A downloadable tool for Windows, macOS, and Linux

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Playscii is an open source ASCII art and animation program. It runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Website: http://vectorpoem.com/playscii

Documentation: http://vectorpoem.com/playscii/howto_main.html

Hardware requirements:

  • OpenGL 2.1-capable video card with GLSL 1.30* support.

In other words: if your computer was made after 2008, there's a good chance it can run Playscii.

Windows build requires Windows 7 or 10, 32-bit or 64-bit. macOS build requires version 10.10 aka Yosemite or later. The macOS build is 32-bit and not notarized, so Playscii will not run on versions of that OS that have removed 32-bit support entirely and/or refuse to run non-notarized software. I do not plan on offering support for notarization-required versions of macOS.

Please note that Playscii is open source, still in development, and is offered as a pay-what-you-want download here on itch. Pay something if you want to support the developer, but don't feel obligated to! Testing and bug reports are appreciated; you can file bugs on the project's Bitbucket page.

Some users have reported Windows Defender incorrectly flagging random versions of the Windows build as malware. Any future builds where you see this are random and I can't really do much about them other than create a new build with a few bytes changed, which seems to evade the rather aggressive signature detection that some antivirus suites use. If anyone has more info on this, I'd love to hear it; lots of peoples' games and tools seem to get flagged like this.

* Playscii will detect your GLSL version on startup and quit with an error message if version 1.30 or higher is not found.


Download NowName your own price

Click download now to get access to the following files:

playscii_win32-9.17.1.zip 20 MB
playscii_source-9.17.1.zip 1 MB
playscii_mac-9.17.1.dmg 28 MB

Development log

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Just tried this for the first time and its rendering with crazy flashing lines and visual issues. I'm on Windows 10, a 64 bit processor which might be the issue.

Running 32 bit from 64 bit Windows shouldn't be an issue. What's your hardware, as reported by Playscii's startup log?

where can i find that?

On Windows, it'll be in a subfolder of your user folder, such as:

(where [myusername] is your windows user name)

The file is called console.log. I'm specifically interested in the sections that read "Detecting hardware..." and "Detecting software environment...

Here you go!

Detecting hardware...
  CPU: Intel64 Family 6 Model 142 Stepping 10, GenuineIntel
  GPU: Intel - Intel(R) UHD Graphics 620
  OpenGL detected: 4.6.0 - Build
  GLSL detected: 4.60 - Build
  Vertex Array Object support found.
  Maximum supported texture size: 16384 x 16384
  Detected screen resolution: 1920 x 1080, window: 1280 x 720
Detecting software environment...
  OS: Windows-10-10.0.19041
  Python: 3.7.9 (tags/v3.7.9:13c94747c7, Aug 17 2020, 18:01:55) [MSC v.1900 32 bit (Intel)] (32bit)
  Modules: PySDL2 0.9.7, numpy 1.19.3, PyOpenGL 3.1.5, appdirs 1.4.4, PIL 8.0.1
  SDL: 2.0.10 hg-12952:bc90ce38f1e2, SDLmixer: 2.0.4

Thanks for the info. I'm not seeing any obvious problems with that... the Intel UHD 620 GPU seems like fairly recent hardware, and the driver version number seems pretty up to date (from over the summer?) Are any other 3D applications giving you rendering glitches? If you feel comfortable doing so, you might try upgrading your video drivers to the very latest version: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/product/96551/Intel-HD-Graphics-620

Would be pretty cool to have a hotkey to quickly swap the foreground/background colors for the current tool :D

Try the W key.

Thank you! :D

Hello, emailed you supporting you via some gift purchases.

Would Raspberry Pi compatibility be a feature in future releases? All my Raspberry Pis, even my Pi 4, can't run Playscii due to GLSL apparently too old. (which I don't understand on R.Pi Foundation's part).

I tried getting it running on a Pi 3 a few years ago, and ran into a total lack of documentation or knowledge on the PyOpenGL (the module I use for GL) side: https://sourceforge.net/p/pyopengl/mailman/pyopengl-users/thread/CAEBBUWhEXds5N7...

If anyone can point me to some working example code that creates an OpenGL context on Pi with the GL feature set I need, I could look into it again.


о, тут есть русские

it's awasome but how do i write plugins?

Check out the documentation: http://vectorpoem.com/playscii/howto_main.html

The Art Mode page has some info on Import/Export plugins for getting art in and out of Playscii.

The Game Mode page has info on writing games using Python code.

when I run the .exe in windows, nothing happens!

Hm, make sure your Windows 10 is fully up to date - Playscii should be whitelisted in the virus definitions as of 9.16.2's release.

After that, if you're running from the itch.io app, trying reinstalling Playscii from there. If you're not, try re-downloading the ZIP and running.

Windows 10 up to date.  re-downloaded the zip an tried it again.  I unzipped.  each time I click on the playscii icon, a window pops up, as though its gonna run, but then the window immediately disappears.

Hi, sorry you're having a problem. Is there any info in your log file? On a typical Windows system it will be in a folder like C:\Users\[your user name]\AppData\Local\Playscii\console.log, you should be able to open it in Notepad.

If you don't see anything there, try running the EXE from the command line, and paste any errors you see here.

No worries!  Thanks for your help.  I wasn't able to do what you recommended (the file folders you mention aren't there).  I have 64 bit windows... the zip says 32 bit.  is there another zip that has 64 bit?

I don't offer a 64 bit Windows build, but the 32 bit version should work fine on any 64 bit system.

Try running the EXE from the command line, that will probably at least print some sort of error to clarify what's happening.

It's been happening to me too, though now with the added caveat of my Anti-Virus program popping up every minute or so to tell me it has quarantined a file.

Which anti-virus program? I got 9.17 officially allow-listed with Windows Defender so that shouldn't be flagging it.


If you got your build of Playscii from here on itch.io, it should be safe to run. It looks like Bitdefender's submission/appeals process for false positives is limited to "enterprise" customers, so I can't really do anything about the detection from my end. Try telling Bitdefender to add an exception for it: https://www.bitdefender.com/consumer/support/answer/13427/

Windows Defender says this program contains a trojan virus called Wacatac.

Try downloading the latest version (9.16.2) and making sure your Windows Defender definitions are up to date; 9.16.1 was being falsely detected and I submitted the file to MS and they updated their definitions to avoid this. If you're all up to date and still seeing this, I might ask for some info about what exactly Defender is reporting.


Hey! Playscii is one of my favorite go-to applications for relaxing and building concept stuff, so I was thrilled to see the new version up, but apparently Bitdefender flags it as "potentially malicious" again :(

Thanks for the heads up, I'll see if there's anything I can do on my end.

Same with Windows Security

Amazing app but is there any way to import an image and have it converted to a charset without any colourising? EG my charset has 4 colour tiles and I'd like it to just use those exact colours without any tint


Interesting, so the character set image data itself has colors in it? I haven't actually tested with that. If you use a custom 2-color palette with just white (ie 1:1 source colors) and black, does it behave as expected?

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THanks for the quick reply :) yes the char set is 4-colour gameboy sprite sheets eg.......


I first tried a pure white pallette but in that case it imports the image in 1-bit black + white before processing the characters, and the final comes out overly light.... 

...and with a black and white pallette as you suggest, half the tiles are tinted black :(  

..... and if I use the same 4 colour pallette as the charset uses, the image imports in 4 colours + the ascii comes out better but it's then tinted different shades of the 4 green colours on top of the charset's original colours, whereas I need the pure un-tinted colours of the charset tiles. (I'm experimenting with making graphics for GB Studio games - https://www.gbstudio.dev )..... 


Hmm, interesting. This is definitely not something I thought of when designing the image conversion feature - support for multi-color character sets didn't exist back then. It seems like what the program should do here, to get the result you want, is reduce the image to the *character set's* palette instead. I'll put this on the TODO list (trello), but I'm not sure how much work is involved and can't offer any ETA on when it might happen. Thanks for raising this issue, sorry I didn't have a ready answer.

Makes sense.. Yes, reducing it to the char set's palette would work perfectly I think. Appreciated, and totally understand. Thanks!

I just managed to run Playscii on my (too old) hardware (GLSL 2.0) on Linux. Just start it like so:
LIBGL_ALWAYS_SOFTWARE=1 ./playscii_linux.sh

Performance is still ok, as long as you don’t enable CRT Filter.

I'm on Linux and I can't move my mouse cursor when the picker is open so I can't do anything with it... Any idea what's happening? I've read through your website and installed the python packages you mention, am I missing something else?

Very strange, I've never seen that issue before. Would you mind posting your log file? Are you running with a laptop trackpad or a mouse?

I was initially using a laptop trackpad, then following your message I tried plugging a USB mouse into my laptop. It works with the mouse, not with the trackpad.

Here is the output:

Playscii v0.9.12
Loading config from /home/myname/.config/Playscii/playscii.cfg...
Config loaded.
Detecting hardware...
  CPU: x86_64
  OS: Linux-5.2.2-arch1-1-ARCH-x86_64-with-arch
  Python: 3.7.3 (default, Jun 24 2019, 04:54:02)  [GCC 9.1.0] (64bit)
  Modules: PySDL2: 0.9.6, numpy: 1.16.4, PyOpenGL: 3.1.0, appdirs: 1.4.3, PIL: 6.1.0
  SDL: 2.0.6 hg-12373:8feb5da6f2fb, SDLmixer: 2.0.0
  Detected screen resolution: 1280 x 800, window: 1024 x 640
  GPU: Intel Open Source Technology Center - Mesa DRI Intel(R) Ivybridge Mobile 
  OpenGL detected: 3.0 Mesa 19.1.3
  GLSL detected: 1.30
  Vertex Array Object support found.
  Maximum supported texture size: 16384 x 16384
Loaded key binds from /home/myname/.config/Playscii/binds.cfg
init done.
Thank you for using Playscii!  <3

Are you invoking the picker by pressing the space bar, or holding it? Both should be valid and you can toggle that behavior in the Tool menu, but I've noticed some laptops lock out the trackpad when typing is happening (eg a key is being held). If you open a text editor and hold spacebar, does the trackpad work? If not it might be a hardware/OS level issue. Let me know if the behavior only happens with Playscii; it might be due to a quirk of SDL2 for example.

You're right, the trackpad stops working when I hold the space bar in general, not just in Playscii. As for the picker, if I press the space bar and don't hold it, it disappears. Is there a way around that?

Yes, in the Tool menu select "Picker toggle key: hold" and it will change to "Picker toggle key: press". Now you can invoke and dismiss the picker by tapping space bar, which should free the trackpad up for what you need.

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Same issue here, got a report that playscii.exe contains Trojan:Win32/Zpevdo.B

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Yeah, I'm seeing that Trojan too. No response from dev. Bit of a shame, wanted to give this tool a try, looks good.

I've released a new build, Playscii 0.9.12, which doesn't seem to trigger the false positive on my (Windows 10 64-bit) machine. I've added a note to the front page in case this occurs in future builds. Changing a few bytes seems to be all that's needed. I wish I knew how to avoid this!


Looks awesome!

Didn't work in my office PC which has an Intel Graphics Chip though.

The command prompt reads: "GLSL 1.30 or higher is required."

I will try it on my gaming PC.

I love Playscii, I've used it for a while. I cant wait for it to gain some traction.

it is bad to set

os.environ['PYSDL2_DLL_PATH'] = '.'

in playscii.py since pySDL2 will search the same thing. You's set

os.environ['PYSDL2_DLL_PATH'] = '.'

let me puzzled and used some time to find why I can `import sdl2` but playascii  complains that `could not find any library for SDL2 (PYSDL2_DLL_PATH: .)`


I'm not sure I understand what you're asking or suggesting. Is there a small code change I should make?

Can't run

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "site-packages\sdl2\dll.py", line 113, in <module>
  File "site-packages\sdl2\dll.py", line 54, in __init__
RuntimeError: could not find any library for SDL2 (PYSDL2_DLL_PATH: .)

During handling of the above exception, another exception occurred:

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "playscii.py", line 25, in <module>
  File "c:\python34\lib\site-packages\PyInstaller\loader\pyimod03_importers.py", line
 631, in exec_module
  File "site-packages\sdl2\__init__.py", line 2, in <module>
  File "c:\python34\lib\site-packages\PyInstaller\loader\pyimod03_importers.py", line
 631, in exec_module
  File "site-packages\sdl2\dll.py", line 115, in <module>
ImportError: could not find any library for SDL2 (PYSDL2_DLL_PATH: .)
[95952] Failed to execute script playscii

Is the file SDL2.dll missing from the program directory? I think it's included in the right spot with the Windows build.

Is there any way to export games made using playscii


You can distribute your game alongside Playscii, using the Windows EXE / a modified Mac app bundle / Python source, by including your game in the games/ subfolder, so there's no export process per se.

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Another thing you see is on the character set

On one side it is playscii on the other rexpaint I put two crosses to demonstrate the error in the specific character in the playscii that is not only in the dos charset  (the same charset of the rexpaint) also the most charsets have errors in their characters, I was trying to replicate the banner I made in rexpaint at playscii and it was almost impossible, can you fix the charsets? I loved your program ;-;

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Hey brow, i cant export to png ;-;  any solution? it said permission denied.... i tried to star as admin but nothing

Is there a way to save a project which is in C64 Petscii format as a compatible file? (As in, I should be able to take said file and put it on a C64 as SEQ and it would be displayable like standard C64 C/G files)

Hi there, sorry for the late response. I've been researching how to do C64 SEQ file export (and maybe import as well) and was having trouble finding info about the file format. I'm making some progress though. It will be available as an import "plugin" like the DOS ANSI file export etc. I'll either post the plugin file here or make it the main part of the 0.9.11 update. No ETA.

SEQ files themselves is just simply SEQuential data, nothing special there. For the C/G formatting, I don't think there should be anything special. It should just be each character to represent a C64 PETSCII character (space, cursor key, graphics, etc). Since you already have the PETSCII character set, the only thing I would figure is to see if those characters actually map up with the character codes.

C64 Petscii codes and Symbols

Beyond that, I can't imagine much more difficulty. Just would need to make sure when you export that it actually does blank spaces. Since Playscii is a static image, you might need to recognize cursor keys for importing. However, exporting this shouldn't be needed. This should only be needed for the animated (movie) C/G SEQ movie files.

If it will help, I can see about tossing you a few files from my BBS collection your way to inspect. I can include both static and animated.

Some samples would be great actually, thanks!

I can't seem to find a way to post files here (suspect you can't), so here is a link to download a small collection.

C64 C/G Picture collection

Inside, you will find a few C/G pic files (that on a C64 or in DirMaster, are correctly viewable). In addition, I made BMP images of each, so you can see what they should look like when viewed properly. I also included one C/G animated movie, just in case you find that interesting or useful (prob not as much for Playscii, but whatever).

Hope this helps!

On a scale of one to ten how likely would you be to sue me if I used this for my project https://sabbaticstudios.itch.io/asylum-of-the-dwarf-king ?


Zero? I don't understand why I'd sue anyone?! I made Playscii so that people could make things with it, the code is open source and there's no license whatsoever regarding the art you create with it. Do whatever you like!

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This is the coolest thing I've seen since TheDraw 4.63 for DOS :)

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Is there any way to change the folder you save documents to? I prefer to save documents on a different disk than the C drive, which in my case is an SSD (I just have program files and whatnot on there)


I'm using this code to detect the user's Documents dir: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/6227590/finding-the-users-my-documents-path/...

But it seems like that doesn't properly detect when the user has a non-default Documents dir location? That's frustrating, sorry. It looks like there's a module (called winshell) I could use to detect this. I'll add that to my TODO list.

In the meantime, if you're running Win7 or later and don't mind a bit of command line fiddling you could make a symbolic link between your default Documents dir's Playscii/ subdir and your desired Documents dir.  https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc753194(WS.10).aspx

What about an android port?

Neat and technically possible, but unlikely to be worth the massive effort - probably 9-12 months of full-time work. Playscii's UI is mouse and keyboard centric, it's coded in Python which isn't easy to get running on Android, and it uses regular OpenGL instead of OpenGL ES (the mobile flavor).

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Well I think that $5 would be a great price for a portable version and hopefully make the development time worth it. Few other developers I really like do that. Desktop versions free, mobile costs. Either way hopefully you decide to, would enjoy doing this to and from work on public transportation.

Edit: Also, if you could port it as is, with the ability to zoom in and out that would be awesome. Though I would use this on my phone, on my tablet as is would be fine. Check out SunVox if you get a chance. Has one of the best interfaces for this sort of thing on mobile.

Hey know this is free/nyop, but I gave up my last $0.50 to show you some support ;).

As ever, thanks for this. It's lovely, and makes me wish I sucked less at ASCII art.