The entire GTA 5 map has been turned into a stunning 3D print thanks to the work of designer Dom Riccobene (opens in new tab).
Map of San Andreas for #FanArtFriday#GTA5 #GTAOnline #3dprinting pic.twitter.com/FdUfoquyvFAugust 6, 2021
Riccobene shared a supercut of the 3D printing and assembly process on Twitter a few days ago after chronicling its progress on his Instagram (opens in new tab). The final map consists of 24 tiles representing two square kilometers apiece, all of which took roughly one kilogram of biodegradable PLA plastic to print.
Speaking with GamesRadar over Twitter, Riccobene explained that he started this project last April or May, and that at first he was actually planning to print the Red Dead Redemption 2 map.
"So I actually modeled that first," he explains. "But I decided to wait because the topography in RDR2 is phenomenal when you see it all at once. It actually looks like real world elevation data. So I wanted to work out the workflow kinks with GTA 5 first so I can do RDR2 the justice it deserves."
After deciding to focus on GTA 5, Riccobene had to find an efficient way to collect the in-game topographical data he'd need. The process he established essentially boils down to moving through the game and running a data collection script mapped to a hotkey, using a no-clip or god mode analogue to speed up movement and access normally off-limits areas. For GTA 5 specifically, Riccobene also used a mod to remove all the water so he could get more accurate bathymetric scans.
The result of all this scanning was about 500 million individual data points. To make this raw data more practical, Riccobene applied it as GPS coordinates on Earth to create workable latitude, longitude, and elevation parameters. "This was the only way I could create an exact representation of the game world," he explains.
From there, it was a not-so-simple matter of arranging the refined data as something that could be 3D printed. Printing the tiles that make up the map took between "1.5 and 12 hours each depending on the height and how many color changes there were," with details like buildings and water requiring special attention. The final print took about 125 hours total, with around 300 hours of research, data collection, and good old-fashioned trial-and-error leading up to it.
Riccobene's interest in mapping video game worlds was partly spurred by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has hampered his normal work designing "concrete paving systems and manufacturing methods," some of which you may have seen featured at hardware stores.
"I was introduced to mapping and GIS software in architecture school," he says. "My data sculpture work is sort of a hobby that took off into something more on IG. I’m always trying to find impossible things to attempt so I can hone my skill set and learn. I had to draw on *everything* I know for this map which is always the best kind of project for me."
With his GTA 5 print complete, Riccobene's now moving onto an even more ambitious Red Dead Redemption 2 print which will include "every tree and boulder." After that, he's planning to 3D print the world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which he's also apparently already modeled. He mentioned (opens in new tab) that Skyrim might be the perfect choice after that, and I know a certain city guard who would surely agree.
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