I started using Chordpro fairly recently after using Microsoft Word and Chordette for my chord sheets, and I’ve been quite happy with the results. However, Chordpro’s documentation is nice, but it lacks an onboarding/tutorial document. I had to do a fair amount of searching and experimenting to get to the point where I’m happy, and I feel it should have been simpler. I wrote some notes on how I got to that point, with the hopes that someone else can find them useful. It currently assumes that you know how to use Linux (or at least familiar with command line tools).
I participated in the recent Caracas Game Jam 2022 (online) making a videogame. In this occasion I decided to use PICO-8, a fantasy console (I’ve written about this in El Chigüire Literario, my gamedev blog written in Spanish). At the end of the event I presented Cosmos, a game for two players. The objective is to build a planet keeping several elements in the center of the screen, using attraction/repulsion forces from the sun and the moon. You can play it in the browser or downloading it from that website.
I write code with Lua and used PICO-8 internal tools for making art, music and sound. In PICO-8, all this goes into the same file. I used Visual Studio Code for writing code, along with an extension for syntax highlighting. This way, VSCode uses half of the screen, and PICO-8 uses the other half. Once I’ve made changes in VSCode, I switch to PICO-8, press CTRL-R and the program reads the file again and picks up the changes.
An issue I had constantly and that I blame on the lack of habit: when you make changes in PICO-8 (e.g. sound, music, sprites, maps), you have to save the file before making changes in code in VSCode. If you forget, and you also make changes in Code before saving, when you press CTRL-R PICO-8 detects that there are changes in the file that weren’t made in the program, and refuses to load the file. This is not a problem, it’s actually very good. Resolving this is not critical: when you save in PICO-8, VSCode picks up the changes immediately, so you can Undo that change, copy the things you had made, Redo and apply the changes where appropriate. It’s usually better to be aware and avoid making changes in both programs at the same time.
I think PICO-8’s plain text format makes it ideal for collaboration, e.g. a person can do sprites/maps, another one does music/sound, and then all can be merged in a git repo. I did not test this workflow as I worked alone, but a setup like this seems quite feasible.
Sprites have 16 colours, and 8x8 at its smallest. The default colour palette in PICO-8 is really pleasing, and you can change it if you want to. Lua as a programming language: I’ve used it before and I am aware of its weirdness (e.g. arrays that start from 1 and not 0, declaring arrays and tables, etc.). PICO-8 Lua has some slight differences from the standard implementation (e.g. trigonometric functions go from 0..1, and not radians nor degrees), but the official documentation is really good, and there’s a cheat sheet that is quite useful as well.
Sounds was my weakest moment in the process, as it was my first time using it. That said, it was really simple to make music and understand how the system works. If I had more time I would have written the code to make the music change on tempo. The platform gives you enough to write that, but the function to call music is very simple, so you have to write all the code for that case.
I would like to keep using PICO-8 for other things. You can call Serial port and GPIO, so it can work with an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi really nicely. I’d love to explore that part a bit more.
Today marks a transition in this website. Last time I redesigned it, it was 2014. At the time I did it because I was looking for work. I was looking into breaking into the games industry, and the course I was doing insisted in putting up a portfolio. It served its purpose very well, I’m grateful that it did. After 8 years I can now retire that design.
My main motivation for changing it was to get rid of WordPress. Nothing personal against WordPress, it will still power El Chigüire Literario, my gamedev blog in Spanish, for the foreseeable future. But I did want a format that was as simple as possible, plain HTML files. They’re generated from Jekyll, of course, but having plain HTML files means a simpler website, one with just static files. Easy to preserve, no database to maintain, no cookies popup, no security concerns, and still a fully bilingual place (thanks to the polyglot plugin). Throw in some simpler design, thanks to the Lanyon theme, and now I feel that this website will keep going for a few more years.
This redesign started back in May 2020, but life got in the way. Returning to it, and completing it marks a personal milestone in my recovery from some personal issues and the pandemic. It now includes two sections that I’ve wanted to include for a long time: hardware projects, and music. Both things have become really important to me, and thus they now have their place in this website.
As much as social media allows us to communicate with each other really quickly, they come and go. And when they go, they take down all the things you’ve done for them with it. I don’t want that to happen to the things I do. At least, I want to make that my responsibility. In this age, making the effort to preserve our own websites is more important than ever. That’s the reason it’s been renamed to “A Live Archive”. This is a place to keep my stuff available. I’ve done some work to make it as easy as possible to myself. I hope you get something out of it.
2021 saw more Tuesday Tunesdays (the name of a little music jam I do with some friends). It’s really nice to look back and see 46 new pieces. Not everything is brilliant, of course, it doesn’t have to be. Making music this way has brought me back to a state where I can feel like making things without the worries of having to execute it right the first time. Instead, I feel now in a cyclical process, where progress is incremental.
This website contains all the music done throughout the year, but a selection of my favourites is in my SoundCloud account.
On the 31st December 2021 I declared finished a series of short videos I’ve been putting up in the fleeting story format that several social networks offer. Mainly Instagram, but also Facebook, and Twitter when it had Fleets. In general, each video is about 15 seconds of the sea from the beach in Brighton (Hove, actually!), taken each day whenever possible, with some exceptions on days where I wasn’t in the city, or I was not able to go.
A theme that really attracts me is everyday life expressed through repetition. I have done this even with popcorn.
A frequent question is how or why it began. Checking my archives, it’s certainly not the firs time I had recorded videos in that same format. But in 2019 I had a great loss at the same time I moved from London to Brighton. It’s was intense, and traumatic, but no one had died. When I got to Brighton, and I walked a few steps to the beach, I experienced silence. And it was delicious, like saying hi to an old friend. Citing Alfredo de Hoces, you cannot feign silence. It was the silence of the sea (which I know is not exactly silence) what hooked me on, and thus how the series began.
Repetition doesn’t need some big announcement. In the right moment and place, it becomes organic. With these videos, my direct messages started getting messages with people commenting on the video of the day. It became a way to stay in touch, in times where touch was reduced because reasons gestures hand around. I had people who asked when the videos suddenly stopped, as I had ghone out on holiday in March 2020 just as the world suddenly changed. Continuing to show the same sea as the daily situation changed so dramatically kept me grounded. Many thanks to all those who commented, and many thanks to all who were inspired and sent me their own videos when they went to the beach. You made my day several times.
But as with everything in life, I think the series found its purpose, met it, and ran through its course. I feel there’s not much I can add to it. All the videos are in the highlights of my Instagram profile. 2020 is shown in a hour and a half video, and 2021 will have its own video as well. Even though I’m not moving places, I do think I have moved on, and start thinking on what’s next.