Fun series of posts on Pico-8

Pico-8 is a make-believe console that you run on your computer. It’s a really cool tool for playing with pixel art, digital music, and making games. You ship games in little self-contained Javascript files called cartridges.

The virtual console NES – you have limited memory & CPU power, and programs can only grow to a certain number of tokens. These constraints have been embraced by hundreds of programmers to make some pretty amazing games. The system is simple enough even I was able to make a game.

Like the systems of yore Pico-8 also has some really low-level features that programmers can exploit to really make the most of the console. In 2017 Jakub Wasilewski went deep on the Pico-8 API and figured out how to do decent Zelda-style real time lighting.

Over a series of four posts Wasilewski talks about how was able to work “directly” with the console’s memory to create the lighting effects. He discusses techniques for modelling the light, algorithms that do lighting slowly, and algorithms that are fast.

The series is a great example of someone having a play with an idea, finding out it works, and turning it into a real, decent quality thing.

Wasilewski recently released Slipways, which I haven’t played, but looks like it might be a refreshing take on the 4X genre, or a puzzle game, or something else entirely.