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Game Development Dictionary


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  Term Name Description

WAV File

A file which stores audio information, saved with a ".wav" extension. WAV files are commonly used in big budget games because they provide excellent sound quality. But it takes a lot of data to provide such high quality sound. So WAV files are larger than those of other audio file formats. (Microsoft's standard sound exchange format.)


A form of digital audio tape with 8 tracks.

Additive Synthesis

The process of creating complex waveforms by combining simpler ones. Also known as Fourier synthesis.


A very simple envelope type, with only attack and release.

Amplitude Modulation

Amplitude Modulation Changing the amplitude (volume) of a signal. For instance, amplitude modulation with a sine wave as the modulator gives you tremolo.

Very fast amplitude modulation is called ring modulation. Ring modulation produces the sum and difference of all the frequencies of both the modulator and the signal being modulated.

Control Voltage

A method of controlling analog synthesizers -- used for pitch control (with VCOs), loudness control (VCAs), etc.


A device that, when you play a chord on a keyboard, cycles through the depressed keys in a programmed pattern.

Analog Synthesizer

A type of synthesizer that creates sounds through the modification of electrical signals.


A device used to increase the volume or amplitude of a source signal.


Reduction of the signal's dynamic range; makes quiet sounds louder, and louds sounds quieter. Often used to smooth the sound of an instrument and to increase sustain.


A feature on keyboards that allows you to alter the sound produced by pressing the key after a note has been released.


A complex envelope, probably the most common. Allows for fairly accurate recreation of real instruments' dynamics. The evelope has four parts, attack, decay, sustain, and release.


A method of adding depth to a sound, by rotating part of the sound in one channel out of phase with the other.


A fairly common audio standard, an acronym for Audio Interchange File Format.


A signal without any effects.


A logarithmic scale of an audio signal's intensity.


A generic term for graphics, sounds, maps, levels, models, and any other resources. Generally assets are compiled into large files. The file formats may be designed for fast loading by matching in-memory formats, or tight compressions for handheld games, or designed to otherwise help in-game use. It is often useful to have an asset tool chain. The original models may be high-density models with R8G8B8A8 images. You may have a model striper and image compresser that reduces the model for LOD, and compresses the texture to a DXT compressed image. These assets may then go through further transformations, and end up in the large resource file.


With digital sampling, to measure a particular frequency, the sampling rate must be at least twice that of the measured frequency. If an insufficient sampling rate is used, phantom frequencies will be created.


The second part of an ADSR envelope. The amount of time, after the attack time has elapsed, that it takes for the note's volume to drop to sustain level.


Clipping occurs when a device is transmitting more signal than it was designed to handle. The distinct sound of audio clipping is created by the waveforms getting "chopped off" before they (the waveforms) reach the peaks of their excursion. Creating, esentially, a square-wave. The higher the amplitude, the closer the waveform resembles a square-wave, and thus, the more noticable the sound becomes. Clipping is found useful in some cases ie: overdriven guitar effects.


The signal that is modulated by the modulator or program wave.


The first part of an ADSR envelope. The amount of time, immediately after a key is struck, that it takes for the resulting note to reach the velocity (volume level) at which the key was struck.


With MIDI, there are 16 channels over which data can be transmitted. With mixers, a channel is an input.


The opposite of amplification -- when a signal's amplitude is reduced.


Digital audio tape -- a very common means of digital recording.