Updated: July 6, 2021 12:02:55 pm
By Satviki Sanjay
The Taj Mahal is considered as one of the most beautiful buildings ever created. It has been celebrated in legends, art, paintings, and now, even as a Minecraft replica. In a Reddit post that has now gone viral, a project called Build the Earth showed how it managed to successfully recreate the monument on the popular game Minecraft. And they are on a mission to map the entire planet on the game, 1:1 scale.
Build the Earth (BTE) was a project started last year in March. As people around the world retreated inside their homes due to the pandemic, Youtuber PippenFTS pondered on the possibility of recreating this planet—and its beautiful cities, towns, and landmarks—on Minecraft. People had built structures from shows like the Game of Thrones, their universities and college campuses, and even entirely fictional universes, all through that game. To map the entire planet on the game, however, was a mammoth task.
It was not impossible, however. The surface area of the earth is around 500 million square kilometres, while the surface area of Minecraft is 4 billion square kilometres. If someone tried, they could fit eight whole planets on the game. And so, PippenFTS embarked on this journey where one block on the game is equal to one metre on Earth.
He put a call out for Minecraft builders to join the project in a video that has now amassed more than 13 million views. People joined in enthusiastically, and took measurements with the help of Google Earth and Google Maps. “We saw an incredible response,” Andrew Krug, BTE representative, tells indianexpress.com. “People usually started with their hometowns—buildings that they are familiar with—or with famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty.”
Over the past year, they have built a community of more than 200,000 members. “But the best part about the project is that it allows people to see how amazing the planet really is,” adds Krug. To see the places you have seen in real life in the game—or, for that matter, the places you haven’t yet—is a surreal experience, he says.
According to their website, they have 4237 ongoing build projects, which together cover about 6275 square kilometres. While the progress they’ve made in the past year is huge, “in the grand scheme of things, it is barely anything”, says Krug. So far, cities like London and New York have been mapped almost entirely. For the other parts of the world, it is different: India has seen one of its first finished projects in the Taj Mahal.
The 42-acre complex was built and finished over three long months. “The Taj Mahal is one of my favourite monuments in the world—it is one of the seven wonders of the world and iconic,” says Daniel Tan, the Minecraft builder who worked to materialise the monument. “Because it hadn’t been recreated in the project before September last year, I decided to take on it as my first big landmark project.”
The process of recreating the white marbled monument and its entire compound was slightly complicated. “The monument is not pictured perfectly on Google maps and has several distortions. I had to measure everything by myself to find out how big the complex and the buildings are,” says Tan. Even though the Malaysian builder has never seen the Taj in real life, through Google Maps, Google Earth and other sources which gave him the accurate dimensions of the monument and its complex, he finished the project last year in December.
Apart from the Taj Mahal, some parts of Mumbai, Bangalore and Varanasi have also been remade in the game. But they do have big plans for the country, especially Mumbai. They have built the famous Ambani residence Antilia, but Andrew says they want to work on building landmarks like the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
The team is battling the loss of motivation in some of the members. This is a project without any financial incentive and has no end in the foreseeable future because of the large scale it operates on. Because of this, they routinely see members tired after a year of working. They are also facing a shortage of members, especially from countries like India that remain largely unscaled. “This project is huge, and is going to last several years,” adds Krug. “For that, we need more members from as many regions as possible so we can map the planet accurately.”
Eventually, they hope this becomes an educational tool, especially in the light of the pandemic and travel restrictions. With features of the game that allow players to tour cities and even the interiors of structures, this tool can help open avenues for virtual field trips. Studying the architecture of faraway places, studying the maps of different cities, or simply exploring a new city in another continent—the possibilities are quite endless.
(The writer is an intern with The Indian Express)