Meet Samuel Pepys

Minecraft map has gamers fighting virtual Great Fire of London

The Museum of London is marking this weekend’s 350th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great Fire of London with the launch of the second in a series of Minecraft maps that let users experience the events of 1666 through a series of mini challenges.

‘Great Fire 1666: The Fire’ shows how a spark in a bakery on Pudding Lane turned into a conflagration that raged for four days, destroyed a quarter of the capital and has gone down in history as one of the worst disasters to hit London.

Players travel around various locations trying to evacuate residents and their belongings, choosing which of their own household items to save, and getting stuck into fighting the flames using Minecraft versions of 17th-century leather buckets, fire squirts, gunpowder and even a wooden, hand-pumped fire engine.

There’s also the option of playing as a journalist from the London Gazette, whose offices burnt down on the second day of the fire, and encountering historical figures including King Charles II, Thomas Farriner the baker and diarist Samuel Pepys.

The map is the second in a series launched in July and will be followed in February 2017 by a third in which players will be able to rebuild London from the ashes. Together, they’re the result of a collaboration between the Museum of London, digital producer Adam Clarke, games creator Dragnoz and the 40-strong team on Minecraft builders Blockworks.

Joshua Blair, who led the project and is the museum’s digital learning coordinator, hopes the map will provide a fun and engaging way of learning about a watershed moment in London’s history. “The first map in the Great Fire 1666 series has allowed us to really immerse players in the life and times of London in 1666, reconstructing the narrow streets, wooden buildings and iconic landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral and London Bridge to set the scene of the fire. This second map is where the Great Fire story really unfolds,” he said.

‘Great Fire 1666: The Fire’ and ‘Great Fire 1666: Pre-Fire London’ are available to download for PC and Mac from www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/great-fire-1666.

Anyone wanting an even more immersive journey back to the 17th century should note that Minecraft will be supported by the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset due to go on sale in the UK later this month. Minecraft owner Microsoft recently announced plans to use the virtual environment software as a testing ground for experiments in artificial intelligence based on the Project Malmo platform developed at the company’s UK research lab in Cambridge.

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