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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.