A BRIEF HIS­TORY OF PICO- 8

EDGE - - THE CULT OF PICO-8 -

In 2003, White made poido (‘Pointy Dough’): an in-house tool for his indie stu­dio, Lex­alof­fle, which pro­vided a way to make sprites, pal­ettes, mod­els, UV maps, au­dio and more in one ed­i­tor.

All the dif­fer­ent as­sets for a project could be stored in a sin­gle file, called a pod, which set the stage for PICO-8’s al­len­com­pass­ing car­tridges.

In 2004, White worked on his first fan­tasy con­sole: LEX500. It booted into a BASIC in­ter­preter, and had a low-res­o­lu­tion dis­play and a fixed 16-colour pal­ette. White says it was an “un­fin­ished con­cept mostly driven by the de­sire to re­cap­ture some­thing I felt had been lost in most mod­ern soft­ware en­vi­ron­ments: a play­ful, cosy space to make small things just for the sake of mak­ing them”.

In 2010, White re­leased Vox­a­tron, which fea­tures tiny games made out of voxel cubes. It fully re­alised the car­tridge metaphor as a stan­dard, share­able game file and, like PICO-8, it in­te­grated tools to make games on the sys­tem.

Vox­a­tron has a sim­ple en­gine for mak­ing games, and White wanted to add code and au­dio-edit­ing tools, so he res­ur­rected LEX500 as PICO-8. “It quickly be­came a sep­a­rate thing with its own iden­tity, and see­ing PICO-8 and Vox­a­tron side by side, I could even­tu­ally see that they should both be the same type of thing: a ‘fan­tasy con­sole’.”

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