Director Ben Wheatley, the man behind the disturbing psychological thriller Kill List and last year’s J.G. Ballard adaptation High-Rise, takes aim at the action genre with his new movie Free Fire. The film centers around a massive gunfight that follows an arms deal gone awry, and Wheatley used Minecraft to help orchestrate the chaos.
Plotting out an action sequence that lasts over an hour is no small feat, and requires plenty of forethought. Wheatley and his team made storyboards, drew up blueprints, and even made a physical model of the warehouse, according to a report from Wired. They also re-created the space in Minecraft, so they could get a feel for its dimensions in-game.
Being that Free Fire is a film about a drawn-out gunfight, it was imperative that Wheatley could make sure the action would seem credible ahead of time. To that end, he used the version of the warehouse built in Minecraft to check up on things like the line of sight of various combatants, and how much scenery would be required on-set to give his characters enough cover to work with.
Every block in Minecraft is roughly one cubic meter in size, which made it relatively easy for the crew to translate what was constructed in the game to the real world. While there are always going to be some inconsistencies because of things like the height of the player character, and the game’s intentionally simple building mechanics, the game provided a good basis to work from.
Of course, the green grass and wild pigs that populate Minecraft wouldn’t be completely appropriate for the purposes of designing a set where hardened gangsters would be riddling each other with bullets. Wheatley employed a non-standard texture pack inspired by Blade Runner in order to give his virtual warehouse a more appropriate look and feel. A texture pack is a collection of files used to change the in-game textures of blocks, items, mobs, and more.
Minecraft has obviously been a huge commercial success since it launched in 2009, but its greater cultural relevance comes from the fact that it’s one of the few titles that can truly claim to be an open-ended sandbox. The game is as useful on a movie set as it is in the classroom, and that’s pretty incredible for something that started out as an indie project.