About the guide
I wanted to share my knowledge on how I installed the virtual fantasy console called Pico-8 on my Raspberry Pi creating an awesome little Pico-8 console that boots in about 6 seconds and doesn’t need any configuration! Its super easy and super fun. All you need is any model of the Raspberry Pi, an Sd card and a gamepad. All of this is possible thanks to Gamaral who created the PICOPi os, you can find a guide, videos etc on his site here: http://guillermoamaral.com/read/picopi/
What is Pico-8
Before i start explaining how to get Pico-8 running I just briefly wanted to explain what actually this is. Pico-8 is the name of a made up virtual gaming console. Think of it as a Nes or Atari with all its old retro limitations, but that you can play on your computer or web browser. The creator of Pico-8 carefully picked a set of limitations to make the console look and feel like a retro console from the 80s. It only has 128×128 pixels of resolution with a beautiful 16 color palette and the games even comes in virtual “cartridge” images that you “insert” to the system, all this to have that old retrogaming feel. Just love this!
And the best part is that it’s really easy to code games and share them and they are all available to play directly from Pico-8 using a built in browser where you can play your downloaded cartridges or play them directly from the Pico-8 webserver.
What you need
– A Raspberry Pi (Models 1,2,3 or Zero)
– Pico-8 Raspberry Pi files (Remember to pick Raspberry Pi: zip)
– PICOPi files (A super tiny OS built especially for running Pico-8)
– A Gamepad controller (more about this later in this guide)
That’s it! Of course you need an SD card for your Raspberry Pi that will have all the necessary files for the system to boot and run.
Get the Pico-8 License?
You need to purchase the license from the official Pico-8 site, when you do you will get the files you need for Raspberry Pi, and also downloads for running Pico-8 on Win, Osx and Linux.
But you might already own a Pico-8 License without knowing it! If you purchase many gaming bundles from Humble Bundle you might have the license there. Pico-8 was included in the “Humble GameDev Software Bundle” and it was also “hidden” in the “Humble Voxatron Debut” bundle, when you got Voxatron you also got Pico-8 but you need to find the Voxatron key in your humble bundle library, and then find the link “Lexaloffle Account Activation” then after activating this you will also get Pico-8 🙂
Installing Pico-8 to Raspberry Pi
All you need to do is unzip the PICOPi files for your specific Raspberry Pi model onto the SD card and also unzip the Raspberry Pi Pico-8 zip file (There are a couple of different versions to pick from but you need to get the one Raspberry P version) that you download from https://www.lexaloffle.com/pico-8.php and thats it! Just connect the Sd card to your Raspberry Pi and it should boot Pico-8. If you need even more detailed information on how to do this then you can find instructions and videos on the PICOPi site: http://guillermoamaral.com/read/picopi/
So this is for me one of the most important parts of this project. The whole idea is to create your own console connected to TV instead of playing Pico-8 on the computer using a keyboard. And that is having a good gamepad!
Bluetooth controllers? Yes! Today we sit further away from the TV so wireless controllers is something I really like. Raspberry Pi 3 has built in bluetooth or you can purchase a small usb blutooth receiver for any other model, but the problem is that you need a way to connect the controllers in the operating system and that’s not possible in this case (Well maybe it is if you have really good knowledge with Linux and coding etc) So the way to solve this problem is to get a bluetooth controller or wireless controller that has its own usb receiver, and i have tested two controller that works great without any configuration. Just plug and play. And here are the controllers:
– Xbox 360 Controllers + Wireless 360 receiver
If you have a wired Xbox 360 you just connect the usb to the Raspberry Pi and it just works. If you have a wireless controller you need the original Xbox 360 receiver. Just connect the receiver and it just works without any configuration and all the buttons you need for Pico-8 are perfectly mapped.
– 8Bitdo Contollers + 8Bitdo Receiver
If you dont what 8Bitdo is then i suggest you check them out http://www.8bitdo.com/ They make incredible wireless retrogaming controllers that look and feel like old console gamepads like Nes and Snes etc and they are bluetooth wireless controllers. I have ordered mine from eBay so i suggest you check there if you want to order one. To get a 8Bitdo controller to work you need a “Retro Receiver” from 8Bitdo that you connect with a usb cord from the Raspbeery Pi to the receiver and it just works, no configuration.
Now that we have Pico-8 running on our Raspberry Pi its time to play some games! There is a huge library of games on the Pico-8 site and they are all free to play directly in the browser or you can choose to download them. There are two pays to play these games on a Rasperry Pi.
#1 Play from Internet. Connect your Raspberry Pi to your network and play the games directly from Pico-8s built in browser. The games are so small that they start instantly, and if there is a game you like just add it to your favorites by pressing the startbutton on the controller.
#2 Play games from the Sd card. Download the games from the site and then copy them to the sd card. This is the way to go if you don’t have the possibility to connect your Raspberry Pi to the internet. The way you do this is first to download the game, i will explain this in the next step. And place the files in a folder called “carts” if this folder doesn’t exist then just create one. This is also explained on PICOPis site: http://guillermoamaral.com/read/picopi/
How to save carts
Downloading a game should pretty easy right? Yes, but where is the download button? Thats the problem, there is no button. Its kinda hidden. The games for Pico-8 is called “carts” and they are in the image format .png so they are both a png image with a very nice art and they also is the actual game which is pretty cool.
So to download a game you need to go to a specific games url and right beneath the gamescreen in the browser you can see the text “cart” rightclick on this and choose “save link as” and then download the .png file (also give the file a propername to make it easer later when you are browsing games in Pico-8) thats it!