To my infinite shame and professional disrepute, I've never played Minecraft. I know. But that hasn't stopped me from hugely enjoying a Minecraft mod for months, Endless City by Julian Hyde. It's an idea so lovely, I've enjoyed it in itself, not even watching other people play. See, Endless City is inspired by this cracking tweet from game-maker Andi McClure:
Reverse minecraft: Minecraft in a large city. Cut away dead frozen impassable skyscraper towers, construct trees and earth in their place.
Ooh, that's top musing all right! Then Hyde made a mod inspired by McClure. The realisation isn't quite the same (making ideas real changes them by forcing specificity anyway), but Hyde explains:
Endless City is a Minecraft mod that replaces Minecraft's natural world with vast, empty city stretching out in all directions. In this city many of the basic principles for how you play Minecraft must be reconsidered or abandoned complete. Can you survive the city and bring life to this ravaged land? Go find out!
The result is an endless city of abstract, semi-functional buildings, as if an alien intelligence had tried to build a city based on brief observations. Which, given how Minecraft's procedural algorithms work, is pretty much what's going on. It reminds me of Adrián Villar Rojas's sculpture installation Today We Reboot the Planet, another weird set of half-understood recreations.
Skyscrapers are simply towers of gravel. Mini towers are one-bedroom apartments. Golden homes ornamented with cakes and Creeper heads are entirely walled in, with monster spawns in the yard. Dark cubes contain lava. Chests hold more weapons than you'll ever need in this dead land. So many Minecraft builders create functional, usable spaces as virtual homes, but this only broadly resembles a city. It's sinister and fascinating and I still smile thinking about either Hyde's realisation or McClure's original idea. I'm not slipping into self-parody, am I? I don't think I am.
You can download it and have a look around yourself, though I have no idea if being made for an older version (1.6.4) will mess things up. Weird things happen when you take a world generated by the mod into a non-modded version too.
Sure, if you want realistic cities which flow over and meld with natural landscapes, the CityWorld mod does that. Actually, now I look, that's due to be updated for modern versions of Minecraft and server plugins any day now. But an abstract nightmare city? You'll want Endless City.
Here's the first watchable video I found: