Minecraft is the blocky building game which has taken the world by storm. Set in a seemingly simple world made from cubes you might think the game was somewhat limited. It doesn’t even have a set storyline to follow. You wake up and have to start punching down trees just to stay alive and go from there.
It is this total freedom to do whatever you like that has made the game so popular. It certainly isn’t the radically unflashy graphics. It is up to the user to imagine themselves in the world. What they do there is equally up to them. So punch down a tree, never dig straight down, and build the world of your dreams.
The beauty of Minecraft is that you can build literally anything you can think of. Hell, Marcus “Notch” Persson, the game’s creator, built a fortune of $1.5 billion from it. If he can do that the least you can do is build a house a little more complex than a pile of dirt. Each new version of the game brings new in game items but it is not these that are the main draw of laying Minecraft. There is only so much excitement a new texture of block can generate. It’s the things that you can do with it that are important.
Luckily there are people out there with big imaginations and the time to make them (sort of) reality. By combining the relatively few natural materials in the game they have managed to generate the following 15 crazy builds.
15 The Pokemon World
What’s better than one fantastically popular game? Remaking an even bigger game inside it! The PokeCraft project was set up by fans to create the Kanto region from the first Pokemon game in Minecraft.
The whole map is there and fully explorable, though sadly Pokemon-free. In many ways having caves free of Zubats makes this one better than the original. It can be downloaded for users to wander through in a nostalgia filled daze while they wait for either a better version of PokemonGo or a proper Pokemon MMORPG. Come on Nintendo, Minecraft is showing you the way!
Not content with just the first game the project has expanded to recreating the maps from the other Pokemon games, all set on a chain of islands oddly reminiscent of Japan.
14 A Working Calculator
There are two types of people in the world: those born to use a calculator and those born to embarrass those people by actually making their own calculators. Thanks to the inclusion of a material called redstone which can transmit a signal several people have worked out how to design calculators from it inside the game.
By arranging certain blocks in rows and controlling how signals are responded to, just like in a real world computer, Minecraft is perfectly able to model calculators. The complex ways simple rules can be exploited is mind-boggling. Using the ability of some blocks to push other blocks they are even able to have their calculator display the result of their calculations.
Now to calculate the length of time it took to create these calculators in the first place...
13 Roller Coasters
Creepy abandoned mines would be nothing without cobwebs, spiders, and mine carts. The first two are mere annoyances and atmospheric add-ons. The mine carts on the other hand have opened up a whole field of Minecraft ingenuity - as well as being a welcome source of loot. No sooner had mine carts been added to the game than users figured out they were more than a slightly faster way to travel.
By placing the mine carts on tracks that race up and down structures virtual theme parks have sprung up all over Minecraft worlds. Blocks in Minecraft don’t need to be supported so physics is somewhat easier than in reality. The only limits to the Minecraft roller coasters are the limits of the world itself. Also the riders’ willingness to plummet over an edge and fall to their death. But that’s true in the real world too.
Gothic Cathedrals were soaring buildings taking decades (or centuries) and thousands of men to create. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Luckily Minecraft gives a modern cathedral builder the perfect outlet for their architectural whimsies.
Some builders set out to faithfully recreate famous cathedrals – like Notre Dame in Paris. Others unleash their creativity and take the best parts of gothic architecture and build entirely new constructs. While real world churches have to submit to the laws of physics even as they rise to heaven those in Minecraft have no such limits. Towers, spires, and glass windows impossible to their medieval forebears are all the work of hours instead of decades.
For those without the flair to create their own cathedral designs there are numerous websites where blue-prints can be downloaded for you to copy.
11 So... Much… Pixel Art…
It did not take people long to realize that the blocks that make up Minecraft can be used like pixels to create images. The range of colours of those blocks has proved sufficient to generate art – up to and including the Mona Lisa. The Minecraft Mona may lack the subtleties of the original but Leonardo had more to work with than hay and wool.
One world record piece of pixel art used a million blocks to create an image of a desktop wallpaper. The creator did it all by hand, not using software that would use an image he input as a shortcut. It also took him 23 weeks. He did livestream his efforts and raised $3500 dollars for charity. The result is so large that the blocky nature of his materials disappears when the whole picture is looked at. Sort of puts the usual Nyan Cats and Dick Pics to shame.
Disneyland is the fantasy world all children long to visit. There are Disney parks all over the world and now there are parks in the virtual world too. You can even pick the Disneyland of your youth. As the parks have changed over the years so have their layouts. If you have a hankering for the 50s, someone's built it, and the same goes for parks of all eras. Legend has it there is even a cryo-chamber hidden in some of the parks with a frozen head in it.
There is something about the parks which has made them a common target for copying. Some just pick out the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, others go for a total recreation. All of the attractions of the park are made in total detail. There are even servers where people play the role of theme park employees and guide visitors around. It’s the ideal deal – all access to park and none of the queues.
9 Quidditch Pitch
While there are college Quidditch leagues where people run around with brooms between their legs they lack some of the excitement of the ‘real’ thing. The college version tends not to include broken arms or Bludger attacks. I suppose splinters in sensitive areas may be an issue - but it's still not the same level of thrill. Quidditch in Minecraft however gives you the chance to swoop through the field and around the towering stands.
Many people have tried their hands at making an accurate Quidditch pitch. If you feel the need there are even videos on YouTube where you can watch them making them. If you have a spare seven hours to spare then you can look them up. If however you just want to play at being a wizard there are many maps where you can download the completed pitches.
8 The Imperial City
The Imperial City takes the grandest elements of any city in the world. The buildings come in all styles – so long as they are magnificent. The city was the work of many people and continued over a long time. Those who want to are able to download the capital city and wander through its wide boulevards.
The harbour contains a classic lighthouse and giant statues. Venetian townhouses crowd the waterfront. The river which cuts through the city runs in front of an enormous Winter Palace. Parks and markets and squares are dotted throughout. There is even a Roman style circus if you want to take in a chariot race. If you feel it's missing something (I can't think of anything) then you are free to add to the glory of the Imperial City. Just think big.
The more time you spend in the Imperial City the more you might start asking what their immigration policy is. And whether the creators had read the works of Freud.
7 Sonic the Hedgehog Game
The Pokemon recreation mentioned earlier is cool but if you want a playable game then you have to give it to this Sonic the Hedgehog. The whole design is pretty perfect in terms of appearances. The block of Minecraft lend themselves to the low resolution world of the early Sonic games. If it was just that then it would still be a nifty build. But this set up comes with its own playable track and an in-game timer accurate to a tenth of a second to check how well you do.
Players have to race around the reconstructed level avoiding pitfalls, hitting checkpoints, and being launched into the air by TNT-powered jumps. A tumble into the water isn't fatal but will cost you vital seconds. There’s a tunnel that runs through the mouth of Dr Robotnik. The only thing missing is the hedgehog himself – but I’m sure there’s a skin you can download for that.
6 Ancient Babylon
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And nor was Babylon. This city, modelled on the Ancient city, was build by one Minecrafter and his girlfriend over months. While not a totally faithful reconstruction it borrows from the style of the Babylonians.
Others have built their own versions of Babylon which include the ancient wonder – the Hanging Gardens. In fact all of the ancient wonders – pyramids, temples, statues – have been built in block form in Minecraft. Since only the pyramids still survive in anything like their original form there’s no way of telling how accurate the Minecraft models are. But they’re certainly impressive.
Others who have tackled Babylon have used the Epic of Gilgamesh as their inspiration and gone for mighty walls and stepped ziggurats. It's a neat way for the modern world to link us to our past. And they said the Classics were useless.
5 Minas Tirith
Minas Tirith, capital city of Gondor in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, is one of the most iconic fantasy cities. Built around a jutting mountain with concentric layers of city behind walls it towers above the plain below.
The gleaming white city is beautifully detailed. From the huge single gate in the outer wall to the white tree growing in the upper courtyard it follows the depiction of the city in the final Lord of the Rings film. Each of the houses is modelled in detail and has a decorated interior, should you wish to drop in for a mug of mead. There are even catapults on the outer all to defend against the armies of Mordor. You can even leap from the cliff if you fancy doing a Denethor.
If you want something with a bit more of a dark glamour you can also download Minas Tirith's evil twin - Minas Morgul - home to the Witch King.
4 Playable Guitar
The music used in Minecraft is as stripped back and minimalist as the game itself. If you want to create something a little more complex then you’ll just have to make your own instruments. By standing on pressure sensitive pads you can send signals to noteblocks that play a single note. Inspired by the piano scene in the movie BIG someone put together a walk-on keyboard.
Here someone went in a more stringy direction. Using some of the fancy circuitry made possible by redstone you can loop notes and use them to create any song you like. Okay, it only has ten chords, but that’s still more than most people ever learn to play. Building your own guitar makes it more impressive than just mastering Guitar Hero.
Yes, the actual guitar in the build is purely decorative. But if you are going to the effort of creating a musical instrument the least you can do is make it look pretty.
3 Working Computers
I have no idea how my computer works. It might as well be magic elves pulling strings in there. Luckily for me there are those who know how to make computers. And there are people who know how to make computers within computer games.
Using redstone as a replacement for wires various users have constructed hard drives. Pathways can be turned on and off by the physical pushing of blocks. The storage capacity is relatively small, a few kilobytes, but that’s still a huge achievement given, you know, how it is not something the game was designed to do. The computers may not work at the speed we're used to (redstone is slower than electricity) but they actually compare quite well to the first ones ever made. Give these designers a bit more time and who knows where we'll get to. Now we just have to wait for someone to build a computer in Minecraft capable of playing Minecraft.
It is one thing to create a fantasy setting in Minecraft – who will know if you get anything wrong? It’s another thing to make a whole nation on a 1 to 1 scale. Simple scale maps have been produced by other people but Denmark went one further. Using satellite imagery the Danish Geodata Agency generated a complete virtual Denmark. They even managed to map buildings in cities.
The creators did take some short cuts. All the buildings have flat roofs. But the government was offering this project as an educational tool so they didn’t much care. They wanted people to explore parts of the country that people rarely visit and they also wanted them to make the map more accurate by rebuilding it. They also wanted people to learn about city design and management. They encouraged visitors to plant forests and beautify the landscape.
They did disable dynamite though. Creating in Minecraft is fun but blowing stuff up always has its appeals too.
WesterosCraft was a project to build an entire continent. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of books is mostly set in Westeros. To build a Minecraft copy took hundreds of dedicated users years to complete. Seen above is Kings Landing, the capital of Westeros, but all the other cities and towns and major locations mentioned in the books are there.
In many ways this is a better representation of the books than the Game of Thrones TV show. The show never visits some of the most interesting parts of Martin’s world. If you want to mine for gold you can dig under Casterly Rock. If you want to walk the entire length of the Wall, you can. If you want to enjoy the delights of Little Finger's brothels... well you'll have to look somewhere else. This is a family reconstruction.
Now you have something to do in the Long Night before the arrival the next book in the series - make your own Westeros. Don't worry, you've got time.