Minecraft game adds Ordnance Survey GB terrain data

By Matthew Wall
Technology reporter, BBC News

image captionMinecraft players can now build on this geographically accurate map of Snowdonia

Minecraft, the highly popular building and monsters video game, can now incorporate accurate Ordnance Survey terrain data of Great Britain in its blockwork virtual world.

The game's 33 million players can build worlds atop of geographically accurate landscapes representing 224,000 sq km (86,000 sq miles) of Britain.

The GB Minecraft world was created in two weeks by intern Joseph Braybrook working with OS's Innovation Labs team.

It uses free OS OpenData products.

"We think we may have created the largest Minecraft world ever built based on real-world data," said Graham Dunlop, OS Innovation Lab Manager.

"The resulting map shows the massive potential not just for using Minecraft for computer technology and geography purposes in schools, but also the huge scope of applications for OS OpenData too."

image captionAn OS tester built Stonehenge on the site of the real landmark

Minecraft, created by Swede Markus "Notch" Persson in 2009, is a virtual world made up of cubes of different materials, such as rock, sand and lava.

Players can co-operate in building shelters, making things from raw materials and fending off a variety of monsters.

The OS GB world contains more than 22 billion Minecraft blocks.

Once players have downloaded the map into Minecraft, they enter the 3D virtual world through OS's head office in Southampton and from there can recreate real-life features, such as Stonehenge, or imagined buildings such as Hogwarts castle.

The OS map products - OS Terrain 50 and OS VectorMap - combine to create a 3D model of the earth surface overlaid with features such as water, woodland and roads.

Players can build their own structures on top of the realistic terrain.

As OS is the GB's national mapping authority, its data includes the mainland and surrounding islands but not Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands.

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