One uneventful Friday night, I decided to visit Disney World. I'd been once before, packing all four parks into five days. It was intense, and I didn't get to go on all the rides.
This time I wanted to take it easy. So I wandered around the Germany Pavilion at Epcot. I rode on Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom. Twice, actually. I ate some snacks so I wouldn't die.
Oh, and I did all of that from my couch in “Minecraft.”
Someone built a 1:1 scale of Disney World in “Minecraft,” which is the game that Microsoft recently paid more than $2 billion to own.
“Minecraft” is what's called an open-world sandbox game, where players can build amazing creations, walk endlessly, or even play against each other online.
The multiplayer functionality of “Minecraft” is where people from all over can participate and play with each other in the same virtual world. Some people even host their own servers. There are hundreds if not thousands of gorgeous creations in the game, ranging from entire cities to replicas of real-life landmarks.
Once Upon A Dream
And that's where Disney World comes in, or as it's called in “Minecraft,” the MCMagic server.
The brains behind the magic is David Wasman, who goes by the name TheRealDuckie in the game.
He started out building the castle with a couple friends. He then saw on the “Minecraft” subreddit that someone else had built the front train station.
“I put two and two together, and figured I could put each one on opposite ends of Main Street, and then it just blew up from there,” Wasman tells Business Insider.
He then got to thinking that there are thousands of people who would never have a chance to make it to Disney in their lives. So he started a free server running out of his bedroom to give people an opportunity to visit the park.
“The server could only handle around 20 people at the time,” he laughs.
Through word of mouth, other builders from around the world pitched in to help him create more of the park, brick by brick. The number of people willing to help out grew, and three years later, the entirety of Disney World was online and accepting hundreds of visitors a day.
“I knew I had something,” he says. “I knew that being able to take from that magic that Disney already created, I can't take any credit for that. But I can at least continue it in some way. It's an homage, really.”
Building a team to help create stuff for a “Minecraft” server is a well-known part of the “Minecraft” world. Ever since Mojang (the maker of “Minecraft”) allowed people to host games on their own servers, there have been teams of people offering their building expertise to help make each server unique.
One of those teams, called ChiseledBrick, was started by a 13-year-old. People can spend anywhere from $50 all the way up to $200 per build, depending on various factors, such as the size of the build and the level of detail involved.
“It's usually a form of investment. A server usually wants to have a good spawn area because it is the first impression of the server,” ChiseledBrick founder Justin Wang says.
Spawning is where a player is placed in the game world once they sign on. Or where they are “reborn” after they die.
In MCMagic, there's no dying. It's strictly for wandering around and checking out the parks. The spawn area looks like the front entrance to Disney World, the ticketing and transportation center. You can read about different aspects of the park, and learn how to do things and which commands to type in.
The best part is that you don't actually have to walk anywhere. For example, you can just type in that you want to go to the Magic Kingdom, and you're magically transported to Main Street.
MCMagic is completely nonprofit. Any money that they make from donations goes right back into supporting the servers.
“I've paid, for the history of the servers, about 90% of the costs out of pocket,” Wasman says. “I've spent well over $16,000.”
Courtesy of TripAdvisor
There are hundreds of “cast members,” too, who help guests find things and make sure that everything is running smoothly. They also ensure that the space remains family friendly. There are constant reminders in the chat area on the left that no foul language will be tolerated.
“We are very big on the safety of our guests,” Denise Neill, one of MCMagic's moderators, tells Business Insider. “We have a very young user base. We don't allow any profanity, outside links, or any advertising on the server. Our goal is to make sure that when you come here, you know that your 7-year-old is not being approached by anyone who can get them into trouble.”
And even those cast members run the place on a volunteer basis. People who hang out on the server often enough and want to help out even further, whether by acting as a tour guide or a moderator, have to submit an application.
Neill stumbled on this server before taking a trip to Disney World with her husband, and just fell in love with it, she says. She's been helping out with the server on and off for about three years, all as a volunteer.
“It's just so much fun,” she says. “I've learned something new every day, and I've built really good relationships with people I've known for three years here.”
She said it's not uncommon for people who meet on the MCMagic server to hang out in real life, and even meet up in the real Disney World.
Do You Want To Build A Theme Park?
In order to get Disney World looking like the real thing, the team solicits help from Disney fans.
They ask people who are going there to take detailed pictures, they use aerial images from Google, and they've even found the blueprints to some of the rides in order to build them to scale.
The amount of detail is insane. You can download what are called “resource packs,” that allow you to experience the parks as intended. And that even includes the music. And the shows, such as “Fantasmic.”
To Infinity And Beyond
But that doesn't mean the work is over with the parks. Cast members in MCMagic are constantly building new things, ranging from changing up the different seasonal decorations, to huge projects like new rides or attractions.
For example, it was just announced that they're removing the sorcerer's hat from Disney's Hollywood Studios. So it's only a matter of time before they remove it from MCMagic.
“They will never be done,” Neill says. “This is a work in progress forever. You have to remember that Disney changes every six months. That means something new is coming.”