A small group of U of T Mississauga students have been working diligently over the past month to recreate, in exacting detail, a slice of campus in Minecraft.
The team of four, who are members of UTM White Van, one of the largest student-run Discord groups for the UTM community, have built a virtual replica of Deerfield Hall.
Spurred on by hearing their fellow students comment that it would be nice to see campus again, the group decided to meticulously rebuild a part of campus in a virtual space.
“Being on campus, in classes, talking to professors and students was something students really missed, so we came up with this idea where, instead of us going to campus, we bring the campus to the students,” says Jonathan Ho, who is coming off an internship and entering his final year with a double major in communication, culture, information and technology, and computer science.
Deerfield Hall is the “main home” for computer science students, which is why the small team, which also includes Lance Santiago, Akira Takaki and Naaz Sibia, chose to start with that building, Ho notes.
A self-described visual person who is focusing his studies on user experience design, Ho explains the team opted to work in the Minecraft environment because the platform has some of the more powerful creative capabilities that allows users to recreate real-life places.
“Minecraft has a creative mode that allows you to recreate anything using any type of blocks, designs and textures,” Ho explains. “We found that, based on images we saw of Deerfield Hall, Minecraft was able to provide the most resources to help replicate this as best as possible.”
Ho explains the replica was created room-by-room using publicly accessible resources, including Google maps and images. They discovered floor plans and photos of individual rooms on the university’s room booking system, which they utilized to create the layouts in Minecraft. He says they also used their memory, despite being absent from campus for so long.
The result is a stunning, virtual space, complete with furniture, that is remarkably like the physical building, from the exterior to the halls, common areas, and even individual rooms.
Ho is unsure how many hours have gone into creating the virtual Deerfield Hall, explaining they were having so much fun they lost track of time. He adds they only worked on the project when they had free time.
The replica is hosted on an online, publicly accessible server so anyone with a Minecraft account can log into the server and explore the open areas. Currently only Deerfield Hall is available, but the team is already working on recreating Maanjiwe nendamowinan, with the majority of the exterior and three floors already completed.
Ho would like to see the virtual campus built out. He sees it as a fun project to help pass the time. Yet rebuilding UTM is no small undertaking.
“It’s kind of mind blowing to us,” Ho says. “If there are people who want to help out as well, we’ll always welcome them.”
Response to the project has been positive, with some asking if they can host virtual events at the virtual campus. There’s even been some talk about hosting a virtual graduation ceremony inside Deerfield Hall for computer science students.
Ho says it may be a while yet before students can return to the physical campus, so this project gives them an opportunity to have virtual campus events and virtual campus tours, adding they could host a show or even fireworks in the virtual environment.
“Anything is possible.”