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Game Development Dictionary


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  Term Name Description

Relative Coordinate system

Also called the View-Centered Coordinate system. The Viewpoint (camera) is always at coordinates <0,0,0> and everything else in the Universe is based relatively to this home position.

Rendering Context

aka: RC The active area of memory that OpenGL writes information derived from the Model View, Projection View and Texture matrices, that is displayed on screen. Similar to the Device Context (DC) used by Windows when drawing graphics with GDI.


Developed by Criterion Software Limited in 1993, RenderWare (RW) is a 3D "middleware" applications programming interface (API) graphics rendering engine that has become more popular since version 3 and the Playstation 2 video game console where it has been used in various games (most notably Grand Theft Auto 3), many of which have been ported to the PC.


The accuracy of something. Often used as the resolution of a screen, the number of pixels in X and Y dimensions.


Red, Green, Blue. The 3 primary colors that make up all other colors by being displayed at different intensities next to each other. In a monitor this is referred to as a triad, which equals one pixel.


A 3D CAD NURBS modeller.

Right Handed Coordinates

A version of the Cartesian coordinate system where positive X points right of the origin, positive Y points up from the origin, and positive Z points behind the origin.


Run Length Encoding. A type of compression that reduces file sizes by shortening sequential "runs" of color of the same amount.

For example, 20 pixels of red horizontally could be abbrieviated to a number equalling a row 20, followed by the color of red. Then when the image is decoded it reads that there are 20 pixels of the following color and draws them.


To change the angle an object is being drawn at, or the camera is looking at.

Rotation Matrix

A type of matrix that, when applied, rotates a point.


Real video is shot and then drawn over to give very accurate looking cartoon animation. This was done on movies such as The Lord of the Rings and was also done on the game Prince of Persia.


Texture compression developed by S3.


A value that one can represent with one component.


The process of altering the size of an object.

Scaling Matrix

Generally appiled to an entire object or group thereof, a scaling matrix lets you either enlarge or decrease the size of the desired object.

Scan Conversion

Method by which a graphical object (such as a line, circle, ellipse, etc) is converted from its algebraic equation into its approximate representation on a raster display.

Scene Graph

A scene graph is a tree where the nodes are objects in a scene arranged in some sort of hirearchy. These nodes may be actual physical objects, or simply 'abstract' objects. For example a transformation node would apply some form of transformation to any 3D objects that are below the transformation node in the scene graph. A scene graph can be used for many things, depending on the way you order the nodes in the graph. For example you could have an octree containing object to be rendered in a scene, this would be a limited form of scene graph. You could have a scene graph that contains an octree as well as an alternative way or organising the same data, e.g. by render state. So you could use your scene graph for culling unseen objects as well as ordering objects to be rendered by render state.


An image taken from a game to show what was on the screen.


An assembly-like program which replaces part of the rendering pipeline with custom code. Shaders that affect vertices (vertex shaders) replace the normal transformation and lighting stage of the pipeline, while shaders that affect pixels (pixel shaders), work at the rasterization stage, affecting how the final screen color is determined. Shaders are supported in DirectX 8 and later, and in OpenGL through extensions (and as part of the proposed OpenGL 2.0 standard).

Skeletal Animation

Animation that is based on a model having a skeleton instead of being drawn as a series of different models (same model saved in different positions, key-frame animation). Skeletons are set up with joints or bones to determine how the unit will animate. Hierarchical Skeletons and Skinning Skeletal Deformation Example


A texture that is used to wrap around an entire model. Normally skins are drawn on a single bitmap, and then the coordinates are mapped onto the vertices of the model.

Solid Shading

Rendering a polygon a certain color without regards to the possible effects of lighting.


Recursively using n cutting plane(s) to subdivide space, where n typically ranges from:

1 = BSP 2 = Quadtree 3 = Octree

See also: Binary Space-Partitioning Tree (BSP), Quadtree, and Octree.

Reference: Foley & van Dam, Computer Graphics 2nd ed., pg 548

Specular Highlighting

A graphics technique which creates the illusion of light reflected on a surface. A specular highlight is the brightest point on an object.


"Spacial line" is a linear pattern that has a tri-coordinate system (x,y,z) rather than the planar system which forms a line(x,y).