When you try to speak to someone about videogames are you often met with a blank stare just as words like "mip-mapping" or "non-linear adventure"
come out of your mouth? Fret no longer.
NEXT Generation's definitive guide to game terminology is here

Although some people use jargon to blanket their ignorance in discussion, to exclude outsiders, or even to be "on the cutting edge", the fact is that specialized industries and trades are constantly developing specialized language to describe new technologies and to speed up communication. It's much easier to say "there's a one-up loop on level 3 of Sonic 2" than to explain the concepts of one-up loop, level, and free guy over and over every time you want to discuss the subject. It's easier, however, only if the person you're talking with has the same background knowledge - a dangerous assumption. With the exploding popularity of the game industry, It's also risky to assume others know what you're talking about when speaking in videogame jargon. So what do you do when you need to speak about videogames in plain, clear English? Turn to us.

Whether you're discussing why full-motion video won't work to a studio producer, or you're explaining to a venture capitalist what the extra $100,000 for better SGI machines can do, speaking in plain English enables you to communicate effectively, where jargon will probably just leave them confused and irritated. The problem is, by the time you're reading NEXT Generation, you often can't remember the English equivalents for a lot of these words anymore. That's where we come in. From a list of about 600 initial videogame industry terms, we've identified 369 of the most important ones and defined them for you, in plain English. Read it. Clip it. Show it to your mom. Doubtless, a few of you will think some of the terms or people listed here are too obvious for definition, some will gape at the omission of a word they find critical, and others will take issue with the fine points of the odd definition. Whatever your reaction, our compilation is complete for 1996. We look forward to your letters.

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Action-Adventure • A game which is nearly all action (see action game), but that also includes a good deal of strategy and more advanced problem solving. Often this is simply in the form of finding the correct series of buttons, levers, switches, etc. which can give the player access to new stages and levels (Shigeru Miyamoto's Mario World series), but can be much more complicated and include collecting special objects for later use (Zelda 2, Soul Blazer)

Action Game • A game characterized by simple action and response gameplay. This is the broadest category of games, there are many variants and sub-genres, and not many games fit neatly into just one. Under the most basic definition the player's onscreen character can run, jump, roll, shoot, or fly, but the defining characteristic is that enemies and obstacles are overcome by "physical" means, rather than involved intellectual problem solving. Examples include some of the earliest videogames (Donkey Kong), but the genre also includes more recent 3D efforts (Jumping Flash!)

Affiliate Label • A company whose products are packaged and distributed (and sometimes manufactured), but not marketed, by a publisher who does not own the company is known as an "affiliate label" to the publisher

AI (Artificial Intelligence) • A set of computer instructions or algorithms designed to simulate the actions of an intelligent being

AL (Artificial Life) • in a nutshell, AL is the antithesis of AI. While AI seeks to simulate real-world behavior by following a complex series of rules, AL starts with very simple rules for a system and enables complex behavior to emerge from them. Galapagos from Anark is the first commercial game to use AL, but rumors abound that several AL-based RPGs are in the works

Algorithm • An algorithm is a group of instructions for performing a task or solving a problem, such as an algebraic formula or a program for a computer. Many 2D fighting games from the same companies have the same algorithms, except different graphics are used


Aliasing • A digital phenomenon. In the realm of graphics, when trying to display an image on a portion of the screen where the resolution is too low to display its details correctly, aliasing can occur. Edges look jagged instead of smooth, moire patterns develop in fine parallel lines, and the image quality is degraded overall. The problem is most prevalent in diagonal lines

Alpha • The first playable version of a game. Alpha software generally barely runs and is missing major features like gameplay and complete levels. See also beta

Alpha Channel • The alpha channel is an extra 8-bits of information that's sent to the screen in the RGB color model (see RGB), it doesn't show up as red, green, or blue, but it has uses in numerous special effects. It is particularly useful in communicating transparency in objects. An alpha value of 100% would be totally opaque, 50% would be translucent, and 0% is completely transparent

Amiga • Started by R.J. Mical and David Needle, this company made add-ons for the Atari 2600 before creating a true multitasking computer, the Amiga, which was released by Commodore. The company was acquired by Commodore and the name can also generically refer to the computer, which was not successful in the US except in vertical markets for video processing and editing

AMOA (Amusement and Music Operators Association) • A trade group representing companies and individuals involved in the coin-operated machine industry, from cigarette units to arcade videogames to redemption machines

Analog • A way of representing information (such as the position of a joystick or the height of a sound wave) that uses a continuous range of values. Contrast with digital

Anti-aliasing • A graphics procedure designed to eliminate a stairstepping effect, known as jaggies, occurring at low resolutions. It works by blurring pixels at edges of lines to make the difference between two color areas less dramatic

Apple II • Pioneering home computer designed by Steve Wozniak and released by Apple Computer in 1977. Steve Jobs was influential in marketing the system and in building the Apple Corporation

Arakawa, Minoru President of Nintendo of America

Arcade • A place where one can play coin-operation amusement machines, from videogames to pinball to redemption machines which dispense tickets that can be traded in for prizes

Arcade Conversion • An arcade facsimile found on home systems. These games are rarely straight conversions because, despite the claims of every home-system manufacturer, arcade systems are usually one or two steps beyond home systems in terms of resolution, speed, and graphic power

Arcade Game • A coin-operated videogame

Arcade Perfect • A term used to describe a flawless conversion of an arcade game to a home system

ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) • Simply, a custom chip dedicated to a single task, like processing graphics

Atari VCS/2600 • The first home videogame system to achieve major consumer success, the Atari VCS (Video Computer System), later renamed the 2600, sported an 1.19 MHz 6507 processor and 128 bytes of RAM. Games came on ROM cartridges. Graphically primitive to today's eyes, it was amazingly popular, creating an awesome boom and raking in hundreds of millions of dollars for Atari, a division of Warner Bros. Eventually, the market became super saturated with bad games and crashed between 1983 and 1984

Away Team • A group of marketers and producers at Sega of America who spearheaded the introduction of Saturn into the US Market (formerly known as the Tiger Team)


Bandwidth • A measurement of how many bits of information can be transmitted at a given time, it is generally used as a generic jargon term (e.g. "the Net doesn't have enough bandwidth to transmit video, dude") rather than as a technical term (e.g. "the bandwidth of X is Y")

Battery Back-up • In cartridges, a long-life battery is often used to preserve the contents of small RAM chips, for the purpose of saving one's place in a game after the system is turned off. Battery back-ups are used in PCs to save preference settings, clock times, etc.

Baud • Measurement of the data transmission speed of a telephone or network. At low speeds, the baud rate is equal to the number of bits transmitted per second, thus it is often used incorrectly as a synonym for bits per second (see BPS)

Beat-'em-up • See Fighting Game

Beta • Software nearing the release stage of development that still contains bugs or other problems. At the beta stage, software is stable enough to distribute to reviewers and to show to retailers; all the final play elements should be in place

Bit1) Contraction of Binary digIT. The smallest discrete unit of information available to a computing device. Since all non-esoteric modern computing devices are binary, a bit is usually represented as a 1 or a 0, meaning on or off 2) The bit is the basic measuring device for information in computing and videogames. It used to measure the computing power of systems, referring to how many bits the microprocessor or CPU of the system could process at once. An 8-bit system, like the original NES, works with 8-bit "words" and is less powerful than a 16-bit system, like the Genesis or Super NES, which can process 16-bit "words". This is confusing because often a system will have processors using differently sized bit "words". The NEC TurboGrafx had an 8-bit CPU but a 16-bit graphics chip. The Atari Jaguar uses 16- and 32-bit chips but has a 64-bit wide bus 3) The color generation capability of a system is also measured in bits. Color on a computer screen is made up by combining different intensities of red, green, and blue in a pixel. The number of colors a system can generate is measured in bits. In general, the formula 2X, where X is the number of bits, shows how many colors can be generated. Thus, 8-bit color is 256 colors, 4-bit color is 16 colors, and so on. Sometimes, with 16-bit and 3 2-bit color, some bits are used as check-bits or for generating alpha channels, and are unavailable for actual color generation

Bitmap • A 2D digital image. A bitmap exists in the computer's memory as an exact representation of the image. Strictly speaking, a bitmap refers to images that are bi-level (that is, each pixel in the image is either "off" or "on", as in black or white), but the term is commonly used in place of the correct term, "pixmap", to describe color digital images (similar to the way that "font", which means one typeface at a specific size, and style, has come to be synonymous with the term "typeface" which refers to every font of a given typeface). Every pixel in the image is stored (mapped) in memory at a specific location. ("Pixel 1, line 1 has a color value of X, pixel 2, line one has a color value of Y, etc."). Backgrounds and sprites are examples of bitmaps. Storing bitmaps takes a very large amount of computer memory

Blast Processing • A marketing term coined by Sega to promote Sonic 2. It referred to a then-new graphics routine which supposedly gave Genesis faster graphics processing

Blitter • A blitter is a device that enables a system to copy data directly from memory to the screen without going through a graphics processor. It is the fastest way to put an image on screen, but It's very crude - graphics can't be altered when they are "blittered"

Bomb-o'clock • A cry heard throughout Entertainment Alley when work is finished and It's time to play the videogame of choice of game developers everywhere, Super Bomberman 2 for the Super NES, from Hudson Soft. The four-player game is insanely addictive

Bombaholic • One who is addicted to Super Bomberman 2

Bonus level • A level or stage in a game where the character cannot be hurt, but can gain special items, like free guys, power-ups, or extra points. Typically, bonus levels are either hidden and require discovery or appear after a certain number of regular levels have been completed

Boot, Boot Up • To start a computer system - the term was originally called IPL (initial program load), but later the word "boot" came as a shortening of the phrase "boot-strap process". During the boot, a computer checks set locations on a disk to be told the location of that system's operating system

Boss • Any larger, more powerful and more difficult to defeat enemy encountered in a game. A typical boss is a singular enemy fought only once, usually at or near the end of a level or stage (see level, stage), although in some games it may be encountered several times, but may be more powerful and difficult to defeat each time. If the same boss is encountered multiple times, it generally requires a different strategy to defeat each time

BPS • An acronym for bits per second. It is a technically accurate term for measuring the speed at which data can be transmitted over a telephone or network line

Bug • An unintentional flaw in a computer program. When encountered by the user it often generates unexpected or erroneous results. For example, a bug in EA's NHL Hockey 95 prevents players with extremely good records for their hockey teams in the regular season from entering the playoffs

Bus • The pathway between devices (usually chips) on a circuit board. A bus is measured in width, by bit. A wide bus carries more bits of information and is thus faster than a narrower bus

Bushncll, Nolan • Creator of Pong, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. He is regarded as the godfather of videogames, even if he didn't actually invent them

Byte • The standard size "word" used in computer memory. It is comprised of eight bits


Cache • Special RAM (sometimes built into the processor) in which frequently accessed pieces of information can be stored to avoid having to search the entire memory for them. Caches can greatly speed the execution of a program

Cache Coherent Memory • Systems which have more than one processor (like Sega Saturn) often have more than one cache. Cache coherent memory means that the processor will check both its own, and any other processors' caches, when writing to or reading from memory, to make sure it is always writing to or reading from the most up-to-date memory, whether that's in another processors' cache or general memory

Cartridge • A small device, containing chips, designed to be inserted into a computer or system. It contains either ROM chips with program information or RAM chips (generally for saving information). Before the advent of CD-ROMs, most videogames for home systems used to come on cartridges (also called "carts")

CD-i • A CD-ROM standard designed by Philips that could only be played in its proprietary CD-i consoles. Marketed as a high-end multimedia machine, it was slaughtered in the marketplace by cheap multimedia PCs. A last ditch attempt in 1994 to emphasize the gameplaying aspects of the system failed as well

CD-Recordable • A CD which can be written to by using a special hardware device. In actual CDs, pits carved into the surface of the CD are read by the laser in the CD-ROM drive. CD-Recordables, or CD-Rs, simulate the pits by putting ink spots on the CD. CD-Rs are generally gold in color, not silver or black

CD-ROM • A compact disc, similar to an audio CD, containing information that can be read by a computer or console. Since CDs can only be written to once (using special equipment), they are functionally read-only in nature, hence the suffix ROM (see ROM). CD-ROMS can hold about 650 megabytes (650 million bytes), far more than a magnetic disk or cartridge, allowing them to store memory intensive data, like video. Reading from a CD-ROM is far slower than reading from a cartridge or magnetic disk

CD-X • Compact Sega Genesis/Sega CD combo that sold at $399, it barely made it into production. If you've got one, It's a collector's item

CES • Consumer Electronics Show. A huge trade show for consumer electronics, like stereos and TVs. Until E3 it was also the premier tradeshow for video and computer games. Although some companies still have a presence at CES, its influence is greatly on the wane

Chance • Used for "life" in many Disney games, since Disney prefers not to insinuate that its cute characters could die. See life

CGA (Color Graphics Architecture) • A graphics standard designed for the XT machines, CGA cards were capable of displaying graphics at 320x200 and 4 colors - black, white, magenta, and cyan. Even for the time (early 1980s), these graphics were terrible, paling in comparison to other color machines available on the market

Cheats • Codes or tricks that are programmed into a game which give the player special abilities, like invulnerability or extra weapons. Cheats are often programmed into games to facilitate easy testing, and left in to add depth. Many magazines print cheats for games that they have discovered

Chip • A generic term for a semiconducting integrated circuit. Chips are generally nearly flat black quadrangles a few millimeters thick. They are far faster than using transistors or vacuum tubes (to put it mildly)

Cinepack • Compression standard for video, developed by Apple. It provides excellent compression and good video quality. It is an asynchronous compression process - it takes orders of magnitude longer to compress video than to play it back

CISC • Complex Instruction Set Computer. The traditional architecture of a computer processor, it accepts instructions which it then interprets. CISC chips can process more complex instructions than RISC chips, which makes them easier to program for, but they deliver slower performance even at comparable speeds. Thus, a 20 MHz CISC chip will, all things being equal, be slower than a 20 MHz RISC chip. The Motorola 680X0 and Intel X86 and Pentium chips are examples of CISC chips. Contrast with RISC

Classic • In game terms, a classic game is an old game that still has excellent replay value, like Pac-Man. More genetically, it is used to describe consoles and software from before the crash of '83-'84, like the Atari 2600 and Intellivision and games like Combat, Target Fun, and Ninja Golf- whether or not they were actually classic in the fun-to-play sense

Claymation • A form of stop-motion animation that uses easily malleable characters. Examples include Gumby, the California Raisin ads, and Clayfighter from Interplay

Clipping • A process that occurs in 3D graphics. If an object in 3D space cannot be viewed, it is not drawn by the computer. If it can be seen, it is drawn. If only part of the object can be seen, it is "clipped" and the visible portions are drawn. Computing the portions which are visible takes many more processor cycles than simply drawing an object or not drawing it. Sloppy programming can result in improper clipping, so that when the view is very close to the edge of an object, it may not be drawn when it is supposed to be

Clock Speed • The speed at which a computer chip operates, usually measured in Megahertz (MHz)

CLUT • Color Look Up Table. See color palette

Coaster • A CD-ROM which is so terrible that it has more functionality as a coaster for drinks than it does when inserted into a computer or game system

Code1) A series of key clicks or button presses in a game that can activate a cheat. See cheat 2) The program instructions that run a computer or console. See source code

Coin-op • Any coin-operated machine. Usually refers to a coin-operated arcade videogame

Coleco • A videogame pioneer, Coleco designed the first digital home videogame system in 1976, the TelStar arcade, which could only play one type of game, Pong. A cartridge-based system, the ColecoVision, followed in 1982. The ADAM computer (1984) was released just as the home computer and videogame industries crashed simultaneously. Coleco is actually an acronym for Connecticut LEather COmpany

ColecoVision • A cartridge system introduced by Coleco in 1982. It was far more powerful than the other systems available at the time (the Intellivision and Atari 2600). Although it sold more than 500,000 units in two years, it didn't have the installed base to survive the crash of '83-'84 and was discontinued in '84

Color Palette • Can refer to two things. The color palette may be the total number of colors a system is capable of generating, even if they cannot all be displayed at once (the Genesis can display 64 colors from a palette of 65,000), or it may refer to the (64, say) colors that are being used onscreen at that time, in which case it would more correctly be referred to as a CLUT. Since 32-bit systems can generally display thousands or millions of colors simultaneously, discussion of color palettes is rapidly becoming archaic. Creating custom, well designed CLUTs is still a factor on PCs which can display only 256 colors, however.

Combo • In a fighting game, a "combo" is a combination of moves executed in rapid sequence, often following so closely together that the opponent has no time to respond. In some recent games (Killer Instinct being the first) combos can do more damage to the other character than the sum of the damage inflicted by the individual moves. Some moves are only available during or after combos

COMDEX • A massive PC industry trade show at which many PC game companies have displays and provide demonstrations

Commodore C64 • Classic 64 K computer introduced by Commodore in 1982. It had a cartridge slot and was originally intended to be used with a cassette tape as the storage mechanism. It was very inexpensive, but displayed only 40 characters across the screen at a time, could not display lower case, and was functionally unexpandable. It had better graphic abilities than a stock Apple II (but not an Apple IIe or IIc with 128 K of memory). Arguments about whether the Commodore 64 is a better computer than the Apple II still rage among certain members of the (geek) population, years after both systems have passed into obscurity. People without emotional attachments to their computers, though, quickly realize the superiority of the Apple II. (Discussion of this topic is forbidden at the NEXT Generation offices, so please don't send letters questioning this definition or its conclusions)

Compilation • A collection of old games, presented as a single package. Compilations of classic games are becoming more popular with companies who want to cash in on past hits: Williams, Namco, Activision, Atari and others are releasing versions of classic games which run on modern systems

Compiler • A piece of software that converts source code written in a high-level language (such as C) to object code (typically Assembly language) that a microprocessor can run. Also can be used as a noun, compile - to refer to the object code itself

Console • A computer which is dedicated to playing videogames and which generally has a very limited input mechanism (a joy-pad). Examples include 3DO, Sega Genesis, and Sony PlayStation

Continue • In arcades, when a game is over, one is often presented with the opportunity to continue where one died (instead of starting over at the beginning of the game) by inserting another quarter or token. Most home games also have the continue option, but have a limit of some set number of continues to prevent one from finishing the game the first time it is played

Conversion • A game originally written for one platform (Super NES, for instance) that's translated to work on another platform (like Genesis); also called a port

Copy Protection • Special code in a program that prevents a disk from being copied using conventional measures. Copy protection may also require a "key disk" to be inserted every time a game is played, or information to be retrieved from the manual (such as a series of numbers) every time the program is started. Designed to foil piracy, copy protection is such a hassle for end users that few programs employ it. The fact that most games now ship on CD, which makes them more difficult to copy, is about as strong as copy protection gets in the industry today

Counterfeit • Bootleg software presented as the legitimate article. The counterfeit software trade costs the industry billions of dollars a year worldwide, although It's a problem more in countries with less stringent intellectual property laws, like Hong Kong, India, and South America than in the US

CPU (Central processing unit) • The "brain" of a computer (including a game system). It accepts instructions from a program, executes them via the ALU (arithmetic logic unit) and generates an output. While graphics output is generated by the CPUs in most PCs, many game systems use dedicated graphics co-processors to speed the generation of complex graphics, like 3D polygon spaces

Crawford, Chris • Founder of the annual Computer Game Developers' Conference in Santa Clara

Culling • A way of rasterizing convex objects, culling tells the rasterizer not to bother drawing polygons on the back of convex objects, like spheres, that will be hidden from view

Cut-Scene • An intermission during gameplay in a game, cut-scenes usually feature animation, information about the next level, or full-motion video. In the cartridge days, when space was at a premium, cut-scenes which contained lots to see and hear were very popular, because they were very rare. With the surfeit of storage space that CDs provide, they have become almost obligatory; usually a tedious video must be endured or if possible, aborted by pressing a button on the joypad


Dataglove • A control unit that fits on the hand and enables the user to use hand motion to control on-screen actions. Perhaps the most famous example is Mattel's Power Glove for the original NES

Data Path • The physical path that bits (in the form of electrons) travel between components on a circuit board. Measured in bit-width (i.e. a 64-bit data path)

Depth Shading • Also known as distance shading, fog shading, or depth cueing. To prevent a processor from having to render objects in a 3D environment out to infinity, which would cause monumental slowdown, many games employ depth shading. After a certain arbitrary distance, every object is considered to be out of the view volume and is not rendered. To compensate for objects suddenly popping into view, objects at the far edges of the view volume are shaded to appear as though they are coming out of a fog

Debabelizer • A software package that, at its most basic, converts graphics files from one format to another. It also enables a user to dither images to different resolutions or color depths, enables for batch processing, and more. Debabelizer is used on almost every single piece of game software

Delayed • Software which has missed its ship date

Deluxe • In arcades, a deluxe unit is one that goes beyond the standard stand-up construct. It may feature a sit-down format or active response (i.e. it shakes). Namco's Alpine Racer, which you stand on like a pair of skis, is perhaps the ultimate deluxe game

Design Document • The complete "script" for a game, it contains (or should contain) every piece of information needed by programmers and artists to create a game

Designer • The designer is the person who specs out the game, coming up with the plot, the format, the puzzles, and the goals. She or he does not (necessarily) program the game or create the artwork

Developer • Refers to the company that actually creates the game versus the company that publishes it (duplicating the discs, printing the boxes, working out distribution, etc). Often, the developer is given a brief initial specification sheet by the publisher

Development Studio • A developer wholly owned by a publisher, but that operates at least semi-autonomously. An example would be Origin, which is wholly owned by Electronic Arts, but which operates largely as its own entity

Digital • A way of representing information (such as the height of a sound wave or the color of a pixel) that uses a number of discrete values. A sine wave would be analog, a digital representation of a sine wave would be made of tiny stair steps

Digitize • To convert a photograph or video image, etc. from analog form into digital form

Director • The premier multimedia authoring tool, Director makes creating very standard looking and acting multimedia presentations fairly easy

Distributor • A company that handles the allocation of software packages to retail outlets. Many companies act as their own distributors, whereas many choose to employ a third party

Dither • A process which enables a system to create the illusion of displaying more colors than it can actually generate, dithering is accomplished by placing dots of different colors next to each other in a variety of patterns. For instance, placing red and yellow dots next to each other in a checkerboard pattern will create an impression of the color orange

Doom-like • A game with a similar first-person perspective to Id's landmark game Doom, which also generally liberally copies its gameplay, which consists largely of running around mazes, looking for hidden doors, and killing things

DOS (Disk Operating System) • DOS has come to be a casual term for the MS-DOS operating system that runs IBM-PC compatibles

DRAM (Dynamic RAM) • DRAM refers to the standard RAM in a computing device, as opposed to video RAM (VRAM) or other types of RAM which may be present

Draw In • In a 3D game, whole objects sometimes suddenly "pop" into the view volume. This is draw-in. It occurs because of either sloppy programming of clipping areas, or a lack of processor power, which causes the system to not render objects until they are very close and important in the game

Drop Out • When too many polygons are being displayed on screen for the computer to continue to update the display at a constant rate, some of the polygons may "drop out" and disappear. This effect can be very disconcerting

DVD (Digital Video Disc) • A new standard for optical discs, DVD is the next step beyond CD. It promises up to 10 times the storage capability of current CD-ROMs

Dynamic Play Adjustment • An AI routine, pioneered by Sega, that adjusts the difficulty of the game on the fly to the user's skill level


Easter Egg • A small item, usually an inside joke, hidden in a program which is accessed by performing a certain sequence of commands. The first easter egg was found in the Atari 2600 game Adventure. By following a special sequence of commands, the character could pass through a wall into a hidden room that contained the programmer's initials. Easter eggs are present in almost every program, from QuarkXPress to Microsoft Windows

ECTS (European Computer Trade Show) • The European equivalent of E3, ECTS is held in London every March and September

EGA (Extended Graphics Architecture) • A replacement for the CGA standard for PC video display, EGA detailed cards displayed a standard 320x200 resolution at 16 colors. EGA was also capable of several higher-res modes that were very rarely used in gaming

EISA (Enhanced Industry Standard Architecture) • Invented by a group of electronic manufacturers to answer the proprietary MicroChannel architecture released by IBM. Defined as a 32-bit bus, and a way that machines could look at what cards were in the system, and what resources those cards need. This ability to look at the card's resource requirements was one of the big factors in developing a plug-and-play operating system

8-bit1) The processing power of a chip or system. Refers to how many bits of information can be handled by the processor at once. Can also refer to the width of a bus or data path 2) A way of describing graphics power. Eight-bit color is 256 colors. See also bit

Emulation • A mode which enables a computer to simulate the operation of another computer. The universal computing nature of modern computers means that any computer (given enough time and storage space) can emulate any other computer. In game terms, many classic games are being released for next generation systems in emulated form. That is, instead of rewriting a game for PlayStation, you simply write an emulator of the original computer or arcade board for the PlayStation and let the emulator run the original code. For classic games, this is considered preferable than rewrites of the games, since some of the most warmly remembered "features" of classic games were actually bugs

Encryption • To prevent unauthorized use, many consoles require that their cartridges or CDs have specially encrypted code on them before they will work in the console. This encryption can only be placed by the console manufacturer, which allows them some measure of control over who produces games for the system. Most encryption routines can be bypassed, some more easily than others. The PlayStation, notably, has an almost criminally easy way to bypass encryption

Engine • A collection of software routines that perform a specific task

Entertainment Alley • Coined after Silicon Valley and Multimedia Gulch, Entertainment Alley refers to a strip on US route 101 that runs from Redwood City to Brisbane, CA and off of which are located the greatest density of game developers in the country. Sega, 3DO, EA, Digital Pictures, Domark, Capcom, Sony, SGI. Game Players magazine, PC Gamer magazine, and NEXT Generation are just of few of the game industry-related concerns located in the Alley, where lunches at hip spots may resemble mini-trade shows, or more commonly, cold war-era Berlin, with people looking over their shoulders before exchanging hot gossip

EPROM (Eraseable Programmable ROM) • A ROM chip that can have its contents overwritten with a special hardware accessory

E3 • Electronic Entertainment Expo. A computer entertainment and videogame trade show held annually in May in LA, CA


Famicom • Short for FAMIly COMputer, the Famicom is the Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Fatality • A special move that can be executed in some fighting games, notably the Mortal Kombat series, after a match is over, which results in (usually) the graphic death of the losing character. Variations include Animalities (where the character turns into an animal before killing its opponent), Babalities, where the loser turns into a baby, and •friendship• moves, where the character does something goofy, like signs an autograph for the loser

Field • The image on a TV screen is drawn in two parts. First, the odd lines (across) are drawn, then the even lines are drawn (see interlace). Together these two images are known as a frame. A field is one half a frame, one scan pass of the electron gun that draws the image on the TV screen

5200 • A classic system released by Atari as a follow-up to the 2600 in 1983. In addition to a pause button, better graphics and sound than the 2600, it sported joysticks which did not center themselves when released, rendering many games nearly unplayable

Fighting Game • A game which consists of one-on-one duels between two characters, one controlled by the player, the other controlled by either another player or the computer. The fighting may be executed hand-to hand, but characters may also use weapons, or have supernatural powers such as the ability to throw fireballs. See also 2D fighting game, 3D fighting game

Final Fight Game • A sub-genre of the side-scrolling game, this type of game, named for Gapcom's Final Fight is a sidescrolling game that involves hand-to-hand fighting. Unlike a true fighting game, however, you are generally restricted to two or three moves like punch or kick, so these games require less skill than true fighting games, with button-pushing speed being the main factor in success. Often the game itself will cause your character to do special moves, without any effort on your part. Despite its title, the first Final Fight game is generally acknowledged to be Double Dragon

First party • The manufacturer of a hardware system. The term is used to describe the origin of software for a given system. First party software comes from the manufacturer. For instance, Nintendo is the first party publisher for the Super NES and Ultra 64. See also second party and third party

First Person • A perspective in which a player's character is not represented on the screen, but rather the view is such that the player "sees" what he or she would if they were actually performing the actions found in the game (looking through the window of a cockpit, for example). See also third person, simulation

Flicker • Mainly a problem of 16-bit systems. When too many sprites appear on-screen at once they would begin to flicker and lines of sprite graphics would disappear from the screen. This was the 16-bit version of the polygon glitch

Flight Sim • A simulation which attempts to duplicate as closely as possible the experience of flying an airborne craft. The game may be based on a real craft (Falcon 3.0, Apache), or an imaginary one (the Wing Commander series), but the game must be designed with an emphasis on realism and include as much detail as technically possible

Flight Yoke • A hardware input device that is a facsimile of the flight yoke used on airplanes, it is used by some people to provide maximum realism in flight simulators. Flight Yokes are generally analog devices

FMV (Full-motion video) • Having FMV cut-scenes in games has gained vogue since the rise of high capacity CDs as storage devices, and many games based entirely on FMV have been released. How much FMV cut-scenes add to a game is still a very open question and few entirely FMV-based games have risen above mediocre. The quality of FMV in games is generally below that of TV or VHS video

Forward Scrolling • A perspective in which objects in the background scale out "toward" the player, typified by games like Space Harrier, Burning Force, and Afterburner. This differs from first-person, 3D games by the fact that the perspective is simulated by scaling 2D sprites

Frame • Made of two scan fields (see field, interlace) it is the "complete" image that appears on a TV screen

Frames Per Second • A measure of how many frames are drawn per second on a screen. In standard US NTSC TV broadcasts, 30 frames (and 60 fields) are drawn on the TV screen per second. The more frames drawn per second, the greater the realism of the motion shown on the screen. Many games draw less than 30 frames per second to the screen. The TV image is still refreshed at a rate of 30 FPS, but a new image simply isn't drawn with each new pass

Free Guy • In a game, when you get an extra life, either by reaching a certain number of points or finding a one-up icon, it is often referred to as a free guy (see also life)


Game Boy • A portable game system by Nintendo introduced in November 1989. Games come on cartridges. It has a monochrome LCD screen which can display 16 shades of gray. Thanks largely to the pack-in game, Tetris, the Game Boy was a major success, despite being the most technically inferior hand-held on the market today. It is powered by a 1 MHz processor

Game Gear • Eight-bit portable game system introduced by Sega in April 1991. Although the cartridges are different sizes, it is compatible with the Sega Master System. It has a 32-color LCD screen, and is powered by a 3.5 MHz Z80 GPU

Game Over • Message which appears on screen when a game is over. Also, a book on the history of Nintendo, by David Sheff

Gameplay • The key element in any game, the gameplay is in fact the game itself: the act of bouncing the dot which represents the ball off the line that represents the paddle (as in Pong); the way one moves the plumber around, jumping on heads when rescuing the princess (as in Super Mario Bros.), etc. The art and sounds in a game are merely dressing for the gameplay

Garriott, Richard • Founder of Origin Systems & Director of Development, Electronic Arts

Gates, Bill • Head of Microsoft, and richest man in the world

Genesis • 16-bit console introduced by Sega in August 1989. It took about a year before it caught on, but it managed to wrest control of the videogame market from Nintendo by 1991. It has a 7.8 MHz Motorola 68000 processor (the same one used in the original Macintosh • a Mac OS Genesis cart was once produced at a Mac Hack conference as a technical demonstration), 64 Kilobytes of RAM, and can display 64 colors at once

Genre • A game category that can be generally described as having similar styles of gameplay and goals, like fighting, driving, shooting, action, puzzle, etc. Many games fit into one genre or another, and many are hybrids

Genre Fatigue • What happens when you play one too many games in which you run from left to right, jumping from platform to platform, shooting bad guys (or jumping on their heads) in your quest to fight yet another boss "digitized from actual movie footage"

Glitch • Synonym for bug. In the next generation, it often is used in the phrase "polygon glitch" to refer generically to drop-out and draw-in

God Game • a sub-genre of strategy games in which you run a civilization or small tribe, often with the tribe represented by tiny, onscreen animated people. The prototypical god game is Populous, although the definition has been stretched to include titles like Sim City. Usually the perspective is isometric or overhead

Gold Disc • The final beta of a CD-ROM game is called a "gold disc" in reference to the color of recordable CD-ROMs, which are gold, not silver

Gouraud Shading • Also known as smooth shading, this is a method of shading polygons. In Gouraud shading, colors are first calculated at each of the vertices in a polygon. Then the surface of the polygon is shaded to give a smooth transition between the different colors at each vertex

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) • A special processor dedicated to graphics, it enables low cost systems to process graphics, particularly 3D graphics, that would be impossible using a general purpose CPU

Graphics • Simply put, anything that is not text that appears on a computer or TV screen. Often, a distinction is made between the art quality in a game and the representation of that art on-screen, the graphics

Graphics Accelerator • A daughterboard or add-on chip that enables a computer to off-load any graphics- oriented instruction to a separate processor. By including tricks and cheats that help draw certain objects and shapes faster, in addition to freeing up valuable CPU cycles, these boards can improve graphicsintensive software (like games) performance by leaps and bounds

Graphic Adventure • An adventure game which has graphics in addition to (or completely in place of) text. Due to limitations in storage technology, graphic adventures are necessarily more limited than text adventures, unless the graphics are used purely as illustration for a text adventure. They can range from totally text-free games like MYST, which simply involves pointing and clicking with a mouse, to games like Mission Critical, which contains almost as much depth as a text adventure

Green Book • A CD standard named for the color of the cover of the book that described it. Green book CDs are CD-i compatible

Guy • See life


Hawkins, Trip • President and CEO, The 3DO Company. He was also the founder of Electronic Arts, the biggest third party game publisher in the US

Head Tracker • A motion tracker specifically designed to follow the movement of a user's head. Found in many HMDs

HDTV • A new high-resolution TV standard that will more than double the current resolution of TVs. HDTV uses a digital rather than analog transmission standard. An onslaught of technical problems have prevented its acceptance as of yet, but it is, allegedly, coming

Hidden Level • A secret level in a game that requires the user to discover it, usually by performing a special action, such as going down a pipe or smashing through a wall. Sometimes hidden levels are only revealed when a certain goal has been reached • winning every race in a game may reveal a new track, for instance

High-Res • An image or game that has a high resolution. See resolution

HMD (Head-Mounted Display) • Used in virtual reality, an HMD is used to provide an immersive experience. Generally, they are goggle-like instruments that have two small screens in them, one for each eye. By offsetting the image displayed in each, a computer can generate stereo images. Many HMDs feature head-tracking abilities. See also head tracking

Hollywood Angle • A tragic offspring of the marriage of Hollywood and Silicon Valley is the "Hollywood angle". This is when developers, usually based in Hollywood and with Hollywood ideas of what is and is not good entertainment, set out to make a game that is more like a movie than a game. They are invariably about as interesting as watching home movies developed by game designers (that is, not at all), generally lack all but the most rudimentary interaction, and have no real gameplay to speak of. See also FMV

Homlish, Marty • President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America


lce level • A level in a side-scrolling game in which the platforms the character moves on are covered in virtual ice, making the character slide around when he or she tries to stop. Along with mine-cart levels, the ice-level is the most overused gag in the side-scrolling world

Icon • A small, abstract graphic representation of an object (a free life or power-up, perhaps). Generally, a game character needs to touch an icon to gain its power

IDSA (Interactive Digital Software Association) • A computer game industry trade group

ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) • Special effects studio owned by entertainment guru George Lucas, ILM creates the best special effects in the known universe. Few software products, even those from LucasArts, can afford ILM-generated special effects

Immersive • Industry buzzword. "So immersive that you forget the real world", is the goal that every game shoots for these days, and every press release touts

Infocom • A landmark game developer in the early '80s, Infocom developed text adventures, notably the Zork series. Its games were noted for having more depth than any other adventure games, before or since. It was acquired by Activision in 1988. Activision has since revived the brand name with a series of good, if not groundbreaking, graphic adventures

Information Superhighway • Media concept that weaves together a nebulous mixture of the Internet, video-on-demand, future services from set-top boxes, and a global "do everything" network, on which, of course, you'll also be able to play games. Since most video-and-game-on-demand trials have been massive failures, don't hold your breath

Intellivision • Classic console introduced by Mattel in 1982 that had greater graphics power than the dominant Atari 2600. It was slower than the 2600 and had less software available, but it was known for its superior sports titles

Interactive Movie • A game that purports to contain the best elements of a movie and a game - the video and plot of a good movie combined with the interaction of a good game. Few if any have succeeded. Because it would be impossible to film footage of every possible character movement in an environment (which can be represented easily with sprites or polygon-based characters), control is extremely limited. Also, many interactive movies are designed by people utterly unfamiliar with what makes a good game. See also Hollywood Angle, FMV

Interface • Anywhere the user interacts with the software is interface. This includes everything from select screens to character control. The term interface, though, is generally used as a noun to describe the part of the software designed with user interaction involved. Thus, if you must go through 20 select scenes before you start playing the game, you can say the game has a poor interface

Interlacing • Because the electron guns that draw pictures on TV screens were initially too slow to draw the screen in one pass - the first lines at the top of the screen would be fading by the time the last lines were drawn - pictures on TVs atfc drawn using what is known as interlacing. First, the odd lines down are drawn (line 1, 3, 5, etc), then the even lines down are drawn (line 2, 4, 6, etc). The image shown by one pass is known as a field, and the complete image drawn by two passes is known as a frame. Standard TV broadcasts run at 30 frames per second. In an effort to boost hype for a product, sometimes ads or press releases will state that their games are "60 fields per second", instead of 30 frames per second. Most computer monitors are noninterlaced, and many arcade screens are noninterlaced as well (one of the reasons arcade screens always seem to look sharper than TV screens, other than their often higher resolution)

Internet • A loosely knit, global computer network initially developed by the US government to exchange information between academia and the military. The looseness and interconnectivity is intentional, designed to provide a noncentralized communications network that could function in the event of a nuclear war. Today, the main things available to consumers on the Internet are news-groups - vast bulletin boards; document-and-file retrieval databases; chat areas; online gaming sites, and World Wide Web sites


Interpolation • Generically, it determines from two or more values what the "in-between" values should be. Gamers will be more concerned with graphic interpolation, particularly the "bilinear" interpolation of texture maps, which reduces the blocky Doom effect. For instance, when one approaches a wall in Doom, the texture maps scale up to such a degree that a single texel is often spread over many pixels, causing the wall to look extremely blocky and destroying the realism of the scene. Bilinear interpolation (so called because it works in two dimensions, x and y) lessens this effect by looking - for each pixel - at the texel which should be drawn to it, but also at the three other nearest texels. It then interpolates this texel data to determine a color for the pixel, so that two adjacent pixels, which would have had the same color if the texture map was point-sampled, will likely have different colors when the texture-map is bilin-early interpolated. The end result is that when viewed at close range, the texture map has an apparently higher resolution than it actually does, keeping magnified texture maps from looking blocky. Ultra 64 and M2 are the only next-generation systems which will support bilinear interpolation. See illustration

Intro Sequence • Generally the "intro" is a fully animated sequence that appears when a game is first loaded and explains the back story of the game and may introduce the main character and enemies ISA - Industry Standard Architecture - Invented by IBM and non-proprietary, ISA became the standard for 16-bit PC bus architecture

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) • A high-speed digital line can transmit data faster than a 28.8 K modem can across a standard (analog) phone line. Often used for Internet connection from offices and homes

Isometric View • A game perspective that presents the action as if viewed from above and at an angle. Zaxxon was the first game to be seen this way, and later examples include Populous, Landstalker, and Captain Quazar. Also known as a 3/4 view


Jaggies • A stairstepping effect in graphics caused when the resolution of the display device is too low to accurately simulate a diagonal line or curve

Jaguar • A next-generation cartridge system released by industry pioneer Atari in late 1993, Jaguar has a Motorola MC68000 GPU and two 64-bit RISC graphics coprocessors. Although the system has some power, the software support is notoriously weak, with mediocre games being the rule rather than the exception. Software standouts include Tempest 2000, Rayman, and Power Drive Rally

JAMMA1) The Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturer's Association 2) A standard format of arcade game circuit boards that enable machine owners to swap JAMMA-compatible circuit boards between JAMMA-compatible arcade machines to change the game that is played on them. This enables the same cabinet to be used for a variety of games, thus reducing costs to the arcade owner

Joypad • An input device which works the same as a joystick but without the stick. Instead, there is a pad (usually called a D-pad) which is cross shaped (Nintendo has the patent on the cross, so non-Nintendo joypads usually feature a cross in a circle) and is manipulated with the thumb instead of the hand. There are also usually two or more buttons on the joypad. Joypads are much more common on console systems than on the PC, where joysticks are more popular

Joystick • An input device which consists of a stick, a base unit, and at least one button. Moving the stick can move objects onscreen (like your character) and pushing the button(s) perform(s) some actions. There are two types of joysticks, analog and digital. While analog joysticks relay to the computer how far in a given direction the joystick is being moved, digital joysticks merely indicate if the joystick is being pushed in a certain direction or not. Its output is binary, and hence less flexible in use

JPEG (Joint Photo Experts Group) • A compression standard for still images which has variable levels of compression. JPEG is a "lossy" standard - the more you compress the lower the quality of the resultant image. Still, JPEG offers one of the best compres-sion-to-quality ratios available


Kalinske, Tom • President of Sega of America, he masterminded Sega's challenge to Nintendo's videogame dominance with the Genesis in the 16-bit era

Kilobyte • One thousand bytes. A measure of memory storage capacity. Abbreviated,"K". Can also refer more precisely to 1024 bytes, depending on the usage


Latency • Refers to the time lag between when a command is given by a remote device (such as a home computer) and when it is executed (by an online service, for instance). Latency is a huge problem with online gaming, since many games require an instant response, and even a tiny latency can destroy the feel of gameplay

Level • A level is a discrete stage in a game. In early games, such as the original Donkey Kong, each level was almost a complete game, with a specific end unto itself, and each level was markedly different. In one you might need to wind your way up the girders of a building, avoiding barrels, while in another the goal might be to cross over rivets in girders while avoiding roving fireballs. In more modern games, the levels often scroll off the screen. Sometimes levels are called "stages" or "zones" as well, and often groups of similar levels are grouped into mega-levels called "worlds". Generally it is accepted that more levels a game has the better it is

Licensed Games • Any game based on a story or character from another medium, such as a movie, comic book or TV show (Batman Forever, Beavis and Butt-Head, Bart's Nightmare, etc.)

Licenses (NBA, MLB, etc.) • In sports games, getting key licenses, like those of major league sports and players unions, is vital for success, so players can play with "real teams" and "real players"

Lieberman, Joseph, D-Conn. • Pushed the videogame industry into establishing a ratings system (1994)

Life • Many videogames give you three chances with which to play. These are commonly called lives, because most of the time failing in a videogame results in your character getting killed in the game fiction. When all the lives are lost, the game is over. Almost always, there is a way to get more lives, either by finding special items or reaching a certain score in the game

Light Gun • An input device that resembles a gun, The gun is in sync with the screen update rate. It can also sense when the pixel at which it is pointed is updated, and from those two pieces of data, can determine exactly at which pixel on the screen it is pointed at any given time

Lincoln, Howard • Chairman of Nintendo of America

Linear • An adventure game in which almost all the puzzles must be completed in a specific order is linear. You must progress through the game in a straight line, as though you were reading a book. Linear games tend to have limited puzzles which are either extremely easy or extremely hard

Load Time • The time it takes for information to transfer from a storage device, like a CD-ROM or cartridge to RAM. Long load times from CD-ROMs were initially thought to be a potential problem with next-generation systems, however few consumers have complained

Low-Res • An image or game that has a low resolution. See resolution

Lynx • Innovative hand-held system developed by R.J. Mical and David Needle at Epyx (who would later develop 3DO), under the code name "Handy". It was sold to Atari after Epyx went belly-up. Released in 1990, the unit featured a large color screen, a 16-bit graphic coprocessor (with an 8-bit processor), hardware rotation, eight-player network ability, and an excellent crop of initial games. Hampered by slow software releases and a minimal marketing budget, the Lynx, while still available in many stores, is functionally dead


Mac OS • The operating system for the Macintosh series of computers, the Mac OS features a hierarchical file system and an easy-to-use (but processor draining) graphic user interface

Man • See life

Marketing Blitz • A coordinated public relations and marketing attack designed to generate hype for a game, hardware platform or even simply a promotional event. It typically includes print and TV advertising, attempts to get editorial coverage (especially covers) in enthusiast and general interest magazines, and hopefully, along with the rhetoric, this blitz includes a good game

Mascot • A character, usually cartoony, who acts as a symbol for a company and may star in the company's games. Examples include Nintendo's Mario, Sega's Sonic, and Crystal Dynamics• Gex. Mascots often appear in company literature and frequently have cameo appearances in games in which they do not play a major role. For instance, there is a bas-relief of Sonic carved into a mountain in Daytona USA

Master • Technically, this is a piece of hardware used in the actual creation of a CD; in game terms, it means the copy of the game, usually on a GD-R, that is exactly what consumers will see in their boxes

Match • In modern pinball games, at the end of the game, numbers appear. One set for each player, and the match number. If the match number "matches" a player's number, he or she gets a free credit on the machine

Maze Game • A game that consists, in whole or part, of being chased (or chasing things) around a maze, which may or may not fit entirely on the screen. The most classic examples of a maze game are Namco's Pac-Man and Rally-X, but games such as Doom or Descent can also be thought of, to some degree, as maze games

Megabit • (archaic) A megabit is one million bits, equal to 256 kilobytes, or .25 megabytes. During the cartridge era, cartridge size was usually given in megabits. Abbreviated, It's "Mbit"

Megabyte • One million bytes. A measure of memory storage capacity. Abbreviated, It's "MB"

MegaDrive • The European name for Sega Genesis

Memory card/cart • A cartridge that contains RAM instead of ROM and is used to save games when a battery back-up isn't possible (i.e. on CD-ROM based systems)

Miyamoto, Shigeru • Head of Software R & D, Nintendo Corporate Ltd. Creator of Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong. Creative force behind PilotWings, F-Zero, and Super Mario Kart. Mario games have sold more than 115 million units worldwide

MFLOPS • Millions of Floating Point Operations per Second. A measure of the math prowess of a processor. Floating-point operations are more costly in terms of processor power, but they're also more precise. They are used extensively in 3D rendering

MHz • A megahertz is one million cycles per second and is used as a measure of computer speed, with higher numbers being better. A quartz crystal with a specific resonating frequency is in every processor, and the frequency at which it vibrates regulates the cycles of current going through the processor which allow it to perform tasks

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) • MIDI is a standard that enables electronic musical devices to communicate with each other. Music can be stored in MIDI format, which contains instructions for playing the music rather than the digitized music itself, which drastically lowers storage requirements

Mine Cart Level • A level in a (usually side-scrolling) game in which characters get into mine carts and careen around mines. Mine cart levels are generally faster than most, and involve memorizing the location of specific obstacles


Mip-Mapping • When viewing a distant texture-mapped object in a 3D world, many texels make up each pixel seen on the screen, causing the textures to often appear aliased or distorted, if point sampling, the most common texture-mapping technique, is used. Mip-mapping solves that problem by precomputing (that is, prefiltering) different levels of detail of your texture image, and accessing the appropriate level according to the object's distance from the camera. For example, a texture image which is 16x16 texels, will have four more mip-maps at lower resolutions, 8x8, 4x4, 2x2 and lxl. Bilinear mip-mapping chooses the closest mip-map image to your pixel's level of detail, then performs a bilinear interpolation upon that texture image to get the color value for the pixel. Trilinear mip-mapping requires over twice the computational cost, as it chooses the two closest mip-maps, performs a bilinear interpolation on each, then averages the two results to arrive at the final screen pixel value

MIPS • Millions of Instructions Per Second, a measure of the computing power of a processor

Mode 7 • This graphics mode in the Super NES enables scaling and rotation of the background image. Although a much bally-hooed feature prior to launch, few programs have effectively used it outside of flashy intro sequences and cut-scenes

Modem • Contraction of MOdulator/DEModular, a modem is a device which converts digital computer signals into analog signals so that computers can send data over phone lines to other computers

MOO • A text-based virtual environment, a MUDs object-oriented is similar to a MUD, but is used for purely social interaction, not gameplaying

Motion Capture • A process by which an object's motion through 3D space is digitized. Sometimes mechanical systems are used, but the most common capture method uses an array of video cameras operating in infrared frequencies to capture the motion of special markers (usually balls of reflective tape) in 3D space. The object being captured (a human making a pitching motion, for instance), has several reflective balls attached at key points, like the head, hands, joints, etc., and is then filmed by the cameras (most often an array of six cameras is used). The video is composited by a computer, and since the base position of the cameras is know, the 3D location of the balls can be interpolated by the difference in ball position in the camera views in each frame. The end result from motion capture is basically the motion of the skeleton of the thing captured, around which can be "wrapped" a 3D modeled character, to generate extremely life-like animation. Games such as Virtua Fighter 2 and NFL Game Day use motion capture effectively

Motion Tracker • Any one of several different units designed to follow the motion of a control device. Different methods include optical tracking, which uses light in determining an object's location and magnetic tracking, which detects changes in the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field. Most commonly found in various VR devices

Moves • At its most basic, a move is anything a character can do in a game. While early games, like Galaga, may have had only three moves (move left, move right, and shoot), newer games, particularly fighting games, may have hundreds, from low punch, to block, to mid-kick, etc. Often, in fighting games, many of the moves are hidden, and not revealed in the documentation

Movie Tie-in • A game whose appeal is based purely on its movie license, not the quality of the gameplay. Generally, the quality of movie tie-in games is extremely low, as publishers count on the quality of the license to sell titles to less savvy gameplayers

MPEG (Moving Pictures Experts Group) • A standard for compressing full-motion video, it enables far more video to be stored in a given amount of space than when uncompressed. Like JPEG, MPEG is "lossy" and MPEG compressed video is of lower quality than standard VHS video

MUD (Multi-user Dungeon) • A realtime Internet game where users can adopt aliases and participate in adventures and combat. As the name implies, any number of players can be on the site at once. Some MUDs rival RPGs in complexity while others focus strictly on person-to-person combat or social interaction

Multimedia • At its most basic, multimedia is an experience that involves more than one medium. TV, with the sound turned up, is multimedia. In general, though, multimedia refers to PC entertainment software that features sound, animation, possibly FMV, and interaction by the user. Most "interactive multimedia" products are far more restrictive than games, particularly in what you can do. Some multimedia products present themselves as games, while others are of an educational, reference, or nebulously defined "entertainment" nature

Multimedia Gulch • Region of San Francisco, in the formerly industrial South of Market district. It is the location of Macromedia, developers of Director, the premier multimedia authoring tool, as well as many multimedia developers. Named analogously to Silicon Valley


Nakamura, Masaya • Chairman and Founder, Namco

Nakayama, Hayao • President, Sega Japan

NEC Turbo Duo • A combined NEC TurboGrafx and CD-ROM unit

Neo-Geo/Neo-Geo CD • A 24-bit system developed by SNK, the Neo-Geo arcade unit enables the easy switching of games. SNK brought the concept home with the Neo-Geo Gold system and found a niche market with a steady stream of 2D fighters, shooters, and arcade sports titles. In an effort to bring cart prices down from the $200 zone, a single-speed CD based unit was released overseas, but not in the US. Still somewhat popular in arcades, the Neo-Geo is going nowhere in the home market

Neptune • A planned Sega product which would have incorporated a 32X and Genesis in one unit. It was scrapped due to dismal 32X sales

NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) • Nintendo's 8-bit cartridge system, introduced in the US in limited markets in 1985, against the advice of almost everyone on the continent, who, still smarting from the crash of '83-'84, thought that videogames were finished. Nintendo single-handedly revitalized the industry and was rewarded with total market dominance, which lasted until Sega introduced Genesis

Net Surfer • Someone who spends time exploring the Internet (particularly the World Wide Web)

Network Games • Multiplayer games run simultaneously on many computers or consoles which are networked together, either locally or remotely (generally through a direct modem connection, the Internet or an online service). The advantage of network gaming is that playing a game with other people is almost always more engaging than playing against a computer, the disadvantages include problems with latency and the fact that most local networks exist only in the workplace, not the ideal environment for playing games

Neural Network • A group of software-simulated "neurons" which can be collectively trained to identify patterns in data

Next Generation1) An adjective referring to the newest wave of gaming technology, beyond the current state of the art hardware technology 2) NEXT Generation • A magazine that publishes extremely in-depth material on the gaming industry and which no clever gamers are without

Nomad • An elegant hand-held version of Sega's Genesis, it was released in November 1995. Battery powered, it provides video output and can accept a standard Sega controller as an accessory. It accepts any 16-bit Genesis cartridge

Nonlinear • An adventure game in which most puzzles need to be completed in no special order is considered nonlinear. Less structured than a linear game, it is almost always considered preferable

NPC (Nonplayer Character) • Taken from the world of pen-and-ink role-playing games, an NPC is a character encountered in an RPG who is not controlled by the user


Object Code • The machine language instructions run directly by the microprocessor, the object code is generated when the source code is compiled

One-up • In early two-player simultaneous games, this message would flash on-screen when the first player received an extra life. Two-up would appear when the second player got an extra life. Since then, though, it has come to be shorthand for getting an extra life, usually not by accumulating a certain number of points, or items like coins or rings, but by finding a special icon. The icons themselves are often called one-ups

One-up loop • A flaw, sometimes intentional, in the level design of a side-scrolling game, which enables you get at least two free guys and then die, leaving you with a net gain of one life and restarting you at a point in which you can then do the loop again. Basically, if you have enough patience, you can use a one-up loop to get an infinite number of guys. The most famous one-up loop is the fourth level of Sonic 2

Online • A word whose meaning has evolved far past the original definition, online was originally a term used when a remote device, like a printer, was connected to a computer and ready to receive data. Now, however, online is most commonly used as a noun to refer to the state of a local computer when it is attached to a remote network like the Internet or a commercial service like CompuServe

Operating System (OS) • The program that runs a computer, whether a PC, Genesis, or PlayStation. It is loaded into the computer's memory first when it is switched on, and acts as the interface between the hardware and the software that runs on the system

Over the Shoulder • See second person

Overhead • Also known as top down, this is just what it sounds like • looking down on the action, as if the roofs of buildings had been removed and you are floating above them. Often the on-screen characters are seen as if from the side, or foreshortened to simulate perspective


Pajitnov, Alexei • Creator of Tetris

Parallax Scrolling • A method of simulating a 3D feel by having multiple background planes moving at different speeds with the planes that are "farthest" from the player moving more slowly than those in the foreground

Password • A series of alphanumeric characters that can be entered into a game to restore a previous game, either starting you on specific level or restoring a game to that state it was in when the password was received. A password is different than a code in that passwords are not hidden; while you may need to get to a certain point to receive one, using them is not cheating

PCB (Printed Circuit Board) • Literally a fiberglass board to which chips and other electronic components are affixed. Extremely flat copper pathways connect the components. A "motherboard" is the main PCB in a system

PC Engine • Japanese name of the TurboGrafx

Perspective Correction • Also known as inverse texture mapping. Without this, texture mapping is done relative to the 2D screen, causing the texture to "swim" and deform as the object moves in 3D space. By mapping the texture in 3D perspective space, this effect is negated, but at considerable computational cost. Lack of perspective correction is most apparent when looking at a texture mapped object which recedes far into the distance, like the ground or a wall

Phong Lighting

Phong Lighting • A method of lighting a 3D world, the phong lighting model applies three different types of lighting to the vertex of every polygon. Phong lighting works by performing operations based on the normal of the polygon, the "normal" being an imaginary line drawn orthogonal (straight up from) the face of the polygon. The first of the three lighting types is ambient light - light which is just there because god (in this case the programmer) said it was. It affects every polygon equally. Diffuse lighting is the second type. It assumes that there is no reflection from the objects it is lighting (clay is an example of a nearly perfect diffuse surface), but it does take into consideration the angle that the light hits the surface. If it hits it 1 fully, it will be 100% illuminated, if the object is turned slightly, it will be less illuminated, etc. The third aspect is called specular highlighting, which takes into account the angle between the light-source and the "eye" of the viewer, so that if the light bounces off a particular spot on the object straight into the "camera" it will be illuminated 100%, and less so if it misses the camera. The phong lighting model is fairly realistic for games, but fails to account for the fact that in real life, reflections off of steel or other metals change color depending on what angle they're viewed from, while specular highlighting always gives a reflection of the same color. Phong lighting works only on the vertices of a polygon (using Gouraud shading to color the rest of the polygon), so if a highlight happens to fall in the middle of the polygon, it will be missed, which requires programmers to "tessellate" or break-up large polygons into many small ones to be sure of "catching" highlights at vertices. However, phong lighting is very fast and doesn't require much processor power

Phong Shading • A method of shading that applies the phong lighting model not to every polygon, but to every pixel of every polygon. Even SGI's Reality Engine can't do Phong shading, so unless you're ready to spend a few million dollars on your next game machine (and write all the games yourself), don't expect to see phong shading anytime soon

Photorealistic • An image which approaches photographic quality. With a large enough color palette (around 16,000 colors) it is possible to display photorealistic images on a TV or computer screen

Photoshop • Premier graphic retouching software from Adobe, it is used at some point in the creation of almost every single reproduced graphic image you see in magazines, advertisements, and games

Pippin • An Apple-licensed "multimedia player" console to be introduced by Bandai in Japan, Pippin uses the Mac OS and hardware. Basically, the Pippin is a nonexpandable Mac Jr. that uses a TV as the monitor

Pirate • Someone who illegally copies games

Pixel • Short for Picture ELement, it is the smallest discrete unit of a computer or TV tube that can be assigned a specific color, the "dots" that make up TV and computer screen pictures. It is also used to refer to smallest element in a digitized image

Pixmap • Contraction of pixel map, this refers to any digitized image, and is the correct term for "color bitmaps", although it is rarely used outside the computer graphics community

Platformer • A sub-category of action game characterized by requiring the player to (in addition to any shooting and fighting) make his character run and jump across gaps and other obstacles. See also side-scrolling action game

Player Killing • On a MUD, player killing is just what it implies, killing another player character - the character of another human, not an NPC. On most MUDs this is discouraged, although on some it thrives

PlayStation • A 32-bit videogame console introduced by Sony in September 1995. As of January 1996 it had sold more units in the US than any other next-generation console. It features excellent graphic capabilities and has a superior game library

Point Sampling • The standard way for mapping a texture map to a 3D object. Only one point on the texture map is looked at per pixel. When the object being mapped is very close to the camera, the same texel is mapped to many pixels, resulting in the blocky close-ups found in Doom and other games. When the object being viewed is far from the camera, the distance between texels represented in contiguous pixels is too great, resulting in a swimming, aliased effect. Contrast with interpolation, mip-mapping

Polygon • A three or more sided 2D shape from which 3D environments are created, and which can then be represented on a 2D screen

Power-up • An icon that is either hidden in a level or appears when an enemy is killed, which, when •picked up• by the player (either by touching it or shooting it, generally), gives the character special powers, which are sometimes temporary and sometimes last until the player is killed or moves on to the next level

Prerendered • A 3D scene which is rendered and then stored, usually as a bitmap. Prerendered images are often used as backgrounds and sprites in 2D games, like Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country. Unlike scenes which are rendered in realtime, you cannot change the viewing angle or size of a prerendered image

Preview • Often confused with a review, a preview in a magazine is a noncritical look at an unfinished game, provided to give readers a sneak peak at upcoming software, NEXT Generation's alphas section contains previews

Price Point • A marketing term. To figure out its meaning in English, drop the word "point". It is generally used abstractly, as in "For a system to succeed it needs to come in under a $200 price point"

Probst, Larry • President and CEO of Electronic Arts

Producer • Although the roles of producers differ at different companies, generally, the producer coordinates the activities of the designer, programmers and artists on a game

Programmer • the person who actually writes the code that makes up a game. Ten years ago, programmers were often also the designers and artists of their games, but this is now the exception, not the rule

Propeller Head • A geek

PS-X • A prelaunch name for the Sony PlayStation, the "PS-X" evolved out of the name of the original, unreleased PlayStation, which was to be a CD-ROM addon for Super NES. This unit, the "PlayStation X" evolved into the system that was released by Sony on Sept 9, 1995, the PS-X, or, more formally, PlayStation

Publisher • A company which actually physically produces discs, boxes, and manuals, and handles getting software boxes into stores as well as marketing and advertising. Publishers may develop their own games (like Interplay) or they may contract all their games out to independent developers, or they may do some of both

Puzzle • In an adventure game, the challenges that you must overcome are called puzzles. One classic puzzle comes from Zork II. A certain door is locked and the key is in the lock, on the other side of the door. To get it, you must find a place mat and a letter opener, slide the place mat under the door, push the key through with the letter opener, and pull the place mat back. The quality of an adventure game is based entirely on its puzzles

Puzzle Game • A genre of game in which you solve puzzles which generally involve manipulating shapes and colors. The most famous example is Tetris, and its many clones, like Columns


Quad Speed • A measure of speed of CD-ROM drives. A quad-speed drive, the current standard, spins the CD four times as fast as the original standard called for (a single speed drive), and enables the computer to take information off the CD four times as fast


RAM (Random Access Memory) • This is temporary memory in a computing device in which is stored information directly relating to what the processor is currently working on

Rasterization • The process of going from a mathematical, polygonal representation of a 3D scene to a 2D image displayed on a screen. This is where the intensities of lighting on polygons are translated into actual color values for pixels on the screen

Rating(s) • In 1994, after a '50s style senate witch-hunt in which videogames were blamed for every problem facing American youth, the videogame industry caved in and implemented a ratings system. See also Lieberman, Joseph

Ray Tracing • A way of rendering a 3D image which follows the path of every ray of light. Noninteractive, it works best for rendering images which have many reflective surfaces, like steel balls

RCA Cord • The standard connecting cord for video and audio information. Yellow cords are for the video signal, white is for left channel audio, and red cords are for right channel audio

Realtime • Adjective which indicates that the thing it modifies happens immediately. Almost all games, except adventure games, function in realtime

Red Book • A CD standard named for the color of the cover of the book that described it. Red Book CDs are standard audio CDs. Some CD-ROMs contain tracks of Red Book audio

Render • When the computer creates a graphic representation of an abstract mathematical 3D model. It can take hours to render an extremely complex scene (like a frame from the movie Toy Story); 3D games exist in an environment which can be rendered enough times per second to provide the illusion of actual motion. This is known as being rendered "on-the-fly" or, in realtime

Resolution • A measure of the density of pixels on a screen, measured by two numbers, which represent the number of pixels available across and down the screen (e.g. 640x480). Many computers and game systems can generate video output at a variety of resolutions. Higher numbers are capable of displaying more detailed and lifelike images

Review • An article in a magazine which provides a critique of a game, often with ratings

RF Box • In older TVs which had no direct video-in cables, an RF box could be attached to the antenna attachment and video and audio signals were fed into the TV via the RF box, which turned the signals into electrical impulses that the TV interpreted as coming from the antenna

RGB • Red, Green and Blue, refers to the way monitors and TVs create color images. Creating colors on a screen is an additive process, in which the primary colors are red, green, and blue (in the reflected color model, the primary colors are magenta, yellow, and cyan - often misconstrued as red, yellow, and blue). Each pixel on a screen is made up of three sub-elements, one red, one green, and one blue. When each sub-element is excited by the electron gun in the back of the tube, it glows. Depending on the intensity with which it glows, it can have a state somewhere between black (not glowing) and fully red, green, or blue. When all three sub-elements are fully glowing, the pixel is perceived by the eye as glowing white. By varying the intensity at which the various sub-elements of the pixel glow, different colors are created. Computers and consoles can cause the sub-elements to glow at a certain finite number of intensities. If the system can generate 8-bit color, it can make each subelement glow at 8 different intensities (one per bit), which results in 256 different colors. The number of colors that can be displayed is equal to 2X, where X is the number of bits assigned to color. See also bit

RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) • A processor architecture in which the amount of operations the processor can perform on data is limited, but which is much faster than standard CISC chips. Preparing instructions for a RISC processor takes far longer than with a CISC processor, since a RISC processor can handle fewer commands. Since most computer programs are written in C++ or another high-end language, the only thing that needs to talk to the processor is the program (called a compiler) which translates the C++ into machine language. This makes using fast RISC chips, like the Power PC, much more attractive. RISC chips are smaller and run cooler than CISC chips with comparable power

ROM (Read Only Memory) • This is memory data that can be read by the CPU, but cannot be rewritten over. Traditionally, ROM was found only inside computers. Cartridge games changed that, by storing games on ROM chips which were inserted into the system. The use of CDs as a storage mechanism changed the definition again, as ROM left chips and began residing on plastic discs

ROM Burner • It can either be a hardware device to bum memory into chip ROMs, or a device used in the manufacturing process of CD-ROMs

Rotation • Some consoles, like the Super NES, have the ability to rotate sprites in hardware, which made rotation very fast and fairly smooth

Rotoscoping • A way of creating animation by tracing the movements of human actors from film or video. Previous to the advent of motion capture, this was the best way of getting smooth, humanlike animation

Round • Similar to boxing, fighting games are generally fought in matches, which consist of an odd number of rounds. The first player who wins the majority of the rounds, wins the match

RPG (Role-playing Game) • The category means slightly different things depending on whether one talks about PC RPGs or console RPGs, but the main characteristic of both is that the player is free to move from place to place in the game environment, interact with other NPCs, solve puzzles, find and collect tools and weapons, keep track of numerous character statistics like Hit Points, and (usually but not always) combat is decided by choosing battle options from menu screens. Console RPGs, heavily influenced by Japanese games like the Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy series, tend to have a strong emphasis on storyline and character interaction, while PC RPGs, typified by the Might and Magic series, more heavily favor statistical bookkeeping and tightly constructed puzzle solving

Rubbernecker • Analogous to the "tire kicker" who frequents car dealerships without ever making a purchase, a rubbernecker is someone who hangs around game stores like Electronics Boutique or Software Etc. without ever buying a game. Most hard-core gamers "rubberneck" from time to time

Rumor • Because of the fiercely competitive nature of the videogame industry, these are very secretive, which makes the climate perfect for rumors to sweep through it like wildfire. The Internet also facilitates the transfer of unconfirmed information. Some magazines present information for which they can get no official confirmation (usually because It's bad news) as rumors.

Russell, Steve • MIT hacker who invented SpaceWar!, the first modern videogame, in 1962. Now working at Digital Pictures


Scaling • Some consoles like the Lynx and Super NES, for instance, had the ability in hardware to scale sprites very quickly and very smoothly

Saturn • A 32-bit console introduced by Sega in May 1995, it features dual Hitatchi 28 MHz RISC processors. Released early in a surprise move by Sega, it suffered until late 1995 when the first excellent titles, Virtua Fighter 2 and Sega Rally were released

SDK • Software Development Kit. A collection of programming libraries and routines; basically an SDK is a set of premade building blocks of code for programmers, so they don't have to waste time rewriting very basic - or very complicated - pieces of software, like sprite-scaling routines, or networking protocols

Second Party • A company which publishes software exclusively for a single company. SquareSoft is a defacto second party publisher for Nintendo. See also first party and third party

Second Person • A game perspective in which the player's view is locked behind (and usually slightly above) their on-screen character, as in Virtual Hydlide or Drahken

Sega CD • A CD-ROM drive add on for the Sega Genesis. Hampered by poor sales, long load times, nonrevolutionary graphics, and flat-out bad games, the Sega CD never caught on and died a quiet, unnoticed death when Sega pulled the plug on it in late 1995

Set-Top Box • A media invention that goes along with the information superhighway, the set-top box will (in the future) control your cable, Internet access, play games, and do everything else you could ever want it to do. Some companies have attempted to generate some media hype by referring to their consoles as settop boxes

7800 • Follow up to the 2600 and 5200 (2600 + 5200 = 7800), this 8-bit system was shelved by Atari in 1983, and not released until the NES took off after 1985. It never had the following of the NES and suffered from too little third-party development. The system could play 2600 games as well as games designed for it

SGI Workstation • A high-powered 3D workstation of which many of the graphics and animation in next-generation games come from Silicon Graphics, Inc.

Shareware • Software which is made easily available (usually online) with a "try-before-you-buy" strategy. If you download and use the software, you are expected to pay the shareware fee. Shareware is based on the honor system, but many games have key features disabled or don't include all levels until you pay the shareware fee

Ship Date • The date a software or hardware product leaves manufacturing and is shipped to retail outlets. Also used generically by development staffs to refer to the date they ship the product to manufacturing

Shoot-'em-up • See shooter

Shooter • A game consisting mainly of shooting enemies and avoiding bullets (or lasers, bombs, etc). Often, they contain power-ups which improve the quality of your weapons, or add options like bombs, etc. The first shooter is generally acknowledged to be Space Invaders. They can be forward-scrolling (Namco's Burning Force I), side- scrolling (Williams• Defender), vertically scrolling (Raiden), top-down (Loaded), first-person (Doom), isometric (Zaxxon, Crusader) and non-scrolling (Galaga)

Shovelware • A CD-ROM that contains exceptionally poor software, designed to sell units to uninformed consumers; also, a CD that contains dummy files to appear more full than it actually is

Side-Scrolling • The planes of the foreground and background move from left to right or vice versa

Side-Scrolling Action Game • A sub-category of action game which consists of having your onscreen character run (usually from left to right), and jump, shoot, fight, collect special items, etc. as he or she goes. Possibly the most prevalent action category, it stretches back at least as far as the original Pac Land and Mario World, through the Shinobi, Ninja Gaiden, and Castlevania series, to present examples such as Cutthroat Island, just to name a (very) few. The number of such titles has steadily dwindled as the use of 3D has caught on

Sidekick • A special sub-category of mascot, a sidekick is the main mascot's friend, who often takes a subservient role in the mascot's game. Examples include Yoshi (Mario's sidekick) and Miles "Tails" Prower (Sonic's sidekick). In rare cases, a sidekick (like Sonic's sidekick Knuckles) may eclipse his or her mentor and get their own game (Yoshi's Island, Knuckles Ghaotix)

Silicon Valley • An area surrounding San Jose, GA, which is the location of many high-tech companies, including Apple Computer, Atari, Xerox's famed Palo Alto Research Center, NASA's Ames Research Center, and many more

Siliwood • A word coined to describe "the marriage of Silicon Valley and Hollywood", in new interactive entertainment endeavors

Simulation (Sim) • Any game which attempts to re-create, with as much detail and realism as possible, any "real" activity. Action-based games which "put you in the driver's seat" of a tank, plane, ship, and so on, are the most typical examples, but the category has been stretched to include some kinds of strategy titles which attempt to re-create certain real-life resource management problems, such as The Perfect General which attempts to "simulate" running a war. See also flight sim

16-bit1) The processing power of a chip or system, refers to how many bits on information can be handled by the processor at once. Can also refer to the width of a bus or data path 2) A way of describing graphic power. 16-bit color is usually 32,000 colors - 15 bits of color, with one check-bit. In some cases, 16-bit color is 64,000 colors. See also bit

64-bit • The processing power of a chip or system, 64 bit refers to how many bits of information can be handled by the processor at once. Can also refer to the width of a bus or data path. See also bit

SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) • Pure marketing jargon. In plain English, an SKU is the box that the software or hardware comes in. Pronounced "skew"

Slip • When a product misses its ship date, it slips. Also can refer to the ship date (e.g. "the ship date for Stoathunt slipped")

Slipstream Release • Often when a product is rushed to market (to make a heavily advertised release involved storylines)

Sub-boss • An enemy which is larger and/or more powerful than the enemies usually encountered in the course of a game. Although, like bosses, sub-bosses are also usually singular enemies, often they are encountered more than once, usually in the middle of a stage or level, or as a prelude to encountering the actual boss. See also boss

Super Famicom • The Japanese name for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES)

Super NES • The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo's 16-bit cartridge game console

Suzuki, Yu • Chief Manager, R & D Amusement Division, Sega; creator of Hang On (1985), Space Harrier (1985), Out Run (1986), After Burner (1987), Power Drift (1988), G-LOC (1990), R-360 (1990), Virtua Racing (1992), Virtua Fighter (1993), Daytona USA (1994), Virtua Cop (1994), Virtua Fighter 2 (1994), Virtua Striker (1995), Virtua Cop 2 (1995)

SVGA (Super Video Graphics Array) • A graphics standard that began when graphics card manufacturers created cards that were able to display 640x480 at 256 colors. Higher resolutions than 640x480, such as 1024x768 (at any number of colors), are also grouped under this term

S-video • A video cable standard that is less subject to interference than standard video RCA cables


Tester • Someone who is paid by a software company to play a game extensively to ensure that it is bug-free and that the gameplay is at the appropriate difficulty level

Texel • A texel is the term for the dots that make up texture maps (many people incorrectly call these bitmaps). Because texture maps scale larger and smaller as the object which is texture mapped moves toward or away from the camera, the dot which defines the color at any given point of a texture map may correspond at a ratio of less than or more than 1:1 with screen pixels. Thus, we call them "texels" to underscore the fact that, unlike the pixels that make up a standard bitmap, their size may be different from a screen pixel

Text Adventure • One of the earliest kinds of computer games, predating screen graphics or even video screens (early text adventures could be played entirely on printers, if necessary), most typified by Zork I-III. Descriptions of what you 'saw• were printed out, you responded by typing in simple, usually two-word commands, "light lamp", "go west", etc. - known as "text parsing" - and were told what happened. Later text adventures incorporated graphics to show an area, and text parsers even became able to understand full sentences, but by then, graphic interfaces were becoming increasingly popular and common

Texture Map • A special kind of bit-map, texture-maps are laid over or wrapped around polygons in 3D games to enhance the realism of the look of the game. A map of bricks may be laid over a polygon wall, for instance, like in Doom

Third Party • A company which publishes software for a console that it doesn't produce. Almost all software publishers are thus third parties. Getting the support of independent third parties is considered essential for a platform's (or first party's) success

Third Person • The most common view in games, especially 2D games. The character you control is seen from the side or back, and moves independently about the screen

Throttles • Input device that looks like the throttle of an airplane, they are used to provide greater realism in PC flight simulators

32 bit1) The processing power of a chip or system which refers to how many bits of information can be handled by the processor at once. Can also refer to the width of a bus or data path 2) A way of describing graphics power; 32-bit color is 16,000,000 colors - 24 bits of color, with eight check-bits. See also bit

32X • An underpowered 32-bit add on for Sega Genesis that plugged into the cartridge slot. The 32X had two 23 MHz RISC processors, and could lay an additional layer of graphics over the standard Genesis display. It could display more colors than the standard Genesis display as well. Introduced at Christmas 1993, it never caught on. Almost all 32X projects in development were canceled by Sega in late 1995, due to lack of system support

3D Accelerator • A hardware add-in board that speeds 3D operations on PCs, accelerators are not optimized for displaying graphics

3D Fighting Game • A sub-category of fighting game (see fighting game) in which the characters are represented by 3D polygon models rendered on the fly by the game machine, and where combat isn't restricted to a single line, allowing characters to dodge and roll from side-to-side. The first example was Sega's Virtua Fighter

3DO • A 32-bit system introduced in 1993, this console has an ARM60 RISC processor operating at 12.5 MHz. Originally pushed as a $700 "multimedia machine", it languished until the price dropped and games were emphasized. Still, it has not gained the foothold in the US that the 3DO company would like

Top Down • See overhead

Track Ball • An input device which is basically an upside-down mouse. Instead of moving the mouse, you move the ball directly. In the classic era, several games were trackball controlled, such as Marble Madness and Missile Command. There are no trackballs available for next-generation systems

Tramiel, Sam, Jack • President (Sam) and Chairman of the Board (Jack), Atari Corp.

TurboGrafx • System released by NEC in the late '80s, it used flat cards instead of cartridges, had an 8-bit processor with a 16-bit graphics processor, and had only one joystick port. Despite several innovations, like the first CD-ROM drive for consoles released in the US and an awesome handheld version of the console, the TurboGrafx never caught on in the US, although it still has an extensive following in Japan, particularly with RPGs

Turing Test • Named after computer pioneer Alan Turing, this is a test in artificial intelligence. If an AI program can successfully convince a human that it is human, we can conclude that this AI is actually intelligent

Turing Machine • Named after computer pioneer Alan Turing, a Turing Machine is a universal computer, a machine which can simulate any other machine. Basically, in proposing the Turing Machine, Turing was proposing the modern computer in which hardware is separate from software. A few early computers, like the Turing-constructed Enigma, were hardware units capable of "running" only one program, which was hardwired in

Two-player Game • A game in which two people can play. In some two-player games, players take turns playing, each going for high score. In others, called two-player simultaneous games, both players play at the same time. Fighting games are two-player simultaneous games, while pinball is not. Sometimes simultaneous games are cooperative with both players trying for the same goal

2D Fighting Game • A sub-category of fighting game (see fighting game) in which the characters are represented by flat bitmapped sprites, and are generally fighting along a single face-to-face plane (although some examples may have more than one plane), enabling characters to hop from the foreground to the background (Fatal Fury series). The sprites can be hand-drawn (Street Fighter II), digitized from actors (Mortal Kombat), or prerendered 3D models (Killer Instinct)


Ultra 64 • Nintendo's next-generation 64-bit system, the cartridge-based Ultra 64, codesigned with Silicon Graphics, contains hardware for mip-mapping, z-buffer-ing, and bilinear interpolation


Vaporware • Software for which a release date is announced, but fails to ship on time, or ever

Vertically Scrolling • The planes of the foreground and background move from the top of the screen to the bottom or vice versa

VGA (Video Graphics Array) • A graphics card standard that demands a resolution of at least 640x480 at 16 colors. These cards also made 256 color graphics (at lower resolutions only) available to PC owners

View • Many 3D games provide multiple camera angles, or views, from which to see the action

View Volume • The portion of a 3D world that is actually viewed on-screen at any given moment

Vite • A special video sprite that contains FMV, it is used extensively in games from Digital Pictures, like Quarterback Attack, and enables many fields of FMV to be overlaid

Voxel • Beyond the polygonal texture-mapped world lies the voxel. A voxel is a 3D pixel, and exploring a voxel environment would be like visiting a world made of tiny little lego blocks. Voxel technology requires processing power far beyond that of the next-generation systems

VRAM (Video RAM) • This is memory in a computer or console that contains the image shown of the screen. It can be read from (painted on the screen) and written to at the same time and it is far faster than using standard RAM

VR (Virtual Reality) • Any attempt to make working with a computer mimic the actions that a user would use to do the same thing in real life. Different examples include: first-person 3D graphic worlds, HMDs, Datagloves, and light-guns


Wave Table Synthesis • A way of creating sounds of simulated musical instruments by using samples of the instruments instead of purely electronic music generation

Windows • Gludgy, slow, graphic operating system shell for MS-DOS computers, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple's Macintosh OS

Windows 95 • A more sleek version of Windows for MS-DOS computers, Win 95 makes running games on PCs far easier for the end-user than under DOS, and it creates standards for game hardware

...With An Attitude • What many companies present their mascots as ("He's a bandicoot with an attitude!") in the attempt to make them sound "zany". To date, Sonic the Hedgehog is the only mascot that has ever been able to pull off the attitude thing ("Hedgehog with an attitude")

Wizard • Someone who has obtained a certain experience level on a MUD and is endowed with special powers, including, sometimes, the ability to add to the adventure world

World • Sometimes a series of similar levels in a game is grouped together in a mega-level heading called a "world"

Writer • In an adventure game or RPG, the writer handles dialogue and often description and back-stories, but not puzzle design or plot


Yamauchi, Hiroshi • President of Nintendo Corporate Ltd. He took Nintendo from being a traditional Japanese playing card manufacturer to the largest videogame company on the planet

Yellow Book • A CD standard named for the color of the cover of the book that described it. Yellow Book CDs are CD-ROMs


Zany • An attribute which many companies would like you to associate with their mascots. Thanks to the popularity of Sega's wisecrackin• mascot, Sonic, many B-rate mascots also tried to go for the zany look

Z-buffering • When dealing with 3D graphics, It's very important that the computer not draw polygons that can't be seen by the user (that are off the screen or behind other polygons closer to the user's point of reference), since drawing, or rastering, polygons to the screen takes a lot of time. To avoid this in conventional 3D programming, the developers must take special care to note how polygons are drawn to the screen, in what order they are drawn, and they must keep a list, in memory, of the "order" in which the polygons go along the z-axis, so that time is not wasted drawing hidden polygons. Z-buffering is a hardware routine that takes care of the chores of knowing which polygons to draw and which to omit automatically. This speeds the process of drawing polygons to the screen and can allow a faster refresh rate. No 32-bit game machines support z-buffering, although Ultra 64 and 3DO M2 will

Z-line/Z-axis • In a 3D environment, the Z-line or Z-axis, is depth. The X-axis defines height, the Y-axis defines width, and the Z-axis defines depth into the world from the edge on the view volume (the screen)

Note: The illustrations which accompany this article are realtime images rendered on Silicon Graphics Indigo2 IMPACT's, courtesy of Silicon Graphics Industries.

/ NEXT GENERATION, vol.2 15, March 1996 /

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