This article originally appeared on VICE US.
If you haven’t noticed, it’s currently quite difficult—or at least inadvisable—to do much traveling around the world right now. But while we’re mostly stuck inside, a group of thousands of Minecraft players are busy making a life-size recreation of the Earth inside the game.
The planet Earth is 197 million square miles. A Minecraft map is roughly 1.6 billion square miles. It’s theoretically possible to recreate the entirety of our planet within Minecraft, but limitations on the vertical height of Minecraft’s worlds has limited the capability. Until now.
Using the cubic chunks mod to allow for infinite height and depth and the Tera 1-to-1 mod to scan the planet’s surface, modders are recreating the planet Earth on a 1:1 scale within a Minecraft map.
“The terra 1-to-1 mod takes the information from Google Maps and other geographical data archives and compiles it to create the 1:1 scale of the Earth in Minecraft terrain generation,” Minecrafter PippenFTS, who is working on the project, said in YouTube video. “Elevation data, tree cover data, roads, even climate data and soil suborder data, to make the planet Earth map as accurate to the real thing as possible.”
PippenFTS has assembled a team of builders to dive into a persistent map and recreate the Earth’s human-made structures too. He wants to recreate every brick, every building, and every wonder of the world within the bounds of Minecraft. More than 60,000 people have at least nominally joined the project by becoming a part of his Discord server..
Builder evilpauwse is a moderator in the Discord for the project. He’s a college student in New York studying cyber security who joined the project after watching PippenFTS’ video.
“I have played Minecraft for a significant time now and like many others, I have expressed an interest in creating massive structures and builds,” he said in an email. “This project satisfies a lot of people's desires to do so.”
“My role in all of this is to ensure that our team of builders, reviewers, and our staff work together to help this project move along smoothly,” evilpauwse added. “I work on developing and implementing systems that our staff and builders can use to make their lives much easier.”
Evilpauwse said that people are constantly asking why? Why rebuild the Earth within Minecraft.
“To that I say, ‘why not,’” he said. “Something of this scale has never been done before, and is ready for anyone who wants to take on the challenge of doing it.”
According to evilpauwse, the project’s biggest roadblock right now is organization. With so many volunteers, it’s hard to keep builders focused and working together. “Right now we are working on implementing a new system that will streamline the building process and ensure that all the areas are built up,” he said.
The group has no idea how long it will take to finish the project. “We currently do not have any solid estimates on a time frame as we are constantly optimizing and accepting new builders all of whom work at different paces,” he said. “This whole endeavor is one of great size and has a lot of moving pieces. Our goal is to make sure those pieces keep moving and that they're moving the best that they can be.”
It’s also possible that the planet will change dramatically in the time it takes the group to finish its recreation. “We have decided that unless there is significant change or other circumstances, we will be building the Earth as its most recent update of 2020,” evilpauwse said.
Minecraft builders who want to help with the project are encouraged to fill out an application. The project feels impossible. It’s an effort to capture a moment in time—the Earth as it was in 2020 in all its chaotic beauty. It’s an escape in dark times, an act of remembrance, and a method of exerting control in a world where we feel increasingly powerless.