Our last Minecraft showcase tackled an incredibly moving building project that was impressive in not only its scale and design but also the mission it was trying to accomplish. Reporters Without Borders (RSF,) is an impassioned organization focused on reporting the truth, even in places where the truth is commonly oppressed. They worked together with talented Minecraft designing and building firm, BlockWorks, amongst other specialized groups, to design the Uncensored Library, and bring news to people where the truth isn't allowed to shine.
They accomplished this with Minecraft, a game that exists in full even in countries where the written word is hidden and censored. Using Minecraft, they were able to archive works written by five different journalists, who were silenced in many cruel ways by their respective governments, and provide access to the articles to people in those countries.
I was immediately struck by the movement, and I wanted to pursue further one of the parties that helped bring it to life: BlockWorks. A group of skilled, impossibly creative Minecraft players with years of experience have found a way to make building in Minecraft not only a career but a calling as well. I got in contact with James Delaney, Managing Director at BlockWorks, to discuss where BlockWorks came from, some of the many things they've done, and how they do what they do. Read on to find out.
A gaming masterpiece
Available everywhere you play.
Minecraft is a veritable, inarguable, and complete success. It has sold copies in the hundreds of millions, has a massive following of dedicated players, and lets you unlock your every creative desire. It's also available on every platform imaginable, including Xbox One, Windows 10, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS. Play with anyone, and play anywhere.
What BlockWorks has accomplished in Minecraft
Zachary Boddy, Windows Central: What are some of the projects you're most proud of? Are there any projects you wish you could do, or ones you never got a chance to finish?
James Delaney, Managing Director at BlockWorks: Over the last seven years, we've been lucky enough to work on some really amazing projects, and it's hard to choose favorites. One of our earlier projects was TempleCraft; a digital twin of a community arts project happening in Derry, Northern Ireland. In Derry, the artist David Best was working with volunteers to build a huge wooden temple on a hill overlooking the city. Once built, local residents were invited to bring their own personal messages, mementos, and objects inside the temple, before it was ceremonially burned, leaving nothing behind.
In parallel, we had built a replica of the temple in Minecraft, hosted it on a server and invited Minecrafters from around the world to leave their own stories and messages. As the real temple was set on fire, our Minecraft temple was also burned, bringing 400 Minecrafters from over 30 countries together in an act of remembrance and commemoration. People had written incredibly personal stories and poems in our Minecraft temple, about life, loved ones and those they had lost; it was a genuinely touching moment, and amazing to have shared that through the medium of a computer game like Minecraft.
Have you ever had a chance to work with Mojang officially?
We're fortunate to work very closely with Microsoft and Mojang on a variety of projects, including creating the world for Minecraft's HoloLens Demo at E3 2016, creating Minecraft worlds and films for official marketing campaigns across social media and TV, and most recently creating the '10 Years of Minecraft' map which celebrated the game's 10th anniversary (now downloaded over 9 million times.) I am also on the board of the BlockbyBlock foundation, a non-profit set up by Mojang and UN-Habitat, which empowers communities to turn neglected urban spaces into accessible and vibrant public spaces—all designed in Minecraft!
How BlockWorks creates through Minecraft
How does BlockWorks do what you do? The projects you build are very impressive. Do you have to use special software or techniques to pull it off?
With our larger projects containing many millions of blocks, we, of course, do not build everything 'block by block.' We use community-generated tools such as WorldEdit and Voxelsniper, which gives Minecraft similar features to any Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tool that an architect or digital modeler would use. Our developers have also augmented these tools and created new ones depending on the demands of a project. For some of our projects, which are city/town recreations, we are also able to take 3D data such as GIS or LIDAR and bring those models into Minecraft (though a lot of tidying up is usually required!)
Do you and your builders/designers work predominantly with the Java Edition of Minecraft, or does the Bedrock Edition also have a place for a professional Minecraft builder?
We all work predominantly with Java Edition, and then if necessary, convert over to Bedrock Edition. The 'heavy lifting' (which is building the actual environment) is always done in Java as this platform supports the creation tools we need. If we're producing a Bedrock map, we would then add in the game mechanics in Bedrock as these cannot be easily converted.
Learning more about BlockWorks
Tell me a little bit about BlockWorks. What's the story behind your origin? How big of a company are you? What are your goals as a company?
BlockWorks started as a group of four Minecrafters from around the world. We all met online through a Minecraft server but had never met in real life. We shared a passion for building in Minecraft, and as we started collaborating on larger projects, others joined the team. Seven years on, and we're now a large studio of over 30 builders, artists, and developers. We still all work remotely, and our private Minecraft server is our office—as a result, we're lucky to have a really diverse range of team members from a variety of backgrounds, which is the key to fostering a creative and exciting work environment.
We think Minecraft has huge potential in educating, engaging, and entertaining; in a nutshell, our goal is to use Minecraft to make the world a better place. This might be through online projects like our recent Uncensored Library, or running workshops at castles around the UK to get kids excited about historical sites and heritage.
Do BlockWorks builders still play Minecraft for fun? Do you have any personal projects on the side?
When we have the time! Many of our builders are always working on side projects to test out different ideas and develop their skills, and some still play other modes of the game, such as Survival. In the end, after working with Minecraft as a full-time job, it becomes less about 'playing' Minecraft and more using it as a game design or modeling tool.
How does someone start building on the scale that BlockWorks does? Do you have any tips for budding master builders?
One of Minecraft's strongest assets is its community. There is an endless supply of YouTube tutorials, guides, and blogs on building in Minecraft—not to mention the many communities that exist on social media and Minecraft servers, many of which are great places to share your work, receive feedback and be inspired by what others are building.
It's also not a bad idea to go outside every now and then; Minecraft is a great platform to build whatever you can imagine, but the ideas for many great builds often start with references from real spaces, films, and books, which we experience outside of the game.
A world-class design firm—for Minecraft
BlockWorks has built for themselves a considerable legacy in the Minecraft universe. They've accomplished a lot of astounding things that help showcase one of the many true powers of Minecraft: possibility. From futuristic eco-friendly cities to underwater civilizations, to an homage to a decade of Minecraft memories, BlockWorks has encapsulated it all through cooperation, ingenuity, and a passion for the medium they work through.
They have a list of their notable accomplishments in their portfolio, which features such entries as Project Refresh, a 1:1 scale rendition of the redesign that Microsoft is working on for their campus. One of my personal favorites is BlockWorks Inc., a creative representation of the BlockWorks creation process from back in 2014!
For BlockWorks, it's not all about possibility either. What's evident from the Uncensored Library, or James Delaney's participation in the BlockbyBlock foundation, is that BlockWorks nails another one of Minecraft's quintessential pillars: community. Anyone can go and build something beautiful or meaningful in Minecraft, and there are ton of resources to learn from, share with, and work alongside the diverse Minecraft community that plays the games in the millions every month.
If you want to get in contact with BlockWorks, you can head to their website. They also have a YouTube channel, where they have videos of many of their larger building projects. For updates on their progress through different building projects, future plans, and to show them all of your support (which they wholeheartedly deserve,) you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. If you want to see more of their work, there are a lot of images of James' favorite builds down below.