Community Principles Powering the Largest Ever Hand-crafted Virtual World*

Mars Geldard, University of Tasmania Part of CW18

*…we think.

Westeroscraft is a project based on the block-based building game Minecraft, in which a few hundred unpaid strangers have spent the last 8+ years tirelessly recreating the world of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series block-by-block. Given that every piece of the world, even the terrain itself, was custom-made from scratch, several sources have suggested it to be the largest hand-crafted or contiguous virtual landmass ever made. It exists at the intersection of art and technology, and has been the topic of countless podcasts, articles, and Let’s Plays, was featured in TIME magazine in 2013 and is currently showing in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Videogames: Design, Play, Disrupt exhibition in London.

Creating and promoting an expansive virtual world with a cohesive brand and vision, especially on free labour and across global timezones, is no mean feat. Westeroscraft is an open project like any other: people who don’t know each other each want to see the realisation of an idea, so they come together and combine their segments of work to make a whole. This produces the same benefits we see in comparable software or collaborative projects, but suffers from the same issues: agreeing on the end goal or big picture doesn’t mean there aren’t disagreements on the best path to take or the implementation of specifics. It has many of the same needs as other projects: comprehensive documentation, conflict resolution, and finding the right balance of quality control versus creative freedom, in a structure with ambiguous or nonexistent hierarchy. Common issues are also exacerbated by our being entirely donation-funded, meaning poor community culture could make the difference between being able to keep the lights (or in this case, servers) on.

In this talk, a contributor from the project will reveal the administrative and community management practices employed by Westeroscraft to address issues including:

  • planning and organisation strategies,
  • decision-making and conflict resolution examples and techniques,
  • review/quality control, and
  • community engagement and non-contributor inclusion;

and discuss their applicability to other community or open source creative projects. Also, pretty medieval castle pics.

Marina Rose Geldard, more commonly known as Mars, is a Computing Student from Tasmania. Entering the world of technology relatively late as a mature-aged student, she has found her place in the world: an industry where she can apply her lifelong love of mathematics and optimisation.

A compulsive volunteer at industry events, Mars also teaches artificial intelligence to first-year ICT students, hikes around in the Tasmanian wilderness, dabbles in research, and builds Game of Thrones in Minecraft.

Mars has been awarded the MJ Rees Prize (for excellence in Information Systems academia) at the University of Tasmania, and was an Apple WWDC Scholarship recipient for 2018. Mars is on the organising committee for /dev/world, after running the registration desk in 2016/17, and serves on the board for her state’s branch of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). She is currently authoring a book for O’Reilly Media on the topic of practical artificial intelligence, and working on computer vision projects for the betterment of public safety in her hometown of Hobart.

Mars can be found on Twitter (@TheMartianLife) and at