Gamasutra: Nadya Primak’s Blog – Learn to Code with Pico-8 Games


The next weblog put up, until in any other case famous, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s neighborhood.
The ideas and opinions expressed are these of the author and never Gamasutra or its guardian firm.


There are a variety of causes to study to code with video games. Video games are enjoyable. They’re the epitome of inventive coding. Not like to-do apps, video games are one thing you’re excited to point out to your good friend as a result of it’s one thing they may have interaction with. There’s a false impression amongst some builders that video games are troublesome to code, and unapproachable to newbie builders. I couldn’t disagree extra, particularly in the event you study to code with Pico-Eight video games.

I didn’t actually get enthusiastic about studying to code till I began making video games. As a inventive coder, video games have all the time been by far essentially the most attention-grabbing to me. It’s fairly doable I by no means would have turn out to be a software program engineer if recreation improvement wasn’t one of many functions. As a child video games like Rayman, Zelda, and Donkey Kong stuffed me with pleasure. I bear in mind a sense of pleasure after I completed a stage or beat a boss that I wished to shout it from the rooftops.

The truth that I’ve the abilities to construct video games like that myself as an grownup fills me with satisfaction. That’s as a result of I do know the child I used to be earlier than would have appeared on the grownup me with awe. After all some days I neglect about that when I’m scuffling with a irritating bug. However on the finish of the day it’s the most important purpose I do what I do. All of us have an interior baby who we wish to fulfill, in spite of everything.

It’s doable at this time to study all the main programming ideas by way of making video games. Though I didn’t do this myself, I believe it could have made my expertise way more participating. My first actual foray into programming was in school the place I took a number of programming courses, and a few days it was an actual drag.


A yr in the past a good friend confirmed me a recreation engine referred to as Pico-8 for making minimalist pixel artwork video games. I initially rolled my eyes at it, as a result of I believed myself subtle making video games in Unity. I believed that making video games with Pico-Eight was like promoting to the world that you simply don’t know what you’re doing. Now I couldn’t disagree extra.


The very first thing that’s superb about Pico-Eight is the neighborhood. There may be such an extremely giving and supportive community of oldsters who take part within the boards. They’re additionally energetic on Twitter and Discord and past. In actual fact, some customers even put up Pico-8 code snippets as tweets!

The pico-Eight boards are a goldmine

Many software program builders consider in open supply and sharing their code on GitHub. However within the recreation improvement world it’s not really easy to get entry to uncooked code. The AAA world clearly has each line of code hid behind 10 web page NDA agreements. Indie recreation builders are usually cautious and maybe paranoid about folks stealing their recreation.

Fortunately, on Pico-Eight that would not be farther from the reality. Each recreation uploaded to the web site permits you to view the code proper within the browser, proper under the sport window. You possibly can copy and paste it proper into your individual recreation, no strings hooked up.


Pico-Eight runs on a straightforward to know programming language referred to as Lua. In some ways it resembles Python and doesn’t require and pesky semicolons or parentheses in every single place. It reads much more like English than a variety of different programming languages do.

Pico-Eight additionally has limitations on the complexity of the logic within the recreation, which it counts with “tokens.” This forces folks to simplify their video games and hold the scope cheap. That’s nice for starting programmers. It helps to keep away from temptation to code one thing the good distance as a substitute of on the lookout for an answer with fewer strains of code.


Programming languages, frameworks, and API’s dwell and die by their documentation. The standard of the documentation typically goes hand in hand with the standard of the neighborhood. Since I already wrote in regards to the neighborhood, you possibly can most likely guess what I’ll say subsequent.

Simply one of many many fanzines you will get on

I purchased a zine on which breaks down Pico-Eight into its totally different elements. From explaining the consumer interface strolling you thru steps to construct fundamental video games, it covers a variety of floor. It’s the kind of documentation which isn’t solely thorough, however very newbie pleasant.


You may need related ideas to mine while you look at your first few video games on the Pico-Eight platform. Actually they aren’t going to blow you away with their graphics the way in which that some Unreal Engine video games do. However consider it or not, there are some actual gems and even finest vendor video games that had been made with Pico-8.

Probably the most notable instance is Celeste, a critically acclaimed platformer the place the unique prototype was constructed with Pico-Eight in simply 4 days. Starting programmers mustn’t count on to make a bestselling recreation. However it’s encouraging to know Pico-Eight is a platform the place that’s doable.

In case you loved this text, contemplate following me on Twitter @nadyaprimak or in the event you want extra recommendations on breaking into the tech business, you possibly can learn my ebook “Foot within the Door” in paperback or Kindle now. 

This weblog put up was initially printed on Nadya Primak’s Inventive Coding Weblog.

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