The discovery of Pico-8 has me more excited about programming and creating then I’ve been in a long, long time. It’s accessible, it’s fun, it’s fast and it’s affordable. It’s very easy to get something you can interact with, which is a blessing and a curse.
It’s wonderful because you get some instant gratification and can see if your idea has legs. If it does, great, but then you have to keep moving that thing forward to be more than just a tech demo. For me, that can be difficult.
I always say that the journey is the fun part, and it is, but unfortunately that means I’m usually left standing at the 5-yard line, or a best, crossed the goal line by accident.
The Pico-8 community hosted a game jam this week and being new to the language and site, I wanted to give it a shot. I had never done a jam before because I usually don’t have the time, but with P8 I knew I could get something done in time…right?
I got something done-ish. I actually got something more done than ever, at least when it comes to making a game. My Pico-8 jam game has a beginning and an end. You can “win,” which is a nice change from the endless demos I’ve made in the past.
My entry in the jam is Mass360, an arcade shooter that uses the old Tempest/Gyruss mechanic of rotating around the enemy and shooting them. Only instead of alien spaceships or bugs, in my game, you’re shooting cancerous masses.
I say cancerous because my dad’s own battle (and victory) over cancer became an inspiration for the game. It didn’t start that way but I needed to frame my game in a way that allowed me to get it done before the the jam deadline of one week. So while I got an entry into the jam, I consider it a minimal viable product when it comes to being a game.
You can play Mass360 in your browser or with Pico-8.
It’s not exactly what I had in my head when I started but it’s close. There’s a long wishlist of things I wish it had and that I had time to do…but I don’t. And that’s okay. Just getting something playable with a start and finish is a baby step in the right direction. And, for once, my game is all original. I didn’t “borrow” any graphics or sounds or anything…and there’s something to say for that, I guess.
The jam wasn’t about winning. Even though I’ve played games my entire life and have made video games before, I’m new here. I’m still learning and it feels great. It also feels great to get something done and in front of people. I sit on things way too often, worried that they’ll get no response unless it’s all polished and shiny.
Now the next challenge is to go beyond MVP and figure out how to improve it to be more. Historically speaking I’m not very good at that either…I hate revisiting work…but the fun of Pico-8 might just be enough to push me.
Also published on Medium.