Don’t Get Shafted: A Beginner’s Guide to Minecraft

No idea what to do in Minecraft? Don’t punch a chicken with some sand, just fire up a new world and follow this handy guide to get yourself safe before your first nightfall, brought to you in glorious Pictovision[TM]:

The sun rises over a pristine new world. This is a good time to put Morning from Grieg's Peer Gynt on the stereo.

The first thing you want to do is find a tree. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, here’s How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away:

Number one: the larch

If you’ve ever seen a documentary about industrial-scale logging you’ll know what you need to do to harvest the wood: walk up to the tree (using the traditional W, A, S, D keys for movement) and punch it with the traditional left mouse click. To keep punching it you don’t need multiple clicks, just hold down the button, otherwise you’ll get through about four mice just in this tutorial.

I'm a lumberjack, and I'm OK

Congratulations, you’ve punched a log out of the tree!

Is that your giant ham-like hand, or are you just pleased to have wood?

Walk over it to pick it up, then punch another log out of the tree. And another! Stand underneath the now-floating trunk and look up to harvest the rest, trying not to think about what force is holding it up.

I cut down trees, I wear high heels...

What to do with all these logs?  Press “I” to open your inventory:

I've got wood, as the bishop said to the actress

Drag the logs into any of the four squares labelled “Crafting”:

Planks for the memories

Wine? Fishes? Loaves? Ah, planks of wood. I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.

The box on the right, with the arrow pointing to it, contains the potential results of your crafting. Drag something out of here back into your inventory to actually make it; in this case one log becomes four planks, as you have several logs you can click in the results window several times to stack planks up rather than dragging four at a time.

Next up, advanced crafting. To produce an item in Minecraft, you lay raw materials out in the Crafting window in a shape representing the item you want. Let’s try a speedboat!

All right, maybe that doesn’t work in a 2×2 grid. But what if we put a plank in each square… Left click to pick the stack of planks up, then a single right click on each crafting square will drop one element of a stack in there:


Drag the table down into your hotbar:

Congratulations on purchasing your Hellraiser puzzle box. Please solve to unleash hell.

To select items in your hotbar, either use the number keys “1” to “9”, or spin your mouse wheel up and down. Select the crafting table, so you’re waving it around in front of your face, find a suitable flat surface, and right click to place the table there.

Table for one, sir?

Right click on the table you’ve just put down, and instead of the paltry 2×2 crafting grid you get in your inventory you’re presented with a majestic 3×3 grid. That’s a whole… errr… several new possible ways to combine items!

Now we’re going to do some woodwork. Just imagine us as the woodwork teacher overseeing you, missing a couple of fingers from an obligatory power saw accident in the past. If you run short of raw materials at any point, just run off and punch another tree or two into logs. Pretend they looked at you funny.

Right then class, lesson one: sticks. What is it, Simpkins? Yes, we’ll get onto making a spice rack later, but we’re starting with sticks. Put two planks on top of each other:

What's brown and sticky?
Wine? Fishes? Loav... oh, I see!

Two planks give four sticks, rods, poles or batons. We’re not sure if there’s universal Minecraft nomenclature, but half the fun is making up the names yourself.

Now, what can we make with rods and planks? How about a couple of rods to form a handle, and then on top of those some planks, as a sort of blade or cutting edge…

Take your pick

Now we’re cooking with gas! Or digging with wood… One of the two. A wooden pickaxe! Some other recipes you can try at this point, see if you can figure out the layout for the materials:
Axe (makes cutting down trees much quicker): two rods, three planks
Shovel (make short work of sand and earth): two rods, one plank
Sword (for chopping vegetables, shaving, getting stones out of horses’ hooves etc.): one rod, two planks

Once you’re kitted out with some tools, it’s time to go exploring! You’ll want to bring your crafting table with you, so put your pickaxe on the hotbar, select it, and hit the crafting table with the pickaxe until it goes “pop” and transforms into an easily portable cube. Pro tip: the same technique works when packing a suitcase to go holiday, just keep hitting it with a pickaxe until it’s more easily portable.

Is that a pickaxe in your hand, or are you just... oh it is? Never mind.

Now it’s time to start systematically pillaging the world of all its natural resources. You can dig up sand or dirt with a shovel, or chop into stone with the pick. What would be really nice is some coal; if the random terrain generator is being kind there might be some nearby, or you might have to hike around for a while. It’s not absolutely essential, but what you’re looking for is grey blocks with black speckles:

Old King Coal

Hit the coal with your pick until a piece pops out into your inventory; there might be a whole vein you can dig out. As you’re digging, you’ll notice a green bar appear on your pick that slowly goes down, turning amber then red:

Workin' in a coal mine

Once the bar is gone, so is the pick; while you still have it try harvesting a few stone blocks, then when you need some new tools try the same crafting recipes as before, but using stone blocks instead of planks.

By now, the sun may be sinking lower in the sky. We don’t want to be stuck outside in the darkness, because They Come At Night… At this point you might like to indulge in a cocktail we like to call “A Big Hole Dug Out Of The Side Of A Hill”. For this you’ll need a hill, and some digging implements. Firstly, dig into the side of the hill:

Dig for victory!

Then, dig a bit more:

Room with a view - OF DOOM. No wait, I think that's just grass

We’ve dug out a square room, but don’t feel compelled to do the same shape. Let your imagination run wild! You could have a square, a rectangle, a rectangle with different dimensions, a sort of L shape…

Now it’s probably getting a bit murky, so if you were fortunate enough to find some coal earlier, pop it on the end of a rod in your crafting window to make a torch:

Coal Onna Stick

Pop a torch on the hotbar, select it, point at the wall and right click for illumination:

Let there be light!

If the sun has set and it’s dark, there might be some strange scritching sounds or moaning outside. And in the game, ah! Fortunately zombies and spiders and long legged beasties aren’t very good at tunnelling, so take some of the stone you’ve been digging out, pop it on the hotbar, select it, point at the open doorway and right click to wall yourself in:

Trapped in a box by a zombie nutjob

What are you going to do while stuck underground, waiting for the sun to come back up and drive the evil creatures away again? Well, you’ve got a crafting table, why not pop it in a corner, and see what sort of items you can come up with:

Is that a crafting table in the corner of your room, or are you just... this one doesn't work.

For example, six planks of wood like this…

When is a jar not ajar? Wait, I told it wrong...

Much easier than always having to dig through a wall to get out, and you can see when the sun comes up! Don’t worry, zombies can’t open doors.

Time to relax and whip out the ol' giant ham-fist, if you know what I mean.

So there we go, tools and shelter. It’s a bit pokey, though, why not expand a bit? Maybe get a bit of a multi-level effect going with a mezzanine, or dig deep down to try and find more minerals, or just wait until sunrise and go exploring again (just remember where you left everything, or take enough stuff with you so it doesn’t matter). It’s your world now! Well, this five foot square corner of it is, the rest belongs to the monsters. Better grab your pickaxe and get to work on that.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Get Shafted: A Beginner’s Guide to Minecraft

  1. Caspian

    Incidentally chaps, you’re letting the side down – KiaSA is where I come for my daily quota of wry quips, an askew glance at the world and a gentle ‘Bite my thumb at you sir’ against the very thoughful debates of game design on other, more weighty blogs… (You Jones! There at the back! Wake up boy!)

    The last thing I expected to find on KiaSA is something of pragmatic use! Now this is either:

    1. A cruel trick to lure us into a false sense of security so we let our teflon humourguards down before you hit us with a carefully crafted shenanigan of epic proportions that it will set the blogging world alight (like, you’re both really Tobold…)

    2. A bare faced admission that, like me, you were completely lost and frankly needed a few breadcrumbs (chicken sand?)

    3. An aberrant deviation from your usual modus operandi

    4. A worrying trend of ‘dumbing up’ that, frankly, scares me a little

    I pray to all the Gods that may exist (and especialy Shub Niggurath as goats are cute) that it’s the former…

  2. Melmoth

    Sir, we’ve been punching chickens with sand, this is not pragmatism, it is art! You need to explore the hidden meanings: what does the chicken represent with respect to MMOs? How does the fist full of sand relate to MMO bloggers?

    Hopefully you will be looking forward to our next installation which we’re tentatively calling ‘Punching a Pig with a Bucket’, which is a further critique on blogging, MMOs, gaming, over-earning company executives, climate change, Afghanistan, the world economic crisis, and the current disastrous state of Boris Johnson’s coiffure.

  3. Zoso Post author

    We’re having some difficulty with crafting buttered scones for tea on Wednesday. Despite hitting cows with shovels, doors, boats and of course sand, they haven’t yielded any milk to make the butter, only leather hides. And there’s a lack of wheat, so instead of flour we’ve had to use flowers. Still, leather-topped flowers are surprisingly tasty, so we’ve turned our attention to the next vital requirements, suspenders and a bra.

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