Typos can do incredible things to video games, like causing Gandhi to nuke people senseless for over two decades. And in the case of Microsoft Flight Simulator, it’s a typo that’s caused Ȁ̛̺̪̳͔͓̀̔̏LL͈̟͒͐ ̦͕̭̅̄̾H̢̧̡̛̝͑͒͘A͎̽I̩̟͚̊̾̿̆͢L̢̉ ͖̤͕̆̀͠T͖̓H̡͠E̠͝ ̞̹͛͡S̤̥̱̮̊̑͐̀͊͢Ṕ̤͍͎̜̇̉̚͢͝I̼̥͂̉R̘̓Ę̜̖̀̈́͠.
Microsoft Flight Simulator pulls data from Bing Maps, and so any peculiarities or anomalies with Bing Maps data were ripe for replication in Asobo Studio’s virtual recreation of the planet. That’s especially likely given that the developers can’t individually check every city and location on the planet, and when the game relies on AI recreations of existing Bing data for smaller suburbs — like Melbourne’s North — then accidents can blow up into a bigger deal.
Like a 212-storey skyscraper dropped in the middle of Melbourne’s Fawkner.
In Microsoft Flight Simulator a bizarrely eldritch, impossibly narrow skyscraper pierces the skies of Melbourne’s North like a suburban Australian version of Half-Life 2’s Citadel, and I am -all for it- pic.twitter.com/6AH4xgIAWg
— Alexander Muscat (@alexandermuscat) August 19, 2020
So how did the Melbourne Monolith get there in the first place, even though it’s obviously been there the whole time and Microsoft Flight Simulator is j͓̼̠͑͂̀̚ͅu͉̩̝͊͐͝s̼̟̩̳͒͒̔͡ţ̟̪͋̈́͒ ̦͖̱͊̑̄ŗ̬̗͚́̿̆͞e͖͓͙̱̋̍̒̒v̢̡̮͚͊̇̊̋e͚̣͇͂̀̽̕ͅa͉̠̼͛̅͘l̥̩̫̄̔̀i̺̯̘͑̂̑n͎̟̬̉̎̚g̣͖̿͒̐͜ ͉̭͉͚̏͋̀̀t̝̝̺͗́͒h̡̠͉̒́̉ḙ͖͉̐̅̚ ̟̹̱̗̏̽͊́t͔̞̗̤̀͑̊͞r̘̣͉͛̾͊͂͜ư̼̲͚̼̍͊̈t̢̨̖̼͋̓͘͡h̨̻̰̒̽̎?̗̩̳͆͛̔ ̡̩̖͒̌̃
As it turns out, an old fashioned typo is the answer. Twitter user Liam dug through edits to Open Street Maps — which flight simulators have been using for years — to uncover what might have happened. They discovered that in 2019, a user called “nathanwright120” made an edit last year to a building in the suburb.
According to the edit, the “house” was edited to have 212 levels, instead of what it was supposed to have, which was obviously 2.
A year ago, “nathanwright120” made an edit to @openstreetmap , adding a tag that indicates that a building in the suburb of Fawkner in Melbourne, Australia, had 212 floors instead of 2. All his other edits of openstreetmap seem legit, so it appears to have been a typo… (1/2) pic.twitter.com/Mwh1LBu3ap
— Liam O ???? (@liamosaur) August 20, 2020
The error was later corrected by another Open Street Maps user, but obviously not before Microsoft Flight Simulator was compiled using an older version of the data. Bing Maps itself doesn’t have a massive monolith in the middle of the suburb, but the Melbourne Dark Spire obviously cannot be hidden.
So it’s likely that Microsoft Flight Simulator has used Open Street Maps data as well. Bing Maps, from what I can find, has never recorded a titanic spire in the middle of Fawkner. But that also raises a super interesting question: if Flight Simulator could at one point be affected by user-made updates to Open Street Map, does that mean the developers — or fans — could start building their own bizarre architectural ARGs in the future by making unusual edits that get patched into the game?
Either way, for now, the Melbourne Spire remains. Microsoft hasn’t publicly confirmed at the time of writing whether the massive monolith will remain in the game. It should though: people are already starting to P͇̱͇̞̯̔̋̉̊̑R̪͈̩̯̣̉͒̂̐̇A̪̠̞̬̮͗̐͆̿̆I̹̦̤̜̎̉̓̇͟͡Ṣ̗̪͗͌̍Ȇ̺̪̫̐̈́ ̨͙̺͗́̚T̻̱͘̚͜͞Ḧ̼̘̭́̄̊Ë͎̫̼̈́̌ ̢̨͎̽̊̑̕͜M̧̦͎͆̅͊O̢͍̣͐͒̓N̮͖̦̯͆̅̿̀̔͜Ó̲̖̜͂͒L͍̟̂̀̕͜Į̨͔̮͌̋̅͘T͇͈̰͒́́̒ͅḦ̬͈̀̾͟, and users are flocking to Australia as a flyable location just to see something different. I’m still keen to see what other locations have been beset with unusual typos and strange inclusions, which works out great for Microsoft Flight Simulator. And hey, it’s not like we can physically fly anywhere right now, so we might as well have some fun in the virtual world.
Update 1:00PM AEST: While Leah and I were flying around the Melbourne Spire, the creator of the monolith dropped into our Twitch chat and said hello.
Interestingly enough, they’re a game developer as well. “I actually make games and write about exploration in games, so this has been a really funny coincidence,” Nathan — or as we started calling him, The Architect — said.
When asked whether their upcoming game would feature any references to The Spire, they had a better suggestion. “Here’s a small game of mine, in my head canon it’s what is inside the Monolith.”