(screenshot from the Daily Record)
Feb. 2, 2011 Edit: Since this post seems to get more hits than all of my other blog entries combined, I figured I'd add this. Minecraft is now in beta, and there's been a particularly useful addition when starting a game: charcoal. Instead of searching desperately for coal, right off the bat, you can simply mine some stone and make a furnace (eight cobblestone, leaving the center position of the crafting table empty). Then turn wood blocks into charcoal, using planks for fuel.
So I'd gather enough wood to make a crafting table and a wooden pick, then mine enough stone for a stone pick, a stone axe, and a furnace. Use the stone axe to quickly chop more wood, then let the furnace make you charcoal while you work on creating a quick shelter.
Charcoal works exactly like coal for everything in the game (as far as I can tell). And since trees are a renewable resource, and usually abundant, right from the start, this is far easier than searching for coal, especially on your first day, when you're in a race against the clock. For everything else - especially crafting recipes - note the Minecraft wiki. And this link is still pretty useful, too, though it might tell you more than you need to know, right at the start.
OK, the rest of this is still just as I wrote it back in September. And as long as you're here, take a look around. Read a few other posts, too, why don't you? :)
Yes, this game is just as addicting as I'd expected. The past two days, I've done almost nothing but play Minecraft. Well, if you read my previous post, you might have seen that coming. For only $13.66 (1/2 off right now), I highly recommend this game.
But Minecraft is still in alpha, and there are almost no instructions in the game itself. I'm obsessive enough to spend hours searching out information, but what if you just want to give it a try? There are a few basic things you really need to know. Thus, this "beginner's guide" written by me, a complete beginner.
Imagine that you're Robinson Crusoe, shipwrecked on some alien shore. You have nothing but your hands and your wits - and terrifying monsters emerge when darkness falls. When you first start the game, you're standing in a randomly-generated world (a world that continuously generates as you explore it, so you might experience slowdowns at first).
But what the game doesn't tell you - one of the things - is that you have only about ten minutes, real-time, before darkness falls. At that point, you must be under cover with a light source (torches). Monsters are generated in the darkness. If you don't have light, they can generate right alongside you (besides, it would be boring to stand around in the dark for ten minutes, doing nothing, while waiting for sunrise). And if you're not in a secure shelter, they'll come at you from wherever they do generate.
You can always set the game options to "peaceful" (when playing, hit escape
Sometimes, the game will generate a winter world, with snow falling everywhere and water turned to ice. That's what I got when I first started the game, and it's probably not how you want to start as a beginner. I was also on a small island, covered with sand, dirt, and grass, and I couldn't find any coal before night fell, so I just re-started on another world. Most worlds are green, brilliant in the sunshine, with trees and rock outcrops close to hand - just what you want to see.
That video shows you what you need to do, but let me describe it here. Right off the bat, you need wood and coal. Trees should be abundant, and you can gather wood with your bare hands (it's slower than with an axe, but you don't have an axe). Coal is relatively common, but can be hard to find when you need it immediately. You need to look at rock outcroppings, sometimes even high up cliff faces. If there's enough exposed rock nearby, there should be coal showing,... somewhere.
But first, stand still, turn in place, and get a fix on your surroundings. If necessary for a clear view, press the "f" key to cycle through fog settings. This is where you'll spawn after being killed (and you will be killed). You won't have tools with you (your inventory will be scattered around your death site - for about five minutes or so), but your buildings will be intact (and any chests full of resources you left there). So before you move, get an idea of where you're going. It's very easy to get lost in Minecraft, especially as trees grow.
At this point, I would head towards the nearest rock outcropping, stopping at the first tree to gather wood. Face the tree trunk and hold down your left mouse button until your bare hand breaks through. (If the wood doesn't immediately jump to your inventory, just move closer to it.) Continue until the entire trunk is gone - or as much of it as you can reach. (The leaves will remain, for awhile. As they decay, they'll shed saplings, which will grow into new trees.)
That video recommends collecting 11 to 15 trunk sections, but three or four would probably be enough to start. Yeah, it's a bare minimum, but you might need the extra time to find coal. And there will probably be trees there, too, so you can get more wood when you have a stone axe, if there's time before nightfall. So harvest one tree and then head to the nearest rocky area.
Coal can show up, as rock with black specks, pretty much anywhere there's stone. Stay close to your spawn point, if you can (you don't have time to travel too far, anyway), but quickly search likely locations. Don't worry about finding the best place to build your fortress. Right now, this is only about saving your butt. Once you have a shelter, you can look around and examine your surroundings at leisure (relatively speaking).
As soon as you find coal, build your workbench close at hand. Press "i" to open your inventory. At the top is a small crafting area. Left-click on your tree trunks to pick up the whole bunch at once (right-clicking will pick up only half of them) and left-click again to place them in the crafting area (right-clicking would drop them off one at a time). You'll see a rather similar graphic - for wood planks - appear in the right side of the crafting area. If you left-click on that, you'll "build" the item shown. Go ahead and left-click continuously until your tree trunks are all made into planks.
[Note: All of these crafting recipes can be found at the Minecraft wiki, as well as descriptions of the various resource blocks in the game. I made notes of all this stuff (I did mention that I was obsessive, right?), but since Minecraft plays in a window, you can always just keep the Minepedia open for reference in another window. (Hit escape to pause the game first. Or, if you alt-tab to switch windows, Minecraft will do that automatically. Yeah, since the game doesn't pause otherwise, that's a good thing.]
Once you have planks, put one in each of the four spaces of your crafting area and build yourself a workbench. Put the workbench in one of the nine spaces at the very bottom of your inventory, and escape out of the inventory. Those nine spaces, with the workbench in one of them, will appear at the bottom of your screen. Press "1" to "9" on your keyboard to select which item to hold in your hand. Then, when you're holding the workbench, right-click to place it on the ground beside you.
Now you can right-click on the workbench itself to open up a larger crafting area. You need this to make tools. Take two planks, put one above the other, and make four sticks. Then take two of the sticks, and three planks, and make a wooden pick. (Check the wiki for the crafting recipe, which will show you exactly how these items need to be positioned in the crafting area.)
Using the wooden pick is just like what you've done previously. When you make it, put it in one of the nine bottom slots, then exit the crafting area. Press the correct number key to hold it in your hand. Then face rock or coal and hold down your left mouse button. I suggest you mine three regular rock squares first and immediately make a stone pick, because that will make your work go a lot quicker than with a wooden pick (reasonably enough, huh?).
If you need to move dirt or sand, perhaps to build steps to get to the coal (jump using the spacebar), make a rock shovel, too. And a rock axe will collect wood a lot faster than your bare hands. Now all you need to do is gather some coal (and some more wood, unless you're really short of time) and dig out a small area for protection. Make torches by putting coal above a stick in your crafting area (either in your inventory or on the workbench). Then, holding them in your hand, right-click to place them on the wall or wherever you need them.
You can close off the entrance to your shelter with rock or even dirt, and then dig it out again in the morning (as the video shows, leave an opening so you can tell when the sun comes up again). Or you can build a door on your workbench using six planks. Place the door from the outside (so skeletons can't shoot through the door, and so you can fight from the inside without accidentally opening it), and left- or right-click to open or close it. (If you ever want to move the door, take your axe and hold down the left mouse button to chop away at it - just like harvesting a tree trunk. Eventually, the unharmed door will come loose and pop into your inventory again. Go ahead and bring your workbench inside the same way.)
Night, like day, lasts about ten minutes real-time. With extra wood and coal, you can spend the time inside your well-lit shelter digging out more rock and making more tools (they will wear out with use). When the sun comes up, any undead creature that's not sheltered from it will burst into flames. But not everything that appeared overnight will be destroyed by sunlight. Starting on your second day, you'll have to keep your eyes open at all times, at least when outside your shelter.
When you're killed - almost inevitable, at some point - you'll just re-appear back at your initial starting location. That's why it's helpful to know where your shelter is, from that spot. If you're quick, you can even collect your inventory from where you died. But in any case, you won't lose anything you've built or stored in a chest.
If you'd rather build a simple wooden shelter, rather than burrow into a cliff-face that first night, check out this video clip. (You'll still need coal for torches.) But from these humble beginnings, the sky is the limit. There are all sorts of Minecraft videos on YouTube which amply demonstrate that!
If you need help, check out the Minecraft Forum. In particular, note the guides and tutorials in this post. Yeah, even I'm not obsessive enough to read all of that, not yet, anyway.