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Is a picture that is to be "wrapped around" a 3d model, to give the model some details in an easy way. In the simplest case a graphic is shown on the surface of the 3d model. However textures can be also used, in order to change the characteristics of the surface, e.g. the light reflecting behavior.

More on the topic:
Wikipedia-Article - Texture Mapping

Normal Mapping

Is a method to apply more details to a 3d model, than it actually possesses by the number of polygons. Therefore special textures (normal maps) are used. In each pixel of such textures the direction of a perpendicular line to the surface of the 3d model (normal) is coded in the color information of the pixel. The trick is to get the normal directions from a model version with a high polygon count and put it on a model with a lower polygon count. So, when applying light to the model, the colors of the surface of a low poly model can be calculated as it would be a high poly model.

More on the topic: (with example picture):
Wikipedia-Article - Normal Mapping

Specular Color Maps

Textures which contain the color information for specular highlights on the 3d model.

Specular Exponent Maps

Textures which contain the specular exponent for each pixel. The specular exponent is a part of the calculations for the color of each surface point of a 3d model depending on the lighting of the scene. It has direct influence on specular highlights, so the highlights can be adjusted from small and sharp to large and soft.

More on the topic:
Phong for Dummies

Virtual Displacement Maps

With displacement mapping the surface of a 3d model can be modified within certain bounds. Again this is done with the help of special textures, which contain the height values of the surface for each pixel. They are coded in grey tones. So a relief can be generated from such a texture. Because of the three dimensionality of the surface one can see occultations and parallax effects at steep viewing angles.

Since the generation of the relief is relatively expensive, this step is dropped with Virtual Displacement Mapping. So the surface remains flat. Nevertheless occultations and parallax effects can be calculated and displayed.

More on the topic:
Wikipedia-Article - Parallax Mapping
An Overview Of Bump Mapping Techniques
Parallax mapping or virtual displacement mapping (with pictures)


High dynamic range rendering (HDRR or HDR Rendering), is the rendering of 3D computer graphics scenes by using lighting calculations done in a larger dynamic range. Video games and computer generated movies benefit from this as it creates more realistic scenes (Source). It preserves the details in very dark and very bright areas of a scene that would be lost without HDR. It allows light blooming effects and makes reflection and shine through effects of light more realistic.

More on the topic:
Wikipedia-Article - High Dynamic Range Rendering (with pictures)

3rd Party Modules


SpeedtreeRT is a technology that helps to display a lot of relatively realistic looking trees. The structure of the Trees can be varied automatically, so no tree looks like an other tree. Branches can be moved by wind effects. And it offers Level of Detail controls, so trees at greater distance can consist of substantially less polygons, than trees next to a player.

More on the topic:
Wikipedia-Article - SpeedTree
SpeedTree Homepage

PhysX Physics

PhysX can refer either to a proprietary real time physics engine middleware SDK developed by AGEIA or their PPU expansion card designed to accelerate that SDK (Source). The task of the card is to do the calculations of physical effects and by doing so to take some load from the CPU. For example, with PhysX a shot animal could fall to the ground physically correct and maybe slide down a slope into a canyon. More examples are the simulation of fluids like water or lava, as well as realistic behavior of ropes, hair and clothes.

More on the topic:
Wikipedia-Article - PhysX

Kynapse AI

Module for artificial intelligence. That includes pathfinding, team-a.i. and a.i. to control great numbers of characters. The pathfinding demo videos on the homepage of the software producer are very interesting.

More on the topic:
Complete Feature List

Scaleform GFx

Scaleform GFx is a vector based graphics engine for PC- and console games. Its main fields of application are complex and animated GUIs, HUDs and animated textures. These can be created easily and fast with Adobe Flash. For displaying them in the game, the 3d hardware (graphics card) will be used. So Scaleform is quasi a flash player that uses 3d hardware. An advantage of vector oriented user interfaces is, that they can easily be varied according to the screen resolution, without the necessity to have several prepared versions of one and the same interface. The first game that will utilize this technology is Mass Effect. It is said that Crysis will use it as well.

More on the topic:
Scaleform GFx Homepage


FMOD is a platform independent audio engine, which allows the use of current audio technologies, for example in games. It runs on Windows 32bit, Windows 64bit (AMD64), Linux, Linux 64Bit (AMD64), Macintosh (os8/9/10), Windows CE (Pocket PC / Smart phone), Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Xbox 360, Playstation Portable und PLAYSTATION3

More on the topic:
Feature List

ProFX 2

With ProFX procedural textures can be created. For that one creates a texture as usual. But instead of storing the texture as a picture, the steps of the texture creation are stored. The picture, which is needed to be put on a 3d model as the texture, will be created by the game at runtime. Doing so, disk space can be saved without losing quality by compressing a usual texture. Additionally with procedural textures aging and other changes of surfaces can be shown. So it is possible to recalculate textures dependent on time, weather or other influences and every time a player enters a location it could look a little bit different.

More on the topic:
ProFX - Homepage

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