Now, governments can commission entire cities to be built within mere years. The true revolution, however, came in 2010 with the official release of the popular video game Minecraft.
Suddenly, people who didn’t want to use their muscle strength could build a 1 sq.m. block at a time with the materials the sandbox game provides you. In 2017, a player modified the terrain generation to allow buildings to be made infinitely vertical, compared to the unmodified game’s 256m limit. With the help of this mod, in 2020, another mod was published: Terra 1:1, which procedurally generated the real Earth’s natural terrain in Minecraft.
This gave an idea to a man on YouTube named PippenFTS, who in March 2020 published a video, now with 15 million views, which served as a call to action to take on one of the game’s most ambitious ever projects: to build the Earth in Minecraft on a 1 to 1 scale.
The Build the Earth (BTE) project is split up into build teams, differentiated by their geographic location or construction type focus. The largest of these groups is dedicated to building the massive city of New York, with over 3,000 members.
One of these build teams is BTE Iberia, who coordinate builds within Portugal, Spain, Andorra, and Gibraltar, including the two Spanish-African cities of Ceuta and Melilla. They’ve got around 400 members in total, although only about 10 of them are active. We spoke to one of these members, who goes by the username TNT_TIMES. “I have that sense of enjoyment when I see progress. It’s relaxing to listen to music and build,” he explained.
TNT_TIMES, from Vila Nova de Gaia, is one of the most active builders. “Obviously there’s more Spanish people,” he said, “but if you do the ratio, that of Spanish to Portuguese builders is lower than that of the populations.” In fact, Portugal seems to be the more active, at least currently, in terms of productivity.
Back when the project began, there were monthly events, some even including prizes, in order to incentivise building. Through those incentives and regular building, 51 builds have been made in Spain and 15 in Portugal, as well as one in Gibraltar, Andorra, and the city of Tangiers in Morocco.
“Building the Earth, at the rate we’re going, would take at least 1,000 years,” TNT_TIMES admitted. There have been programs developed to make building much quicker, however, many builders don’t seem to consider it since its detachment from the in-game experience isn’t appealing to them. “We don’t have that mindset, we’re not going to build the Earth,” he explained. “We’re not going to complete it. We’ll build the main things, the big cities we live in… It’s a very personal thing for the builders.”
Progress would be quicker if more builders were active. Unfortunately, three years on from the original start of the project and its major spotlight in the minds of the public, a lot of the attention has waned, and the project as a whole is slowing down.
The problem isn’t just a lack of public awareness though. “People join but they’re afraid.” Joining a project like this can seem a bit daunting, especially with the ambition that everyone’s slowly working towards. People either have too little time or too little confidence in their abilities. These, however, aren’t necessarily deal breakers. “My first building wasn’t accurate at all,” TNT_TIMES revealed.
TNT_TIMES’ biggest build so far has been near Portimão, where he’s recreated the Algarve International Circuit. Google Maps and Earth were unreliable in terms of showing exact proportions, so he had to go off photos taken of the place. “The first print I took of the project was April 2021, and the last print was in May 2022,” he detailed. Now, he’s working on the racetrack at Estoril, which he’s described as more challenging due to its integration with the urban environment.
“It’s incredible how such an old game diverges in so many ways, you can do a lot of things with it. You can battle other players, you can play minigames, you can hunt, and then you can do this, and manage a big community to work around it,” TNT_TIMES concluded. “Not only the builders but the developers, the people working on social media… And you can join in so many ways; you can just hop on and visit, or you can lose that fear to build because everyone who starts building thinks they’re not good and everyone evolves with everyone.”
An archive of the Build the Earth project and its creations so far can be viewed at www.buildtheearth.net. To apply for the build team and talk to people involved in the project, join BTE Iberia’s Discord server. And of course, to visit the virtual recreation itself, you can join the Minecraft server with the IP ‘ib.buildtheearth.net’.
Star in the 2015 music video for the hit single “Headlights” by German musician, DJ and record producer Robin Schulz featuring American singer-songwriter Ilsey. Also a journalist.