Just found out about TIC from this tweet.
It seems like a great platform and an interesting alternative for Pico-8, especially when it comes to bigger games thanks to the larger resolution and 512 tiles for sprites. I like the less saturated color palette, kinda reminiscent of Commodore64 and that it can run in the browser. All together, it looks like a great project.
I have only recently started learning how to code with Pico8, so I am not a programmer, but I come from an art and design background so I decided to throw my two cents from that perspective. Some of what I will say might sound harsh, but I am trying to be constructive with this feedback. I know TIC is still in its early stages of development, but there is already a lot of good here, but there are some things that might turn away potential users. I think with few tweaks it can become a great platform!
- The font. This is the biggest offender. It is very straining to read the text, especially with such a high contrast that is used in the editor. A quick and dirty fix could be changing the BG from black to the dark gray (color 4), but that would only minimize the eye strain and not fix other issues. I know that you have changed the font from all uppercase to this 6x6 font, but there are serious issues here. Things like pixel clumping on e and x, the lowercase j is a complete mess (why is it the only letter out of j p q y that does not go under baseline?). Lowercase l looks nothing like a proper l... and so on. Then we have the issue of kerning (space) between the letters, that tries to stick to the 6 pixels wide formula, even when the letters are narrower (see lowercase c or i). The font needs to be monospaced (so has the same amount of white space between each letter). The font right now is something that actively prevents me from trying anything in TIC. My eyes get tired after around a minute of looking at the text.
I am not sure how your font works on TIC, are those just 6x6 pictures or a true .ttf / .otf files? If it is the later, I will be happy to make you a font similar to what you have now to use for TIC.
- The palette. I love that your palette is reminiscent of the c64 less saturated colors. For once, it creates a very good "branding" for the system, similar to what the colorful palette does for Pico8. However, you will find that the values (how light/dark the color is) are little too close to each other. This will lead to blurry pixelart. Here is a quick comparison between your and c64 palette. In the c64, outside of white and black you can find four distinctive value groups (Blue, Brown, DK Gray, Red), (Purple, Orange), (Green, Pink, M Gray, Lt Blue), (Lt Gray, Lt Green, Cyan, Yellow). Your value groups kinda blend together because they are not light/dark enough to be distictive. The first six blend together, then the second seven and last three. With only three groups, two of which hold the majority of color, fast paced games will look blurry. Pico8 can get away with it because of high saturation of its colors, but with more pastel palette like the TIC has, you might run into blur problems and making it more difficult for colorblind people to use your software. Overall, the palette needs only tiny tweaks.
edit: Just noticed the palette tool and that you are using DB16 as default, so you might not want to change it. DB16 seems to work well for pixel art, but I have never seen it used in a fast paced game, so the issue above probably still exists. It might be a good idea to develop your own palette or add the palette tool as a part of the system, so developers could choose a palette for their game and players wouldn't have to change them by hand before playing.
- The UI. The UI works well (love the GOTO function option), but needs minor tweaks. The biggest one is again contrast, as described in 1. I would also change the top and bottom bar from white to something more subdued, maybe light gray (11) or even darker like medium blue (9). It would be even better if we users could set UI colors (a feature also requested in Pico8 due to colorblind difficulties). Adding icons to the top panel instead of numbers would also be a nice touch, because it is really easy to forget what number corresponds to what. Also a tracker view for sounds would be awesome, but I guess that will come with music.
One thing that I think is spot on is the map editor. Subdued colors don't strain the eye and sprites are hidden in an expandable menu. I would love this to be also an option in the drawing panel, making the drawing window bigger where the sprite map is hidden (useful for working on tiles bigger than 8x8).
Other small UI / UX / ease of use tweaks to add:
- Make the sound piano keys accessible with keyboard while on that screen / maybe print which keyboard keys correspond to which piano key on the piano graphic.
- When you mouse-over the editor menu, change the text from current editor (e.g code editor) to where the mouseover leads (eg. sprite editor). New text in different color?
- Add similar hints to the Find/GOTO/Function menu on the right in code editor
- Add import/export of spritesheets and sounds
- Ability to scale the window up by a factor (2x, 3x etc) for high resolution screens.
- more exciting logo?
Again, sorry if I sound a bit harsh, but I really want to see this project blossom. I think those issues are stopping it from doing so. I want to help to the best of my ability to make TIC even better.
I think that one thing added to the popularity of Pico8 is the community around the forum. Making a dedicated forum where people could post their games ready to play and discuss the system would be of a great benefit. Same for a splore like function from Pico8 to browse games stored on this community website.
Anyway, let me know what you think about this feedback and if I can help in any way.