world rules; common types include vehicle, participatory, and process (construction and management) simulation games

player mode in which only one person plays the game; any additional players are non-player characters

technique used by game art modelers in which textures are applied to 3D wire meshes that are created from concept art

mobile phone that combines the features of a traditional cell phone with Internet connectivity and downloadable applications (including games)

social game
often considered a genre in its own right, a game goal focusing on social interaction—usually involving a social network such as Facebook

social hierarchy of needs
model of character development levels derived from Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” that traces a character arc from intrapersonal (selfish) to humanity (self-actualization)

social networking
use of a tool such as Facebook or Twitter as a quick and effective way to communicate and engage with the outside world; technique often used as part of community management

software development kit (SDK)
set of programming tools designed to help with development for a particular technology; usually platform-specific—available from Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo for games created specifically for their systems

spatial awareness
challenge in which a player often must navigate through an environment; common in puzzle games and vehicle simulations—where the entire gameplay experience depends on the ability to understand spatial relationships to reach a destination.

small area in a 2D game that is controlled by or responds to commands given by a player; may contain a character or object that moves over a static or scrolling background

static balance
balance associated with how the rules of a game interact with each other; does not depend on type and exists before a game is played; often ensured by applying obvious strategies, symmetry, trade-offs, resource combination or feedback

technique for creating a 3D image by presenting two offset images separately to the left and right eye of the viewer; these 2D images are then combined in the brain to give the perception of 3D depth

survival-horror game
often considered a genre in its own right, a game with a dark, menacing theme—illustrating a trend in game classification incorporating story and content descriptors rather than gameplay

suspension of disbelief
plot device in which a story causes a player to forget real life and accept the artificial reality that has been created—specifically the player’s acceptance of rules and experiences that might not make sense in the real world

simplest way to balance a game—focusing on providing each player and non-player character with the same starting conditions and abilities so that the outcome of the game will depend only on the relative skill levels of the players

story element that incorporates a summary of the game’s plot

mobile computer that is larger than a mobile phone, consisting of a flat touchscreen

traditional analog game platform (e.g., board, card, dice, tile, block, pen-and-paper)

task and needs analysis
analysis conducted to determine whether an interface will help fulfill player goals; includes usability testing for frequency

technical design document (TDD)
documentation usually created by the technical director or lead to describe the specifics of the game engine and establish the technology production path (how the game will transition from concept to software) and hardware/software needed to build the game

texture that appears on a game environment’s ground surfaces—such as dirt, grass, tile, and pavement

test plan
documentation usually created by the test or quality assurance director or lead that involves constructing test cases and creating a testing checklist—itemizing each aspect or area that needs to be focused on during the testing process

involves playing a game before its release to determine whether or not it is playable—bug-free, consistent, and entertaining

technique that involves creating 2D surface textures known as texture maps that modelers then apply to 3D wire meshes

story element that represents what the story is truly about—even if it’s not shared explicitly with the player; often relate to the story’s philosophical idea or primary obstacle (e.g., redemption, fear)

third-party developer
external developer normally hired or funded by a publisher to create a title

time interval
time-dependent element that affects the pacing of a game—determining whether it is played reflexively or reflectively; consists of either turn-based, real-time or time-limited

component of static balance where the player is expected to weigh options that aren’t entirely positive or negative—thereby facing a decision-making puzzle

tragedy of the commons
social trap in which a rational decision based on resources leads to an irrational result or a collective disaster (e.g., slowing down at a freeway accident cleanup)

transformational antagonist
anti-hero character who could have been a protagonist and who often receives punishment at the end of the story to satisfy the audience’s need for justice

transitive relationship
symmetrical balance in a game that represents a linear, hierarchical or one-way relationship between characters, items or other elements—with each resource having the ability to defeat and/or be defeated by another

technique of telling stories across multiple formats (e.g., game, movie, book), which are linked together and are often in narrative sync with one another

trickster archetype
character in a story who enjoys making mischief—either causing severe damage through pranks or providing comic relief to a story as a harmless jester

turn-based strategy game
genre in which players must manage a limited set of resources to achieve a particular goal in asynchronous time—allowing them to reflect before making decisions

player mode in which only two people play the game—either cooperating in a team, competing against each other (head-to-head) or playing independently

often associated with interface, discipline focusing on functionality (engineering or design approach) rather than aesthetics (artistic approach)

victory/win condition
condition under which players will win the game

viral marketing
marketing technique usually utilizing social networks that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a message—similar to the process of spreading a virus

visual interface
active or passive software-based interface that is displayed onscreen at all times or is easily accessed by the player through a physical interface

walking cycle
character movement showing the character’s walk—representing the most basic character action, which reveals most about a character’s personality

onscreen interface that is displayed in a smaller area of the screen—usually in a corner or along the bottom

zero-sum (ZS)
game theory component that involves situations in which players have completely opposing interests—which fosters competition