Setting Up a Pico-8 Workflow


Last Cyber Monday I picked up the awesome PocketChip by The Next Thing. The pleasant bonus to the very capable Linux based system, is that it comes packaged with the Pico-8 virtual console.

The game system, as it’s name suggests, is reminiscent of an 8-bit machine. Complete with the limitations of 32kb “carts” that hold game code, artwork and music. 16 colors and very chippy, chip tune sound generation. The screen size is 127 x 127 pixels. All together the systems capabilities amount to a very convincing retro machine.

The Pico-8 environment also includes a three part IDE: code editor, sprite sheet art package and sound tracker. While it’s possible to use the built in code editor pretty effectively, when the code length gets into the hundreds of lines, code management gets complicated.

To establish a more modern working environment, I installed Pico-8 onto an OSX system. The following guide is intended for Mac users but aspects can be applied to Linux, Windows and CHIP/Raspberry Pi.

Editing Pico-8 Carts

OSX stores Pico-8 carts in the /Users/$USERNAME/Library/Application Support/pico-8/carts folder, $USERNAME is your user on the system. On the PocketCHIP and Linux, you can find carts in /home/chip/.lexaloffle/pico-8/carts. Replace “chip” with the systems user.

To make life easier, create a symlink from a dev directory to the cart location.
First create a dev folder in you desired location.
Then from within the cart folder execute:

ln -s /Users/USERNAME/Library/Application\ Support/pico-8/carts ~/pico-8-dev

Note the escaped space in “Application Support”. The above example will link the cart location within Pico-8 to the folder pico-8-dev located in the users home folder.

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