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Gaming Graphics Glossary - Page 1 of 2
Posted: June 29, 2005
Author: Jason Kohrs
Manufacturer: N/A
Source: Geeks.com Tech Tips
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A recent Tech Tip provided a look at items that may be on the wish list of some computer game players, and a solid graphics card is definitely at the top of such a list. Graphics cards, like so many other tech components, seem to require their own language to describe the functions and features they provide. This Tech Tip will take a look at a handful of terms related to graphics cards, and some more specifically related to graphics cards as used for video games.


1. Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) – AGP is one type of interface for graphics cards whose days may be numbered, but presently is the most common type out there due to its years as the number one format. According to a previous Tech Tip, AGP is “a dedicated, point-to-point interface that connects a video card directly to the system’s memory and processor." Developed by Intel in 1996, AGP graphics cards were the leaders for gaming graphics until the release of PCI Express.

2. Aliasing / Anti-Aliasing – This topic was covered in a previous Tech Tip related to digital cameras, and the concept is the same as it applies to gaming graphics. Aliasing is basically described as the tendency for a curved or diagonal line to appear jagged since they are composed of tiny squares, or pixels. Anti-Aliasing remedies this jagged appearance through software, making images appear more smooth and natural. Video games may provide varying levels of anti-aliasing, and generally with higher levels of anti-aliasing, the overall performance of the game will be lower since more processing power is being dedicated to smoothing each image. For this reason, many graphics card reviews will show the effect on the frame rate of a game when run with different levels of anti-aliasing applied.

3. Anisotropic Filtering – The definition of the word anisotropic from m-w.com states “exhibiting properties with different values when measured in different directions". This is a common filtering technique applied to video games that helps improve the perspective of the image shown. Like Anti-Aliasing, various levels are available, and the higher the level of anisotropic filtering, the lower the overall performance of the game. Reviews may also focus on the effect of various levels of this filtering when presenting the frame rates achieved on a certain graphics card.

4. Application Programming Interface (API) – A set of standard instruction that allow for video game programmers to work more efficiently by not having to recreate routine operations that may be common across many games. Some examples of APIs include Direct3D and OpenGL.

5. Artifact – An artifact is any unintentional and undesirable element found in the image of a video game. Artifacts may include a flickering effect, pixels colored incorrectly, image ghosting (where a previous image is still visible in later screens), blurring, or gaps in the processing of images. Artifacts may be caused by overclocking the system (especially the graphics processor), unstable or incorrect drivers, component overheating, and other hardware or software errors.

6. Bump Mapping – Bump mapping is a means of applying textures to give the 2D image on screen a more rough (or bumpy) 3D appearance. Lighting effects are used to create light and dark areas to simulate the surface of items like walls, rocks, etc.

7. Direct3D – Direct3D is an API owned and developed by Microsoft for the creation of 3D games.

8. DirectX – DirectX is the term given to a collection of common APIs, including Direct3D, which are owned and developed by Microsoft.

9. Digital Video Interface (DVI) – DVI is an interface that allows for the transfer of a digital video signal from a computer to a display, which increases the image quality and performance over a comparable analog system. The white connection seen on the left-hand side of this graphics card’s back plate is a DVI connection. DVI is not only being used in computers, but as an interface for televisions to display high quality images from HDTV, DVD, and other digital sources.

10. Frame Rate – The speed at which still images are generated on the screen in order to create the effect of full motion is referred to as the frame rate, which is measured in terms of frames per second (fps). While humans can generally only see 30 frames per second, many gaming benchmarks indicate that cards can provide performance far exceeding this value, and some may consider something around 60 fps the current minimum for acceptable performance. Adjusting many of the setting described in this Tech Tip will have an impact on the frame rate, and finding a balance of good performance and appearance in today’s games may take some work on anything but the best graphics cards.

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