Late last year, we told you about the Chungus 2, a virtual computer that was “built” within the blocky world of Minecraft. The initial processor design could play super-basic games like Snake on a 32×32 display. Minecraft builder Sammyuri and their team have been expanding the enormous project. Now, the virtual computer is powerful enough to play…Minecraft. Surprisingly, this hasn’t opened any black holes or portals to the netherworld, at least not that we know of.
The Chungus 2 and similar in-game Minecraft computers use physical game elements to mirror designs of real-world processors and other computer hardware like memory and storage. They’re essentially using the game’s physics engine to simulate computer science principles on an enormous scale. Because each “block” in Minecraft is one meter cubed, the scale of these projects is absolutely massive, even when using modding tools to bypass the usual mining and movement game mechanics. The 8-bit computer is made out of complex blocks like torches, repeaters, pistons, levers, and, most crucially, “redstone dust” that acts as an electrical conductor.
It took creators Sammyuri, Uwerta, StackDoubleFlow, and other volunteers seven months to expand the existing 8-bit 1.0-hertz design, adding eight kilobytes of memory, 256 bytes of RAM, a full GPU, and six kilobytes of video memory on a dedicated “graphics card.” They also expanded the screen to 96×96. With hardware accelerators and a new controller design, the full Chungus 2 project is now the size of several city blocks (in-game, of course). The newly-expanded version shown off in the video was spotted by PCGamer.
Technically, the original design and many similar Minecraft virtual computers could already play Minecraft and any other program, it would just take several days to render a single 3D frame. The expanded Chungus 2 is running a custom, scaled-down version of the game, with an interior world of 8x8x8 blocks. Familiar game elements like mining different resources and creating tools with basic recipes are present in the black-and-white virtual world. It’s not easy, but the player was eventually able to make a house in the tiny cube.
Even running a tiny, custom-made Minecraft world takes the virtual computer an incredibly long time. Unlike the simple Snake and Tetris games of the original design, Sammyuri had to speed up the video “roughly 2,000,000x times” in order to actually show the 3D graphics moving in a recognizable way and that was with the server modified to run the physics engine at 10,000 times its normal speed.
Now all that’s left to do is wait for the inevitable: who will be the first to build a computer-in-a-computer-in-a-computer that can play Minecraft in Minecraft in Minecraft? And, perhaps more pertinently, will they be able to do it before the heat death of the universe?