Log In  

I watched @zep talk about PICO-8 and cozy design spaces again today, and it really resonates with me. I work as a developer, and I really hate all the cruft we have to deal with. Like the web! God, I hate the web and what it has turned into.

I really like stuff like Zen of Python, programming aphorisms, principles like DRY, POLA, KISS, etc. I watched through the video and tried to write down some nuggets of wisdom. Apologies to @zep if he feels misrepresented in any of these quotes.


  • Small things matter
  • Discard and move on (the "license to abandon")
  • Inhabit boundaries
  • Follow a new path
  • Ignore the real world
  • Work in a cosy place

The Zen of PICO-8

  • When you type cls() you're not just clearing the screen, you're clearing your mind and your soul, preparing for something new.
  • You're among friends.
  • Value design over content.
  • Be playful.
  • Focus on what's important to you and throw away what's not important.
  • Confront cute problems.
  • Don't be afraid to do anything wrong.
  • Make something for the love of making.
  • Just make something, capture the concept, and then move on to something else.

The Zen of Zep?

And then some words of wisdom that aren't necessarily tied to PICO-8, or directed at us as PICO-8 users.

  • Software sucks. It's terrible.
  • The tools shape the work.
  • Remove the semantics.
  • No magic.
  • Avoid minification.
  • People don't know what they want.
  • Fantasy consoles are impressionist hardware.
  • The tool has the manifesto inside itself.
  • A tool sometimes invites you to make something for it.
  • Machines can be cute.
  • The thing that makes a console a console is not the hardware, it's everything else.
P#60934 2019-01-17 20:56


Nice summary. Zep's talk resonated with me, too! For me PICO-8 was like suddenly being 13 again and using QBasic. One bit from the talk not listed above was the "box of unlabelled disks" idea. In my case it was downloading dozens of other people's QBasic programs from qbasic sites and running them inside of QBasic, and looking at their code. So going to the university with my Dad and a floppy disk and downloading qbasic programs (I didn't have my own internet back then) and taking them home to run in QBasic was like my "Splore" of the day.

I remember when I was around 13/14 and wishing: "Gee, I wish I could just store a function in a variable!" And now I've got that with Lua. It's like Zep took everything I loved about programming from my childhood, but put it on top of new technology that gets rid of the annoying bits. It's a beautiful stroke of genius and I'll forever be grateful to him for creating it.

And yes, as a developer with a day job, it's such an incredible way to maintain my love of programming: I come home from the ugly glue code world of professional coding, and I get to do nothing but think about and solve cute problems, making a game along the way. Can't imagine a better hobby than this.

P#60940 2019-01-17 21:08

Yes, definitely, I also loved that bit about the box of unlabeled disks, I just don't think it was phrased as a succint soundbite or short aphorism at any point. It's definitely crucial to the experience though!

P#60942 2019-01-17 21:36

A great summary, to a great talk.
His video still resonates a lot with me, and I hope to slowly adopt the good practices he's suggesting over the coming months & years.
Code more Zen... :D

P#60951 2019-01-18 08:07

Hey is the "no magic" supposed to be "no magic numbers"?

Great summary, tobias -- now you need to write some Fantasy Console Koans!

P#60960 2019-01-18 15:11

I too was moved by @zep 's talk, it inspired me to buy pico-8 and attempt making his slideshow for my first project https://www.lexaloffle.com/bbs/?tid=39112 It's not exactly 100% the same but really close and happy with the results... but I only put "placeholder" content on the slides, maybe I should add the same content @zep had on his slides?

P#80881 2020-08-17 13:48 ( Edited 2020-08-18 22:42)

Hey, thanks so much for the summary @tobiasvl! At the time I felt a lot of these points were a little rushed into something suitable for a talk, but in this form they look so much more tidy than I remember! And I'm really glad that the central theme managed to land with other developers. I'm currently lost in the middle of some messy server-side programming & devops right now, and it was timely for @2358 to bump the thread so I can remember what all of this is for!

Here's the cart I used for the talk: (press DOWN to advance)

It's not well commented, but perhaps modular enough to adapt for other talks. There are also some extra unused notes in the data tab (1).

Cart #practice_2018_zep-0 | 2020-08-18 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

P#80930 2020-08-18 21:01

Thank you so much @zep, at the time while I was watching your talk, to me, your talk slides were like an amazing tech demo, once I saw those orbs... I hit pause and bought Pico-8, and at that time I hadn't yet even seen the amazing games that were made with Pico-8 till I got on to the website and then I just went down the rabbit whole...

I enjoyed attempting to recreate your slides blindly for my first project, it honestly took me back to the old days when was coding in BASIC when I had my Amiga 500, but this Pico-8 you've made gives to so many people around the world, developers, creatives, experts and beginners alike...

I even have my kids learning to code with Pico-8 and they're loving the little games that they're making.

P#80937 2020-08-18 23:22 ( Edited 2020-08-19 01:01)

If there's a rule about posting on old posts please let me know. I came across this talk yesterday after searching for game design talks. I have started a project in Python because I have been playing with the M5Stack (ESP32) with the faces kit (Gameboy) and decided to code up a pseudo simulator for it.
I instantly purchased the Pico-8. I am now afraid my project will get dropped and start playing with the Pico-8.
What a creative piece of art!

P#86422 2021-01-13 11:18 ( Edited 2021-01-13 11:18)

@ZeroTheHero No worries at all. It's always great seeing new thoughts on old topics. So great you found PICO-8. Welcome! :)

P#86432 2021-01-13 17:38

[Please log in to post a comment]