For many people, building blocks and video games like Minecraft offer an escape from the stresses of life.
Minecraft, the bestselling video game of all time, has enabled its players to create breathtakingly complex structures and even entire worlds.
It was especially popular during the 2020s when a total of 141 million people played Minecraft every month. Minecraft players can create anything they want with simple blocks.
They’ve created the imaginary city of Atlantis, which doesn’t exist in the real world, and complex structures like France’s Orleans cathedral. One reason behind the game’s runaway success is that it’s incredibly easy to learn, but also really fun.
It wasn’t until a coding breakthrough in the past two years that reconstructing Earth became a reality. The Project called, “Build the Earth“, lets players reconstruct New York City on a 1:1 scale with 1 cubic meter blocks. That project has 2,731 members from around the world who are dedicated to using Minecraft to create an exact replica of New York City.
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According to curbed.com, A 21-year-old developer from Frankfurt, Minefact has been building neighborhoods in New York City using a program he created that uses Google Maps data to create rough buildings and structures. Minefact originally wanted to build his hometown using the generator but noticed that the open street map data was incomplete in Germany as compared to New York City.
“The quality I was getting with New York City’s open-street map was way better than what I was getting with Frankfurt“, he said. He switched his focus to his new project, Build the Earth, which began back in March of 2020 when a user, PippenFTS, posted a video on YouTube explaining two modifications he had made to Minecraft that had created a rough outline of all of the Earth’s geological features.
Minefact chose the 9/11 memorial to be the first building on Build the Earth. However, an error on the map was discovered. The pool’s squares were distorted, stretched into rhombuses. Other players, in other parts of the world, reported similar incongruities.
“We realized the current projection didn’t work,” he said. “So we had to create a new one”. With tens of thousands of players ready to go, Build the Earth’s organizers put the project on pause.
Unable to fill the world with misshapen, funhouse-mirror buildings, they consulted Daniel Strebe, a mathematician specializing in map projections. Over one frenzied week, they developed a novel projection that focused distortion in only the oceans rather than land. Construction resumed shortly after.
The 9/11 memorial build session is captured in a time-lapse video that is hypnotic to watch. With an entire city to reconstruct, players gave themselves a reasonable limit: They would only craft the exteriors of buildings.
None of these players, Minefact, D3cent, or Bobert has ever been to New York City, but they all hope to visit eventually. At this pace, the world’s most populous city, with more than eight million residents and nearly nine million jobs, could be mapped in a matter of years. The entire city, which contains around one million buildings, would take decades.
“One day I’ll go there”, said Minefact. “But I created the whole city. So maybe I’ll end up being perfectly oriented …”