Of Snowy Peaks and Craggy Cliffs

_Killerack_ talks to us about his terrific terraforming!

Think about ambitious Minecraft projects and the first things that likely spring to mind are enormous palaces or complex machines. It’s a safe assumption that most new players dream of sitting atop some imposing architectural fortress, looking down at the tamed landscape below them – little megalomaniacs and narcissists that we humans are (yes you are, admit it).

Still, the first thing you see when you start a new game of Minecraft is landscape, lots of it, more than you could ever hope to handle. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that some enterprising creators have it taken upon themselves not to take landscapes apart, but instead to create them from scratch.

Killerack’s career as an architect wasn’t very long-lived: “At first, I tried to build some cobblestone houses but never managed to make a good one, so I stopped," he tells me. "A few days later, I had an idea to create my home in a cave. I used lots of TNT and a diamond pickaxe to carve out a nice spot to put my chests, fields and furnaces.” That modest cave contained the seed of his future projects: “It was my first terraforming project.”

Soon after discovering Minecraft in early 2015, Killerack started dabbling in more ambitious terraforming via VoxelSniper and WorldPainter (plugins that – amongst other helpful functions - allow easier editing of large amounts of blocks at a time) and eventually graduated to World Machine (a more ambitious, trickier program for making terrain). “I tried building structures on my terrain for years, but I’m terrible at it,” admits Killerack “I don’t have the imagination for it.”

But he certainly has the imagination for terraforming, and that is indeed where the inspiration for his projects comes from: “A lot of people ask me what screenshots, paintings or photographs I use, but all I really use is my head. It’s almost instinctive, I can’t really explain it.”

“The most important part is loving what you do.”

After selecting a theme like ‘winter’ or ‘desert’ in World Machine, the real work begins. Depending on the size of the maps and the number and complexity of biomes, the amount of effort varies wildly. “A basic biome on a 1000x1000 area will take me less than half an hour, while a 4000x4000 area with 5 biomes can take me a whole day. The main challenge is to make higher quality maps in as short a time as possible.”

Why invest so much time in creating virtual landscapes? “The most important [thing] for me is the ambition to get better at what I do each day, to create the most beautiful environments for Minecraft.”

Asked about his opinion on actual landscapes, Killerack states: “I live in Lyon, France, so if I look out of my window I can see Mont Blanc. I don’t have a special relationship with the landscape, but it’s beautiful to look at.”

The presence of Mont Blanc won’t surprise you if you look at the landscapes Killerack conjures. There’s no shortage of sublime snow-covered mountain ranges of all sizes and shapes here. These landscapes are untouched by human hands (well, except for Killerack's, technically), some of them perhaps reminding you of romantic landscape paintings with their sheer, cragged mountainsides.

Very recently, he started using his terraforming powers for good, trying to highlight the unfortunate ways in which humans influence climate and landscapes.

“My last project [using Terragen] is very important to me, it's about global warming. The message is ‘It's easy to change an environment on a computer, but what about reality?’ This planet might be more beautiful without humans on it, but we can’t change the fact that we’re here, so we need to try to keep it as beautiful as possible.”

Terragen is an entirely different platform to Minecraft, one for creating more realistic CG environments. But luckily for us, Killerack isn't planning on leaving Minecraft as a platform for his work – instead he hopes to use both. “This is my first thoughtful project and I hope to do more projects like this for Minecraft or Terragen because it's a very important subject that concerns everyone.”

Killerack also has a few tips for aspiring terraformers: “You have to work hard, each day if possible. Try to focus on a single theme and work on it for about a week to get the best possible result, then switch to a different theme. I do between two and five World Machine projects every day during vacations, and between one and three on school days.

“Don’t start directly with World Machine. Do voxel stuff first, then try to get to know WorldPainter. But the most important part is loving what you do. Love the terraforming, and it’s going to be easy for you.”