Monday, 31 October 2016

From Survival to Creative - Five Years in Making

Earlier today I came across something that really captivated me for a moment. It was a gallery of a huge build that according to the title took 5 years to build. The link to the gallery was originally published on reddit, but has quickly gained quite a lot of popularity in only one day, over 300 thousand views and 14 thousand points. Let's take a look at what could have possibly made the imgur community push a Minecraft creation to go viral.

A 2D top-down view of the map.

The creator tells us a short story of how he started and what motivated him. Before he started the build he was playing exclusively in survival mode, but deep inside always knew that great things await him and that he was destined for something more then just trying to survive one more night in just another randomly generated world. One day he decided to take a break from survival and started building a simple castle with some tunnels underneath. After a couple of months of effort a great tragedy took place, his computer crashed during an electrical storm followed by a save file corruption. Like anyone else in his situation, he stepped back and allowed himself some rest from Minecraft. However that did not stop his restless hearth from searching to create something great, something cool. One morning he awoke with a clear vision of what he had to do. Five years later, we get a glimpse of his dream, in form of a few screenshots that certainly don't do this build justice.

The city, viewed from sky.

The build is a huge city that sprawls around a carefully designed castle. The design of the castle took inspiration from Gothic architecture and the Lord of The Rings fantasy franchise, as did the rest of the city. The city itself is divided into three sections: the fortress, the residential wing and the royal township. Each section or wing was designed with complexity and elegance in mind:

This slice of the central castle gives an idea of the level of internal complexity. This kind of detail is pretty consistent throughout the build. One of the things I really wanted to achieve was a depth to everything, such that you only ever saw the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was there. Almost every structure is somehow connected underneath with subterranean passageways, if you're lucky enough to be able to find your way there.

Notice that there is no direct pattern to how elements are designed and placed.

Another interesting feature here is the underground section of the city built underneath the caste that would appear to contain a sea of lava, and we all know you can't go wrong with lava. Not only does this creation look massive and detailed on the 'outside', but there seems to be more 'inside', or to be more precise - underground. This section is riddled with caves, passageways and structures that, in author's words: "eventually become lost in Minecraft's natural caves and abandoned shafts".

The city is literally swimming in lava, I love it!

Special attention has been placed on the 'look and feel' of things. This is unfortunately not the case with many generic builds the community stencils out these days. What matter to most, is how big, impressive or cool something is. Even though these things indeed are important to a certain degree, what is inevitably lost in the process is that spark of originality, the touch of finesse coming directly from the artists heart.

The author explains his artistic direction:
Because of my roots playing Survival, I wanted the whole thing to feel like Minecraft, as if you could be exploring the biomes and the structure just appears above the trees as you walk along. I love the way the game has its own natural environment, so I wanted that to wrap around the things I built as if it was just the algorithm regenerating around it. I'm not sure if I captured that or not, but that was the aim.

The castle blends nicely with the environment around it.

On top of everything, this map contains a custom resource pack specifically created by the author to fit the needs and wishes of his creation. With the combined power of image editing and creativity, mossy stones became columns, paintings became steely castle decorations, cakes became boxes of provisions and vanilla glass became cool. The fact that textures are as important as shapes has been proven over and over again, what is the point in building some- thing awesome if it looks like a pile of rotting manure. Minecraft textures are not very impressive in my opinion, but they do tend to be adequate enough to give you the general idea of Minecraft's artistic direction. After that it's up to you choose the right resource pack for you and paint the world as you see fit.

Now, I know what you're thinking: where do I download this thing? Unfortunately the map is not available for download yet. This could change in the future though, as the author has received many requests to make the map public. It's very likely that he's just overwhelmed with the amount of positive responses he received in just one day, that he's probably just taking the time to come to his senses. Along with many in the comment section of the gallery, I too would like to throw an epic survival session on a multiplayer server with fellow 'soarvivors', but for now all we can do is hope. And of course leave a positive comment on the original imgur post, letting the author know how awesome he is. Be sure to mention that you're counting on him to publish that map.

Hope you've enjoyed reading this article, make sure to leave a comment and share if you did. Until next time, keep on rocking those builds and have fun playing Minecraft!

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