Getting Topographic Data Into Minecraft (and historical stuff too)


If you already have elevation data as greyscale .bmp or .tiff

  • Watch the video about using Worldpainter.
  • Skip ahead to where he imports the topographic data and then the historical map imagery and shows you how to paint this against your topography.
  • You should also google for Worldpainter tutorials.

If have an ARCGIS shapefile

This was cooked up for me by Joel Rivard, one of our GIS & Map specialists in the Library. He writes,

  • Using QGIS: In the menu, go to Layer > Add Vector Layer. Find the point shapefile that has the elevation information.
  • Ensure that you select point in the file type.
  • In the menu, go to Raster > Interpolation.
  • Select “Field 3″ (this corresponds to the z or elevation field) for Interpolation attribute and click on “Add”.
  • Feel free to keep the rest as default and save the output file as an Image (bmp, jpg or any other raster)

If you need to get topographic data

In this situation, modern topography is just what you need.

  • Grab Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data for the area you are interested in (it downloads as a tiff.) To help you orient yourself, click off ‘toggle cities’ at the bottom of that page. You then click on the tile that contains the region your are interested in. This is a large piece of geography; we’ll trim in a moment.
  • Open QGIS
  • Go to Layer >> Add Raster Layer. Navigate to the location where your srtm download is located. You’re looking for the .tiff file. Select that file.

Add Raster Layer

  • You now have a grayscale image in your QGIS workspace, which might look like this

Straights of Hercules, Spain, Morocco

  • Now you need to crop this image to just the part that you are interested in. On the main menu ribbon, select Raster >> Extraction >> Clipper

Select Clipper Tool

  • In the dialogue box that opens, make sure that ‘Clipping Mode’ is set to ‘Extent’. With this dialogue box open, you can click and drag on the image to highlight the area you wish to crop to. The extent coordinates will fill in automatically.

  • Hit ‘Select…’ beside ‘Output File’. Give your new cropped image a useful name. Hit ‘Save’.

  • Nothing much will appear to happen – but on the main QGIS window, under ‘layers’ a new layer will be listed.


  • UNCHECK the original layer (which will have a name like srtm_36_05). Suddenly, only your cropped image is left on the screen. Use the magnifying glass with the plus sign (in the icons at the top of the window) to zoom so that your cropped image fills as much of the screen as possible.
  • Go to Project >> Save as image. Give it a useful name, and make sure to set ‘files of type’ to .bmp. You can now import the .bmp file to your Worldpainter file.

Importing your grayscale DEM to a Minecraft World

Video tutorial again – never mind the bit where he talks about getting the topographic data at the beginning

At this point, the easiest thing to do is to use WorldPainter. It’s free, but you can donate to its developers to help them maintain and update it. Now, the video shown above shows how to load your DEM image into WorldPainter. It parses the black-to-white pixel values and turns them into elevations. You have the option of setting where ‘sea level’ is on your map (so elevations below that point are covered with water). There are many, many options here; play with it! Adam Clarke, who made the video, suggests scaling up your image to 900%, but I’ve found that that makes absolutely monstrous worlds. You’ll have to play around to see what makes most sense for you, but with real-world data of any area larger than a few kilometres on a side, I think 100 to 200% is fine.

Now, the crucial bit for us: you can import an image into WorldPainter to use as an overlay to guide the placement of blocks, terrain, buildings, whatever. So, rather than me simply regurgitating what Adam narrates, go watch the video. Save as a .world file for editing; export to Minecraft when you’re ready (be warned: big maps can take a very long time to render. That’s another reason why I don’t scale up the way Adam suggests).

Save your .world file regularly. EXPORT your minecraft world to the saves folder (the link shows where this can be found.

Go play.

Putting your world on the server for multiplayer

  1. You’ll notice that when you exported your world from worldpainter, it exported an entire folder.
  2. Zip this folder.
  3. Email it to me.
  4. but if email doesn’t work, put it in your dropbox folder and share the download link with me instead.


Challenge 4: Playing the game of critically observing play


Keep notes on the discussions from the critical play session; move around the class, talk with people about what they’re playing, why they’re making the moves they’re doing, and think about the connections with the major reading.


Devise a Twine that captures the dynamic and discussions of this week’s in-class critical play. Remember, for historians, it may be all about time and space.


Challenge #4 – Back Seat Game Player Simulator

Here is my Twine for Challenge #4. I couldn’t think of anything neat or creative to do so instead I decided to make a twine that simulates an alternate reality version of our class and included some of my thoughts on the games. You play as a bad student in this alternate reality class who arrived late and has to try and figure out what other people think of some of the games. If you win or lose is mostly up to you!

Also please note content warning at the start of my game.

Critical Play Observations


Real-time, first person, sandbox, survival, kind of has the 3X’s from traditional 4X games (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate).

The player started off by wandering off in one direction without any purpose whatsoever. As they were walking through the jungle and saw a large hill with what seemed to be a chasm to the side of it, they talked about how they were on an adventure, how they were someone like Indiana Jones and was going to go explore the small cave in the hill and the chasm that was next to it. Seemed like the player, since there was no given history of the character or world, assembled a virtual history of themselves and gave themselves an objective.

Bioshock Infinite

Real-time, first person, shooter.

Started observation at the gates of Colombia.

The player seemed to be interested in the conversations that NPCs were having as well as enjoying the aesthetics of the game. Through these and the “kinetoscopes” in the game the player kept trying to assemble some sort of story of what the city was and why they were here. The player after viewing one particular kinetoscope about the false shepherd said, “I must be that guy, everything happens to me in games anyway.” This struck me as a sort of meta-gaming behavior where the player was playing the game of being a gamer.


I would’ve been more interested in seeing one person play through one game. I think I would find it more interesting if the person I observed playing Bioshock had played it from the start and knew why they had arrived in Colombia. Would they assemble a different story based on the conversations of the people? Would the first part of the game with the baptizing lead her to think differently of the people she was listening to? Would the events of the raffle startle her? Or if I had just continued to watch the person playing Minecraft. Would they give themselves some other objective down the line? Would it be because of boredom or would it be due to some narrative?

Another thing I’ve noticed was that people playing seemed to talk more about what happened on screen rather than their thoughts on it. For example, when one of the players viewed a kinetoscope they read the text out loud and then just went on their way, which to me seems like they really just thought nothing of it.

Critical Play Game Notes

Mostly regarding Minecraft, some things that popped during the Critical Play was how exploration and alteration varied among players. Some people immediately started walking around and looking at everything, moving from biome to biome whereas some started immediately digging or cutting down trees to get tools. The differences in playstyles really highlighted how a sandbox game like Minecraft has infinite possibilities for play styles. The player was able to make distinct choices of how to use the game. Without a directed goal in mind, players were able to take what was given and do things that even the audience disagreed with.

The BBC online games were also interesting though a great deal more directed. The options given gave the atmosphere of choice but with the history behind it most of the games only really had a certain way to ‘win’. In this case, the history of the events were more at the forefront than the game itself. Whereas Minecraft allowed history to be built through its engine, the BBC games were more about walking the player through history than creating or recreating it.