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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 it's 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's also be possible to #include source code into .p8 cartridges.

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 2020.

Which platforms will PICO-8 be available on?

PICO-8 currently has builds for Mac OSX, Windows and Linux, Raspberry Pi. A fully-functional web app version is in development. Ports for iOS and Android as stand-alone apps are also planned for after 1.0, but do not yet have an eta.

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
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