This is a somewhat / not really a companion site to Level27Geek, my main blog where I (infrequently) write about things related to tabletop gaming. Thanks to my fascination with all kinds of games, I have some knowledge about game design and the underlying mechanics. I am, however, almost completely in the dark when it comes to video game development. The only programming I ever did was BASIC around 15 years ago. Any art I ever created was not made with games in mind, and I never tried my hand at sfx or music. Hence, the "level 0" in the title. Yet, I have this vision of grandeur that I can prove that learning how to make video games is not that hard.
Well, let's see how that goes...
- PICO-8 forces you to code. Sure, it is "only" in LUA, but it will still help you develop a proper programming mind-set and make you used to typing every bit of code on your own. And while it is great that nowadays you can make a game without knowing how to program, having that skill and understanding the underlying code will benefit anyone in the long run.
- PICO-8 limits your scope. This platform is similar in power to the early 80s personal computers like the BBC Mico, or ZX Spectrum. It has limited resolution, color palette, sound, controls, memory... basically everything. Constraints boost creativity, but more than that, they stop you from overwhelming yourself. When learning to make games you should start small - and I think that PICO-8 is great for that.
- PICO-8 is about sharing. All of the games on the platform are free, but that's not the best part. When you load a cart into PICO-8 you have access to its source code, art and sound! This is a great resource for learning, as you can see how others have solved problems you might be encountering and just analyze how different games work. You can tweak that code or even build upon it to make your version of the game, as most carts bear a Creative Commons license.
- PICO-8 is nostalgic. I can't say that the retro aesthetic didn't appeal to me...and it is not really about the lowres pixel artstyle and chip bleerps. I have grown up with a Commodore64 followed by Atari ST and various Amigas. I've been there when the demoscene reigned supreme and people made awesome games from their bedrooms. I have tried be a part of this movement, but it was simply beyond my skill at that age. On some levels, PICO-8 let's me relive those days.