In a previous article, I mentioned Minecraft, a retro-styled independent sandbox game which is quickly becoming a bit of an internet sensation.  I recently started playing it, and I’ve been writing an account of my experience starting out in the game.  The following chronicles the first four days (and nights) of game time, and my character’s adventures therein.


Minecraft, Day 1

I appear somewhere along the coastline.  In the distance, hills, mountains, and majestic cliffs appear, some apparently floating in midair.  Everything is blocky, to be sure, but expansive and new – a whole world to explore, full of potential.

For some reason, though, I start out along the coastline, walking along a nice natural peninsula.  There are copious amounts of sand, formed, of course, in varying stacks of blocks, but they crumble easily with a few short whacks of my admittedly blocky fist.  Once broken, they are quickly collected, appearing in my inventory to be resurrected later.  Only a few minutes in, and I have my first tools of creation.

I collect a few flowers in similar fashion, then proceed down to the waterline, going for a quick swim.  I notice that the sand next to the water is barely containing it, and I wonder what would happen if I broke it down…  sure enough, water begins to flow into the now-empty space, and in a few short minutes I manage to create a miniature stream flowing along a short, sandy beachside cliff.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recall some of my minecraft “basic training” – exploration is all well and good, but to get much further, and to work with things more complex than sand and dirt, I’ll need some sort of equipment, and for that I’ll need wood.  However, I don’t want to go wandering away across the expansive landscape and lose track of my miniature work in progress.  So, I do what any reasonable person would do – I build a large spire of sand next to it, a monument that should be hard to miss from any observation point along the shoreline.  A world in Minecraft is a truly expansive thing, with a hugely varied landscape – the downside is, of course, that unless you pay very close attention to the landscape and mark points of interest, it’s quite easy to head off exploring, get disoriented, and have a very tough time trying to find your way back to what you were working on.
Luckily, though, the trees are only a short ways away, and while they’re a bit more stubborn than sand, they eventually fall to the might of my seemingly untiring, unbruising fist.  There are also
a few animals milling around – I take a moment away from my lumberjacking to pound one of each into submission with my fists, but they don’t seem to do much interesting besides running away, or poofing into nothingness when vanquished.  As they do, though, I notice the trees have sprung up some saplings nearby, so I harvest those as well.

Now I have some wood, though, and it’s a relatively simple matter of popping into my inventory and doing a bit of amateur carpentry.  Apparently, that blocky fist of mind also doubles as a half-decent saw, as in no time at all, I’ve reduced the raw sections of tree trunk into a handful of planks and sticks, some of which I use to pull together a workbench, which can be used to build the actual tools that I’m looking for.  Of course, once I plop the workbench down randomly atop a small cliff overlooking a calm lakeside valley, I realize that there’s no real way to pick it back up again.  No matter, though, as it builds things fine wherever it happens to be, but just in case, I make another spire of sand nearby so that I can actually find the thing again.  I start playing around with various wood derivatives, and end up with a wooden hoe and pickax – not the sturdiest things in the world, but it’s a start.  With a pickax, the mining part of the game can actually begin, as harder things like stone are now mine for the taking.  Except…  as I build things, the background seems to be getting dimmer and dimmer…  night is beginning to fall, and I’m out here in the middle of nowhere, completely exposed.  While the pigs and ducks are probably heading off to sleep, I’ve heard that other, nastier things come out at night – visibility is quickly dropping, and here on a flat plain, things could come at me from any direction.  But where to go?

The answer quickly becomes obvious:  it’s time to go back to my spire on the beach.  It’s up high, with a good line of sight all around, and only one real angle of approach – the rest is bordered by the ocean, and too high for land-based creatures to reasonably jump.  I quickly hop up the blocky staircase to the top of it, just as the light fades the rest of the way.  It’s night, and I’m relatively safe, marveling at the pixelated stars and blocky moon as they emerge in the sky.

I spend the night digging up a bit more sand, and adding some more altitude to my spire.  Overall, though, the night is calm, and nothing comes to assault my makeshift tower, leaving me to await the dawn, taking in what I can see of the panorama spreading out around me.

Day 2

Once dawn has arrived, though, I realize that I don’t much like the dark.  It’s time to go looking for something to alleviate that – an area made out of stone, which might just have some deposits I could use to shed some light on the situation, as it were.

I start out by exploring the little valley with the lake, next to where I had placed my workbench.  It’s mainly unremarkable, but there are a few more animals in it now, and I notice that there are plenty of trees around – which I make sure to harvest.  On the far side of the valley, though, the cliff leading up is mostly dirt – but some stone as well.  I jump up along a natural staircase at the top, but once I make it over, I miscalculate a jump – and fall into a rocky cave.

No problem, though, as I’ve got my pickaxe – it makes relatively short work of the stone, which I collect, and I pile up a crude staircase of dirt to climb back out.  The only problem is, there’s just stone in the cave, apparently nothing else – still, the stone should help at least a bit.  I notice, though, once I’ve climbed out, that there’s a good-sized stone cliff nearby, so I head over to investigate.

I jump my way partway up the surface, gathering a bit more stone, but nothing else interesting appears, aside from gravel.  Then, I round the corner, and see a truly amazing sight – a huge stone cave, open almost to the top of the entire mountain – even though it’s just made of blocks, it’s still one of the most impressive geographic features I’ve ever seen rendered in a game.  I take a moment to marvel at the grandeur of it, but upon closer inspection, there seems to be nothing but stone here as well.  It also looks quite dark towards that back, and even during the day, bad things lurk in the darkness…
Eventually, I move on, and int he next cliff over, I strike pay dirt – hidden in the rock face is a nice, big vein of coal!  My pickaxe makes short work of it, although it’s looking a bit worse for wear, but on the upside, I now have a number of lumps of coal.  And while that might seem like a bit of a consolation prize in any other context, it is, in fact the key to producing light.

I begin to head back, getting a bit disoriented, but once I find my way back to the coast, it’s easy enough to get back.  As I head back to my spire, though, darkness once again begins to set in.  Not a problem, though, because I now have torches!  Coal and sticks (and some unseen method of ignition), and my spire is quickly lit, a beacon of light fending off the darkness.  I climb back to the top, taking in the much more visible view, and getting ready for another long and relatively boring night.

Boring that is, until something hits me, and I tumble from my tower into the water, losing half my health.  I turn to look around, and I’m hit again.  Then I see it, standing on the sandy cliff above me – the crude, blocky grey visage of a skeleton, faintly illuminated by torchlight, shooting arrows at me.  I try to evade them, but the current is too strong, and I’m a sitting duck.  In one short, sharp encounter, it’s all over.

I respawn (luckily, the game allows that) where I first started out, a ways down the beach from my spire.  All of my stuff is gone, though.  I notice it, though, scattered about where I last perished.  And there’s the bloody skeleton – somehow, it’s fallen off the cliff and into the man-made river that I created before, trapped just like I was, hopping mad and still spitting arrows.  I try to pummel it into submission with my versatile fist so I can retrieve my stuff, but it arrows me down before I can get more than a couple of hits in, and I’m back at respawn.  This stalemate continues over a few more lives as dawn finally breaks.

Day 3

Somehow, I manage to get the skeleton to run into one of the torches I’ve placed, and it runs around on fire for a bit.  Finally, it’s weakened enough that I’m able to finish punching it out – oddly enough, or perhaps not, its body pulverizes into arrows, which I duly collect, although without a bow, they’re not of much use.  I manage to salvage a few additional bits of equipment, but everything else is lost, so I head off once again in search of materials and equipment.  One thing I realize, though, is that as neat as my sand spire is, it’s still quite vulnerable.  I need a place that’s more defensible, more enclosed, or I’ll be easy target practice for the next skeleton that happens upon it.

I head back out to the caves beyond the valley, digging out some more stone with my close-to-failing pickaxe.  I head back and fashion some better things, this time out of stone – a better pickaxe, and a basic sword, which will hopefully fare better than my bare fists if I encounter any more enemies.  So far, the game is living up to its name – I’m doing plenty of both mining and crafting.  By the time I’ve done all this, though, it’s getting later in the day, and I know I need to come up with a better living space soon, or its back for another long and dangerous night on the spire.

At the other end of the valley, the cliff is more dirt that stone, so I start digging into the cliff face, carving out a small room.  I can’t go too far, though, as the cliff isn’t that far away from the sea, and I realize that if I go too far, my newly carved room could quickly be underwater.  Still, it’s cozy enough, and reasonably protected.  I put up a makeshift door that I constructed earlier to keep the baddies out, and build a small shelf in the corner.  It’s getting dark, so I toss a couple of torches on the wall, slam the door shut, and hunker down.  For the first time, night has fallen, and I’m actually somewhere safe.

Day 4

It’s time to improve my initial dwelling, but first, I’ll need some more materials.  So, I head back over to the cliffs.  There’s plenty of stone there, and those ever-elusive coal deposits – between the spire of brightness and my new dugout dwelling, I’m fresh out of torches.  The trip to the cliffs is uneventful, as I mostly know my way by now, and I pick up some more stone and coal, as well as pestering the odd animal I encounter along the way (by which I mean punching them to see if they turn into meat, which for some reason they don’t – not that that would normally make any sense, but hey, games made of blocks don’t always need to).  Chuffed about my reasonably easy success, I turn around to head back – and promptly fall into another random cave.

I manage to climb my way back out, but I’ve somehow gotten turned around, and don’t recognize the landscape.  I wander around for a bit, and eventually cross a ridge, and see what I think is the ocean – and I know that once I reach that, I’ll be back on track.  Instead, though, it’s a series of lakes in a huge valley, and I realize that I’m even more lost, stuck in a suddenly alien landscape as my precious minutes of daylight leak slowly away.  It’s a totally open valley, and there’s no really good place to hide.

There’s a high spot nearby, though, not quite a mountain, and if I can get my bearings from there…  I quickly hop up the side of it, and scan around into the distance, and think I recognize one of my sand towers off in the distance, near what must be the coast.  Heartened, I quickly traverse the terrain, only stopping to harvest a bit more wood, and realize that I’ve made it back with time to spare.

I realize that having more visibility is a good idea for my main base, so I build yet another big sand spire above my dugout.  Doing so, though means digging for sand along the beach, and I stupidly dig the patch of sand beneath my feet… and fall into yet another cave.  Oh well, it’s still light, so I’ll get a bit more mining in, I think, and set off to mine some more stone – forgetting just how close I am to the water.  I dig through one block, and all of a sudden, water pours in, and I’m quickly thrown deep into the cave system by the torrent.  I manage to free myself from the water flow, but I’m now in the middle of a cave, and it’s getting pretty dark.  I climb towards the light, mining through whatever blocks might stand in my way, but I’m still too far in, and the light is beginning to fail…  luckily, though, I’ve got plenty of dirt and sand left over from my earlier excavations, so I’m able to build yet another hasty staircase to escape before the cave gets too dangerous.  Then, it’s back to my dugout, and I seal my door just as the darkness fully arrives.

For the heck of it, I build a furnace, and give it some fuel, solidifying some of the stone I’ve harvested into… some type of harder stone, apparently.  Looking around, though, I realize that the tiny room is getting a bit cramped.  Well… time to expand, then.  I dig a bit further back and see… starlight.  Well, that’s no good – I hurriedly seal it off before anything can drop in.

Well, if I can’t go out, maybe I can go down.  I pick a place towards the back and start drilling down, going through dirt into stone.  I remember not to dig out any of the places I’m standing on, though, and luckily so – I only dig down two squares before I realize that I’ve just drilled through the ceiling into yet another cave system below…  one containing some crazed green monster trying to jump into my house!  I put that stone back quickly indeed.  Probing around, I discover that the whole house is pretty much on top of various cave systems – expanding down or in either direction ends up in new caves filled with beasties, while the other two directions lead into the lake and the ocean, respectively.  I resign myself to the tiny burrow for now, putting up a small storage chest as well, while realizing that once daybreak arrives, it’s probably time to find a roomier, less limited location.


If you’re interested in a more visual experience of playing through Minecraft, there are various videos available on Youtube, or you could check out the game directly.