Minecraft is a veritable juggernaut in the PC gaming world, with a bustling mod community, dedicated Let's Play streamers, and hundreds of variations on play to keep things fresh. Nearly everywhere you go, even in department stores, you see the gaping mouths of Creepers, blank stares of Steve heads, and even diamond pickaxe styluses.
It's a phenomenon that's only picking up steam, so what better time than now to get your hands dirty in the wide world of Minecraft? Whether you've been digging up informational videos here and there and have a basic understanding of the world or you've never even survived your first night, we're here to help you out. Grab a shovel, your best avatar skin, and let's get started.
1. Getting Minecraft
The first step, of course, is procuring a copy of the game. You can purchase a copy at the official website (minecraft.net) for $26.95 or you can pick up a game card at the store for the same amount. You can also purchase gift codes from the website as well, just in case you happen to need a mining buddy. Registering for an account is free, and if you'd simply like to test the waters, there is a Minecraft demo available for trial purposes.
2. Getting Acquainted
Once you've gotten everything installed and customized to your liking, it's time to get started. Choose the single player button to create your very first world. It will be a completely randomized spawn, so you will be working with the luck of the draw. Choose Create New World and you'll be prompted to name your new stomping grounds. If you can't come up with any inventive names, don't worry. You can always alter it later. After creating a world, you’ll need to choose a game mode.
Survival: Minecraft players usually flock to this game mode, usually viewed as the "standard" version. Monsters will attack you at night, and you must create shelter, find sustenance, and craft items to stay alive. You will likely die, but if you do, you simply respawn. You can choose between difficulties within Survival Mode as well.
Creative: If you're enamored with the ornate and elaborate creations you see time and time again in the Minecraft community, then Creative mode is for you. Think of it as a safe "sandbox" with unlimited resources, building materials, and no survival elements to get in the way of your genius.
Hardcore: If you're reading this guide, chances are you won't want to choose this challenging game mode. It's aimed at experienced miners and those looking to sharpen their "pro skills." If you die, everything will be lost. Think carefully before choosing this mode, as it may be more than you bargained for.
After you've chosen a game type, click Create New World and your very first Minecraft kingdom will be generated.
3. The Basics
Depending on what was randomly generated for your world, you'll now find yourself smack dab in the middle of verdant greenery, a beachside scene, a desert, or even snow-capped mountains. This terrain is now yours to begin cultivating as you see fit. It's the start of a brand new day, and a cycle that you will want to become acquainted with. Each day cycle lasts ten minutes, so it's prudent to remember to complete important tasks during the day, since monsters roam the countryside at night.
The basic Minecraft UI
Let's take a look at the user interface quickly before advancing. The bottom of the screen with the boxes is a quick look at your inventory. You start off with nothing, but once you pick something up, your inventory boxes start to fill up quickly. Above the boxes are hearts to the left and what look like delicious pieces of meat. The hearts represent your HP, and the meat on the right is your hunger meter. Periodically you must eat in order to keep yourself full, or you will start to lose hearts. When your hearts reach zero, you'll die. When your hunger is low, you may not sprint, either.
Additional bars you may see when playing include the armor bar, which will appear above your health meter. This displays the integrity of the armor you have equipped. You may note a bar that looks akin to the progress bar in any standard RPG. That's your experience level, displaying your progress toward the next level. You earn experience by collecting glowing green orbs that are dropped when you kill something.
You can open your full inventory screen by pressing E. When your toolbar is full, you can go here to see what else you have in your possession. The toolbar can be seen in the grid have as well, and for quick access you can click and drag from here. To the left of your character are slots for armor that you will want to equip later on in the game.
The crafting area (2 x 2 squares) is for quick crafting. You can slot raw materials here to create specific items. Organizing your items from the inventory is simple. Use the left mouse button to pick up and rearrange the entire number of items. Drag it over to another slot to move. Double-click to collect items into one stack. Alternatively, you can use the right mouse button to pick up half of a group of items, place one from the group into an empty slot, and hold and drag to place the items across multiple slots.
By now you should have a clearer picture of the user interface and how specific parts of the game work. It's time to use the daylight to our advantage!
4. Survive the Night!
The night is dark and full of terrors. Melisandre had something there. She must have been referring to Minecraft, because the baddies all come out at nightfall. You could technically just dig a hole and cover yourself with it, but our method will end up being much more convenient and helpful. We have 10 minutes to gather resources and create some sort of makeshift shelter, so let's make the most of it.
Start by looking around for trees. Trees can be "punched" using your fist and will break down into wood blocks. Just hold down the mouse button and punch away until a block of wood topples down. Keep doing this and repeat with several other trees for a quick score of wood. Keeping 5-10 blocks of wood will be more than enough for our crafting purposes. Once you've collected wood, you can chop with that same piece of wood. While punching trees, keep a lookout for sheep as well. You'll need them for wool, so any you find wandering the landscape will need to die a swift death.
Once you've topped up your wood supply, it's time to start crafting. Crafting is integral to survival, so it's best to get started learning it. Go into your inventory screen and choose the entire stack of wood blocks you gathered earlier. Drag it to the crafting area in your inventory. You'll see a new image appear in the box beside those four. These are wooden planks, and they're important building blocks for other equipment you'll need in the future. Right now we need to build a crafting table to make more advanced objects. Take four wooden planks and arrange them in the corresponding blocks here in the crafting area. Ta-da! You now have a crafting table.
Go ahead and set the crafting table in your toolbar, then close the inventory and select it. The crafting table will appear and you'll see a 3x3 square in which you can place materials. Take two planks and place them on top of the other. This will create wooden sticks. Once you have a series of planks and sticks, arrange three planks in the top three squares of the crafting table. Place two sticks stacked vertically beneath the middle planks.
Congratulations! You've just created your very first tool. You can use the wooden pickaxe to accomplish a number of things like digging, chopping, and killing creatures. Once equipped with a pickaxe, you can chop down more trees for more supplies. It's always a good idea to carry more than you need, especially when you don't know what you might be facing up against.
Once you've got your tools and some extra supplies squared away, it'll be time to start looking for a suitable location to stay for the night. While searching for a good place to camp, keep in mind that you shouldn't wander too far from landmarks you recognize or far from your original spawn point. While exploring, it can be prudent to keep an eye on your surroundings, leaving a breadcrumb trail of blocks if you need to.
We're going to scout out a place to build your own happy little home. Look out for a nice hill or cliff you can carve into. We're going for function over aesthetic value, after all. On your way to finding some prime real estate, be on the lookout for items like coal (black specks on rock), sand, sheep, and more trees for wood. Collect as much as you can, as these items will prove quite beneficial in the long run.
When you've settled on a suitable location, start digging with your pickaxe. Leave a space for a door and enough room inside to set up your crafting table. Opening your crafting table up after setting it up in the new pad, you'll want to make some torches. Torches are extremely important. The light will keep monsters at bay and shine into the darker areas you find yourself in, like the mines you will eventually create. Place torches all around your room, and revel in the brightness of the sanctuary you've created. Neat!
Now you need a door to keep the nasties out. Use six wooden planks and fill up the first two columns of your crafting table, vertically. You should have a suitable area for your door in your small home, so right click on the floor in the doorway area and place the door. Make sure it's closed, and voila! You're ready to have a fun-filled night at home in your very first Minecraft house. You shouldn't venture out into the dark if you've been slow about gathering your items. If you have some daylight to kill, it's safe to putter about in your home to see what you can accomplish as far as upgrades and augments.
For now, this is the basic setup and enough to get you through the night alone. See, that wasn't so hard, was it?