Want To See What The United Kingdom Looks Like Up Close? Just Play Minecraft!
A few months back, I wrote about how Denmark's Ministry of Environment re-created it's country in Minecraft using public mapping software. Now, it looks like the United Kingdom has followed suit. That's right, folks - there's now a fully explorable map of the British Isles on the Internet. All you need to see it for yourself is a copy of Minecraft (and the map itself, of course)
According to the British Geological Survey, inspiration for the map came from the Ordnance Survey; a 22-million block representation of mainland Great Britain. Using the OS data as a template, the BGS drew on real-world maps of geology and geography in order to create a map that's accurate right down to the placement of bedrock. That's right, folks - every cave, quarry, hill, and valley is represented in all their angular glory.
That's not all, either. In order to ensure that the map was as accurate as possible, the team examined all the different types of Minecraft blocks with respect to their hardness, texture, and appearance; in each case, they tried to find the best possible real-world match. In some cases, matching the block up was simple - a sand block, for example, could be used on a beach. In others, things got a little more complicated; the team ended up using soul sand to represent peat (due to "its sinking characteristics, which are very similar in nature to real-world peat bogs).
All in all, it's an incredibly impressive undertaking...but I'm sure at least a few of you are wondering what its purpose is. After all, the Denmark map had a very clear objective - driving tourism. What does the British Geological Survey hope to accomplish?
Simple: they want to educate people.
"This work is an outstanding opportunity to get people using Minecraft, especially youngsters, to understand the geology beneath their feet and what it can be used for," explained BGS Executive Director Professor John Ludden in a prepared statement.
Now, it's worth noting at this point that the entire map doesn't appear to be charted out on a real-world scale - on the original OS page, each block represents an area of approximately 50 square meters. The project page further makes reference to a "modified and scaled version of NEXTMap Britain data." While that's rather disappointing, I'm not terrible surprised to hear it. It does make a fair bit of sense, after all - the map of Denmark required a full terabyte of hard drive space. The British Isles would require at least three times that. Not exactly accessible for the average user, right?
Not only that, it'd be next to impossible to get anywhere without requiring hours (or days) of travel, even with the teleportation commands included in the download. With all that in mind, it's probably better that it's scaled down a bit. Plus, it's staggeringly huge even scaled down as it is; there's still thousands upon thousands of kilometers of geography to explore (or, if the urge strikes you, to build in).
Either way, it's an extremely impressive product, one that once more showcases the educational potential of Minecraft.