Resources to Help You Learn PICO-8 Game Development

Kurtz and Joseph White Working on PICO-8 for PocketC.H.I.P.

Joseph White, the creator of PICO-8, Chatting with Kurtz at the NTC office

PocketC.H.I.P. comes with a free copy of PICO-8, an 8-bit game console perfect for developing your own custom video games. Unlike most game consoles, all the games for PICO-8 are free to download and open source ready to be hacked.

Of course, you’ll need to learn a bit about programming to take advantage of access to the source code. Here are a few resources to get you started programming for PICO-8.


The PocketC.H.I.P. Docs Explain PICO-8 Basics

Start with the PocketC.H.I.P. docs. While they won’t teach you how to program, they explain all the ins and outs of the PICO-8 game development tools. Once you’re familiar with where the tools are located in PICO-8, and what you can do with them, then move on to more technical PICO-8 material.


Read the PICO-8 Fanzine

Compiled by superfans of the console, the fanzine is my personal favorite resource for learning PICO-8 programming. Each issue is available as a “pay what you want” PDF or a ~$10/issue old-school print edition.

Averaging at least 40-pages an issue, the zine provides instructions how to create games from scratch, compose sound effects and a custom soundtrack, and even highlights which games well written enough that it’s worth time to study their source code. There are more issues in the works, but these four should get you well on your way to PICO-8 game creation!


Watch PICO-8 Video Tutorials

Visual learners will find PICO-8 video tutorials a great way to learn game development. Simply google for PICO-8 tutorial and you’ll get tons of hits. I’ve found the video series by Rabidgremlin particularly helpful. It walks you from your first line of code all the way until you have a fully working game.

Matt Tuttle’s four-part video series is a must for anyone interested in better understanding the sound effects and music tools of PICO-8.

And, we have a few short PICO-8 videos starring Kurtz that are worth a quick watch too. Check them out in our YouTube channel.


Consult the PICO-8 Manuals

manual

For a more technical resource, the PICO-8 manual gives a good overview of the application. It’s a dense read, but a great reference to keep handy. YellowAfterLife created a cheat sheet version of the manual that’s easier to navigate, but is still a quite technical.

If you’re completely new to programming, bookmark these resources, but look to the fanzine and videos first. The manual and cheat sheet are helpful references, but they are not the best place to start for beginners.


Learn from the Community

Make sure to take advantage of the community’s knowledge! Our forum has a dedicated PICO-8 section and there are always people ready to help answer questions. Also, browse by the official PICO-8 forum hosted by Joseph White’s Lexaloffle.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of resources on PICO-8. If you find one that’s not mentioned in the post, be sure to share it with the rest of the community on our forum.

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[…] So what does it do? Well, games of course and there seems to be lots of them. And it comes with tools to create your own games or change the code of all existing. Also you can make chip tunes on it, and there’s a sequencer for creating more “professionally” sounding tunes. Click here for more resources on Pico-8 game development. […]