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Game Development Dictionary


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  Term Name Description

Envelope Generator

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


Downloadable Sounds. A standard that encorporates custom samples into MIDI sequences. DLS samples are distributed in conjunction with a SMF and are played back as part of the sequence. DLS ensures that a sequence played back on one system sounds the same as the original.


OpenAL is a cross-platform 3D audio API appropriate for use with gaming applications and many other types of audio applications. Visit site for more information.


A subjective perception of a sound's fundamental qualities. Usually expressed in terms of 'harshness', 'smoothness', 'breadth' and so forth. Eg: A sawtooth waveform would be perceived as having a harsh texture, whereas a square or simple sine wave would have a smoother texture. A similar usage is often seen in discussions of music and compositions in general.

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.


A repercussion of an insufficient bit depth used to represent the amplitude of a signal. Quantization may create frequencies that do not exist in the original signal. This is, however, occasionally used as a desirable effect.

Solid State Amplifier

A type of amplifier that uses solid-state circuitry, or transistors, rather than valves. This form of amplification has a higher degree of linearity and is more reliable than vacuum tube amplification, though produces harsher tones when overdriven.


Musical Instrument Digital Interface. The interface between different sound hardware and software to pass on musicial information.


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

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.


An effect where the original signal is repeated after a short interval.


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).


A pre-amp is the first device in a gain structure. It is used to bring a relatively weak microphone signal up to line level. It is often found at the top of a mixing console or as a dedicated outboard device. In the mixing console, the amount of signal gain is determined by a "gain" or "trim" knob.


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

Soft Clipping

The effect on a signal typical of an overdriven valve. As opposed to hard clipping, which creates high frequency harmonics, it tends to eliminate these harsh, higher frequencies.


A round connector with a number of pins. MIDI connectors are 5-pin DIN connectors.


An alteration of sampling rate without changing the pitch or speed of the sample.

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.


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.


The fourth and final part of an ADSR envelope. The amount of time it takes after a key is released for the note's volume to drop from sustain level to zero.


The act of conforming digital music information (MIDI) to a set tempo and time signature.

White Noise

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

Frequency Modulation

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


As the third part of an ADSR envelope, the volume at which a note is held after the attack and decay until the key is released.

Sine Wave

The most fundamental waveform, which contains no harmonics. All other waveforms can be composed out of an infinte number of sine waves.