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Game Dev Glossary

Definitions you should know!  (or “words you think others know when you are speaking, but often do not!”)

General Terms

Asset: A unit of something used in a game. A sound effect, a 3D model, an animation, an object with script. Assets are considered Intellectual Property (IP) and can be exclusive, non-exclusive, or creative commons. If you don’t own an asset then you should own the rights to use it. Important: If you sign a contract for an “artist” to work for you make sure the contract clearly spells out who owns the rights and to what extent. 

Game Ready Asset:  It is ready to be used in the game. Until it is “game ready” an asset is in one of the following stages: concept, placeholder, or in progress.

In general an asset is “game ready” when:

  • 2D animation: when it is correct color, size, resolution and length (time and frames) and then mapped to a spritesheet or texture atlas
  • 3D object: Textured with baked on lighting and curves, low poly, skeletonized, weighted, ready to script animation
  • Music: In .mp3 format, certain scenes need music with a seamless loop such as gameplay and menus
  • SFX: Correct length in milliseconds and in .wav format

Bugs: Something that does not match design. There are generally 4 major categories for all bugs.

  • Trivial – A bug that is so minor it won’t matter if the game is published with it unfixed. Eg: Scene 5 “ok button” is light green when it should be medium green. 
  • Minor – A bug that does not effect gameplay, but should be fixed before game is published. Eg: Sometimes when a soldier attacks his 5th animation does not show correctly, but he still deals damage as normal.
  • Major – A bug that effects gameplay. Eg: Sometimes  a soldiers 5th attack deals no damage.
  • Critial – A bug that impedes gameplay, crashes or freezes game. Eg: In the settings scene the “return to main menu” button is off-screen and the player cannot leave scene.

Collaborate: Working together to make a game.

Collaborative Revenue Share (short form: Rev Share): A group of people who come together to make a game and agree to share costs and profits. In most revenue share models “core members” will not take paid salary, hourly pay, contracted fees, or per asset fees while working, instead they share the financial risk of making the game so they can share in the profits of the game.

Costs: Every *real* project has costs; even if the core members are working for rev share. Costs include Marketing, legal, art assets, sound assets, salaries, contract fees, additional help, product licenses, game engine licenses, app store memberships and more.

Profits: Revenue – Payment Gateway (ie Apple 30%) – Advertising – Legal Fees – Taxes – licenses – Other costs = Profit.Important note: When giving someone a contract to sign make sure you clearly designate that you are splitting profits not revenues. Don’t let the general term “revenue share” confuse you because legally the word “revenue” can mean all money earned not just profits.

Cross Platform: The intent to make and release the game on multiple platforms (ie Windows, Mac, PS3, Iphone), usually with the help of a game engine.

Game Design Document (GDD): The *living* document that outlines necessary story, scenes, controls, themes, sounds, art, characters, enemies, events, hardware requirements, platforms and how it all works together to make a game.

Pitch Document: 1. A 1-5 page document that outlines the basics of the game to be made. Written in a way to be both informative and instill excitement with the intended audience (potential investor, artist, musician, programmer). 2. The document people think is a GDD because they don’t know what a real GDD is. 

Technical Design Document: 1. An instructional design document written for a programmer. No distracting story, art or flavor elements. 2. The document programmers really meant to say when they said “GDD”. 

Successful Game: A game that is both fun to play and profitable.

Fun Game: A Game this is fun, but not profitable.

Progression System (Math):  A mathematical formula used to help a Designer create important stat guidelines for in game progressions, this includes things like Levels, experience points, weapons, units, enemies, hit points, attack damage, defense etc.

Common Progression Systems:

  • Arithmetic –  Add a number to each subsequent number, This is called the common difference, for example 1 4 7 10 13 has a common difference of 3
  • Geometric – multiply a number with each subsequent number, this is called the common ratio, for example (2 4 8 16 32 64) has a common ratio of 2
  • Fibonacci – Add the previous 2 numbers to get a new number for example (10 25 35 60 95 155)


Artist: A person who creates and modifies art assets for the game. Typically an artist in a rev share project provides his own art creation software. important note: typically one artist can not do it all. You must investigate each artist to understand their strengths in the following skill sets: layout, gui, storyboard, concept, texturing, backgrounds, characters, 3d modeling, 2d animation, 3d animation, illustration, cover art, box art, web design etc etc etc etc etc etc….etc…more etc.

Designer:  1. A word to confuse people because it sounds like “Game Designer” but it means graphic designer aka artist. 2. A person who focuses their artistic talent on creating visual objects for a given purpose or use as opposed to feelings and emotions.

Programmer/Developer: A person who creates scripts for the game and combines assets in an engine (ie Unity3D, cocos2d) Note: Coder is a synonym but some people feel it is a degrading term. 

Musician:  A person who creates music for the game

Sound Engineer: A person who creates or modifies music and SFX (sound assets) for a game. Note: Typically a SE in a rev share project provides his own sound creation software

Level DesignerA person who uses a game engine and/or level editor to position game objects and events to create different gameplay scenes (game levels)

Game Designer:    1. The person in charge of all “design documents” including pitch, GDD and technical documents. This person holds the “key vision” of the project and is in charge of clearly articulating it to all other members. Often acts as the hub of information between all departments including: quality assurance, user feedback, community managers, programmers, marketing, investors and management. 2. The person who’s job is to “create more work” 3. The person to blame when something was misunderstood and wastes a week of someones time 4. The person indie teams feel they need least and then wonder why their game is fun but doesn’t make any money

Producer: This person does or finds someone to do every single thing not described, defined, thought of, anticipated, planned for or failed. Note: If a project fails it’s this persons fault. Literally, it’s part of his duty to accept full responsibility for failure. It’s a tough role, respect it. 

Product Manager: 1. A role that combines the duties of Producer, Designer, and Monetization Manager. 2. A creative manager who designs games for the purpose of maximum profit and virality. Note: With freemium becoming the industry norm the role of game designer is being shifted towards this new concept of product manager. Basically a game designer who stays on to manage the project beyond launch, tweaking features and DLC to continually maximize profits.

Project Manager: A person who “creates” the timeline for tasks to be completed, then monitors progress and adjusts resources as necessary.

Quality Assurance: 1.The person who must test (remove the word “play” from your vocabulary!) all features of a game, find bugs, figure out how to recreate that bug (cause it to occur again) and then argue with the programmer who doesn’t believe such a bug could exist. If this is you I recommend recording your tests with video software. 2. The only other person on the team who can understand what each feature in the design document means.

For more in depth explanation of roles including expected salaries visit: http://archives.igda.org/breakingin/career_paths.htm

One Response

  1. S.M

    “..and then argue with the programmer who doesn’t believe such a bug could exist”

    Nice one and great info overall.

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