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Game Development Dictionary


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  Term Name Description

Square Wave

A fundamental waveform whose shape is the same as a wave. Spectrum-wise, it's the same as a sawtooth, sans the even even harmonics.

Subtractive Synthesis

A form of synthesis that is popular with analog synthesizers. It takes a complex waveform rich in harmonics (such as the sawtooth) and strips away parts, resulting in a simpler wave.


The duration a note is held before it decays away.


The character of a sound. More formally, an instrument's unique set of overtones. It is timbre that causes a piano to sound different from, say, a guitar, and also what makes sine waves sound different from a pulse wave.


An effect where the amplitude of a signal is modulated by a sine wave. In the guitar world, the "whammy bar" is mistakenly called a tremolo -- it is used, in fact, to produce vibrato (modulation of frequency).

Triangle Wave

A fundamental waveform that has very weak, odd harmonics (approximately 8/9 of the energy is devoted to the fundamental). Often found in oscillators instead of sine waves because a low-pass filtered triangle wave is effectively a sine wave.

Vacuum Tube Amplifiers

An amplifier that uses valves (vacuum tubes) to make the signal louder. They add a bit of coloration to the signal, which is usually desirable, and sound very warm and rich when overdriven.


Voltage Controlled Amplifier. In analog synthesizers, an amplifier whose magnitude of amplification manipulated through control voltage. With various modulators, it is possible to create a number effects with a VCA, such as tremolo (a low-frequency sine wave as the modulator).


Voltage Controlled Filter. A filter in analog synthesizers controlled by voltage.


Voltage Controlled Oscillator. In analog synthesizers, a device that generates various waveforms, whose frequency is determined by a control voltage.


The sine-wave modulation of a signal's frequency. Basically, it results in the warbling of the signal's pitch.

VOC File

Creative Labs' sound format made popular with the Sound Blaster.


More formally called timbre modulation. It is your standard "wah-wah" effect that Jimi Hendrix and so many other guitarists hackneyed.


The shape of any periodically oscillating wave.

Wavetable Synthesis

Synthesis that digitally stores the waveforms in a "wavetable" and then uses them to create sounds. This method is capable of producing very realistic sounds.

White Noise

Noise with completely random amplitude across all frequencies. Also known as Gaussian noise.


Boosting the power of a signal.

Frequency Modulation

When a signal's frequency is altered by another signal's.


A component that attenuates certain frequency ranges. Various filters have different volume reduction slopes; the most common being 12 decibels per octave.


A type of distortion that intentionally adds noise to the signal.


The manual shaping of various frequency ranges.

Envelope Generator

In synthesizers, a device that produces a volume envelope. Some common types are ADSR and AR generators.


A representation of the dynamics of a single note.

Effect Box

A type of unit that alters the signal in a wide variety of manners.


An effect where the original signal is repeated after a small delay.