Minecraft [official site] with mind-blisteringly distant horizons, rendered to 4,000 blocks, looks like a different game. The world stretches in every direction, full of mystery and possibilities. The puniness of your constructions is laid bare as the enormity of nature seems prepared to swallow them whole. It's stunning, as you can see in the video below.
I'm not a fully paid up member of the photorealism club but that's not to say I don't get excited by the right kind of graphical tomfoolery. There are three things that make me particularly happy: funky particle effects, good skyboxes and enormous draw distances. Mad Max has given me enough glorious burning skies to keep me happy for years. F.E.A.R.'s particle effects were as essential to the intensity of its firefights as the barks and cries of the soldiers. And now Minecraft has emerged as a surprise victor in the Draw Distance stakes.
Except this is an impossible dream, right? Youtuber JL2579 uploaded the video above, which uses the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft, and some tweaks to the game's settings to allow view distances that seem to go on forever. To me, this isn't just a gimmick - I'm a wanderer rather than a builder in Minecraft, and some of my favourite moments have involved looking back at the places I've been, picking out landmarks and even buildings off in the distance.
Unfortunately, Minecraft being what it is, the usual distance isn't very...distant. I can't travel for weeks and then pick out the first tower I built, miles away but visible at the top of the region's highest peak. With these kind of settings, I could.
I haven't even installed the Windows 10 edition of the game yet because I can't plug all of my favourite mods straight in. The game is built in C++, like the Pocket Edition, rather than the Java of the original game, which means that mods aren't cross-compatible. It also means that this kind of distance rendering is possible where it might not be in Java. I'd say "definitely isn't possible in Java" but I'm not entirely sure - this very different interpretation of 4K Java Minecraft isn't quite what I'm after.
The video set me to thinking though, about how what we do and what is possible in a game changes when technical limitations shift. Minecraft might attract a greater proportion of explorers, pioneers and archaeologists if the world were laid out in front of them like a promise. I'd certainly spend more time hacking through its jungles, tracing the great rivers to their source and attempting to conquer every mountain.
If you want to try this yourself, you'll need Win 10 Minecraft and you'll need to edit the file in the following location: C:\Users\(Your Username)\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.MinecraftUWP_(Random Characters)\LocalState\games\com.mojang\minecraftpe\options.txt.
Change the "gfx_renderdistance_new:" to whatever your desired block render distance is.
And is it me or does the world look like it curves toward the horizon? An optical illusion based on expectation perhaps because these worlds are surely as flat as the surface of a die.