Work’s been pretty stressful lately and one of the way’s I’ve been coping with that is to take some time out of my day to do some PICO-8 game development. I’ve had a number of game ideas lately, one of which I have written about on this blog. But I’ve now actually had a new game idea that came to me over the holidays while staying offline in a cabin in Sweden. It’s a mashup of the Half Sword demo and Dark Souls, mixed with a healthy dose of roguelike ideas, rendered within PICO-8’s tiny 8-bit dimensions.

The idea is to make an endless roguelike game where you fight enemies with a sword and collect their embers (a kind of soul-like essence). When you die, you lose all embers you’ve collected since your last rest at a campfire. So it doesn’t have permadeath, since you always load in at the last campfire, but the enemies get spawned in prodecurally, based on your ember score. It doesn’t have a world per se. It’s just a dark, mysterious place — much like the Half Sword demo — which enables me to concentrate most of the limited PICO-8 resources on having interesting enemies. One big goal of the game is to make the combat very smooth and pixel-perfect, taking inspirations from early shmups. As fas as I know, nobody has done something like this, which is kind of exciting to me.

It’s also pretty interesting that I’ve been able to re-use a lot of code from Tinyhold and an earlier unfinished prototype. I guess that’s a factor of PICO-8 forcing its restrictions on the developer, so you tend to have to solve similar problems again and again, even in games that look very different from each other. As it turns out, I have quite a nice library of (probably shoddily written) tools now.