Minecraft: Creating a map of Great Britain

We recruited a number of summer interns this year and one of them, Joseph Braybook, spent his time with our Innovation Labs team.  An avid fan of the Minecraft video game, he suggested building a Minecraft world using OS OpenData products. In just two weeks Joe created a Minecraft world representing over 224,000 square kilometers of Great Britain* and now we’re making it available so you can download and explore!

Looking up Southampton Water in the Minecraft map of Great Britain

If you’re not one of Minecraft’s 33 million active users, it’s a game set in virtual 3D worlds made up of cubes of different materials. Players build shelters, make things from raw materials and fend off a variety of monsters. Minecraft worlds are often computer generated, though dedicated players have also created meticulous recreations of real and imagined environments such as Hogwarts castle.

Hogwarts in Minecraft

We used two of Ordnance Survey’s digital map products that are freely available as OS OpenData for anyone to use, to build the world:

  1. OS Terrain 50: A three-dimensional model of the bare earth surface known as a Digital Terrain Model (DTM). The product is delivered as a grid with a resolution of 50 metres. We used this product to generate the Minecraft GB terrain.
  2. OS VectorMap District: A mid-scale contextual or backdrop map product. We used the raster version, extracting surface features – for example water, woodland and roads – based on pixel colours and densities. We used this information to modify the material of individual blocks.

The resulting world consists of over 22 billion blocks – we think this may be the largest Minecraft ever built based on real-world data!

If you would like to find out more about the Minecraft map or download it to see the possibilities you could create using OS OpenData, check out our website for more details and a link to the download.  If the Minecraft map inspires you to create more worlds in Minecraft, use the Minecraft map in your school  as a geography resource, to use our OS OpenData to create new services, or anything similar – let us know on the blog.

If you’d like to see some more images from our Minecraft GB world, visit our Flickr set.

You can also read about this on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24177844

* We are the national mapping authority for Great Britain, so our data includes mainland Great Britain and surrounding islands but does not include Northern Ireland, Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands as these all have their own mapping authorities or services

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49 Responses

  1. This is amazing! I’ve been wanting an accurate Minecraft map for a long time, and this is stunning. This is getting downloaded as soon as I get in 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing some great British monuments on there 🙂

    1. Gemma

      Hi Jamie

      Great to hear, let us know how you get on. One of our tech team created Stonehenge in there, so there’s one to get you started!

      Thanks, Gemma

  2. Ceri Thomas

    It is a shame that there was no consideration for ‘truth to materials’ used to represent various features. Roads that were presumably drawn in green have been converted to emeralds, purely because the colour is the same. Using gravel or cobblestone would have been infinitely more realistic and actually made the map usable as a real world, rather than just an amusing novelty.

    1. Gemma

      Hi Ceri

      I’ll pass your feedback along to our Labs team. As the article says, this was created as a short two week project with one of our summer interns and we’ve made it available to download ‘as is’ for Minecraft users to be able to add their own features and build more features in too.

      Thanks, Gemma

    2. Black Gnat

      LOL what a ridiculous remark! Compliments to the team who created this and for the inspiration they will give to fellow positive people.

  3. What a great idea. How was the world created technically, and perhaps you could release the required source code. That would allow people to change the materials used (e.g. the roads to cobblestone) or perhaps use their own mapping data for other areas.
    Is there any open data available that could provide underground data. E.g. lots of minecraft coal ore in relevant parts.

    1. Gemma

      Hi Gregory

      There’s some information on the creation here http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/innovate/developers/minecraft-map-britain.html
      The data used is all open and once you’ve downloaded the Minecraft zipfile from the link above, you can then build on the world yourself. We have released the world for users to download, rather than release the code as it was created very quickly as part of our intern’s project and we aren’t in a position to develop it for release or support it. However, as we say, it’s all open data and freely available for use – and even to add other open data into as you mention in your post.

      Thanks, Gemma

      1. “we aren’t in a position to develop it for release or support it.”
        You could release it with a short ‘as-is’ disclaimer just stating you do not consider it suitable for use and have no intention to support it. That way it can get carried on by others and Joseph’s work might come to be something other than a short-lived press release.

        1. Tom

          I’m with Gregory… I’d love to have a portion of the map in 1:1 size, but this one is 1:50, so being able to customise the generation to generate a 50×50 area for each point on the OS Terrain 50 would be useful.

          Of course, if OS didn’t want to provide the code, I’d be just as happy if zip files for individual grid references were online (so one could download just SO or TQ, for example, to save your bandwidth).

          1. Gemma

            Hi Tom,

            We don’t have any plans to make the code available at this time. We may release more technical details if there is sufficient demand, and this could cover generating more detail from our Open Data.

            Thanks for your feedback

  4. John Boyle

    This was quite simply a brilliant idea! What better way to get kids (including some of us bigger ones!) interested in geography than by building something interactive like this?

    I can only imagine the work that went into it. Well done!!

    1. Gemma

      Thanks John, glad you like it. Let us know how you get on if you download it and start adding your own buildings etc.

      Thanks, Gemma

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  7. Nik

    Hi, and congratulations on pulling this off!

    I would like to make higher resolution maps of some UK cities. Is it possible that you could put me in touch with whoever holds the license for the code that was use to pull this off?


    1. Gemma

      Hi Nik

      Thanks for the comment and glad you’re enjoying the maps. As we said to Gregory above, we have released the world for users to download, rather than release the code as it was created very quickly as part of our intern’s project and we aren’t in a position to develop it for release or support it.

      Many thanks

      1. Nik

        Hi Gemma,

        That is a real shame. Great things could be done with the code. If you release it, it is possible to release it without supporting it. Is the code owned by yourselves, or the intern?

        It would be a shame to have good code go to waste. some of us are quite technical and don’t mind working with unfinished and unsupported code. Ther is a whole community who would appreciate it if you change your mind.

        Thanks for your reply.

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  9. Calum

    Hi, Firstly, Amazing work. Really really amazing. I must say I agree with the previous poster that it would be so much more realistic if the roads were replaced with actual road like textures (stone, cobble, etc etc).

    Also I was wondering why the mountains and terrain changes were so severe but then I noticed when I got to my home town that its not to scale, infact its (estimated) about 100:1 scale? If it were 1:1 scale then the mountains would look way more realistic too.

    1. Gemma

      Hi Calum

      There’s more information about the scale on our website, to say that the raw height data is stored in metres and must be scaled down to fit within the 256 block height limit in Minecraft. A maximum height of 2 500 metres was chosen, which means Ben Nevis, appears just over 128 blocks high. Although this exaggerates the real-world height, it preserves low-lying coastal features such as Bournemouth’s cliffs, adding interest to the landscape.

      There’s other background information on creating the map here http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/innovate/developers/minecraft-map-britain.html

      Thanks, Gemma

    1. Gemma

      Hi Max

      I’ll check with our Labs team, but I don’t think so. The requirements to download the file are a licensed copy of Minecraft, 5GB free disk space and a minimum 4 GB of memory. I’ll get back to you with a definite answer ASAP.

      Thanks, Gemma

    2. Gemma

      Hi again Max

      I’ve now checked with the Labs team and they think it should be possible for pocket edition Minecraft to connect to a Minecraft server running our file. We’ve not proven that, and we can’t provide any assistance with it, but quite a few servers are popping up already.

      Many thanks

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  12. Nik

    Gemma, there is definitely the demand for getting at the tool. I can’t see what the problem with releasing the code you have is. You can’t sell it and we don’t want support.

    Who owns the code? Is it you, or the intern? If it’s the intern, can you ask him about releasing it please?

    On Reddit, there were a lot of people interested in doing this. It could only be good for you.

    1. Gemma

      Hi Nik,

      The attention this has received (and continues to) is vast and we will discuss the feedback we’ve received and let you know of any developments which arise as a result.


  13. Danny

    Hi, I was wondering, “if there are any” but what are the coordinates for the city of Manchester, as that’s near my home town of Royton in Oldham and I want to build my town 🙂

  14. MinecraftMan

    Wow this is so great, I can’t even imagine how long this would have taken to do by hand! I’d definitely be interested in seeing the tools that were used for this as Nik mentioned above.

    Do you see any practical application of this at all, or was this all just a bit of fun? 🙂

    1. Gemma

      As the blog says, it was created as part of a project for one of our interns last summer and we released it so that others could make use of the Minecraft GB world too. We’ve already had a number of teachers and Scout groups contact us to say they’re going to use it with their classes to engage them in geography and maps. It really is over to the users now – we’d love to hear more examples of how it’s being used.

      Thanks, Gemma

  15. andrew rowley

    Have you looked at including more of your open datasets? Postcode for example or any of the administrative datasets for a really complete look at the UK?

    Brilliant piece of work!


    1. Gemma

      Hi Andrew

      Glad to hear that you liked it. We aren’t planning on any further work on the project, which is why we released it ‘as is’ for others to download. It was a project for one of our summer interns this year rather than a core piece of work for us.

      Many thanks

  16. Really wish you would release the code.

    As it stands now, it’s not a workable model to really ‘build’ on, as the scale is off when it comes to geography vs size of Minecraft buildings so, like someone else said, it’s an interesting exercise but nowhere near what it could be.

    Please reconsider releasing the code. That’s what’s so great about Minecraft and why it has been so successful. It’s completely mod-able and Mojang are fine with doing whatever players want to do with it.

    1. Gemma

      Hi Rachel

      I’ll pass the feedback along to the team, but at this time, there are no plans to update anything or release the code as it was a one-off project for our intern last summer.

      Kind regards

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  19. Can your team do the same thing to Estonia? Or can you make tutorial how i can do same thing by myself?
    (I’m sorry, my English is very bad 😀 )

    Teet Andreas

    Or you can translate this using Google Translate
    ( http://translate.google.com/#et/en/ )
    Kas teie meeskond saaks teha sama asja Eestiga? Või kas sa saaksid teha õpetuse kuidas ma saaksin sama asja ise teha? (palun vabandust aga mu Inglise keel on väga halb)

    Teet Andreas

    1. Hi Teet

      We have the map data available for Great Britain as that’s the area we survey, so we could create the Minecraft map of Great Britain. You would need to ask the organisation that has the Estonian map data to make it available for people to use with Minecraft for them to create a similar project. It’s certainly possible though, the Danish government have just released their 1:1 scale version too.

      Thanks, Gemma

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