If you've ever dreamed of making the fabled journey from Lands End to John O'Groats but can't quite summon the energy for the 874-mile trek, Ordnance Survey may just have the answer. The mapping authority has constructed a scale model of the country in the popular PC game Minecraft, using more than 22bn virtual building blocks.
OS Innovation Lab manager Graham Dunlop said the work took two weeks to complete by an intern, Joseph Braybook, a third-year physics student from the University of Bristol.
"When Joseph joined the team as part of Ordnance Survey's summer internship programme, we discovered he was an avid Minecraft fan," he added.
"We decided to build a Minecraft world using free-to-use OS OpenData products to display the landscape and terrain of Great Britain."
Braybook's project revolved around creating a software interface between the OS's OpenData and the complex but publicly documented Minecraft mapping format.
"It's not feasible to build that kind of scale by hand, so it was a good project for our software development house and our new internship program," said Dunlop.
Combining the data sets, the lab produced a scale reproduction with 86,000 geographically accurate square miles of Great Britain. To maintain the appearance of low-lying coastal features but still fit in mountainous terrain such as Ben Nevis – which is just over 128 blocks high within the game – Braybook chose a maximum height of 2,500 metres, scaling it down to fit the 256-block height limit in Minecraft.
Minecraft is a popular video game that allows its 33 million players to build, explore and play in a virtual 3D world, using small cubes representing different materials such as rock, sand and lava.
Often described as a digital version of Lego, Minecraft has seen dozens of ambitious modelling projects, including a scale reproduction of the USS Voyager from Star Trek, and the city of King's Landing from the TV and novel series, Game of Thrones.
Players can co-operate within the virtual world to build structures, create user-generated adventures and challenges, and defend against a variety of in-game monsters.
The OS's Minecraft Britain consists of 22 billion blocks built in the virtual world, which is the "largest and most detailed geographically accurate model built yet within Minecraft," according to Dunlop.
It starts with the OS's head office in Southampton, through which Minecraft players can enter and explore the geographically-accurate 3D representation of Great Britain.
Users can then recreate real-life man-made features on the map, such as Stonehenge or the Shard in London, iconic landmarks from fiction such as Hogwarts school or Wuthering Heights, or construct their own buildings and monuments with their imagination the only limitation.
Minecraft fans who already own the game on their PC or Mac can download the map from the OS website. The homepage provides useful information, such as the XYZ co-ordinates of some geographic locations such as Mount Snowdon and Lake Windermere. Players can then customise the map, adding their own favourite scenic features.
The Minecraft map of Great Britain can be downloaded here. You'll need 5GB of free disk space and at least 4GB of memory. After that, you're free to explore the whole country from the safety of your armchair.
"We have no immediate plans for the map, but we'll wait and see what kinds of requests the OS gets revolving around the data. For now, it's our gift to the world of Minecraft," Dunlop said.
Source: The Guardian