Welcome to Broville

An epic city build, 4.5 years in the making!

Broville is something of a Minecraft institution. This city build been with us in various forms since the early alpha, growing in ambition with every version release. Last week, version 11 - which by itself took a team of more than 60 contributors four and half years to build - was announced as complete and sent out to fend for itself on the wild internets.

It’s an astonishing piece of work, not just because it’s big, beautiful and busy with brilliantly realised details, but because it so nicely fits the game it’s in - acknowledging Minecraft’s own terrain generation, simulation and scale, rather than flattening everything out to a blank canvas.

I sat down with Oldshoes, Broville’s key creator, and his cat Pretzel, to talk about how the project came together. (Admittedly, Pretzel didn’t contribute much to this conversation directly.) Did Oldshoes always know what a massive project this was going to become?

“It turned out roughly two times as large as I thought it was going to originally,” he says. “People were always asking me: how do you know when it’s done? You can’t really answer that. But it got to the point where me and Golonka - who is second-in-command, so to speak - we narrowed it down and just said, well, I guess we’re almost there. Then it just kinda happened! Two weeks after we said that we released the map.”

Watch the release trailer below:

There’s also another great video here, where you can watch a timelapse of the map reaching completion below. It gives you a sense of the scale of this project, and the ebb and flow of the team’s industry across the years.

With over 60 people contributing to the project on and off across the course of its construction, it’s remarkable just how coherent the city feels.

“I was very picky!” says Oldshoes. “I screened everyone who came into help. I managed to find a good amount of people who were in line with the whole vision for the whole thing, but I still kept a close eye on everything as it was happening.”

"Something really important was setting the scale for the whole map. A lot of city builds are all over the place."

What are the vital qualities in a would-be builder? “I usually look for consistency and an ability to keep to scale,” says Oldshoes. “That was something really important early on, was setting the scale for the whole map. A lot of city builds I find are all over the place - they’re kind of a mess. So the first thing we did was create the main BroCorps tower in the downtown area, and that set the scale for everything that followed. Even the mountains are based off the size of that building.”

It’s something you might not pick out as you walk around Broville, but it’s something you feel instinctively: it all just fits. The build isn’t just internally consistent, either - it feels like it’s part of the landscape.

“A big condition was working with terrain versus flattening everything,” says Oldshoes. “That’s something I see with a lot of city builds - just these huge areas of flatness - whereas I wanted to incorporate the city into the landscape. I wanted it to feel part of the world; Broville is more of a Minecraft city versus a city made in Minecraft.”

About half the landscape is based directly on Minecraft’s own terrain generation, but Broville does borrow from real life, too, loosely basing its geography and overall climate on Oldshoes’ hometown of Victoria in British Columbia. To achieve that authenticity, the mountains were sculpted using Voxel Sniper. It’s the part of the map that Oldshoes cites as his largest endeavour, being responsible for 90% of the landscaping there.

“That took a while,” he says. “It was kind of a mess to start with. We stacked up a whole lot of stone into these huge mounds, and then carved out the features in them. That involved not only creating the shape of it, but then I had to go and overlay the grass up to the point which we determined to be the snow line, which is the default cloud level. Then I’d have to manually paint in the biome that would allow it snow, but prevent it from snowing beneath that line.

"I wanted to incorporate the city into the landscape. I wanted Broville to feel part of the world."

“I used World Edit a little bit to put the snow on the ground, but it wasn’t very reliable,” says Oldshoes. “So I had to set the server to snow for a long time, and just sit in each area as the snow accumulated everywhere.”

I think that’s one of the things I like so much about seeing things being built in Minecraft - it’s a sculpting tool, but it’s also a living simulation that you have to manage. Oldshoes agrees:

“Along those lines, we opted not to use NPCs for anything on the map. It’s a big city so you’d think you’d want them in there, but just from a managerial standpoint they’re super unreliable - they’ll multiple, they’ll get inside things - it’s bad enough already with the number of entities in the downtown area: it really takes a big dip on performance.”

With version 11 out the door, Oldshoes and his team are thinking of what to build next.

“If we do something together again as a team, it’ll probably be something much smaller,” he says. “We’re thinking of a fantasy adventure thing - the very opposite of the modern city!”

So, definitely no Broville version 12, then?

“I don’t think so,” he says. “But I said that after the last one…”

Just a quick note if you're thinking of downloading the map: because of the scale of the build, and the number of people working on it, Oldshoes can’t fully guarantee every little bit of it is appropriate for all ages. So take care out there!

Written by
Marsh Davies