Minecraft beginner's guide

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the better part of a year, chances are you’ve heard mention of Minecraft around the interwebs. (Note: if you have just awakened from a coma, thank you for making us your first stop.) You’ve heard mention of Creepers, skeletons, crafting recipes, fantastical structures built by players, and all sorts of assorted geekery. But if you’re like us, you showed up a bit late to the party, and Minecraft can be a bit of an intimidating game to get into.

The game is still technically in beta (perhaps the least restrictive beta ever, as twenty bucks gets you an all-access pass), which means, among other things, that there’s no in-game tutorial, and no instruction manual. You’re simply plopped into a huge world and left to your own devices. We’re going to give you a rundown of some of the basics of the game – like making shelter, starting your mine, and crafting useful items – by walking you through a typical session of Minecraft, thus giving you the tools to get the most out of this dynamite indie title.

The first step to playing the game is generating a new world. This is all done automatically. Just tell the game to build a new, random world, wait a few seconds, and you’ll be popped into a unique little piece of creation all your own. You could start in a desert, a mountain range, valley or forest – any type of terrain you can imagine. Ours looked like this:

Above: It’s a brave new world

Now, the first order of business in any new world is to make a shelter. This is because, at nighttime, monsters such as zombies, skeletons, and the dreaded Creeper show up to carve you into little giblety bits, but an adequate shelter will keep them at bay. We trekked around a bit to find a good place to create a new home, eventually settling on building into the side of a cliff, to save some time on building.

Above: Using existing natural walls saves precious time on day one

Now that you have a location, you’ll need materials to build your walls. There’s a couple of ways to go about this. You can either just grab materials that are laying around, like dirt and sand, and get the fortress together quickly, or you can gather sturdier materials to make a less-haphazard house. We chose to build our house out of wood, as it’s one of the most important resources in the game, and we needed to gather some anyway. To gather wood, you simply walk up to a tree, and hold down the left mouse button to punch the tree until it crumbles.

Above: Yes, you punch trees to death

After you have some base units of wood, you can start some basic crafting. To craft initially, press the ‘I’ key to bring up the inventory and crafting interface. Drag the wood onto the crafting blocks like so, and you’ll be rewarded with 4 wooden-plank blocks per piece of lumber. To craft them quickly, just right-click on the wood-plank icon until you’ve collected them all.

Now that you have some building blocks, it’s time to make your house! The building is pretty simple to pull off. Simply equip the item in your action bar, point the crosshairs at the place you want to put the block, and press the right mouse button. Now, nighttime is approaching, so we’d better hurry up and do a building montage!

Above: Insert '80s pop song of your choice here. We recommend anything by Hall and Oates

At this point, we ran into a problem: we needed just a little more wood, and the sun was setting fast.

Above: You have never seen beauty until you’ve seen a voxel sunset

So, we made a mistake at this point. We wandered a bit after dark without any weapons to try and gather just a little more wood. This turned out to be a bad idea, as we got bushwhacked by a couple of bow-and-arrow wielding skeletons, who thought it would be a great idea to use us as a pincushion.

Above: Diplomacy check failed

The object lesson here is that if your shelter is not quite finished, use dirt, sand or whatever else is close at hand to get the job done instead of wandering, especially if you have no weapons. We respawned not too far from our new home, and returned to try to pick up some dirt to finish the roof. As we were gathering the dirt in our house, we heard a sound you will come to fear, too: the hissing of a fuse being lit. We turned around to see one of the most nefarious game baddies ever to walk right through our doorway - a Creeper.


The nasty thing about Creepers is that they don’t really attack - they suicide-bomb. And the explosion triggered by getting near them will not only harm (or more likely kill) you, but will blast enormous chunks out of whatever you worked so hard to build.

Above: It exploded and left us for dead, which turned out to be a pretty good guess

This was not our night. After respawning this time, we dug a small hole right where we stood and just stayed there until daytime, when the rising sun vaporized all of the baddies (except for Creepers). When daylight came around, we returned to our house to survey the damage from the explosion. All of the outer walls remained intact, but our floor was a bit lower than we remembered and we had some new skylights we didn’t remember putting in.

Above: Destroying your hard work is just adding insult to injury

We repaired the damage quickly. The lesson here is to never leave a way into your house at nighttime. Block up your doorway with dirt, and craft a door later. And if you must have a window, make sure it’s no bigger than a single block.


  • CaptainSpatula - April 7, 2011 9:09 p.m.

    glad to see this game gettin' some Gdar love. I've been with it since it was free and there wasn't any survival. I love how much it's grown and I'm glad you guys like it too.
  • Fady2Hotty - April 7, 2011 9:20 p.m.

    when i first heard of his game, i was thinking who would play this POS. then i tried it out, and haven't stopped playing lol
  • GodofPS314 - April 7, 2011 9:23 p.m.

    As much as I love this game, this article is really stupid and unnecessary. I find most tutorials on this game to be quite ridiculous as Helen Keller could figure it out. (:
  • Lolspamm0r - April 7, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    Spiders don't set fire at day time. They just become passive
  • Limbo - April 7, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    As of the 1.4 Beta update, the default inventory key is now E, so you might want to change that so as to not confuse anyone. All around a good guide, but another useful item for beginners is a bed. It allows you to skip through the night so you don't have to just sit there.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - April 7, 2011 9:59 p.m.

    Might want to add wolves, beds, and such. Those would be confusing. Also, the optimal place for diamond mining. Between layers 11 and 16, that is. (layer 5 is the highest layer of bedrock).
  • GamerTagsSuck - April 7, 2011 10:16 p.m.

    You mentioned that torches will become temporary, but only newly made ones. All pre-existing torches will be converted to lanterns, which are permanent, when the update comes.
  • killorabbit - April 7, 2011 10:18 p.m.

    I'd read GamesRadar first after waking from a coma. Promise <3
  • GamerTagsSuck - April 7, 2011 10:22 p.m.

    Also, the bedrock isn't indestructible. It is possible to destroy it using massive amounts of TNT, which will proceed to crash the game.
  • Evil_AppleJuice - April 7, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    This officially makes me want to get minecraft for sure. Thanks GR, I have found my time waster till LA Noire!!!
  • thelonelywizards - April 7, 2011 10:57 p.m.

    About time GR got on the Minecraft bandwagon. If you want a more in depth look at the first day in Minecraft, here's a first-person account in the style of a diary...
  • 8bitBaby - April 7, 2011 11:15 p.m.

    *sigh* i wanna play it. i really do. but i'm afraid of losing SO much time to it.
  • Vitreosity - April 7, 2011 11:20 p.m.

    Actually, Notch said that he's most likely dropped the idea of lanterns. Originally, the plan was to have torches burn out and need re-lighting from Flint+Steel, but in a series of tweets, he said that he just didn't like the idea that much any more.
  • Brutalicus - April 7, 2011 11:58 p.m.

    You bastards, do you know what you've done? The lack of a beginner's guide was the only thing keeping this out of my veins. NooooOOOOoooOOOO
  • AlpineGuy - April 8, 2011 12:25 a.m.

    Gurren Lagann reference FTW. This is a great beginner's guide. It makes me want to jump on the bandwagon just a little more, but I really can't afford to waste that much time!
  • JHONNYOHH - April 8, 2011 12:35 a.m.

    "OH JESUS OH FUCK" That correctly describes how I feel when I see a creeper! haha great article guys, I was wondering when you'd get the chance to do this <3
  • FNG - April 8, 2011 1:53 a.m.

    Page 2 paragraph 3: You do not get stone blocks from mining stone, you get cobblestone.
  • AlSwearengenHatesCocksuckers - April 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.

  • NightCrawler_358 - April 8, 2011 2:24 a.m.

    Nice guide for beginners, when I started I also made a floating castle hours in the sky haha. I learned all my Minecraft knowledge from "the Yogscast" videos on Youtube, their channel is called "BlueXephos." I recommend their Multiplayer survival series-very funny. Sorry if that sounded like spam lol.
  • DamnHippy - April 8, 2011 3:41 a.m.

    wow an Aldous Huxley reference AND a Led Zeppepelin reference; props, you deserve a medal

Showing 1-20 of 35 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000