It is relatively easy to explore Brno, thanks to Google Maps. It’s even easier when you use Google Street View, which has opened the world to all internet users thanks to mapping cars. But what would you say about the possibility of walking around the city, entering individual buildings, and building something yourself? Does that sound like a crazy idea? It’s possible. Thanks to the initiative of Brno students and the video game Minecraft.
Simple idea, complex outcome
The idea to digitize the city of Brno came from the #HACKUJBRNO hackathon in April, where students and professionals from the IT world compete to complete various tasks and solve complex computer problems. The result of this innocent idea was the project “Brno in a Block,” which aimed to transform the second largest city of the Czech Republic into the computer game Minecraft.
At first glance, Minecraft is an easy-looking survival game where players can mine any material and build anything they imagine. The catch is that you must chop down trees, mine stones, and gather food because when the sun sets, the zombies come. The game offers children hours of entertainment and acquaints them with the basics of physics, agriculture, and metallurgy. But the main hallmark of Minecraft is the environment in which it takes place: the Minecraft world is made up of blocks, hence “Brno in a Block.”
The project uses the available open city data from the data.brno.cz portal. The leading guide is a freely available 3D model of the city. The project’s creators, the Faculty of Informatics of Masaryk University students, then enriched the city environment with the globally known computer game with many other details and improvements.
The map incorporates existing railway lines or shops. It is easy to distinguish the city’s prominent landmarks or important Brno statues and monuments. The realistic system of Brno’s underground tunnels is also a great added value, and players can freely explore these.
A still-evolving project
But the work of Vojtěch Brůža and Jonáš Rosecký, friends from the Faculty of Informatics of Masaryk University, is not over yet. The current version of Brno in Minecraft is just the beginning. But it’s a good start! The current version of the city has about 20×20 km (about 10,000 Minecraft blocks from the center of Brno to each side) and takes up over 13GB of computer memory. The entire map took almost a week to generate, which is said to be primarily due to the Brno Dam and the surrounding forests.
The Brno in a Block project is beneficial on several levels. Firstly, it entertains its creators, who devote much of their free time to it. Secondly, it brings pleasure to the people who can interact with the city, whether they want to explore it in peace or experience the struggle for survival that Minecraft brings. Who would pass up the opportunity to fight hordes of zombies on Brno’s Freedom Square or grow grain at Brno’s central train station?
Lastly, the project brings the exciting opportunity of promoting Brno itself. The city can become better known globally thanks to this connection with the global game of Minecraft. Maybe thousands will visit Brno to compare their gaming experience with reality.