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Game Development Dictionary


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  Term Name Description

Critical Path

The necessary route from start to finish in a game. Everything that must be done to complete a game is considered to be within the “critical path”. This holds especially true in linear games, where a player is forced to proceed along a specified path. Often the critical path is shown to the player with “primary objectives” or “main goals” of a level or the game as a whole. Other, smaller objectives or secondary goals that are not required to finish the game are considered “non-critical path”.

Game Mechanic

A game mechanic is a rule which defines how a game proceeds. For instance, in Chess, a bishop may move only along the boards diagonals. In the Mario Bros. games, Mario may squish his enemies by stomping upon them. In football, a team loses posession of the ball after failing to advance 10 yards in 4 downs. Each of these rules is a game mechanic.


1) A character level: This is a measurement of a game character's strength, ability, etc. In many games, especially RPGs, the characters which the player controls may grow and become more powerful or more skilled throughout the course of the game. The character's level provides an indication of how capable the character currently is.

2) A monster level:

The relative strength and skill of monsters and NPCs may also be indicated by level. For example, a 1st level monster is very weak. But a 23rd level monster is a much more formidable opponent.

3) A difficulty level: In some games, the player is able to control how easy or difficult it will be to play the game. For instance, playing the game on the "easy" or "please don't hurt me" setting makes the game easier, while playing the "difficult" or "I'm completely insane" version will be much different.

4) A game level: A section of the game. Most modern games require the computer to process a tremendous amount of information. These data cannot all be stored in the computer's main memory at the same time. (Sound files in particular take up a lot of space.) So the game is broken up into sections, or levels.

When a game level is to be played, the computer loads only the information which is required for that section of the game. When that portion of the game is finished, the computer loads the information for the next game level. (Because this usually means that the player must wait before continuing to play the game, some developers have chosen to implement "streaming", in which portions of the game are alwaysbeing loaded.)

5) To gain a character level: Some allow the player's character to increase in level. When the character attains the next level, the character is said to have "leveled up". It is not uncommon for players to refuse to stop playing an RPG until a character has reached the next level.


While the word mood doesn't seem to require a definition, I believe that its importance in game design merits an entry in the Dictionary.

Although the mood of a game is often overlooked by players, it is very important to every game.

Some game genres, such as Horror, must pay very strict attention to the mood of their games. This is because if a Horror game doesn't capture the right mood, it will fail completely.

Heads Up Display

This is a technique for imparting vital information to the player during gameplay, without requiring him to access a separate menu. The relevant information is simply overlaid on the game screen. This makes the information instantly available, without destroying the flow of the game itself. Typical examples of the Heads Up Display include the health bars common to Fighting games,and speedometers found in Racing games. While the Heads Up Display can help to support the game's pacing, it may also detract from the mood of a game. So it is important to make the Heads Up Display blend with the rest of the game as seemlessly as possible.


Non-Player Characters


A platform, rpg, or fighting game in which there is a 3-D engine but that features 2-D control or graphics, i.e. Paper Mario, Super Smash Brothers, Parappa the Rappa.

Game Entity

A entity is a abstract class of an object that can be moved and drawn over a game map

Murder Based Experience

An advancement system in which points are only rewarded once an opposing creature is killed. This is a specialized form of Combat based experience that doesn't reward the player for defeating the enemy unless death has occurred.

Design bible

see "design document"


(1) Games designed or made with special features similar from other local video games. (2) Games that are made to look similar to other popular video games in appearance, gameplay, and so on, but have different titles. EX: There are a few Tetris-like puzzle games displayed out in small computer stores.

Design Treatment

A basic summary description of the concept of the game, explaining what the game will be like. Mainly, the design treatment should discuss the game's basic plot, gameplay, general discussion of the target audience(age and gender), the basic presentation of how the game would be constructed, and other features. The treatment is made to be short and simple.

Design Spec

Short for design specification; A document that is a technical version of the design document. The design spec is like a "map" for how the game will be constructed. Here the designer must include what the game needs to be put together, including a list of materials, required people, and so on. The design spec is a way to detail the construction of the game.

Tree of Death, The

The term used for an overabundance of branching pathways in game design. When the number of possible outcomes governed by player choice becomes unmanagable, it is said you have planted "The Tree of Death".

Paper doll

An image of a character in a inventory that can be dressed or equipped by dropping clothes or items onto it. Is mostly used in CRPGs.


A foozle is an object which a player must acquire and give to an NPC or use in a certain area to advance the plot.


A plot is a sequence of events that raise the level of dramatic tension as the player progresses and becomes emotionally involved with the game, then satisfies this tension with a resolution that (hopefully) prevents the player from being resentful that there isn't any more game. A plot can be linear or branching, and may have one ending or a multitude of possible endings.


Game+ is a game feature that allows a character who has beaten the game to play again, retaining some advantage that zie has earned, or allowing the player to start at a plot-branch point and travel the "road not taken". The first game with this feature that I know of was Chrono Trigger.

3D Studio Max

A highend package used for both game development, character development and film. Although a high package the price is resonable. ( www.ktx.com )


A buzzword used by the Virtual Reality community to mean a "representation of the user".

Computer Game

A simulation created using a relational database and all the client (and, optionally, server-side) software required to interact with it, with the traditional business rules layer replaced by a gameplay rules layer. The database's media content, user interface and gameplay rules are usually specified and defined by a 'game designer'. The database and rules engine programming is created by one or more 'game programmers'. The graphical content of the database is usually created by one or more 'artists'. The audio content is similarly created by one or more musicians and/or audio technicians.


An animation that segues between different components of a game, such as providing information or entertainment between levels or missions.


A screen which is removed from the gameplay to segue between different situations, such as levels or different kinds of interfaces.

Real-Time Strategy

A game usually based on controlling many units in real-time (as opposed to turn-based). Often the perspective is an overhead view to give a better overall view of the playing field.


A game that proceeds constantly which the player needs respond actively as it changes from second to second matching natural time progression.