Responses by Javier Sancho Rodriguez, project manager, MediaMonks.
Background: Building on the success of the Titanium Lion–winning Uncensored Playlist, we used Minecraft to circumvent cyber censorship once more. Since Minecraft is freely available around the globe, we opened a virtual library of locally censored articles inside it on the World Day Against Cyber Censorship. People can access the library freely and roam the 12.5 million–block structure to find articles that are otherwise inaccessible in their country. The library’s main dome is nearly 300 meters wide, which would make it the second largest in the world. As part of the effort, MediaMonks designed and developed a campaign site to drive public awareness for cyber censorship through the one library in the world where silence is discouraged.
Design core: The features of the site are built on the purpose of telling the story of this powerful campaign. It provides valuable enhancement to The Uncensored Library: what the project is, how it was made, the journalists that are risking their lives to bring truths that should be heard, and ultimately how you can help to make sure these voices are heard.
Favorite details: Giving users the ability to visit the highlights of the library without having to install Minecraft. Immersing yourself into this majestic building in 360 degrees is what leaves an impact. The website also enables people who don’t play Minecraft—or don’t have the ability—to completely dive in by providing a download of this map.
The Uncensored Library consists of a whopping 12.5 million blocks. Getting it to load into the website required a specific process:
- We made a selection of the views and rooms we wanted to highlight in the 360-degree experience.
- The entire model was then exported from Minecraft as a “world file.”
- The world file was converted to load into Cinema 4D to apply materials and lighting to make the rooms even more impressive.
- From the Cinema 4D files, we made high-res cubemaps, which essentially are six images (top, bottom, front, back, left and right).
- A WebGL shader samples these high-res cubemaps to make them appear as 360-degree spheres. Moreover, providing the downloadable file of the map enables users to upload it to Minecraft again and again, should the original server be taken down.
Challenges: From the beginning, we wanted to give every user the opportunity to visit The Uncensored Library and see what it was all about, including people who do not have access to Minecraft. There were multiple factors that we took into consideration for this challenge:
- One, it should be as impressive as visiting the Uncensored Library in Minecraft.
- Two, it should show highlights of the Uncensored Library, because navigating it as you would in Minecraft would take the user too much time. The building is huge!)
- Three, not being familiar with games should not be a threshold to visit the site.
- Four, the experience should entice the user to visit the real Uncensored Library in Minecraft.
Time constraints: The site was designed and built in a few weeks. To try to replicate the unprecedented Minecraft-experience in a website was not going to be feasible, and ultimately, we believed that would act as an alternative to visiting the real Uncensored Library, which is not what we wanted. Our final solution offering a 360-degree walkthrough was not only more feasible because of time constraints but also the right format to reach a larger audience. It enables more people to experience The Uncensored Library in a way that might be suitable to them, as well as giving them a proper jumping off point with more information and enrichment of the experience.
New lessons: Start earlier, and sleep more. The success of the project has been amazing, and unexpected. Had we known that in advance, of course, we would have made different choices for the website to handle all the traffic. However, this is a luxury problem that we have been very happy to accommodate ad hoc as the news spreads like wildfire.
Navigation structure: The sheer size of The Uncensored Library is huge. The library was built over three months. It took 24 builders from sixteen different countries more than 250 hours to design and create the library. It was important to translate this size of the build in Minecraft to the website as well.