12 Jun AiroAV Antivirus Announces: Inside the ambitious plan to build a Minecraft version of…
Over the past few months, Aren Zouain has spent countless hours designing and erecting Australian buildings.
But Mr Zouain isn’t an architect or construction worker. He’s one of 1,700 Australians who have teamed up to take part in an ambitious plan to create an exact replica of the Earth in the popular video game Minecraft.
The game, which was first popular with school-aged kids but appeals to all ages, lets players build terrain, objects and structures out of Lego-like blocks in cartoonish, three-dimensional graphics.
Constructing a virtual version of a building in Minecraft can take teams of builders dozens of hours.
Mr Zouain’s magnum opus is the Sydney Opera House, which took him and others around 60 hours to complete.
Overcoming the difficulty of assembling the building’s rounded shells with the game’s cubic blocks, the Australian landmark’s Minecraft equivalent is accurate down to the internal structures and landscaping.
‘The single, most greatest achievement in Minecraft’
More than 210,000 people worldwide are participating in the Build The Earth project, an idea launched in March by popular American YouTuber PippenFTS in a video that’s been viewed nearly 10 million times.
More than 90 communities of builders grouped by location are using a modified version of Minecraft to construct their own piece of the world.
Launched as countries began to enforce lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PippenFTS challenged his followers to build a version of the Earth that players could explore from their own homes.
To assist in the project and get around the game’s restrictions on the height of structures, PippenFTS sourced custom modifications that make it possible to build the Earth to scale.
One modification, Terra 1 to 1, allows players to draw from public online datasets — like Google Maps data — to automatically and accurately generate the Earth’s structures, including natural terrain, trees, soil and roads.
PippenFTS was able to instantaneously create versions of the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest using this method.
People also employ this modification to create a realistic Minecraft map for their geographical area, which then serves as the canvas for players to start constructing buildings.
The goal, according to PippenFTS, is to one day stitch the maps together from every group to create a single map of the Earth containing every human structure.
“The single, most greatest achievement in Minecraft.”
Building a virtual version of Australia
Australia’s New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory team is the second largest in the world, only behind New York.
A welcoming, tight-knit community comprising people from all walks of life has formed around a shared purpose: to build a realistic version of Australia in the game, said Nino Small, a film student who volunteers as one of the team’s moderators.
Along with the Sydney Opera House, they’ve also completed detailed versions of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay.
But co-ordinating the construction between hundreds of builders is no easy feat.
In the NSW-ACT server, people have to go through an application process before they can start building, which requires providing proof that you’ve built a realistic structure before.
Approved builders then must make a request to build certain areas, Mr Small said.
“Once you join, you’re free to do whatever. We’ve got people doing parts of [Sydney’s] CBD, Kiama, Rose Hill and out in the western suburbs.”
“Most people come on, claim a tower or a city block or two, and then finish it in a few hours,” he said.
“An amazing environment to meet like-minded people”
For Mr Zouain, the appeal isn’t just the challenge of designing realistic buildings — it’s the thrill of working collaboratively to create a tribute to the city he loves so he can share with the rest of the world.
International players often log into the NSW-ACT server to explore Australia, a place they may have never visited before.
“It is so rewarding to see areas of Australia we can’t visit in the real world, communicated and transcribed into a virtual world,” Mr Zouain said. “It is also an amazing environment to meet like-minded people online and create strong friendships.”
People will often work together in the evening, joining a voice call as they build different parts of Australia.
Players are given points by other players for completed buildings based on the size and quality of the project. The points aren’t used for anything other than to represent a builder’s contribution.
Despite working closely together, the community use pseudonyms, hiding their true identities.
Mr Small still doesn’t know the real names of any of the builders that he spends hours every week talking to and working with.
Unlike the toxicity that occurs in some online spaces, Mr Small is proud to say they’ve built a supportive and trusting community.
“No-one’s ever come on and been rude, or mean, or to grief — that’s a Minecraft term for when players destroy other player’s structures,” he said.
“It’s such a tight-knit community. We get visitors from around the world who say they’ve seen images of our builds on Facebook. It’s great to hear people from outside — even if they’ve never been to Australia — recognise our community’s work.”