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I've bought PICO-8 with the thought that it would be a neat way to learn coding and make small pixely games, but so far I can't get used to the language and workflow of Pico. I've tried deciphering other people's cartridges, but some things just make no sense. Is there anything I can do to learn Pico?

P#19087 2016-03-06 07:44 ( Edited 2016-05-08 00:46)


Hi Pookaball,


The pico-8 fanzine is a great place to start. There are three issues up, and they have tutorials:
(There is an option to download it for free or to donate to the cause.)

Have you looked at the demos that come with pico-8?
These cartridges are included with PICO-8 and can be installed by typing:

Of these, Jelpi can be a little overwhelming to start, but the API demo is easy to understand.

P#19089 2016-03-06 09:10 ( Edited 2016-03-06 14:10)

Hi Electricgryphon,
I looked into the API demo and tried to recreate things from there, but I can't do any of that without having to constantly look up all the commands.

I checked the Fanzine out and it looks like just what I need! I guess I'm going to have to study it thoroughly.

P#19091 2016-03-06 09:22 ( Edited 2016-03-06 14:30)

Page 51 of Picozine 3 has a great cheat sheet so definitely print that out.

P#19096 2016-03-06 20:59 ( Edited 2016-03-07 01:59)

This is a great tutorial to follow too, recreating a Tron bike-like game. I am not the author but I have followed it to the end and enjoyed it:


P#19099 2016-03-07 02:28 ( Edited 2016-03-07 07:28)

I closely followed the Tron tutorial. Some of the things are still vague, but it was helpful! Thank you!

P#19125 2016-03-08 01:04 ( Edited 2016-03-08 06:04)

Hi Pookaball and welcome!! I actually suggest you keep playing with what you know with the pico8 demos and that Tron tutorial and make very tiny games while discovering a few new commands at a time.

Find an idea of a very simple gameplay mechanic (button press -> action) and make that. Now you have a toy. If you want to make it a game, add a goal and add one or multiple rules that makes it more difficult to attain the goal. But you don't have to! You can just move on to your next toy and that's perfectly fine! You could even do a thread here and post each toy you make and that'd be great!!

Here is a Pico8 cheat sheet but I personally prefer to use the regular Lexaloffle manual with ctrl-f to find what I need.

You will find commands after you would've needed them and that's fine, because you'll have found your way without them (as we often do) and that's great too!

TL;DR: Start a new project with a very simple mechanic and make a toy from it. Then, either make a game out of your toy or move on to the next toy and learn on the go.

Hope that helps, can't wait to see what you'll make!

P#19131 2016-03-08 06:38 ( Edited 2016-03-08 11:38)

In french : picoscope2016.fr
But you can watch the video (no sound) and use google translate.
We will translate soon... or later :)

P#19134 2016-03-08 13:12 ( Edited 2016-03-08 18:12)

Hey guys,

Pookaball, I have the same problem. I have really no experience in coding and I started with the first tutorial of the zine and it was quite cool and I almost understood everything. The 2nd tutorial was pretty weird and so I continued with the "tron"-youtube-tut but everything is just like copy the text without UNDERSTANDING what all the stuff stands for and what it really does.

So in the end you could copy a game and didnt learn anything from it.
It would be so awesome to get a really really basic explanation of all the functions and even the cheat sheet doesnt really help a total n00b.

Did anyone found a really basic tutorial, that is somehow motivating but still understandable for a n00b? I think pico 8 is super powerful but I'm not sure if I can motivate myself to just copy code without understanding what works with what and why and how...

P#20224 2016-05-06 08:54 ( Edited 2016-05-06 12:54)

Hi vectorianer and Pookaball, the best thing I can personally recommend, if you are following tutorials but not understanding the code, is to start by learning Lua itself from the basics. Do note though that PICO-8 does not contain the Lua Standard Library however, so some of the features you learn may be missing from PICO-8. That having been said, it's still going to be a good primer, and PICO-8 programming is basically just a simplified version of Lua. This is going to be your best bet in my opinion.

The other thing that I highly recommend is to not get impatient or frustrated, or expect to get amazing results instantly. Learning to program takes a lot of time and practice for the vast majority of people. Luckily, Lua is widely regarded as one of the easiest programming languages for beginners to learn. This doesn't mean it will necessarily be easy, though. It takes a while to memorize all the syntax and ways to do most common things, as well as training your brain to think like a computer.

I've been working on a relatively simple game for a couple months now, and I've been a programmer for over 15 years, but this is the first time I'm using Lua or PICO-8. Because of this, as development has moved along, I've completely scratched and rewritten the entire project somewhere around 10 times now because I learn or figure out better ways to do things. So don't get discouraged - even seasoned programmers coming into a new language and platform can find themselves struggling for a while, so it's not just you.

P#20225 2016-05-06 09:40 ( Edited 2016-05-06 13:51)

Hello! Fellow new programmer here (at least in Lua/PICO-8). One thing that I found to be super helpful was to try to extend the functionality of the tutorials. For instance, with the "squashy" demo from the first picozine I gave myself a series of challenges:
-What if the paddle was on the right side of the screen instead of the bottom?
-What if the color of the score was flashing?
-What if the ball was a sprite instead of a basic circle?
-What if this was a 2 player game? How do I implement a second player?
-What if I wanted the game to reset when a player won?
-What if there was a splash screen when the game first runs?

By building off of the basic demo code incrementally I was able to learn a lot about how the PICO-8 environment works and end up with a game that I felt more ownership over even though the basic code was not my own. Also throughout that process I broke the basic game in a variety of interesting (read: frustrating) ways. Fixing those mistakes taught me even more about how Lua works!

Don't be disheartened by copying code. It's a great way to learn how things work and provide a scaffold to work from. Good luck!

P#20227 2016-05-06 10:58 ( Edited 2016-05-06 14:58)

"Picozine" is exactly what you all are looking for. Google it.

P#20292 2016-05-07 20:46 ( Edited 2016-05-08 00:46)

Hey, everyone I'm wondering if anyone has a step-by-step Pac-Man tutorial on Pico 8?

P#127085 2023-03-13 12:49

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