Building a model of a well-known physical form in Minecraft is an old fascination for us by now. Early in the days of the game’s meteoric rise in popularity, we were stunned by scale models of the USS Enterprise, the Taj Mahal, and the underwater city Rapture from Bioshock.
But even beyond those massive structures, there are still limits to push. And computer science PhD student Christopher Mitchell has found one: a 1:1 model of the island of Manhattan, down to perfect replicas of the individual buildings.
Plenty of video games are set in New York: Crysis 2, Crysis 3, Spider Man 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, and The Godfather II among them. But even when their versions feel right, they tend to be highly stylized and compressed, unable to commit to the full scale of the city. By harnessing a significant amount of processing power and a number of algorithms, Mitchell hopes to eventually create a much more faithful portrayal, albeit one composed of parts that Minecraft players are normally using to frantically defend themselves against Creepers.
Mitchell hopes to complete the map as an expression of how far computing power has come. In the past, video games have relied on either the painstaking work of artists or a procedural algorithm to create a setting. With a functional SparseWorld, games could, theoretically, be set in familiar locations without having to be an artist’s rendering limited by the constraints of a single system.
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