Gamers explore streets of 17th-century London

Maps of 17th-century London have been brought to life in a new 3D video game.

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 © Pudding Lane Productions

Maps of 17th-century London have been brought to life in a new 3D video game.

Designed by a team of students from De Montfort University, Leicester, the game shows the tightly packed streets of the capital city, covered in a haze of smoke following the Great Fire of 1666.

Great attention has been given to key features of London Bridge and the wooden structure of Queenshithe, a small ancient ward of the City of London, situated by the River Thames.

The game features 17th-century taverns and market stalls, and captures the cobbled streets and glittering window casements.

The team of students, named Pudding Lane Productions, adapted historical maps and engravings from the British Library using software from game developer Crytek.

The game, which took nine months to create, scooped first prize in the Off the Map challenge – a nationwide initiative sponsored by Crytek and run in conjunction with the British Library and GameCity.

The contest invited students from across the UK to create a video game using maps and drawings based on 17th-century London, Stonehenge or the pyramids at Gizeh in Egypt.

Its primary objective was to merge rich visual sources from the past with industry-leading technology.

Tom Harper, panel judge and curator of cartographic materials at the British Library, told historyextra: “The winning students used our maps for inspiration, rather than faithfully reproducing them.

“Having said that, some aspects of the game are very realistic.

“The game features a layer of smoke lying over London, which of course there would have been after the Great Fire.

“It also captures the noise and clatter of bustling London. These are things you cannot capture in a map alone.

“Maps only show an area from one point of view, so the students went out and collected more information.

“They took photos around London and visited York, where many more 17th-century buildings still exist.

“They found information online, and produced their own drawings.

“The game is so alive and atmospheric. The students really captured the essence of what London might have been like in the 17th century.

“The game enables us to explore 17th-century London.

“This project not only makes use of historical archives, but increases young people’s awareness and appreciation of the past.”

Historian Kate Williams, who earlier this year live-tweeted the Great Fire of 1666, welcomed the game: “The British Library has an incredible collection of maps of 17th-century London, so it's great news that they have been the inspiration for such an innovative game,” she said.

“We know that computer game technology is striding ahead, and it's great to see that passion and technology used to recreate the greatest city of the time.

“We see London with the eye of a person who was there.”

Watch a video about the game here: