Pixel Eight - Introduction

24 Jan 2019

I’ve created a little wrapper around the Kano Community SDK for building games for the Kano Pixel called pixel-eight. The API is inspired by that for the pico-8 but is Javascript based rather than lua. This post is part of a series giving a walkthrough of developing a snake game using the pixel-eight library.


Getting Started

I’m assuming you have a relatively modern version of node installed, the code depends on object destructing and arrow functions.

First we create a node project:

mkdir snake
cd snake
npm init -y
npm install --save pixel-eight

Typically we use source control to manage the evolution of sofware projects, I’ll write out the few steps to get use git to manage the source here but won’t mention it for future steps, typically you’d want to commit after each step.

First we initialize the git repository and tell it to ignore the installed files:

git init
echo node_modules > .gitignore

Create the first commit:

git add --all
git commit -m "Boilerplate node project with pixel-eight"


A First Program

The basics of starting a game running.

const { color, start } = require("pixel-eight");

  draw: frame => {
    const x = 0;
    const y = 0;
    frame.pset(x, y,;

Here we’ve created a game, the start function starts the game running in a loop calling draw (by default) 10 times per second.

pset sets one pixel to a specific color, the colors are from a standard palette for which there are names in the color export of the library. The co-ordinates system starts at the top left of the board with (0,0) and goes to (15,7) at the bottom right.

This “game” should be runnable on your pixel, create an index.js file and copy the code above into it:

Create a commit:

git add --all
git commit -m "A First Program, sets the pixel at the top left to red"


A Development Environment

While we can work writing code, running, writing more, stopping and then starting again it’s preferable to let the program restart for us every time we save. To do this we can use a node project called nodemon.

npm add --save-dev nodemon

Edit the package.json file, there’s a scripts section, change test to start, set it to nodemon index.js.

  "scripts": {
    "start": "nodemon index.js"

Now at the command line you should be able to run:

npm start

Again you should see that the screen of the pixel is now blank with a red pixel in the top left.

Edit index.js, change to color.yellow and save, notice that the terminal says something like: restarting due to changes... and on the pixel it the color of the pixel in the top left changes from red to yellow.


Game State

pixel-eight manages game state via the init and update functions, which are used to initialize and update the game state which is then passed as the second argument to the draw function.

  init: () => {
    return { x: 7, y: 3 };
  draw: (frame, { x, y }) => {
    frame.pset(x, y, color.yellow);

On saving we should now see the yellow pixel move from the top left to the center of the pixel.

The next post will how to react to the buttons being pressed and changing the game state in the update function.