Visiting Great Britain just got cheaper and a whole lot more low-resolution. The Ordnance Survey (OS), the official mapping body of the country, just made available a free, open version of its digital mapping data for England, Scotland and Wales as a downloadable map for the wildly popular and innovative game Minecraft.
Consisting of over 22 billion blocks, and covering some 220,000 square km (almost 85,000 square miles) of mapped land, the OS’s Minecraft version covers mainland Britain and most of its islands, save for the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
Users of the Minecraft Britain can build their own structures onto the map, and the OS has encouraged projects such as schools recreating their own local environments, or creating and placing a model of Hogwarts in the Highlands. Over 33 million copies of the game have been distributed worldwide over PC, mobile and Xbox, and the Xbox version was the top-selling game in the UK in July.
The process of squeezing Britain into a Minecraft map was relatively straightforward, and took intern Joseph Braybrook, a fan of the game, approximately two weeks to work out, with just seven hours needed to do the full render on a standard desktop PC. From the OS side, the experiment is notable as it uses the agency’s new open mapping toolset, OS OpenData.
Other real and fictional locations have been constructed in Minecraft, which provides tools to construct whole environments from scratch as well as closed gameplay. Last year, a project to recreate vast amounts of Westeros from Game of Thrones gained attention. Mojang, the game’s creator, has worked with the UN to provide tools to recreate local neighborhoods for redesign in places like Nairobi’s Kibera slums, but this is the first time an entire country has been converted into game environment.
Here are screenshots of the UK in Minecraft: