Natural Wonder

DarthEnigma talks about building beautiful landscapes

We spend a lot of time considering grand builds here on minecraft.net that we sometimes neglect what surrounds them. But before the first brickblock of a build can be placed, you need somewhere to put it - and why not make that environment as majestic and wondrous as anything in nature, every bit as well-considered as the buildings it encloses?

DarthEngima has been doing just this, creating vast, sprawling landscapes inspired by the best European scenery. His Black Forest map (rendered by Zitzabis above) is the ideal setting for medieval construction - inspired by the ancient woods of Germany, and their historic reputation for beauty and danger. A newer project, Arc of Nisyros built for his home server, goes for a more mediterranean feel - baking coastlines, volcanic climes and rolling wine country. Both make use of the Conquest Reforged mod - a toolkit which alters and expands the number of blocks to produce a more naturalistic feel to the landscapes.

“I wanted some terrain upon which I could build some sort of medieval structure,” says DarthEnigma. “Perhaps a church, monastery, or village. Many such structures in real life are in Germany, so I decided to make a German landscape. The Black Forest is an internationally known area, so I chose it as a representative, relatively pristine German landscape. The forest is historically significant for glass-making, clock-making, architecture, forestry, and chocolate cherry cake. It is the archetypal European forest or ‘deep, dark woods,’ and was only cut and settled in the past few centuries.”

What draws him to these sorts of realistic landscape projects?

“In Minecraft, I am fundamentally a builder,” he says. “In real life, I am something of a history buff, but also enjoy and know a bit about geology, ecology, etc. Because of my interests in real life, I have spent a great deal of time in Minecraft either building in the Conquest resource pack or using the Conquest Reforged mod. Because of the style of Conquest and Conquest Reforged, most of my builds have a somewhat medieval, historical, or natural aspect to them. While it's probably possible, Conquest is not the resource pack for building postmodernist apartment complexes.”

His latest project is the Arc of Nisyros, which takes in a sweep of mediterranean landscapes.

“Arc of Nisyros was created in response to a need on my home server for some quality building terrain,” he explains. “The consensus on the server was that the terrain should be ‘Mediterranean’ in style. Stereotypical Mediterranean settings that come to mind are white sea cliffs, dry, scrubby hills, volcanoes, islands, orchards, and fields. Thus, the map has some of those. But realistically speaking, the nature of the terrain of Italy and Mediterranean countries changes as one moves away from the coast. Hence, deciduous and evergreen forests, as well as alpine meadows and high mountains were included.”

It’s a pretty exhaustive recreation of a completely believable landscape, but, surprisingly, DarthEnigma has never visited Europe - instead drawing extensively from research and his interest in geology.

“When creating a map, I first research the area that I draw inspiration from,” says DarthEnigma. “I pay particular attention to the climate and types of vegetation present there. I then make custom objects for the various trees and bushes that I need, and replicate the real-world plant and rock types as closely as possible. Then, I go into World Machine and make a basic terrain shape for the map. Using the results from World Machine, I edit the landscape and ground composition in WorldPainter. Finally, I add in the various plants, trees, and other objects in WorldPainter, and export the finished map.”

The result is a map so beautiful, building there almost seems a pity.

Almost.