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So, I was in love with PICO-8 while making a game, but then I ran out of tokens. So, I tried a few techniques to optimize my code but it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to fit everything I had planned. So, I just posted the game with some significant content removed.

Some people have reported bugs here and there, but when I go to fix them I end up running out of tokens just to do my debugging (i.e.adding extra keyboard input for testing purposes).

I get, and enjoyed, the idea of having strict limitations, but hitting the token limit just ruined the experience for me. Even if I could just go outside of its limitations just for the testing process, that would be great. I know it's part of the charm of PICO-8, but the token limit (at least) has kinda killed the fun for me.

Does anyone else know of any tricks for this? Does anyone else feel the same way?


P#80655 2020-08-11 23:02


I understand what you are saying, but I think it wouldn't be the same without the limit. I used to play around on Godot Engine before trying Pico 8 and one of the things I enjoy the most is the token limit. I've learned a lot about making my code more concise with it and it's been a very gratifying experience having to work under a limit.
If you feel like the limit is dragging you down, perhaps you should try another game engine. You can still use Pico 8 as an art suite (for pixel art, sounds and music) while coding the actual game on another software, like the Godot Engine. Maybe that would suit your projects better.

P#80687 2020-08-12 21:34
:: pootie

Thanks for your input. Godot is actually the other "thing" I've been using lately. With PICO-8, I like how fast I can start slapping things together - going back and forth between code, sprites, sounds, etc. With Godot, I feel like I have to try to plan things a little bit first.

I guess I just like the limitations most of the time ;).

P#80688 2020-08-12 22:29
:: machi

i know theres a way to remove the token limit if you export to binary or html or soemthing, forgot the details. id suggest asking in the PICO-8 discord

P#80743 2020-08-14 09:58
:: merwok

The limitations apply to the PNG carts, which are meant to be the released, public versions of games. For development, if you do all your changes in a P8 file, you can always save even if you are over the token limits. (The P8 format also lets you use any text editor, copy/edit sounds, use version control and see differences between versions.) So this workflow should help: develop with a P8, save as PNG to publish.

Another trick is to have all your debug/inspection code in a separate lua or p8 file and have '#include debug.lua' at the top of your code, so that you get access to your functions during development (include is like a direct copy of the source code), and you comment the line out and remove all debugging function calls before saving as PNG.

P#80769 2020-08-14 16:11
:: merwok

Previous message only answered your question about limitations for development. If the game itself really needs more data than available, we’re talking about over techniques.

  • not enough tokens: rework the code in big or small ways to make it shorter
  • not enough sprites/sfx/map: encode data as strings, load them at runtime and write them to the right memory section to replace what’s there
  • still not enough sprites/etc and not enough space in code to encode data as strings: publish only your level 1 on the BBS, make another version using multicart (one cart can load sprites/map/etc from another cart, up to 16 carts), export that to HTML so you can publish the full game on your website or itch dot io
P#80770 2020-08-14 16:18

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