For Valhalla

Michael Newton walks us through his Minecraft mega-palaces!

Since I work for Mojang, people assume I'm pretty good at building in Minecraft. "Wow!" the people scream in my face. "You must live in a magnificent castle made of diamonds, emeralds and the skulls of the poor. Cool!"

Actually, my creepy friend, I don't have time to build anything that fancy. I'm far too busy writing for the Best Website on the Internet. That's why my 'house' is just a tiny shack with walls made of dirt, windows made of more dirt and a roof made of nothing. Pretty depressing when it rains. Still, saves time on showering!

But one man who wouldn't be seen dead in my pathetic dirt-shack is Michael Newton (also known by his Xbox Live gamertag, HoBo f0r L1Fe). That's because he specialises in building spectacular Minecraft palaces. They're all part of Valhalla, a map Michael started on the Xbox 360 version and now plays on Xbox One. Truly worthy of the Gods! Frankly, we're not sure us mere mortals are worthy of even looking at the screenshots. Take a gander anyway. It's worth the risk!

Michael: "The Roman Palace is one of the few builds in my world that is based of historical architecture, the Roman colosseum." Hopefully with far less gruesome goings-on inside.

"I primarily build from scratch, coming up with original ideas for each of my mega-builds."

"I find it more freeing to build from my mind rather than basing my builds off existing architecture." Besides, the Romans never built a flying colloseum, did they? The hacks.

"I find it more freeing to build from my mind rather than basing my builds off existing architecture." Besides, the Romans never built a flying colloseum, did they? The hacks.

"I find it more freeing to build from my mind rather than basing my builds off existing architecture." Besides, the Romans never built a flying colloseum, did they? The hacks.

"Growing up I was never interested in art," admits Michael "until I first encountered Minecraft mega-builds on YouTube in November 2012. Traditional art never had this affect over me, where I sat in silence, mouth wide open, admiring what these builders had created."

It was these ginormo-builds that inspired Michael to aim to create in Minecraft on a similarly large scale. "Over the years my ideas and build size became more ambitious. Mega-building allows me to build what I want without limitation, I can easily add curves, big details and organics to my projects with limited hassle, and this suits my building style which is tailored to work with large-scaled projects."

So what advice would Michael give to others hoping to build such large-scale wonders? "You don’t need to plan every little detail before you start building. I suggest coming up with a handful of main ideas for the basic shape and structure of the build and then start outlining from there. This is because you will have weeks if not months to decide on details and extensions you might want to add to the build later into the project."

"Once you have established your main ideas your next task is to outline the basic structure of the build. This is the perfect time to try ideas out, see what fits together and what doesn’t work so well, therefore it’s beneficial to be flexible with your outline and try not to force ideas that don’t work well together."

"When you’re happy with your outline you need to fill in the basic structure which includes walls, floors, ceilings and roofs. This will let you see how your build is going to look and how your different ideas will interact, so it’s important to remain flexible and change anything you’re not happy with, otherwise you will regret it later down the line."

"I normally come up with a new build idea whilst working on the previous project," Michael explains. "Either I get inspired by an existing build or randomly think of something cool to create."

"Depending on the idea I research real life examples of what I want to build and use this information to help outline the basic shape and structure of the build." That research pays off.

Time to start construction! "I am very flexible with the outline and normally change it multiple times until I’m satisfied. Then I fill in the basic structure such as walls, floors, ceilings and roofs..."

"...allowing me to clearly identify how the build is going to look, and change any part of the build I’m not happy with. This process normally covers the first two weeks of the overall project."

For comparison, here's my charming dirt shack! If this doesn't get me fired from Mojang, what will?

ln Michael's view, the toughest challenge is maintaining interest on a project that doesn't always have a clear end in sight. "The biggest hurdle you have to overcome is staying motivated long enough to finish the project. I recommend you build in a style that you like the look off and enjoy building, and try to build with friends as much as possible as this will not only get the job done faster but will help keep you entertained months into the project. You should also pace yourself, you need to think of the project as a marathon where you’ll burn yourself out if you try to sprint through the build. I suggest doing a couple hours a day and maybe a bit more during the weekend.

"A mistake some builders make when building their first mega-build is trying to achieve perfection and getting bogged down in details that take months to finish. I suggest you don’t spend more than two months on your first project and then use what you learnt to create a bigger and better build."

Good advice, but what about Michael's motivation? Which Minecraft creators inspired him to learn to craft these magnificent palaces? "I started developing my build style back in 2013, therefore the builders that had the biggest impact on my style were from that time. Creolucis influenced the way I shape and structure my buildings and was one of the builders that inspired me to start mega-building in Minecraft. Thatoldkid influenced the way I detail my builds, before I saw his build the Centre of Valhalla I was already detailing in a similar manor but he inspired me to be more detailed and structure based with my projects. And Dannonee influenced the way I build organics ranging from statues to dragons that are currently scattered around my world."

It's well worth checking out more of those creators work! Soon as you've finished gawping at Michael's sky palaces, of course. I for one am so inspired, I'm going to build a roof for my dirt-shack! Soon! Maybe!