Sprite Creator for Pico8 Fantasy Game
A community-created collection of CC0-licensed sprites for the Pico8 fantasy game.
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This is a little site I made to create and share sprites for the Pico8 fantasy game platform. You can create new sprites using the web-based pixel art editor or you can view/download sprites created by others. You can also fork or evolve existing sprites, allowing for quickly and easily creating variations of existing sprites. The site has a Drift chat form that lets visitors submit feedback and people really love it, even suggesting new features.
Client-side code is written using vanilla JS and jQuery. The backend is written using Flask and is hosted on Heroku. I kept the site and paid $14/month for two of the cheapest-tier Heroku dynos (one for serving web pages and one for async tasks like sending email). There used to be a Redis cache that stored the sprites to speed up requests, but it was not needed for the traffic levels observed.
The site has been sitting idle for a while now and gets on average 75-80 visits per month. There is no “content” to drive SEO traffic so it's fairly low.
Every time someone creates a new sprite (typically 2-3 per month), they can share the link freely with anyone and let them view it. To get on the main page, an email is sent to the admin containing the new artwork and a link for approval. Clicking the link puts the image on the main list.
How can the buyer take this project further?
Improvements and suggestions for features:
Here are a few improvements I can suggest. These are based on user feedback I received via the Drift chat box:
- The PICO8 platform lets users import 128x128 pixel sprite sheets. It would useful to have an e-commerce cart-like feature, where you add sprites to a cart, and then download them all as a single 128x128 spritesheet with everything combined together.
- Provide an API backend for pixel-creation apps to upload and share sprites easily. I've received such a request from someone developing a PICO8 pixel editing app for mobiles.
- Search functionality and grouping of sprites into categories (e.g. items, players, monsters). Currently everything shows up under the /browse page due to the not-too-high traffic.
- The editor is currently very basic. Useful additions would be (1) zoom functionality for larger sprites (32x32), (2) a way to select and copy/paste pixels or regions of pixels, and (3) support for animating sprites by storing a sequence of them instead of a single one. PICO8 also has a secret extended color palette, which might be useful to incorporate. Another addition would be support for creating auto-tiling tilesets.
- Currently there is no content whatsoever on the site. Creating a blog or even just a news section with some key articles targeting keywords around “PICO8 sprites” would bring in a lot more traffic to the site.
- Expand the site to include not just pixel art for PICO8 but also actual games. Games in PICO8 are exported as simple PNGs and therefore very easy to host. The domain name is generic enough to allow for this.
- Affiliate revenue from redirecting users to popular Udemy.com courses on creating pixel art. There are quite a few really good ones if you search for "pixel art" there.
- Sell pixel packs for PICO8 or retro games in general. The retro style of gaming is getting more popular with each passing year and finding good artwork for it is difficult.
- Write and sell an ebook on PICO8 game programming. It's a great platform for getting kids into programming as a hobby. You could also choose to give it away for free and build up an email list instead.
- Build a more general version of the site for creating, sharing, downloading and selling pixel art. I don't think a good solution exists currently that brings pixel artists together and lets them earn a living selling their art. Everything is disjointed across multiple platforms (e.g. itch.io for selling pixel art, while sharing and creation happens elsewhere). This might need a domain name and style change though; although you can re-use parts of the backend code.
Skills RequiredProgramming, DevOps
Reason for SellingI'm not interested in running this anymore
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