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Game Development Dictionary


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  Term Name Description


A model or pattern. Specifically in programming, the way in which your code is organized, be it functional, modular, or object oriented.

Assembly Language

A low level programming language that uses hexadecimal values in the form of mnemonics. Each mnemonic corresponds to one or a set of instructions which is specific to the processor that the code is being written for. This means that assembly language is not very portable but is extremely powerful for optimizations. In fact many C/C++ compilers today come with inline assemblers for optimization. However unlike C/C++ and other higher level languages, which shields the programmer from a lot of what's going on, in assembly language the programmer must enter every instruction that the computer is to do. That also means that to write anything useful takes many more lines of code.


Hardware Emulation Layer. The driver used by DirectX to perform functions that cannot be performed by hardware (and therefore cannot be done through the HAL).


Hardware Abstraction Layer. The driver used by DirectX to perform functions using hardware such as a graphics card.


The act of simulation a set of circumstances out of the original context. Emulators often simulate hardware calls so that different machines can run each others software. This has been seen in the game world by programs like MAME which emulate old arcade machines on current machines and operating systems.


A program that translates a computer language into object code which can then be assembled into machine language. This is necessary for programming in all high level languages (like C/C++ and Pascal) which are not interpreted (like BASIC).


A series of instructions for performing a task. This is the backbone of all programming.


For a computer programmer, this is when a function you've written has to call itself in order to get a result. (The classic, textbook example is a routine which works out the factorial of a number.) It can be very elegant if done right. It can also be a complete bastard to debug if done wrong.


A package of APIs developed by Microsoft to give developers greater control in developing applications for Windows. Individual APIs can normally be distinguished by having the prefix of Direct, as in DirectSomething. (WWW)


The API needed to play sounds through DirectX. (WWW)


The API developed for easily playing media such as AVIs and MPEGs. (WWW)


The API needed to closely access hardware through Windows, such as the keyboard, mouse, joysticks and joypads. (WWW)


The initial API needed to manipulate anything regarding graphics through the DirectX API. Includes functions on setting the screen size and resolution. (WWW)


A 3D API developed by Micosoft and part of the DirectX SDK. Contains two modes, one working at a higher level but slower which is Retained Mode, and a lower level, faster version called Immediate Mode. (WWW)

See OpenGL, Glide.

Technical Design Document

A specification for all of the programming algorithms, data, and the interfaces between the data and the algorithms.

Emergent Behavior

Behavior that was not explicitly designed but occurs from the existing routines. Usually implemented by defining simple rules that allow some overlapping.


A 64K segment of video memory commonly found in older video cards which were made during the times of 16-bit compilers which had a maximum word size of 2 bytes, allowing a programmer to linearly address only 65K of screen space at any time.

Artificial Intelligence

Intelligence that mimics human intelligence. The main types of Artificial Intelligence used in games currently are State Machines, Expert Systems, Fuzzy Logic, Genetic Algorithms and Neural Networks.