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Games Development Industry: Useful Terms and Concepts

This article works as a glossary and gives an overview of some of the most important terms in the games development industry.

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X – Z


2D or 3D Modelling: Creating art that has height and width (2D) or height, width and depth (3D)

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A/B or split testing: The practice of testing multiple variations of a game element in parallel in front of a live audience, monitoring how players use the element using analytics, with the goal of improving the element to serve a variety of goals (gameplay, processing, monetisation, game progression and many others)

Artificial Intelligence (AI): The simulation of human intelligence to allow a game to respond to player input

Alpha: The stage in a game’s development where all content is feature complete but still has bugs and art and animation may not be at final release quality

Animation / motion graphics: Solving graphical assets in a game

Animation tools: Software that allows developers to create moving graphical assets

Art pipeline: Process of creating, naming and implementing graphical assets for a game

Asset: Everything and anything that can go into a game from art to code to audio to copy (i.e. text)

Asset management/version control: Software systems to manage all the assets and code updates produced during development

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Beta: Where a game is close to release and ready for intensive user testing, sometimes live, and bugs and errors are fixed in short cycles

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Character design: Art and graphics that define the faces, anatomy or clothing of characters in the game

Concept art: Early art for a game that sets out the concept, feel and style of a game before main development begins

Console: Dedicated games hardware such as PlayStation, Switch and Xbox

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Data analysis: Data on how players use the game produced by analytics software


First playable: An advanced prototype version of the game that shows major gameplay and assets that represent what the final game will become, but without all features

Freemium: Free to play games with optional premium (i.e. paid for) content or features


Gameplay balancing: The process of tuning the gameplay so it functions efficiently and enjoyably for the player

Game analytics / metrics: Software that monitors user activity in games

Game art tools: Software that allows developers to create, enhance and animate graphics

Game design: The process of defining the gameplay mechanisms (often called mechanics), the rules of the game using all the game’s functions

Game engines: A software framework that typically includes engines for processing 2/3D graphics, physics, sound, scripting, animation, AI, networking, memory and often porting between games platforms

Game Jam: Timed events (often 24–48 hours over a weekend) where developers work in teams to create brand new games from scratch

Game monetisation: Methods for making money out of games

Game platform: Console, PC, mobile, AR/VR (see VR/AR below)

GDD: Games Design Document, the bible of a game’s gameplay, levels and progression, usually created in pre-production

Gold: This is the final stage in a game’s development before release, when testing by platforms such as consoles and app stores is undertaken

Graphics API: A software framework that optimises and renders images on a screen

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HMD: Head–mounted displays are used by VR systems to present users with stereoscopic images


Level editor: Software that allows a level designer to create a sequence of experiences often in map form

Localisation: The process of changing the language of a game’s copy and audio to suit different territories


MMOG: Massively Multiplayer Online Games that allows thousands of players to interact in real–time in a shared online game world

Mobile: Smartphone OS such as Android and iOS

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Portfolio: A pack of work created by individual programmers, artists and designers that showcases what they have created before applying for a job or attending an interview

Programming language: A vocabulary and set of rules for instructing a computer to perform tasks

Project planning tools: Software, typically online, that allows the progress and velocity of a game’s development to be monitored and improved

Prototype: A very early version of the game that showcases what the core gameplay, user interface and style of the game will be

Publisher/publishing: Companies that take a game to market, handling distribution, marketing and sale plus sometimes funding the game’s development


Quality Assurance/QA: Part of the development process that identifies bugs in the games before and after release typically via intensive human testing


Rig / rigging: A skeleton for a graphical asset that allows it to move

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Scrum or Agile: software development methodology that breaks the game into short phases (sprints) and is able to adapt to unforeseen challenges

Server: Any system that delivers data across a network, typically from remote proprietary server installations or rented from 3rd parties (the cloud)

Skinning: Adding graphical elements to the surface of a rig such as texture and lighting effects

Steam: A PC games marketplace and community

Stereoscopic: The presentation of different images, typically via VR-based HMDs, for each eye to simulate the 3D depth perception or normal human vision

Storyboarding: A sequence of drawings that show how a game would progress before it is made

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TDD: Technical Design Document, the bible of a game’s technology including engine, usually created in pre-production


UI: User interface refers to the controls that allow users to play the game

UX: User experience is how the user interacts with and experiences the game


Vertical slice: An early version of a game which showcases a narrow but representative sample of the completed game created long before the rest of the game is complete

VFX: Visual effects that augment a game’s core graphical assets such as sparks, flames and smoke

VR/AR: Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality presents three-dimensional graphics to users via stereoscopic HMDs whereas AR overlays graphics on top of visual feeds of the real world via a smartphone screen or HMD with front–mounted camera


Web development: A wide range of skills to develop applications that function over the internet including code and graphics for websites, apps and other networked systems

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