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THE HOW-TO GEEK GUIDE TO MINECRAFT / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 1: Getting Started with Minecraft

Click the “Play” button to get started. The first time you run Minecraft (or after an update) you’ll see a green progress bar across the bottom of the launcher as it downloads the new material. Afterward, you’ll be dumped into the actual Minecraft app.

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Let’s start off simple by focusing on the Singleplayer experience. In later lessons we’ll learn about Multiplayer and Minecraft Realms. Click on “Singleplayer” to get started.

Here you’ll find your local worlds linked to your profile; because it’s a brand new installation there are no worlds yet.

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Click “Create New World” to pull up the world creation dialog. Here we are able to name our new world, select the game mode, and set additional world options.

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The default game mode is “Survival”. Click the “Game Mode” button in the center of the screen to swap it to “Creative.” We’ll return to game modes in the next lesson but for now, creative play is the best way to learn the controls and figure out how to move around the Minecraft world.

As for naming your world, we’re fond of naming the worlds we use for experimenting and learning “Learning Lab” or some iteration thereof.

Leave “More World Options…” alone, we’ll return to the fun toggles and adjustments available there in a later lesson focused on custom worlds and their creation. Once you’ve named your world and switched it to “Creative,” click “Create New World,” and sit back as Minecraft flexes some of that procedural generation magic in order to create you a unique world to explore.

Maneuvering Around the Minecraft World

Don’t worry if the view you have doesn’t match the view we have below. Each Minecraft world, unless loaded from the same source as another Minecraft world, is a unique generation. So whether the game plunked you down in a forest biome, on a beach, or atop a mountain, you can still walk through the basics of maneuvering the map and using the keyboard shortcuts with us.

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You’ll notice that the first thing the game does, after dropping you onto the map (this initial point is known in Minecraft lingo as your spawn point), is prompt you to press the “E” key to open your inventory.

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Because we are currently in Creative Mode, we see the full creative inventory (all the available blocks and materials) as opposed to the Survival Mode inventory (which only displays materials you’ve gathered yourself in-game). The tabs around the Creative Mode inventory make it easy to hone in on just the materials/objects you want: the tab with the sword on it intuitively shows you in-game weapons, and the tab with the little rail section shows you the in-game transportation tools.

The gray band of blocks at the bottom of the inventory screen is your quick-access toolbar. Any items you place in that strip of nine spaces will be available to you outside of the inventory menu. Go ahead and place some blocks in the quick-access bar now. We’re going to select some brightly colored wool blocks so they’ll stand out from the regular terrain during subsequent screenshots.

One thing worth noting is that, in Creative Mode at least, there is no sense of urgency whatsoever. Don’t feel like you have to race toward any sort of goal or against any sort of clock. Sitting here in Creative Mode is like sitting on the floor with a bin of LEGO® bricks (a classic construction toy that is, coincidentally, also of Scandinavian origin like Minecraft). There’s no rush in Creative Mode so take your time.

Once you’ve finished poking around the inventory menu (don’t feel overwhelmed by the huge number of blocks and objects found there, you’ll be a master of Minecraft building materials in no time), press the “ESC” key to return to the return to the game.

Minecraft uses a combination of mouse movements and keystrokes. Movement is controlled by a traditional WASD + Spacebar setup: “W” is forward, “A” is back, “S” is left, and “D” is right with the spacebar functioning as a jump key. In Creative Mode double tapping the jump key turns Fly Mode on wherein you can fly like a bird up and over the landscape.

The direction your character looks is controlled by moving the mouse (which controls the focal point of the first-person camera). “E”, as we’ve learned, opens the inventory. Left-mouse smashes blocks (or attacks creatures in front of you). Right-mouse click uses the item in your hand (if you can eat/drink it) or places it down (if it’s a block or other object). If you need to drop something, you can press “Q” to do so.

Let’s do some simple movement and block placement before reviewing the common keyboard and mouse controls in a handy table. Grab a block and build something near your spawn point.

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After you’ve built your first in-game structure, why not take a look at it from above? Double-tap the spacebar to enable Fly Mode and fly up to look down on your new creation:

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You’ll notice that the edge of the map fades into a sort of fog. This represents the edge of the game’s render distance. The more powerful your computer the higher you can set the render without suffering a performance hit (we’ll talk about this in a moment).

Take a moment to fly around and look at your creation for all angles. Then take some time to review these useful keyboard/mouse commands:

Mouse/Key Function
Mouse Movement Used for turning, aiming crosshair/looking around
Mouse Left-Click Destroy blocks, attack creatures/monsters
Mouse Right-Click Place blocks, use items (such as held objects, wall switches, etc.)
Mouse Scrollwheel Switches between objects in the quick-access bar
W Move forward, double tap W to sprint
A Strafe left
S Move backward, double tap S to sprint backward
D Strafe right
Spacebar Jump, double tap to enter Fly Mode in creative (hold to increase elevation)
Left Shift Sneak mode (quiet movement, won’t fall off ledges), also used to decrease altitude when in Fly Mode and to dismount mountable creatures (like horses).
E Opens your inventory
Q Drops the item currently in your hand.
1-9 Numeric Keys Correspond to the first through ninth slots in the quick-access bar
F1 Toggles on-screen display (perfect for admiring the view)
F2 Takes a screenshot
F3 Toggle the debug information screen
F5 Switches the camera angle between first and third person perspectives
F11 Toggles game between Windows and Full Screen mode

 

Next Lesson: Improving Minecraft Performance on Computers Old and New

We’ve installed the game and reviewed the basic movement and function commands; you’re ready to get down to the business of building, exploring, and otherwise interacting with your new Minecraft world.

Your homework for tonight is to just explore the Creative world we made today. Fly around, get a feel for the game, and if you’re not satisfied with the game performance (as far as smooth play and such goes) don’t fret. Tomorrow’s lesson is focused on optimizing Minecraft for the best play experience.

Even if you have a beefy new gaming computer the tips and tricks we’ll cover are still useful as we’ll go in depth in what exactly all the settings mean and how you can get the smoothest experience on computers old and new.

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Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/9/14