RTXcellent

Immanuel's surreal landscape is based on actual microscope imagery!

We cover a lot of typical builds here on Minecraft.net – from castles to temples, and animals to spaceships. They're all incredible, beautiful, and way better than we could ever do ourselves (apparently, our latest dirt house is not good enough for the site) but would we call them art?  

Yes! Of course we would. We're not monsters. But today's build is literally art: a landscape that was not made for man or mob, but for our eyes, a masterpiece that we can look down on from above. 

This piece is called Athra, and it was created by Immanuelwho we've covered before – an artist who uses Minecraft as his canvas, and blocks as his brush. "Minecraft is technically a game," he says, "but I don't see it as such anymore – rather I view it as a medium for me to express my artistic thoughts and emotions."  

Immanuel used microscope imagery as his inspiration when creating Athra, specifically, the works of Christopher King, who mixed alanine, glutamine, and taurine together and took photos of it. It's amazing that relatively simple chemistry can look like an alien world! The build took five days from start to finish, since this isn't his first surreal landscape, and it was a refuge from the burnout he was feeling after working on a bunch of Minecraft commissions.

"The story of the build is that of my state of mind at this point in my life," he says, pointing to the "ups" of the light blue rocks and the "downs" of the water-filled caves – "because such is life. Ups and downs." 

Athra is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colours, shapes, and textures, designed specifically to be experienced with RTX – the high-powered graphical upgrade that makes Minecraft look like a paradise of sunbeams and fancy realistic water. Minecraft with RTX is its own thing, you see - some of the textures and features have been changed, so diamonds can glow in the dark, and stained glass changes the colour of the light that shines through. To put it in simpler terms, it'll blow your mind.

Of course, Athra is beautiful enough without all that magic computer stuff, but with RTX on, the place becomes a wonderful hall of mirrors and light, colour splashes mingling to create a rainbow symphony. We're tempted to ask our bosses if we can make this an official biome – and Immanuel says that we could add a new mob to it, too: the Astrocetus, AKA "flying whales".  

"They'd nest inside the big crystally rocks, and fly out as soon as hatched. They'd eat spores from the yellow Phallaciae plants, which in turn would dye their fins and gills a sunset orange." Sounds good to us – maybe they can be friends with the glow squid? In actual fact, the biome that Athra is built in is mostly in the Nether, and so ghasts and pigmen will spawn here naturally. Ghasts are kind of like sky whales, right? 

The landscape of Athra is carefully made so that it suggests that it grew that way naturally. "I really tried to steer clear of any blocks that would suggest man-made," says Immanuel, preferring a palette of concrete powder, nether blocks, and stained glass to create his artwork. But some of you may know that the original texture pack provided by Nvidia for the RTX version of Minecraft includes wooden frames around the stained glass – so Immanuel had to go in and manually change all the textures himself.  

There were also a lot of things that Immanuel had to learn about working with RTX. Even though he knows about working with 3D modelling outside of Minecraft – "so the usage of normal, height, emission, roughness and metalness maps is not a completely alien concept" – he had to have a reference open on his second monitor while building, so he could see what certain blocks would look like in different lighting. While he was building, the blocks kept changing colour and appearance as the day turned to night – and he didn't want to accidentally pick the wrong colours as a result! 

As an extra treat, Immanuel shared his current PC desktop wallpaper – a special version made by his friend Rilw that lights up in response to the audio of his computer, making the alien landscape look like a psychedelic thunderstorm. 

We love seeing Minecraft builders take the medium to new heights, especially when those heights involve making actual art. Now, if you'll excuse us, we have to go – we're going to try to argue that our dirt hut deserves to be in the Louvre. Does anyone have the Louvre's number? 

Kate Gray
Written By
Kate Gray
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