(The screenshots in this post were all taken by me on November 9th 2016)
On Thursday 27th of October I attended a talk about Plymouth Cubed at Central Library. The speaker was Neil Argue, who created the project. Neil started his talk explaining the origins of Plymouth Cubed. He had downloaded the Ordnance Survey Minecraft map of Plymouth and he thought that it was too blocky, the scale was wrong and the colours were unrealistic. He said “I think we can do much better”. Neil undertook a four-month process of building the territory using LIDAR (information collected by planes flying overhead), MicroDEM (which turns the data into a Minecraft map), and WorldPainter (which builds the map in Minecraft). The LIDAR data gave information about the height of every part of Plymouth in a one-meter grid, and each meter translates to one block in Minecraft.
However, the LIDAR data does have a few drawbacks. The data is rounded up or down so the landscape can seem quite flat, spaces under bridges are filled because the overhead laser could not pick them up, and objects such as cars and people are scanned and used as land data too, but it did give Neil the basic terrain of Plymouth mapped out to scale in grass and dirt blocks. One of the fans of the project pointed out that Neil had “created a big colouring book shaped like Plymouth”.
It took Neil around a month on his own to build Plymouth Hoe, and by that point he realised that he wouldn’t be able to build all of Plymouth by himself! He showed us a video of how Plymouth Cubed looked at that stage. The audience were in awe and gave plenty of “ooo’s” and “aaa’s”. You can watch Neil’s videos on the Plymouth Cubed YouTube channel.
Neil told us that there are around 30 builders now and he launched the game to show us what the up to date version looks like. As it was loading Neil chuckled and said “Plymouth Cubed is always sunny – It never rains, unless i want it to!”. We were given a look around Derriford Hospital and the Life Centre, which has a working water slide! Neil also showed us that some of the bus stops actually work, and will teleport you to different parts of Plymouth. Some of the builders are also trying to get the Torpoint Ferry working and Neil is hoping to use NPCs at specific destinations to give travellers information about Plymouth.
To join Plymouth Cubed a Minecraft player needs to contact Neil via Facebook (if they are under 16 a parent should contact him). The server will allow twenty players on at a time and it is free to use, and there are some simple rules.
- Use the landscape as your guide, don’t straighten stuff out.
- You can add new builds, but don’t take anything away.
- Don’t touch other people’s builds.
- Under sixteens need parent’s permission.
- Keep it realistic by using the closest colour blocks to reality
Neil also encourages that people shouldn’t just build their house, but build their whole street or area. He said the builders use a 100-foot rule, “if it looks okay from 100 feet away, then it’s good.” (you can get a distorted view by just looking up close).
The talk went very well and the audience were really excited by it. I’ve been a fan of Plymouth Cubed from when I first heard about it earlier this year (I wrote about it here) and it’s great to see how much has been added since then, and i’m going to make some time to help build Plymouth in Minecraft. Neil has raised some funding to keep the server running with a Crowdfunder and printed some awesome t-shirts which have a lovely photo of Plymouth Cubed on the front and my own watercolour art of Plymouth Cubed (sketch, painting, screenshot inside Plymouth Cubed by Neil) on the back which makes me feel so proud! Here I am with Neil and my brother wearing them:
After the talk I went downstairs to Central Library‘s Hello World club where Laura from the library had brought in some Halloween projects. Hello World is a weekly kid’s tech and coding club which my brother J goes to and the room is usually busy with cool projects on Raspberry Pi, BBC MicroBits and Scratch. I used a BBC MicroBit to code flashing green LED eyes inside a pumpkin (see it in action on the left in this video). It’s pretty easy to programme the MicroBit and it’s really fun. Hello World is on Thursday afternoons and you can click the link for more information.