beanz Magazine

Fantasy Computers and TIC-80

Tilemahos Efthimiadis on Flickr

A fun introduction to programming games with fantasy computers. The 70s and 80s are back in style!

Retro gaming has been a big thing over the last few years: 8-and-16-bit style pixel art, chiptune music, and old-school gaming styles like platformers coming back in vogue.

What’s also coming back is the experience of working with the computers of the late 70s and early 80s. Computers like the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 were really popular during this time.

They were neat little machines that ran on operating systems and hardware that were simple enough that you could control almost everything about the computer—including directly programming graphics, sound, and manipulating system memory—with a version of Basic.

Now we have fantasy computers, which are programs that act like they’re a piece of hardware with its own memory, storage, and operating system. These fantasy computers act as an easy way to get started with games programming because you do everything in the fantasy computer itself: draw sprites, write the code, make the music, and create the sound effects. The first version of the puzzle-platformer Celeste started out as a fantasy computer game and based on its success there it’s been released on every major gaming system.

The most well-known fantasy computer is PICO-8, which is both polished and popular but costs $15 and is not open-source. Since I always like promoting open-source software whenever possible we’ll instead talk about TIC-80 which is not only free and open-source but it’s a fantasy computer I absolutely love.

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Also In The August 2018 Issue

Use SketchUp to recreate the famous optical illusion that grows and shrinks people around the room.

Learn what makes a good rogue-like game and how to make one yourself.

Unleash your inner digital chef through this simple (but mouth-watering) Python activity.

Dinosaur fossils, STEM podcasts, and a day in the life of a paleontologist.

A fun introduction to programming games with fantasy computers. The 70s and 80s are back in style!

Real life treasure hunts are a way to get outdoors, learn map skills, and have fun finding hidden caches near you.

Tips & trips to help you have a great time on the Internet, even when others don’t behave well.

How scientists finally cracked the code behind the mysterious language of Ancient Egypt.

Two small projects introducing you to Edublocks, a language that bridges the gap between Scratch and Python.

Take your CLI skills to the next level as you combine, redirect, and script commands.

It looks like JavaScript, has a Python aesthetic, and integrates easily with C/C++. Meet Lua: a scripting language for fantasy computers.

How the high-tech LIGO made a huge discovery and won its three founders a Nobel Prize.

An introduction to the devices that’ll make your robots zoom, skitter, and spin.

Learn the secrets behind pixels, image blurs, and all your favourite Instagram filters!

Links from the bottom of all the August 2018 articles, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for August 2018.