Dan Harvey Spent Five Years Building A Minecraft Castle

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When you look back at your last 5 years what do you think of?  What did you accomplish?  What kinds of projects did you start and finish?  Does Minecraft come to mind?  Perhaps.  Perhaps you spent a few hours in there improving some stuff or creating templates for a new world.  But I’ll bet you didn’t think people were out there spending not weeks, but years on their creations.  That’s exactly what Dan Harvey did.  Was it time well spent?  You’d have to ask him.  However, what he did build is nothing less than extraordinary.  It’s a Minecraft Castle that is sure to top any other you’ve ever seen.  He documented the entire process on Imgur and we’ve got it all below.  Here’s how to starts:

Looking back, I was always destined to create a big Minecraft build one day. I started out playing exclusively Survival, but in the back of my head I knew I wanted to get stuck into a creative mode build. I knew this because I had previously loved Simcity, but ended up using cheats and just enjoying building a big city for creative purposes. So eventually, once I’d gotten a bit bored of Survival, I started a Minecraft creative build. It was fairly aimless at first, I just started building a castle, with tunnels beneath, then about three or four months in, during an electrical storm my computer crashed and the save game corrupted. Disheartened, I stepped away from the game for a while, but it began to stew in my mind to start a new build, but it had to be big, and cool. Then one morning I awoke from a dream with an idea fully formed in my head. I’d build a castle with four different sides, because Minecraft is on a square grid. Each side would be similar, especially around the central tower, but as you moved out, the four sides would take on their own personality and function.

See the rest below:

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Fortress side

The western side would face inland and would be the most ‘generic’ side – a castle with ramparts and towers, a moat, and walls – the “fortress side”. It would feature a gatehouse, some outlying towers, but mainly it would include huge halls and towers that echoed the central tower. Inspiration ranged from gothic architecture to Minas Morgul from the LOTR movies.

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Residence side

The southern side would be the residential wing of the castle. I envisaged many floors of palatial, but comfortable living. Bedrooms, living areas, balconies, gardens, with as many little details inside that I could think of. This side would contain the most decorated interiors, and feature more glass, doors and timber. It would face out over the water as the best residences do.

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Town side

The eastern side would be the royal township. It would feature a cathedral, town hall, docks, noble residences, an inn, shops, stores and stalls, lighthouse, a main street leading up to the castle, and gardens. It also ended up having along its northern edge a harbour. It also became the hub for a train system and featured many other details.

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Factory side

The northern and final side was slated as “the factory”. In the end, the structures nearest the castle became things like a powerhouse, with chimneys and viaducts providing water and lava to the castle side by side, but this orientation ended up being the “sprawl” of the castle, featuring a trader’s township outside the main walls, stables, other lordly residences, and the farm.

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Complexity

This slice of the central castle gives an idea of the level of internal complexity. This kind of detail is pretty consistent throughout the build. One of the things I really wanted to achieve was a depth to everything, such that you only ever saw the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was there. Almost every structure is somehow connected underneath with subterranean passageways, if you’re lucky enough to be able to find your way there, that is. For me, this was always the beauty of Minecraft (it’s called MINEcraft after all) – the way you could dig down and explore the underworld. I was always captivated by the underground worlds in LOTR and The Hobbit (Moria, beneath the Lonely Mountain), C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, and Tad Williams’ The Dragonbone Chair, so for me the underworld was always going to be a big part of my build.

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Underneath the castle

Because of that obsession with the underside of the castle, it was inevitable that the digging became and obsession too. I dug out underneath the entire castle and created a lava sea at the bottom of a huge cave. The castle itself wrapped around that cave and became one with it. From there, countless other caves, passageways and structures twist off the main cavern and eventually become lost in Minecraft’s natural caves and abandoned shafts.

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A castle in its environment

Because of my roots playing Survival, I wanted the whole thing to feel like Minecraft, as if you could be exploring the biomes and the structure just appears above the trees as you walk along. I love the way the game has its own natural environment, so I wanted that to wrap around the things I built as if it was just the algorithm regenerating around it. I’m not sure if I captured that or not, but that was the aim. I think this was also the rationale for making almost everything out of stone. I look at my creation now and regret that I didn’t use more colour, but I think since almost everything I’d made in survival mode was predominantly cobblestone, that influenced my choices. I made a stone castle because that’s what was beneath my feet.

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A custom resource pack

Early on I became dissatisfied with the materials I had at my disposal (bear in mind I begun the build in version 1.2). I wanted columns, so I retextured mossy stone to make a column block that matched the colour and texture of stone slabs. I made my own glass (because let’s be honest about the default glass in Minecraft, it’s rubbish), and various other blocks to suit my needs. Paintings became steely castle decorations, cakes became boxes of provisions, and so forth. It was all very grey… for better or worse… but after a while there was no going back. I was in a world of stone, so why resist it?

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Please feel free to comment

I’d love to share more detail about the world, but it takes time to create these renders. I have many screenshots, which don’t look as great of course, but I’ll probably do an album showing the work-in-progress at some point, if there’s interest in it. This is a castle with many, many secrets, most of which can only really be experienced by exploring in-game, but there are plenty of still images I could share that can tell a story too.

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The Summer Palace

One of the last things I build was the summer palace which stands out in the bay. It can only be accessed by underground/undersea passageways. But it’s ok so I thought I’d include it here.

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The Winter Palace

When will it end? Well, it’s Minecraft, so it never has to, right? The winter palace is just another part of the sprawl of this world, pushing out into the outlying biomes. Gotta start building some more things in the desert next… but there’s so many other little spots that need love, and so little time…


  • Anthony Paul Frost

    Very impressive

  • Graham Kloek

    Really? That took 5 years? I mean it looks great but that should definitely not have taken 5 entire years to make.