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What is a Fantasy Console?

A fantasy console is like a regular console, but without the inconvenience of actual hardware. PICO-8 has everything else that makes a console a console: machine specifications and display format, development tools, design culture, distribution platform, community and playership. It is similar to a retro game emulator, but for a machine that never existed. PICO-8's specifications and ecosystem are instead designed from scratch to produce something that has its own identity and feels real. Instead of physical cartridges, programs made for PICO-8 are distributed on .png images that look like cartridges, complete with labels and a fixed 32k data capacity.

What does a PICO-8 program look like?

Here's a demo program and the output:

t = 0
music(0) -- play music from pattern 0

function _draw()
  for i=1,11 do               -- for each letter
    for j=0,7 do              -- for each rainbow trail part
      t1 = t + i*4 - j*2      -- adjusted time
      y = 45-j + cos(t1/50)*5 -- vertical position
      pal(7, 14-j)            -- remap colour from white
      spr(16+i, 8+i*8, y)     -- draw letter sprite

  print("this is pico-8", 37, 70, 14)
  print("nice to meet you", 34, 80, 12)
  spr(1, 64-4, 90) -- draw heart sprite
  t += 1

// The spritesheet:

Can I use an external editor?

It is possible to use an external editor if you prefer -- the .p8 format is just text, and using CTRL-R to run a cartridge will automatically reload the file (provided that no other changes were made in the built-in editors). It is also possible to #include plain-text .lua files into .p8 cartridges, which means that the contents of each .lua file is injected into the cartridge program each time it is run.

How should the name be written and pronounced?

The preferred style is all caps with a dash: PICO-8. If you feel like you're shouting in the middle of a sentence, Pico-8 or pico-8 is also fine. Twitter doesn't allow dashes to be part of hash tags, so people tend to use #pico8.

The word PICO comes from the Japanese phrase "Pico Pico", which means pixelated or low-fi. The "Pi" rhymes with "Knee", and the "CO" is as in "Continue".

What is status of PICO-8?

PICO-8 is now in Beta, and is feature-complete with the exception of online score submissions, which are planned for 0.3.

Which platforms is PICO-8 available on?

PICO-8 currently has builds for Mac, Windows and Linux (32, 64 bit), Raspberry Pi (32, 64 bit) and PocketCHIP. There is also a freely available web version of PICO-8 that includes all of the editors and the ability to create .p8.png cartridges for the BBS, but has no exporters or permanent storage. Ports for iOS and Android as stand-alone apps are also planned for after 1.0, but do not yet have an eta. If you have a keyboard, the web version may be useful for otherwise unsupported platforms. ** Update: iOS is a slightly hostile space for platforms like PICO-8 to exist, so I can't promise anything yet. It is still on my wishlist though.

What is the relationship between PICO-8 and Voxatron?

You can read about the intertwined history of the two projects in Issue #1 of the PICO-8 zine. They are now two separate projects but both follow the same fantasy console format, and also share some components. The PICO-8 display (128x128) is one slice of Voxatron's display, and they both include the same audio mixer and tools. Voxatron 0.4 will be able to load and play PICO-8 cartridges.

Is it possible to make stand-alone versions of cartridges?

Yes, you can export to HTML5, and also binaries for Windows, Mac and Linux. Exports work from any machine (e.g. you don't need a Mac to export to Mac).

Is it possible to sell my PICO-8 cartridges?

There isn't an official PICO-8 marketplace, but you are free to do what you like with cartridge you have exported, including selling them in other markplaces like itch.io or uploading them to advertising-driven sites like Newgrounds and Kongregate. Just make sure you have permission from any other contributing authors first!

Can I use the PICO-8 name and/or logo in my own project?

If you are making a custom PICO-8 for personal use, or complementary material for a PICO-8 cart such as box art, please feel free to use the PICO-8 logo as long as it is unlikely to be confused for an official Lexaloffle product. If you are making a separate software product, a run of multiple hardware units, PICO-8 related merchandise, or anything else -- please write to me first.

Can I use the PICO-8 palette and/or font for something?

Yes, please do. The palette and font are both available under a CC-0 license.

-- zep