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Game Development Dictionary

File Formats

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  Term Name Description


A File format for storing model geometry. Originally used by 3D Studio Max, it has become nearly a standard for 3D models.

ACT File

.ACT files are the actor files for Genesis3D - also referred to as models.


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


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.


Bitmap: A set of bits that represents a graphic image, with each bit or group of bits corresponding to a pixel in the image.


BVH file - Biovision Hierarchical motion capture data (.bvh) A .bvh file is nothing more than a text file that has data that was captured from a moving skeletal system. Another name for this type of data capture is "Motion Capture" which has been abbreviated as mocap. A .bvh file can be made by software or by hardware. Most studio houses that do their own commercial animation have their own type of motion capture technique.


A C source code file.


A C++ source code file.


Criterion RenderWare 3.x 3D model/object file format.


An executable binary file. Some operating systems (notably MS-DOS, VMS, and TWENEX) use the extension .EXE to mark such files. This usage is also occasionally found among Unix programmers even though Unix executables don't have any required suffix. From The Jargon Dictionary


Graphics Interchange Format. A format for saving graphics that usually uses a 8-bit (256 color) indexed bitmap.


A C/C++ header file.


HyperText Markup Language: A markup language used to structure text and multimedia documents and to set up hypertext links between documents, used extensively on the World Wide Web.

World Wide Web Consortium


This is an ISO standard by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPEGs work with color resolutions of up to millions of colors (also called 24 bit color). When you save an image as a JPEG, it gets compressed, making the file smaller. However, JPEG compression is lossy, so each time you save a JPEG, you lose some data and reduce image quality. When saving a JPEG, you can choose a compression level from low to high. Low compression gives you better quality but a larger file size. High compression gives you a smaller file - but less quality.


The model format used in Quake II. Supports vertex interpolation for animation.


Quake III model format. Supports complete skeletal animation.


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


MNG (pronounced "ming"), is short for Multiple-image Network Graphics. Designed with the same modular philosophy as PNG and by many of the same people, MNG is intended to provide a home for all of the multi-image capabilities that have no place in PNG. Although the idea of MNG has been around almost as long as PNG has, serious design discussions didn't begin until May 1996, and even then there was considerable debate over whether to make MNG a dirt-simple ``glue'' format around PNG or a complex multimedia format capable of integrating animations, audio and even video. By mid-1998, MNG had settled down to something in between; while it has fairly extensive animation and image-manipulation capabilities, there is no serious expectation that it will ever integrate audio or video. MNG Homepage


A music file format composed of sound samples in digitized format. Mod files both record the position, pitch and duration of notes, as well as including the actual sample data, and in this respect are almost a hybrid of some of the better features of both the WAV and MIDI formats. A free editor for mod files can be found at www.modplug.com.


The MPEG-3 format. An audio format with CD quality music. It is usually created by converting a WAV file to the format via an MP3 Converter.


a format for audio compression, MP3 uses psychoacoustics to eliminate/reduce redundancy.


A format for encoding video. MPEG-1 was the original format which is used extensively for computer graphics, MPEG-2 is the basis for DVD.


The native format for the Milkshape 3D modelling package. It supports texture coords, normals, skeletal animation among other things.


An older Alias/Wavefront(creators of Maya) format. It's generally used for ease of loading and simplicity. No animation; ascii.


A compressed file format, similar to mp3. Features slightly better quality at the same compression rate. See http://www.vorbis.com for library and sources. Free, open source. Very liberal license. Can be used commercially without paying royalties.