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December 7, 2016 5:27 AM   Subscribe

An Atari 2600 Emulator in Minecraft built by Youtube user SethBling. After the initial 'wow' response this is actually a fascinating under-the-hood model/demo/explanation of how video game cartridges and displays functioned.
posted by carter (8 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
posted by leotrotsky at 6:05 AM on December 7, 2016

Just wow.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:14 AM on December 7, 2016

Racing the -beam- armor stand, indeed. The fact that in the comments, he points out that many of his emulator glitches are coming from the fact that he misses the timing for drawing some of the screen elements, even at the emulator's much slower than real world speed, shows just how tight the code of those original designers had to be.

The part where he goes along the unwrapped cartridge is very illustrative, and if you're wondering what the non-graphical bytes of data were that were mixed in with the recognizable game sprites, Ben Fry's Distellamap visualizations show the opcodes and how they branch.

The only thing that really boggles me is that someone can know enough about the system to be able to achieve that sort of accomplishment, but not know that the 2600 actually did have 4 ghosts, but only drew each ghost every 4th frame, relying on the persistence of the lit TV phosphors to create flickery afterimages that gave a ghostly appearance (In fact, the arcade version never even referred to them as ghosts, it took the manual for the 2600 version to add that to the wider canon of the franchise).
posted by radwolf76 at 6:29 AM on December 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

It's getting harder and harder for me to reject the idea that we are living in a simulated universe running inside some other virtual environment. I mean honestly, if Minecraft, of all things, can simulate a freaking Atari 2600...

As frightening as it is to think of us as being emulated in Minecraft, that's actually one of the most benign games I can think of for our world to be simulated by. I mean what if it were Resident Evil LVII or something?
posted by Naberius at 6:55 AM on December 7, 2016

Now I'm kind of curious to see what an Atari 2600 version of Minecraft would look like. 16x16 block world in 2D with 4 creepers, none of which can show up on the screen at the same time.
posted by bondcliff at 7:08 AM on December 7, 2016

Prior efforts (7 years ago)
ICU64: Real-time Hacking of a C64 Emulator
posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:10 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I mean honestly, if Minecraft, of all things, can simulate a freaking Atari 2600...

FWIW, this (still impressive) design uses the relatively new command blocks, which run high-level commands and are thus a lot more powerful than the primitive redstone logic gates used in older (also impressive) projects.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:23 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

It looks as though the command blocks are basically the CPU of the simulated Atari; my son pointed out the repeater block that I figure must cycle it. The floor you are standing on is used at least partly as RAM for the graphics, and the rectangular solids are the ROM cartridges stored as binary (stone =1, dirt =0). As far as I can tell Seth has not constructed a controller yet. hard would it be to find the key-listener code in the ROM (dig for it!) and put in a command that can switch the important blocks on and off using a pressure plate and some redstone down in front of the screen?
posted by TreeRooster at 10:31 AM on December 10, 2016

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