Experienced Points: Mine all Minecraft

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 13, 2010

Filed under: Column 57 comments

Looks like I forgot to link this last Friday:

Experienced Points: Mine all Minecraft

The article is about the reason I forgot to link it in the first place. It’s also the reason behind yesterday’s ridiculous mishap. I put up the Spoiler Warning video and then went and played Minecraft for five solid hours. When I came back I discovered that I’d neglected to set the video to public, so nobody could watch it. Normally I check on the site regularly and catch blunders like this within a few minutes, but I couldn’t even bring myself to alt-tab away from the game for a minute or two to do that.

Luckily, nobody was annoyed in the least and everything was fine. If people noticed at all, I’m sure they have forgotten all about it already. So that’s good.

It really it a crazy addictive game.



My house. This was a featureless hill when I began. A staggering number of hours went into building this monster.


When you mine stone, it turns into ugly rough cobblestone. You can build with it, but it looks… meh. But you can bake cobblestone to turn it into smooth stone, which is what 90% of this building is made of. Of course, you need to mine for coal to do the baking. And then you have to dig for clay to make the the red bricks you see in the middle section. Those also need to be baked.


As massive as this house seems to me, I know it’s actually a piddly little project compared to a lot of stuff you can find online.


Here I dug a massive 1-cube wide canyon, going from ground level to very near the bottom of the world. The canyon is so long that the entire length doesn’t quite fit into the clipping distance in the game. You can’t stand at one end and see the opposite end. You can dig a tunnel 6 blocks high, so it’s easy to just dig forward for several minutes, then dig straight down 6 blocks and dig in the other direction. This is a really fast way to get a ton of iron and coal, although it’s rubbish for getting diamond. (Diamond is crazy rare compared to the other resources and usually only appears near the impenetrable bedrock at the bottom of the world. if you want diamond, don’t waste time digging near the surface.) I like digging this way because daylight will reach all the way to the bottom, so you don’t need to stop to place a torch every 20 steps unless you’re digging at night.


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57 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Mine all Minecraft

  1. krellen says:

    Ha, I called it. I knew Minecraft was to blame.

  2. Robyrt says:

    For me, Minecraft is all about the exploration. I’d rather put up a series of tourist signposts like “Welcome to the Great Underground Boat Ride!” with a nice path of stairs from the spawn point than construct an enormous shiny edifice.

    I will admit I didn’t make a Grand Canyon though.

  3. Nick C says:

    When you learn what grows where, giant treehouses are mega fun, with multiple trees growing up, rooms built on top and connecting floors, more dirt on that and then more trees. I love this game!

  4. Moriarty says:

    I never understood how people could get into minecraft.

    I mean once you know how to build stuff it might get interesting, but how the heck are you supposed to know how the crafting works?

    All I did in my short minecraft voyage was hitting the ground or trees, until I had stuff I couldn’t do anything with. Oh and I hit some pigs. Truly a tale of epic proportions.

    1. acronix says:

      You have to visit the wiki, mostly. Or just put random things until you find something out. The game needs a tutorial or a non-online manual asap.

    2. Jason Love says:

      Minecraft hasn’t even left Alpha yet. When it does, it looks like there’s going to be a tutorial mode that introduces you to the game and shows you beginning crafting recipes. Currently the best way to play is either have the wiki handy, watch a lot of videos, or use my preferred method, which is to play on a decent multiplayer server: you can’t yet take damage, tool decay can be reset thanks to a bug in the server, and ops can generate rare materials for you. As long as you don’t have a bunch of griefers messing with your creations, a good group of builders can rapidly generate an absurd and marvelous landscape.

    3. merle says:

      Use the wiki! The crafting recipes are all there.
      There’s some crazy stuff you can do in this game. And coming soon? MULTIPLAYER. Oh hell yes.

      1. Cerapa says:

        Right now is pretty soon I suppose.

    4. Cyanide says:

      Also: Some of the crafting recipes are pretty intuitive once you realize you have to kind of “draw” the shape in the crafting grid. So a coal on top of a stick looks like a torch, and a ladder is sticks arranged in a ladder shape.

      Maybe not helpful all by itself, but once you know a thing can be made, it makes it easier to figure out or remember the recipe.

    5. Notch, the developer, has stated that he’s going to add a kind of “tech tree” to the game to make the crafting learning curve less steep. Alpha!

    6. tom turnbull says:

      i will give u a tip play vids on youtube first then do it in mindcraft thats how i did it

  5. acronix says:

    Actually, the fastest possible way to get resources is to go spelunking, mostly because minning requires you to stop to break blocks to see what´s behind them. You first need to find a cave large and deep enough, though. But once you do, you´ll be swimming in anything you need. Except diamond. That thing grows too deep and, teoretically, close to lava flows. I have found only two patches (nowhere near lava…) in an underground cave system that´s as wide as my explored lands.

    Anyway! What I really want in this game is self-triggered traps. Making tnt with a pressure pad on top is nice, but I´m looking forward to something more Dungeon Keeper-esque.

  6. Valaqil says:

    Okay. So I have a few questions. I might be able to figure it out on my own, but I’d rather just ask.

    (1) How do you make those gigantic pillars? To clarify: You have an overhang supported by a freakishly tall, black column. How do you build something like that without being beside or above it? It doesn’t look like you have a second column that you were standing upon. I’ve seen those in a few online videos about Minecraft, but I can’t figure out how it was done. Did you stand on something else and then take the second thing down?
    (2) And, tied into this, part of your overhang isn’t supported by the column. How did you place that there without it falling? Are the stones held together by some kind of mortar? It looks like you have blocks that should be succumbing to gravity.

    I know how things like this are done in real life, with pulleys, mortar, and the rest. But I’m not sure in something like Minecraft. Every one talks about the results, but no one has yet detailed the process of construction. (That I’ve seen.)

    1. acronix says:

      1) My way to make enormous pillas is to make them in a “stair-spiral” shape. Then you fill the gaps, starting from the top. Once you finish, you´ll be down in the ground.

      2) There´s no gravity in Minecraft. It would make the game too complex. The only ones that fall are sand and gravel, and they only fall IF there´s no block directly under it.

      The process is never explained because it´s very simple: you take the blocks, you go to the designated place, and you put them there. No need for any complex engineering.

      1. Valaqil says:

        Ah. I have to reply to someone, but thanks to you, Nick and Jason for the explanations. I didn’t figure it was terribly complex, but I did think there was more to it than that. The place/jump thing is obvious in hindsight, but I’m surprised about the lack of gravity. That explains a lot. (I don’t typically play building games. I either don’t know what to build, or have the time to build it.)

        EDIT: Although it does occur to me that, with a lack of gravity, a floating castle in the sky would be fun to build.I’d like to see that.

        1. Felblood says:

          Yeah, flying castles are almost always cool in Minecraft.

          People tend to put them on some sort of floating island (which is usually unique and awesome on it’s own), instead of just hanging them in the air. This does make them look cooler, but doesn’t usually cause them to seem less ridiculous.

      2. Stupidguy12 says:

        Well, there are water and lava flow physics, and of course the carts and boats.

    2. Nick C says:

      1.) For pillars I just lay thw ground work, get on top, and keep jumping up while throwing bricks under my feet. Also a great way of climbing out of a vertical hole.

      2.) Bricks don’t have real physics, except sort of for gravel and sand; you can build over and out without any realistic support.

  7. Jason Love says:

    Valaqil: Minecraft’s “physics” are pretty rudimentary. You can place a block, put a second block on top of it, and remove the first block to create a floating block, for example. In terms of this construction, it’s pretty easy to build a column upward: you can just jump and place blocks under your feet to rapidly ascend as high as you need. To build out from a ledge, you can hold the shift key to crouch and lean over edges, so you don’t risk falling off the side when getting an angle to construct an overhang.

    If you really want to maximize your chances of finding diamond, it may help to mine more efficiently.

    1. Randy Johnson says:

      That was how I used to mine in Dwarf fortress, and it just carried over.

  8. TehShrike says:

    So, I tweeted this MineCraft video at you yesterday, Shamus, but I’m not sure you saw it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asImTDkPWKA

  9. omicron says:

    Biggest thing I’ve ever gotten around to making was the Second Hall in Khazad-Dum – but massively undersized (only 55x52x16 blocks). As a result, however, I will never need to mine cobblestone again. (Whole thing is underground!)


    1. Gaz says:

      That’s awesome! :)

  10. Crystalgate says:

    So you neglected your website for five hours for the sake of playing Minecraft? That’s nothing, a true Minecraft fan neglects his own house to free up time for a virtual one! Also, if your children aren’t starving, you’re definitely being neglectful towards Minecraft. Shame on you!

    1. UtopiaV1 says:

      HA, I’ve been so neglectful to my girlfriend that she’s left me and now I can’t even HAVE any children to be neglectful to! But the alluring call of Minecraft is always there for me.

      (Kidding, she’s still here, hovering in the background, growing impatient with my latest obsession. Non-gamer girlfriends can be so high maintenance!)

  11. Factoid says:

    Diamond appears in only the bottom 16-20 layers of the map. You’ll usually find it in clumps of about 4-6 blocks. The only way to mine it effectively is to do a horizontal mine. I’ve never tried a vertical trench mine like yours before. I usually go for an open pit strip-mine. Great lighting during daylight hours and you can get good lighting with 1 torch every 3 layers, rotating which wall you place it on each time. That way each wall has a torch every 12 rows.

    My usually starting procedure is to make about 5-10 ladder pieces. you can use one every other row so that is usually enough to get down about 10-20 layers. I drill straight down, placing a ladder every other level so I can climb back up. Then I go up to the top and start strip-mining layer by layer. It takes forever before you get to the good stuff, but you’ll find enough coal and iron in the first 20 layers to build all your pick axes and power your furnaces.

    My most developed world has about 4 of these mines that I’ve stripped out all the way to bottom. I’ve got so much cobble stone that I’ve actually built and entire storage building which has row after row of stacked storage boxes all completely filled with cobble stone. I have a much tinier storage building made out of solid iron blocks (to protect from creepers) where I store all my diamonds, redstone dust, obsidian, etc…

    Anyone who does not value the productivity of their day, visit this link. It’s the most informative and useful guide I’ve found yet for minecraft mining techniques and where to look for certain materials.


    1. Alan De Smet says:

      Why save the cobblestone? I keep a few hundred blocks around for impromptu construction, but mining keeps me swimming in fresh supplies of the stuff. I frequently just discard stacks of cobblestone. I feel like I’m missing something, since I frequently see people discuss saving it like you do.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Cobble (and clean, for which you also need cobble) is the basic construction resource. You’d be surprised how fast this stuff runs out. Sure, it feels like plenty is available. Sure, you’ll think that “hey, I just cleaned this huge pit and all I want is to build myself a teeny, tiny mansion, I could actually stuck the whole mansion inside that pit” and then you’ll suddenly realise that half your stacks are gone and you’re only doing the first floor. A large project can easily consume thousands and thousands of cobble blocks, and I’m not even talking about simply gigantic projects like artificial mountain ranges, reconstruction of entire fantasy cities or “the great wall of minecraft”. On top of that you get all that cobble sort of “along the way” to other ores, or to setting up your obsidian factory, or underground farm… it can be really tedious when you realise you have to mine an additional thousands blocks of just cobble. Finally, some people don’t really like building their constructions, especially the more aesthetically oriented ones, in the vicinity of their mines. Which means if they run out of cobble they have to walk for a couple of minutes to mine some new one.

        And then there are crazy people like me who just save everything, wood is a regenerating resource so with a good reforestation policy boxes are easy to make and plentiful.

  12. Joe says:

    Got any larger shots of the house?

  13. Steve C says:

    If the Minecraft developer has a studio now, he might have a position for you. Seems like your philosophies of gameplay > graphics mesh pretty well.

    1. acronix says:

      I think he´s only recruing people on his country which is famous and located somewhere in Europe. I can´t bother to remember which one it is.

      1. Irridium says:

        Sweden, I think.

        1. Felblood says:

          No, it’s the other one.

          (I don’t really know whether it isn’t Sweden.)

          1. Adam says:

            It’s Sweden. :P

          2. Ingvar says:

            Ah, Denwayland, where the moose are aplenty, everyone drinks vodka and eat red hot dogs, spiced with lye-treated fish. It’s a change, if nothing else.

  14. Psivamp says:

    I didn’t get into Minecraft – for which, I am thankful. I neglect my studies enough with Civ V, Droplitz, Sudoku and MW2.

  15. 6thfloormadness says:

    Diamond pickax, diamond shovel, diamond ax, and a diamond sword? Just how big of a mine did you have to dig before you found enough diamond for all those Shamus?

  16. RichVR says:

    One of us. One of us. One of us.

  17. Neil Polenske says:

    Just when I thought I was making headway with this game… :(

  18. Mark says:

    If you’re going to bake stone, then it’s probably more efficient to use buckets full of lava as the fuel. The bucket is consumed in this way, however.

    1. Sumanai says:

      Takes the same time, costs 3 iron bars. The only benefit is that one bucket of lava can smelt 100 blocks, but I prefer a hands-off approach. Not to mention I’ve never had enough iron. But I could have a mansion full of storage boxes filled with iron and feel like I don’t have enough.

      With cobblestone melting I’d go with lumber (plank, not trunk). 3 for 2, so just drop off one piece from a full pack, at least 42 pieces of lumber for fire and go do something else. Only the 42 blocks will be burned and that’s not all that much considering it’s renewable. And since you can’t replace smooth rock without melting it again, I feel renewable source is more important than convenience.

      If it’s something like smelting ore into bars, then I’d go for coal. 8 for 1 and it’s common enough.

      1. Sumanai says:

        I forgot to mention:

        Of course neither lumber or coal has the coolness factor that is using lava for a heat source. I really hope that in the future it will be possible to use lava buckets in crafting to create permanent heat sources.

  19. Irridium says:

    I played the free demo, and honestly it makes me think of an FPS version of Dig Dug. Minus the monsters.

    1. Jan de Wit says:

      The paid version has the monsters.

  20. bbot says:

    You don’t even have a lava moat!

    Or a lava beacon!

    What I’m saying is, I like lava.

    1. acronix says:

      I have lots of lava moats. All made in accidents while trying to make a lava beacon tower.

      I like lava too!

    2. Nidokoenig says:

      This reminds me of the big reason I’m not touching Minecraft: You can import maps from Dwarf Fortress. I’ve only got sixty, seventy years left to live, man, I can’t have two addictions like this feeding on each other.

      1. Amadan says:

        This… is a webcomic idea waiting to be born

      2. Sasbot says:

        OH MY GOD
        i will try very hard to forget I ever read that that was possible…

        and ultimately I will fail. but there might be hope for a normal life for at least a few more days while I struggle against it

  21. Aldowyn says:

    I found a MP classic server that’s awesome… it’s huge for a minecraft server, 120 person cap! But all they do is construction, and you have limited resources and you can fly, superspeed, and no-clip with the World of Minecraft client.

    Anyways, I’ve built a giant gold cave (with help), complete with sign, a huge hanging triforce, a cool spiral tower, and a triforce sided pyramid with a master sword inside. So awesome. I’m planning on making a Big Daddy sprite as soon as I can build somewhere I won’t get griefed…

    BTW, if you want to actually see these, they’re on my twitter, and I’ll be putting them on my blog when I do my minecraft post.. that I should do. soon.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I hope youll get wings of liberty soon,because if you wait to get all 3 in a bundle no one will be seeing you for quite a while.

  23. Jarenth says:

    So, when can we expect a Twenty Sided Minecraft server?

    I’ve been feeling a little too productive lately, is what I’m saying.

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m looking for a way to run one. I run a server here on my LAN for myself and the kids, but I’d like to play with Net Buddies as well.

      But I can’t run a public game from my home machine. The lag would be agonizing for everyone else, I’d imagine.

      1. Jarenth says:

        If you add the fact that you both American and European fans (at least), there’s always going to lag involved for the people not on the same continent.

        But there’s no rush; every day there’s no Twenty Sided server yet is a day I can waste on Alpha Centauri instead be productive.

  24. MadTinkerer says:

    I’ve noticed that both diamonds and redstone seem to be generated relatively more often near magma in caves. (that’s relatively in italics for diamonds, but still) Depth seems to be the main factor in good-stuff-placement, followed by whether said block is a cave wall and whether it’s near magma.

    To relatively easily get the good stuff I recommend three things:

    1) Save Scumming. Make a new world, wander around a bit, and check out how many shallow caves are around. If your spawn point is near a bay/on a peninsula, that’s usually a good sign. You’ll probably run into a few deep caves as well, but don’t explore them until you know there are a bunch of them. Then set up your HQ a short walk from your spawn point and start mining! Othwerwise, start over with a new game.

    2) Map out existing cave systems rather than mining with brute force. If you followed step 1 above, you might well be loaded with iron ore you found exposed to sunlight before you even step into the depths. Make a lot of signs and bring them with you when spelunking, because it’s all too easy to get turned around and you can’t get wood underground. (In fact, bring 64 planks and a workbench to make more signs, picks, etc. If you follow step 3 below you can make a cozy little work area in the depths without monsters harassing you.)

    3) Turn off monsters. Actually this should be step 1. Turn them back on after you’ve explored a cave system and found multiple easy places to harvest magma for your lava moat. Otherwise, it’s just a pain.

    Extra tips:

    Make a bunch of buckets and haul the magma to the surface if you want obsidian. It’s just easier.

    If you spawn on a peninsula, it’s relatively easy to make into an island. Add torches and you have a nice place to relax if you turn monsters on.

    Get that mod that gets rid of minecart physics and lets you just ride and ride. Unless you really like trial and error and mining iron redundantly.

    Making awesome-castles is neat, but I prefer to try to integrate my structures with the scenery. Find a really sweet mountain with overhanging cliffs and such, and make your awesome-caslte there. One magma block at the top will cover a whole slope in lava, which is the most awesome way I’ve found to keep monsters away.

    Also, if you make a midair castle, making a lavafall or two should keep monsters from using it’s shadow for safety from the sun. Plus having a lava lake under your floating castle is super-awesome. Oooh! make like a big gargoyle statue and have the lava pouring from it’s mouth! Yeeeahhh!

  25. Timmy says:

    i love minecraft! My friend Raymond and I are making an awesome house in survival. We named the world Diet Coke. To us it’s like an epic survival mode! We made our house in a crevisis thing and it’s a 33by22. Since we live under ground we have to surface allot to get our materials. Let you know more of whats going on later, anybody want to tell how they are doing in the awesome adventures of MINECRAFT!

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