By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Rome wasn’t built in a day, the old saying goes. How about Minneapolis?

For high schooler Matthew Ye, it took 770 hours. That’s how much time he’s spent over the last year recreating Minnesota’s largest city in the video game Cities: Skylines. Think of it like a modern day SimCity. Players create the infrastructure of a city — imagined or, in Ye’s case, real. Everything from the buildings to the roads to the stoplights.

Matthew Ye’s virtual Minneapolis (credit: Matthew Ye)

Ye said before this project, he mostly made fictional cities in the game, which he’s been playing for about four years. He likes that the game lets you “design anything you like.”

“I eventually decided to try to recreate a real-world city after being inspired to do so by another player who was making a recreation of Philadelphia,” Ye said, “and I chose my hometown, Minneapolis.”

Cities: Skylines logs how many hours players spend on a project, and Ye’s 770 hours equates to about 32 days, or 9% of a year. Using his own pictures of the city, maps and Google Earth, he’s created a staggeringly accurate simulacrum.

One pain point for the virtual Minneapolis is a common thorn for the city’s real-life residents, too.

“The footage in the video was recorded literally a day before Interstate 35’s new interchange opened to the public,” he said. “I am currently working on building this newer version of the interchange.”

Aside from that hiccup, Ye’s recreation is stunningly complete. Had the game a bit more graphical fidelity, you may think you were looking at drone footage of the real thing.

“Currently, I have completed most of the downtown area, and I plan on expanding to the suburbs and towards St. Paul, starting with the Stadium Village area,” he said.

He works on the project mostly “during breaks from school,” he said, so his vision is only hampered by his free time.

The city in progress (credit: Matthew Ye)

And while the project looks impressive from afar, the closeup details are equally astonishing. Ye has painstakingly recreated the most iconic parts of the Minneapolis skyline.

“The most challenging part of the project was getting the central downtown buildings to look right. As the defining feature of the skyline, it was very important that the buildings look very similar to their real-life counterparts,” Ye said. “One of the most difficult buildings to create in the game was the Wells Fargo Center, due to its complexity. This building has many edges and vertices, and the orange illumination of the building was also very hard to accomplish using the available tools. This building alone took around 6 hours to get right.”

The recreated Wells Fargo Center (credit: Matthew Ye)

It wasn’t all hard work, though. Ye said the most fun part of the project was recreating the city’s light rail and NorthStar commuter train.

“I researched information about both railways and was able to learn more about their history as well as their future plans for expansion,” he said.

Ye said the game is mostly made for city building, but there are other gameplay elements.

“After completing the city, you can run traffic simulations on various intersections and interchanges to test the traffic flow, as well as simulate population growth/decline,” he said.

He plans to share his virtual city with other players, but like SimCity, there are also…less productive pathways once a city is complete.

“You can also launch meteors and set off earthquakes,” Ye said, “if that is what you like doing.”