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Virtual Sweden recreated in Minecraft game world

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Virtual Sweden recreated in Minecraft game world
The Swedish town of Gävle in the Minecraft universe. Photo: Lantmäteriet
12:09 CET+01:00
Users of hit game Minecraft will soon be able to build their own versions of Sweden as the Nordic country prepares to turn unique geodata into virtual reality.

The whole of Sweden, with its forests, mountains and 290 municipalities, has for the first time been recreated within the virtual building-block world of Minecraft, one of the Nordic country's most famous tech startups, using official terrain data.

It is set to be released on December 18th by Lantmäteriet, Sweden's National Land Survey agency.

"We thought it would be fun for the children to try it out over their Christmas holidays," Peter Nyhlén, the agency's head of maps and geodata, told Swedish newswire TT.

Sweden is not the first country to enter the Minecraft universe, which allows users to create everything from basic structures to elaborate worlds using building blocks.

Both Denmark and Norway have reproduced their countries for the computer game. And in 2013 an intern working for the team behind the UK's Ordnance Survey constructed geographically accurate landscapes covering some 224,000 square kilometres of Britain.

But the Swedish version is said to be more ambitious and detailed, with roads and railways included.

"It will also be possible to define a geographical area that you want to use, for example a municipality, and we hope for increased recognition and hence boosted gaming and local experience," said Nyhlén in a statement on Tuesday.

The move comes as Lantmäteriet prepares to release hundreds of square kilometres of digital map data into the public domain. The national maps have previously been available for a fee, but the agency wants to, from the turn of the year, ensure people can use them for free.

"We want our map information to be of benefit to the whole of society. That's why we're working to make it easily available and free for everyone. We're jumping the gun a bit by releasing them in Minecraft in the run-up to Christmas, but it's part of our work to get the younger generation to develop an interest for Lantmäteriet's geodata," said Nyhlén.

Minecraft, created by Swedish gamer and entrepreneur Markus 'Notch' Persson, has proven to be extremely popular since its release in 2011, with millions of users worldwide and more than 50 million copies sold. It was bought up by Microsoft last year in a $2.5-billion (17.9-billion kronor) deal.

The 3D game demands that players find creative solutions to construction problems. According to its website, the idea is as simple as “arranging blocks to build anything you can imagine.”

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