Marked Man

Jossieboy tells us how to make builds look alive!

One of the great opportunities building in Minecraft offers is the ability to create a snapshot of an event. They’re builds that are almost like a photograph, like time has stopped for you to look in on a fantastical moment. Grand, epic scenes distilled down to a single frame. Jos Vieveen, aka Jossieboy on Planet Minecraft, is a builder who creates these sorts of snapshots.

So what better way to show off that skill than to create a legendary undead cowboy with a smoking pistol?

Jos calls the build Ghost of the Gunslinger, which takes the moment just after he fired in a duel. The smoke he floats on billows out as he dodges backwards, his gun smoulders from the shot he just fired, and his free arm is raised to try and avoid returning fire. There’s a full story here, all captured in the statue of the gunslinger.

While the inspiration was simple - “I wanted to make an undead ghoulish gunslinger,” Jos explains to us - the execution is anything but. The aim for Jos was to make it look like “someone pressed a pause button in an action-packed scene,” so he used reference photos from Westerns and took some details to make his build come to life.

The smoke trail, for example, isn’t just there because he’s a ghost - Jos wanted to use it to make “movement seem more fluid.”

There’s also one secret trick he used that’s much harder to spot, but adds a lot: the gunslinger’s torso isn’t quite straight. He’s leaning backwards, his upper body not fitting the same axis as his waist. It's intended to make him seem more alive, rather than like a statue!

The gunslinger took about a week and a half to build. “I started with the main body and arms, made with VoxelSniper, then put on the head and coat, which were built by hand,” Jos explains.

VoxelSniper is a popular plugin for servers that offers a selection of brushes, some designed to make large terraforming jobs easier, or help nail finer details. For intricate designs, though, nothing could replace a skilled builder’s hand!

Motion isn’t the only way to make a build come to life - one build that instead uses details to set a scene is Out of Balance, inspired by famous personifications of Lady Justice.

Dating back to Ancient Egypt and the Goddess Maat, Lady Justice is a symbol of fairness in the law. Her scales represent a balance of evidence and support, her blindfold shows her being neutral and not affected by bias, and her sword represents the authority she holds.

A paragon of justice in this blocky world. Decorated with lights and given a backdrop of stained glass, it’s easy to imagine Out of Balance standing over a city hall.

Not everything Jos has made is so focused on people, though: Time Flies is, instead, about a bird. A mechanical steampunk time bird, to be exact. This posed a challenge for Jos: how do you make a robot look alive?

That’s where his skills of making a build seem to be in motion shine. The way blocks trail out of the bird, and the fact that it’s only halfway out of the clock, show it’s on the move. Despite being powered with cogs and gears, this bird is clearly alive and flying away.

Time Flies was originally going to be a small side project. “I built the bird for 'Time Flies' within a day,” says Jos, “and the clock and backdrop I built the next day, putting a few finishing touches on for another 2 days.” When people started seeing his creation on a public server and complementing it, he realised he had made something pretty impressive, and so released it formally!

“A big part of adding motion to a build is making sure that the pose of the character is dynamic,” explains Jos. “What a lot of people who start out making organics do is they make half of their organic piece, then mirror it exactly, which often doesn't make for an interesting build. What helps to create a dynamic looking build is non-symmetrical parts.

“If there is one thing that easily improves any organic it's building off axis. What that means is it's not perfectly aligned with Minecraft's XYZ coordinates. This works especially well if you combine it with elements that all have different angles. At the end of the day, it all comes down to practice and experience.”

For more of Jos’ builds, he’s got it all uploaded on Planet Minecraft! Maybe you can come up with something using his tips?