MineCraft: Mine The Gap, Day 5

We call this one “Kicking It With Caverns”.

I wasn’t going to do another Mine The Gap. I decided that I’d hit the sweet spot of persuading you guys that you needed MineCraft in your lives without spoiling too much of it. HOWEVER, a guy called Deriuqer commented on Day 4 that if one of the things I loved about MineCraft was how it let me get lost, why did I build a compass specifically so that wouldn’t happen?

It was a good question. But what happened next in my game was a kind of perfect rebuttal.

Let me clarify. Actually getting lost in MineCraft is a bit of a headache. When I say I want games which “Let the player get lost”, I don’t mean I’ve got a burning desire to experience having no idea where the fuck I am. What I mean is that I want games with worlds that have not been designed with an eye to helping the player get around.

The difference between a “game that lets you get lost” and a game that doesn’t is the same kind of difference as you find between a linear game and a non-linear one. The point isn’t the physical acts that you can do in one and not the other, the point is in the atmosphere it creates.

Killing someone in a non-linear game is much more exciting than it is in a linear game, because you also had the option of not killing them. Likewise, in the game with the world that you can get lost in, exploring is that much more exciting because the prospect of getting lost looms overhead. A compass was my little victory against the looming spectre of getting lost, but it didn’t change the fact that this was still the kind of world that you could get lost in. The world, in a word, was still dramatic.

Anyway. Guess what happened instantly the next time I played MineCraft? I got lost, of course.

When we left me, I’d just found what I was calling the promised land. I decided I’d have a nose around its caves, and discovered that this place was as teeth-clenchingly impressive underground as it was overground. After an hour of travelling downwards, hacking apart the occasional monster and pulling huge chunks of iron, gold and diamond from the walls, I found a huge chamber filled with gravel.

An arrow came twanging out at me from the darkness ahead, catching me in the chest. As with all surprise arrow attacks in MineCraft, I immediately shat myself and launched into a state that could at best be called “highly unpredictable”. I went leaping from one gravel platform to another, piecing my way through the darkness towards my enemy. When I saw the lone skeleton archer I screamed “YOU AND ME, BABY,” loud enough for the neighbours to hear and flung myself at him at the exact same time he fired an arrow. My sword swing knocked him off his gravel spire. His arrow shoved me backwards off the same peak. Both of us dropped like pennies into the darkness, and after nibbling on some bacon to recover my strength I went dashing off after him, dropping torches as I went.

When I finally found him and dispatched him, I’d been turned around three or four times. Thinking I still had my bearings, I pushed a little deeper.

I didn’t have my bearings. When I turned back around, I couldn’t seem find the gravel chamber. I was stone cold lost.

It’s as if the Earth itself had rotated around me. The caves simply aren’t the same place that I’d been exploring ten minutes ago. Before I’d lost my way, dead-end tunnels that shrank to nothing had felt dangerous and exciting. Now, they’re suffocating and scary. Likewise, the groans of buried zombies seem to be coming more frequently, and get louder each time I complete another lap of the area.

Technically, I could dig my way out of here. Pick a wall, and start cutting out a long, upward staircase until I hit the surface. But that’s a shit option. I’d come down here for an adventure. The prospect of hacking out a backdoor, block by block, seems a failure of such awful proportions that I can’t consider it without laughing. I just keep on searching. Besides, digging down here was always going to be dangerous.

This deep, lava flows are common. I can’t imagine exactly how it would happen, but I can definitely see myself accidentally tapping some magma vein and not only dying, but having all of this precious ore in my inventory smelted into nothingness.

You can actually harvest obsidian if you engineer water to flow into lava. This is among the many pieces of knowledge I have which are no goddamn use right now.

I get so desperate I make a few forays even deeper into the caverns, just in case they hook up with some tunnel I explored previously. It’s now been 20 minutes since I first got lost. My options are exhausted. I’m exhausted. I consider drawing a paper map. I don’t do this, because I come up with a plan that’s marginally less depressing.

I’ll jump in this underground river! Fortune favours the bold, yes? I’m sure I’ll jump in the river and it’ll deposit me in a new tunnel network, and from there I’ll be able to pick my way up, and up, all the way to the surface!

I look at the water. I go to take a running jump, then stop myself at the lip of the ledge. I look at the water again.

I’ll jump in this underground river, and it’ll take me straight into a hole where I will not be able to breathe, and my asphixiated corpse will be carried down into the breeding chamber of Achk Kchk, King Of The Spiders, and he will use me as a condom.

I decide not to jump in the river. That gravel chamber has to be around here somewhere.

Or does it? Maybe it’s moved. Or maybe when my back was turned the planet twitched unthinkingly, snapping the passage shut.

Somehow, the idea of spending enternity in these caves is still more appealing than digging that back door. Oh- oh, my God! I know this chamber! I haven’t been here in ages!

Up! Yes! Up, and up, and YES!

My brain cannot process daylight. Light? From the DAY? I find a decent staircase and go scrambling up to the surface. It’s not enough. I keep climbing, giddy with freedom, all the way to the top of a mountain.

It’s amazing to think of that whole world underground, continuing to exist out of sight. Man!

It takes me a good ten minutes to calm down, minutes I spend thinking hungrily about how inexplicably boring most games manage to make caves. MineCraft’s randomised caves are some of the most spellbinding locales I’ve ever encountered in a videogame, and a large part of that, I think, is because you’re always at risk of getting lost. It’s an omnipresent enemy you’re forever dueling with, and sometimes that means he gets the better of you. And that’s fun too.

If you haven’t bought MineCraft yet, you owe it to yourself to go and check it out. Until Notch gets the authentication servers back online, it’s still free, too, so temporarily you’ve got nothing to lose. Go on, dude! Get lost.


    • GamerOfFreedom says:

      That was one awesome story indeed!

    • SanguineAngel says:

      That was the best Mine the Gap yet. I am glad it was written.

    • P7uen says:

      Best yet.

      Since, like us, you’re now probably going to be playing Minecraft every day until you die, you may as well continue the diaries as well, I don’t think you’ll get many complaints.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Whenever I end up in this situation I just seem to end up dying… and then not able to get back to my corpse without dying… and then bored :(

    • Butterbumps says:

      It is awesome, but I have one objection: that creeper hanging around on the front page is making me uncomfortable.

    • PleasingFungus says:


    • sfury says:

      Awesome indeed but all those pictures of caves depress me now. I spent the whole yesterday in spelunking, remembering where every fork in my cave leads to, and exactly which I chose this time, had a lot of mob battles and going up to smelt new ore and down again with new sets of armor and weapons.

      …only to get killed by a meagre zombie that pushed me in an underground waterfall and managed to hit me 2 times more in the ensuing confusion. So I took my emergency supplies from above and rushed in to save my only diamond pickaxe only to be ambushed halfway by a damned skeleton archer which took me out before I could get to the rock it was perched. And then rush again this time with almost no supplies only to get to the place of my 1st death and find nothing of my loot. And while investigating the damned waterfall and if my stuff was carried by it I somehow fell in the damn thing again and it dumped me in some pitch black hole. No way out, no torches, no pickaxe…

      Just me and eternity in the dark. And some nearby zombie growling, but not near enough to finish me off. Left for dead, only without even the dead part. : /

      So I had to cheat and use a save editor to make my health to zero and respawn in my comfy sun-lit house.

      Not looking forward to exploring the damn caves soon.

    • The Tupper says:

      Playing it for the first time right now: it’s like a cross between ‘I Am legend’ (the book) and Manic miner.

    • Lightbulb says:

      sfury – Have you thought about how great that story is?

      You ran into a cave with no torches and surprise surprise it did not end well.

      Can you think of any other game that is as unforgiving – but also as FAIR as this? Nothing about that story was unfair. It was just like real life. You didn’t die because the game hit you with an unavoidable trap; you died – I’m sorry to say this – because you did something stupid.

      Whenever I die in Minecraft its because I did something stupid. I’ll just pop out in the middle of the night to chop some wood – *dies*

      I’ll just place this block on the end of a cliff – *falls* *dies*

      If you are sensible, careful, and vigilant its not common to die. If you are reckless or aren’t paying attention when that Creeper comes around the corner you are dead, and that, as they say, is awesome!

    • Lambchops says:

      Yeah Minecraft really nails the whole “fair death” thing, much like Spelunky in that regard. it’s always a boon in this type of game when you know that all you’ve got to blame ffor dying is you’re own damn foolishness.

    • sfury says:

      Lightbulb, I know it was generally fair and what I did was stupid – rushing a second time with almost no supplies. Though in my defense – I did find the supplies from the first rescue attempt – only without the goddamn torches and pickaxe for some reason – hence the desperate situation I later found myself in.

      I also know it is an awesome story, and somewhat funny (not to me while it was happening though), that’s why I’m sharing it, bless MineCraft and Saint Notch! :]

      All I’m saying is I’m sick of caves and will be staying out of them the next few days.

      Hell, it’s not like it’s the only place to go – I’ll build me a proper castle and put more some time in the crops and exploring above, that’s why I/we love MC so much.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      @Lightbulb: Interesting. This reminds me of comparing Linux to Windows. Windows is the guided experience, and the unfair deaths. Windows is the drilling machine from the DIY store. But I did not realize this, until I moved to Gentoo Linux. Because that one is unforgiving like a professional Hilti drilling machine. Fair but unforgiving like Minecraft. You have to know what you are doing. But if you do, the experience is so much better, you’ll never want back. Maybe Gentoo is a bit like a game for us computer experts. It’s exciting to install an operating system without and graphical user interface, on a computer with no keyboard and screen, 500 km away, and then make it reboot! It’s really cool, if it then actually boots up properly!. And it’s wonderful that no matter what it is, you know you can solve it. No matter what it is, you can implement it.
      My system now fits like a glove. It’s completely and utterly unusable by other people (weird keyboard layout, no task bar, no „start“ menu, no window buttons, lots of weird mouse gestures, shortcuts and scripts, custom kernel, user space, etc), but that doesn’t matter. Because it’s so much fun, when your computer finally works for you, instead of „saving the work, that you wouldn’t have without it“. :)

    • sfury says:

      Also I wish Notch puts some “suicide”/respawn button for such situations. Everything else that kills you gives you the respawn option, I somehow found one of the few ways to truly royally screw yourself up by not being able to even die.

      (one of the guys on the forums gave me the idea to dig by hand my way up, which would be possible and proper punishment, if only I could somehow tell which part of the pitch blackness was up, down or even left or right…)

      So I had to “cheat” to “commit suicide”, now there’s your “why, vidya games are art!” moment. ;)

  1. Army of None says:

    I’ve hooked half of my entire dormitory on this. The halls are filled with exclamations of superb structures that stretch into the heavens and mad caverns and findings. “Oh sweet jeebus” I heard one of them say, “I see light! OH THANK GOD I SEE LIGHT, I’M NOT LOST”

  2. Butterbumps says:

    There really is no better feeling than successfully making it out of a huge, complicated, monster-infested cave system with all your precious loot intact.

  3. MonkeyMonster says:

    Lovin it. I have some ever so tasteful torch arrows on the walls when I remember… Still crap myself when you hear the twang of a beyatchin skelly in the dark. But more alarming is when digging and its suddenly all illuminated due to the lava coming into to burn you. What’s amusing is dig-dig-dig-digging straight into a critter who then expldoes in your face. When I say funny – it is. After you’ve used up a fair few expletives and changed your boxers.

  4. Mike says:

    Glad you decided to go on for at least one more post. Maybe a farewell post could guide us on a tour of the RPS server?

  5. pupsikaso says:

    Why aren’t you using the texture pack any more?

  6. Max says:

    YES! YES!!!
    These “Mine The Gap” articles were the final push that got me to finally download the client, and of course it being free for a period also helped.

    Fuck I love MineCraft!!

    • sfury says:

      Wow so many people bought it these days – because of these articles, because of it making the news and Penny Arcade, or all those people combined spreading it like wildfire with their friends. Even the Friday update brought the site and server down because too many clients were trying to update…

      Which begs the question – Minecraft – BIG INDIE SUCCESS or BIGGEST INDIE SUCCESS EVER. Cause I’m scared to think how many millions it has and will continue to make for Notch.

      I’m thinking RPS will have to do an interview with him soon to make things more clear.

  7. Devin says:

    I had a very similar experience this past weekend. I got ridiculously lost, and just kept going down new tunnels hoping I’d find some way to get back. It probably took me two hours to find my way back up. I was actually contemplating trying to dig my own staircase to freedom, but realized I didn’t have enough picks to do that.

    When I finally found my way back outside, I was ecstatic! Next time I went down, I took a bunch of sign posts with me to mark my way back home.

    • user@example.com says:

      You should always go below with a full stack of wood. A full stack of tree trunk bits is better. You’ll never have trouble making extra gear with those.

      Also, no less than 3 64-stacks of torches, if you want to call yourself prepared.

  8. ShoTro says:

    I went into this game thinking, “Oh, this should be fun to just mess around and build a few things. Lalalalala” Then nightfall came. I was unprepared for the onslaught. Minecraft looks innocent, but is one of the most intense survival games I have ever played. Nothing is scarier then forgetting to dig in a zigzag pattern and dig right into lava or turning and seeing a creeper right next to you while building. I really did jump out of my chair when squinting close to the screen when peering into the cold dark tunnels to be met with an arrow to the head and a skull running at me.

    This has to be one of the only games that puts me into full panic mode scrambling to at least die in a safe location to prevent me from loosing everything I have worked so hard to obtain. Thank you for these stories because I might not have given this game a chance.

  9. Arreh says:

    I remember the first time I got lost in a cavern. Racing around, no idea what was what, gradually losing my sanity, creating new friends out of stone blocks (and in the game).

    Nowadays I always sign post exits with a double or triple whammy of torches, and place incongruous blocks in careful places, knowing as I do that I’m really, really shit at remembering where to go.

    Daylight had become a myth, half remembered in the recesses of my mind, by the time I burst out.

    Oh minecraft.

  10. Shadow Aspect says:

    The best part is when you see light around a corner and think it’s daylight, or the glow of a previously placed torch, only to find it’s just a lava flow and you’re still lost. Did I say best? I meant worst. :D

  11. Navagon says:

    I was just down in a massive cave network getting lost as well. Only with less torches, it must be said. The haul of obsidian I pulled out of that thing was crazy (by obsidian standards) and I barely grabbed half of it. It seemed like every river terminated in a confrontation with lava. I still don’t know what to do with that stuff either.

  12. Cemendur says:

    I got horribly lost for the first time in Minecraft today. found the biggest cave system I have ever seen that had multiple huge branches. Took me about 20 minutes to realise I was lost. I pushed on, making my way down to the very bottom of the world, surrounded my rivers and waterfall sof lava and water. Diamonds, gold and redstone lined the walls.

    In desperation, I took the lame way out, dropping cobbestone below me, I mined straight up. Mined and mined and mined. Eventually I made it to the surface, and discovered I had emerged less than 30 blocks from where I had gone in. Next tiem I’m going in I’m planting signs. and laying a cobblestone road to show the way out. And taking lots and lots of torches.

    God I love this game.

    • sexyresults says:

      The problem with that (besides like you said being lame) if you hit anything like lava, or even sand, you will die.

  13. Nick says:

    I hit a huge cave system when I dug down straight under my first base… spent about 20 minecraft days exploring it.

    Then at 11 last night I stupidly decided to investigate the 1 block passage into the cave at the very bottom of my base… and didn’t resurface till 4 in the morning… having been killed three times in a row before realizing that Zombies can spawn on mossy cobblestones even in full torch-light.

    • mandrill says:

      Its not the mossy cobblestones that spawn the monsters its the spawn block (purple mesh thing with a zombie spinning inside it, there are varieties for every type of mob). You can destroy these with a pick or your bare hands, this will stop the monsters spawning.

    • Jeremy says:

      If you place a full set of torches around the spawner, the enemies will stop as well. It’s a beautiful thing!

    • Butterbumps says:

      You don’t even need full set, just two, on opposite sides will do.

    • Clovis says:

      Oh, is that all I have to do? When I first found one I immediately poured lava on it. That definitely does the trick.

      I actually have a spider generator under my house. So far I have it completely incased in glass. I’m hoping that some kind of trap doors get added to the game soon. I’d like to be able to flip a switch and drop lava/water over my spiders ;-)

    • Jeremy says:

      Really? Even knowing that truth, I’ll probably litter the place with torches, because it is too frighten to think of infinite zombies.

    • Butterbumps says:

      @Clovis: So, you made a spider zoo?

    • Tacroy says:

      Oh man I found one of those. I didn’t realize it spawned zombies, so I was trying to take it apart with my pick when a zombie spawned and killed me. Fortunately, I’d packed everything but my adventuring equipment away in a nearby chest protected by some doors, and the tunnel itself goes directly beneath my base.

      Unfortunately, I have no idea where that base was (and I’d spent a lot of time smelting glass railings for it, too) so if I ever find it again it’ll be like finding buried treasure.

      I think that if I keep on playing this same world eventually it’s going to end up littered with abandoned outposts where I got lost, decided to build a new life for myself, died, and repeated. There’s already at least two, plus about four or five emergency shelters I built or spires where I found some nice stuff but didn’t feel like getting even more lost finding my spawn point so I put everything in a chest and killed myself.

      I’m definitely going to have to buy the game when Notch gets his servers back up.

    • Jeremy says:

      You should consider building an immense tower with torches to light the way home, if you want to put down some roots. If not, then carry on, because there is no right or wrong way to play this game :)

    • Jimmy says:

      Before I started being reckless (falling off building sites and experimenting) I went on a great mission to discover the place of my birth with the compass. I left my well-provisioned raised abode, with its secure entrance and fine glass façades, to follow my funky new device to a place called home. On the way I created a series of said beacons to ensure that on my next spawn I would not get lost.

      I then died on the way back, losing all my tools in the process, as I had to wait two nights before I could find that tunnel.

      I am now constructing new buildings, and thinking about an express train to spawn and beyond. I must say, though, I really should be working on my doctoral thesis…

    • Clovis says:

      @Butterbumps: The sign in my house above the ladder that leads to it says, “Spider Menagerie”.

    • Tacroy says:

      I did! The entire edifice is a shrine to light, with a great many torches on every side, at the top of the tallest mountain! It’s so high up that clouds actually go beneath my patio (which is the foliage of the largest tree I’d ever found, I call him Yggdrasil)

      Unfortunately I have no idea where it is from my spawn point; I got there after going to the beach to gather some sand to make glass for my first base, getting severely lost, and deciding to settle down. Now there’s like 14 MB of world to explore to find it again :(

    • Jeremy says:

      Oh, shoot. Well, I don’t know what to tell ya then. I built my home close to spawn (it just so happened to have a huge lake, waterfall and a rather large forest) so it is as easy to find as it is to die :)

    • Nick says:

      I stand corrected.

      Time to explore more caves…

  14. midi says:

    Quinn, please do more of these articles. Please. They have got me utterly hooked on this game and I love reading them.

  15. deriuqer says:

    Ha yes, this is the most brilliant reply I could have gotten! Cheers.

    Now, someone else needle him into part 6.

  16. Shon says:

    I really think they should play a chorus of angels singing every time you break up into the surface. I know I feel that way when I emerge from a lost adventure.

    I think the simpler graphics is what really helps the threat of getting lost. One of your screenshots looks exactly like I a mine I am currently excavating now. When every stone block literally looks the same, compass or no, you are going to get lost.

  17. Vague-rant says:

    Hmmm, normally, to try and avoid getting lost, I always pick up torches on my way back after I discover a dead end, so theres only one path of torches to freedom. Also digging up isn’t always a good idea. I once dug up into the middle of the ocean. I didn’t make it back.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      That is an excellent story.

    • AlexW says:

      I too dug up into the ocean, but survived to tell the story. I swam up ’til my last breath of air, gasping as my head crested the water (literally, I was unconsciously holding my breath). I then deployed the boat I’d premade rather than spend 10-15 minutes swimming.

      Minecraft also brought about something I’ve never experienced in a game, glee at seeing the twisted shape of home in the distance. Finding the place you made safe. There’s nothing quite like it; pure monkey brain stuff.

    • Clovis says:

      But then all those side tunnels spawn mobs and my “I’ve been here, there’s a torch” method of exploring is out the window. Whenever I find a dead end and there’s nothing left to mine, I usually just take the torches and close up the entrance with cobblestone.

      That is a good idea though. Maybe it’d be a good idea to just use a slightly different tracking method. Something else that can be placed and recovered really easily. Redstone torches maybe?

    • Butterbumps says:

      I think the best method I’ve heard of is: Torches on the right-hand wall always (or left hand, just be consistent). Then if you find a dead end, move all the torches from the walls to the floor on the way back out.

    • Grandstone says:


      That feeling of coming safely home is brilliant. I keep thinking of the officer from The Proposition when I play this game: “I will civilize this land.”

    • Torgen says:

      I’ve learned to not dig straight up in a spiral to escape the bottom of the world, the hard way. I dug up into a lake/sea/river, got swept down towards the bottom, but because I’d dug at an angle instead of straight up. I was able to gulp the occasional breath of air at the ceiling of the tunnel while flailing against the current. I was eventually propelled past an alcove where I’d dug out some iron, and was able to save myself. From then on, I carved a little 2x2x2 pocket every so often, so I’d have something to clamber onto when I hit water again.

      I eventually hit water again, but glimpsed daylight through the torrent, and made like a salmon swimming up a waterfall, breaking out through a pond near my home. Sweet, sweet daylight. I was so very thankful it wasn’t nighttime when I broke through.

    • Torgen says:

      @Clovis: Use your empty hand to knock torches down, and they are recoverable.

    • Clovis says:

      @Torgen: Oh, I meant something else besides torches that can so easily be picked up and placed like torches.

      I like “conquering” the caves/land by spamming torches everywhere. So I often have caves that are filled with torches mostly. The torches don’t help at all with keeping track of my path. If I had another object that I could throw down each time I went spelunking, then I could make my way back through the torchlit areas. Maybe redstone torches could serve that purpose.

    • somedude says:

      For cave navigation, I tend to explore a single set of branching pathways all the way to the end, illuminating along the way (at this point, getting back is easy, as you just have to follow the only lit path). Then, once I’ve explored it, I go back to the last point where it branches off, and build a small pattern out of easily removable blocks to denote that I’ve explored it – sand if I’ve only explored it, dirt if I’ve mined out all visible resources in that passage. Then, finding my way back is simply to follow the lit areas, disregarding any pathways that have already been marked. Occasionally, I get a bit lax on actually following through on this and do get lost, but it’s so far given me enough of a pathway that I’ve always been able to find my way back to the entrance after a bit.

    • RedFred says:

      Well I just got crushed when mining out some gravel from a cave. Turns out there was a lot of gravel and there was water on top of that. Cue crushed, caved and flooded.

      Good bye items. :(

  18. brio says:

    I bought the game after your 2nd Mine-The-Gap and im just amazed. I also discovered a huge cave, got lost but finally found the way out again. I thought I explored it completely. But today I went down again, saw that I missed a hole, went down there and got lost again. The part I didnt see the first time was nearly exactly the same size as the first part.
    Its just amazing how big these caves are.

    BTW: I accidentally tapped in a magma vein :D

  19. wcaypahwat says:

    I just spent a good five hours exploring some new caves. Thankfully, I wasn’t technically lost, since I’d dug a 7×12 mine shaft straight down to the bedrock…. Decided to explore some of the cave branches my shaft had broken through, which led right back to the surface on the other side of the hill I’ve been building my house/mountainside cathedral on.

  20. The Rev Owen says:

    I built a small village outside my castle today. There are three houses, a garden, a well and a gallows.

    I love this game.

  21. Grandstone says:

    I explored my first cavern by accident. I’d been digging a mine beneath my first shelter when I found, to my surprise, a small waterfall. All around it was dark. “I figure I’ll inch up to it, poke a few torches on the walls, and then go back upstairs to restock before exploring this place,” I thought to myself.

    I did inch up to it, but then I inched into it. The current swept me into the cavern.

    It took me a second to realize what had happened. Once I had, I realized how little equipment I had left–a half-used stone pick with a spare in my backpack, a shovel, some sticks, some coal, some pork and not much else. I laid some torches on the ground and started to look for an exit.

    I quickly destroyed the pickaxes and the shovel. There was too much iron in the cavern for me to resist picking up a little for my return, which was sure to be soon. Luckily, I’d fallen in with enough wood to build a crafting table, which let me build new pickaxes and shovels as long as the sticks held out. With the torches and the little wood that remained, they didn’t hold out.

    Having fallen into a second watery chamber, killed a skeleton, and found that all of the cavern’s paths were dead ends, I decided it would be better to carve an exit than to keep looking for cracks I hadn’t seen. I resolved to dig with my hands if I had to.

    My one fear was that I might have wandered beneath the large mountain beside my mine, and that I would be digging for hours on end until I got to the surface. Regardless, I chose an arbitrary spot and began to build a staircase to the surface.

    At first, all I found was gravel and stone. Dirt came some time later. I heard a chicken clucking in the distance. A cow mooed. Soon, my hands bloodied from all the stone I’d had to break, I found dirt with grass on it, and then–sunlight, and a view of the spring that fed my wheat farm. The feeling was as good as I’d read.

    The hole I dug became the back door of my first shelter. Now I could harvest my crop in peace rather than ignore it if the sun were setting. When I came back to the waterfall that had swept me down, I looked at it for a while. I wasn’t sure what to do. I needed to build a staircase down: I sealed it up with cobblestones.

    This game is incredible.

  22. Qnton says:

    Big caves, dangerous monsters, direct combat, chances to drop your loot while dying, free roaming, weapon crafting?

    Sounds like Demon’s Souls to me.
    (also comes with a scenario, big bosses, nice graphics, excellent level design and superbly designed unorthodox multiplayer).

    ( only on PS3 sadly)

  23. thesundaybest says:

    I can understand why you wouldn’t keep going with this series, but I could read stuff like this all day long. It works especially well, as you point out, with non-linear games.

  24. Taillefer says:

    Some caves entice you in with their beauty. A skylight illuminating an underground river with snow slowly drifting down through it looks incredibly. It called like a siren, and I abandoned my building plans and blindly ventured forth. I was playing the part of the first victim in a predictable horror movie.

    • Taillefer says:

      *incredible, or incredibly something. Ahem.

    • Tacroy says:

      It’s even more amazing when you spawn a snowy map. You get those huge natural holes in the mountains, and then there’s just a little bit of snow falling down through a hole in the ceiling.

      It’s absolutely beautiful.

  25. Oozo says:

    “Demon’s Soul” is the reason why the next game I’m going to purchase won’t be “MineCraft”. Quinns did like it, too, it seems:
    link to gamesetwatch.com

    Couldn’t say why, but this text is one of the most insightful reviews I have ever read, and one of my favourite texts of Quinn’s. (And the number of texts worthy of being favourites by this guy are increasing by the day – incredible.)

    • DrGonzo says:

      From what I read about Demon Soulds it sounds interesting. But all the videos and pictures I’ve seen of it look like a typical boring hack and slash. What am I missing about that game that makes it so interesting?

    • Tacroy says:

      I really, really wish Demon’s Souls wasn’t a PS3 exclusive. I’m not buying a super expensive console just for one game, but Demon’s Souls comes close.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      DrGonzo: Hang on. You say that everything you’ve read about Demon’s Souls makes it sound interesting. You also don’t see what it is about Demon’s Souls that makes it so interesting?

      (Basically, the beauty of Demon’s Souls is in the way your character controls, the way the world’s designed to trip you up in a Spelunky style, and your own long-term progression through the world. None of which translate very well to a video. BUY IT.)

    • Dominic White says:

      DrGonzo: It is, at its heart, an old-school dungeon crawler. You explore dungeons, kill stuff, get loot, repeat.

      The genius comes from the mixture of crushingly bleak atmosphere, clever level design, and the fact that no matter what level you are, enemies are DANGEROUS. There’s nothing that you can’t handle (combat is slow, tactical and favors the clever rather than the aggressive), but the moment you get overconfident and make a stupid mistake, you’re dead.

      And here’s the kicker – all XP you’ve earnt but not spent yet stays on your corpse. And all enemies just respawned. If you die again before recovering all that XP, it dissapears forever. Death suddenly becomes very scary.

      It’s the official successor to the long-running King’s Field series, by the same studio, which have been doing this kind of gameplay for over a decade. Problem is that all western releases in the KF series got terrible reviews, because it was slow, methodical and difficult – things it’s being praised for now.

      Perhaps reviewers have just grown up enough to appreciate it?

    • mcnostril says:

      This is why I hate exclusives.
      Everything I’ve seen and read make Demon’s Souls seem like the game I’ve been waiting for for quite a while, and I can’t have it because it’s only on PS3. If at least the PS3 had any other games that I find interesting I could justify buying one, but this is pretty much the only one.


    • latedave says:

      It is an excellent game (on new game+) at the moment, however, its quite flawed as well. The auto camera targeting is a pain in the arse, particularly on cliff edges when you find it launching you after falling skeletons. Its hugely biased towards the mage class (which I happen to be, I doubt I would of been able to complete it otherwise) and the black phantom system, whilst an awesome idea, in reality tends to mean a lot of people waiting round corners to stab each other in the back…

      All that said its like nothing else I’ve played and I thoroughly recommend it, its extremely hard but if you remember NES games like me you’ll probably laugh at everyones whining online!

  26. Jimmy says:

    This fan-made video was linked by Notch on his blog.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Watching that, I almost felt like weeping, and then genuinely got shivers at the end. And I’m only a little ashamed to admit it.

      This is really one of the greatest, most forward-thinking games of our time is it not?

    • DrGonzo says:

      Now I’m gonna be singing that all day. BWWWWWAAAAARRRM!

    • futage says:


  27. Dan says:

    Adventurer’s Guild Mining Trick #1: when descending into the abyss be certain to place your torches on the left wall, such that you will be able to follow the right way out!

    • Jeremy says:

      I can’t help it though, I put torches everywhere because I am afraid of any darkness in the caves…

    • Rich says:

      Me too. Still, if I’ve completely saturated a cave with torches, it’ll have nothing scary in it. If I come across a scary place, I wall it up until I’m ready to go in.

    • Face says:

      Nice tip!

      I’m going to use that to sound smart in the future.

    • JB says:

      Hey Dan, that’s exactly the way I do it! Does that mean I can join the guild? =)

    • Vague-rant says:

      This reminded me of a trick someone told me to escape any maze. Simply place your either hand on a wall and always follow that wall. Apparently it should lead you out.

      (Unfortunately with a little bit of thinking I realised this only worked in certain situations. If you are ever trapped in a maze scream for help. Or if its one of those rubbish hedge mazes, remember you can run through all but the densest of greenery.)

    • Mischa says:

      I put my torches on the ‘opposite’ wall (or any piece of rock jutting out) when going in, so that they ‘point’ towards the exit.

    • Megazver says:

      I have a couple piles of sand in my inventory that i strategically place to mark my way. The light is too important to just place it on one side.

  28. Lucas says:

    Thanks for using the default textures this time, even if only by accident.

    My #1 tip for real spelunking is to always take a full stack of logs.

    Tip 2 would be that building is your most important combat ability.

  29. Dandi8 says:

    Please, please, continue making the Mine the Gap articles. They’re fun!
    I have Minecraft, I play Minecraft every day. Just now, I’m in the process of building a Land in the Sky, as I call it (with trees, plants and all that). And yet, your Mine the Gap articles are ridiculously enjoyable and inspiring. I was looking forward to each new part, so please don’t stop. As someone has pointed out, you’re likely to keep playing this game for the rest of your life, might as well write about it.

  30. Jeremy says:

    This game is quickly becoming one of my favorites, the sense of exploration and creation all mixed in with the insane fear of death make it so engrossing. The caves actually feel oppressive, and knowing that you’re essentially one mined block away from disaster at any moment truly gives you a Risk v. Reward atmosphere, which is always amazing.

    My most recent “one mined block” disaster had me deep in a cavern, with gold, diamond and the likes just mining away, content. I hadn’t seen a skellie or zombie in a long time, so naturally, I had let my guard down. Foolish. I look to my left and notice some iron, and well, I love iron, so I happily pick away at it, and it’s actually quite a large vein. I mine a little 1 x 1 shaft about 7 blocks into the wall. I look up and see another iron ore, so I figure, let’s get that fella and add him to the pile. Mined out the ceiling and a river of ZOMBIES fell upon me and hacked me to death within seconds. I died about 7 times trying to get all of my things back, because not only was it a river of zombies, but a spawner as well in the room above. Those are the moments I love, because they’re entirely unscripted and create a real sense of fear as you explore. Brilliant.

  31. BaronWR says:

    I am incredibly impressed by the way the game generates those caverns: I was exploring the other day and found a cavern with no fewer than three seperate waterfalls, pouring down a vast vertical shaft and flowing into a pool of lava. It couldn’t have been done better if someone had sat down to design it.

    That said, I then tried to ascend the shaft, ran into skeletons, fell, hit the ground and was washed into lava….

    Unfortunately, this has now convinced me not the buy the game, as I would lose too much time to it. Perhaps I should buy a copy and *lose* the password, as Notch deserves to do well.

  32. laikapants says:

    Minecrack or CivAddiction? Which shall I feed? Gawefhjklasdfhklasjdhfjkash, Minecraft. It has to be Minecraft. One of these days I’ll finish (maybe even start on) my Tower of Babel-esque Temple of Notch. That’s actually my biggest problem in Minecraft. I go in with these grandiose plans (though they pale in comparison to the stuff the best of the best have built in their sleep deprived state) and then they crumble and I resort to burning down the forests and spelunking forever. All the while mourning the loss of my greatest building that never was.

  33. Moth Bones says:

    In all the deserved praise for Minecraft, I haven’t seen enough about creepers.

    These beasties are quite the most terrifying, charismatic, infuriatingly loveable monsters I can think of in any computer game. I have dreams that the ongoing development and expansion of the game will include different types of creeper, creeper villages and civilisations, maybe even the ability to play as a creeper (Minecraft PvP!). Not to mention the merchandising possibilities. I reckon creepers could be to Minecraft as Daleks were to the nascent Dr Who.

  34. Axess Denyd says:

    Finally registered, and it won’t frigging keep me logged in.

    Oh well.

    I had some good cave exploring too over the weekend. Then I discovered the furnace bug and 14 pieces of iron and 51 pieces of coal got eaten. Sigh. (current inventory: 0 iron, 0 coal). I would be mad if it wasn’t Alpha, now I’m just sad.

    • LintMan says:

      @Axess Denyd : I haven’t seen any furnace bug playing, myself, but rather than be sad, why not download the inventory editor (“invedit”, I think) and restore what you lost from the bug? I don’t think that would be “cheating”.

    • Axess Denyd says:

      Excellent plan. I thought of fixing it with a “cheat”, but I didn’t follow through on the plan. Now I just have to get home and try that…

  35. Davie says:

    I started playing during the free weekend, and I now understand just how pants-shittingly terrifying that little green bastard peeking around the wall is. I was happily building a Castle of Wonderment and then I went downstairs and there was a Creeper waiting for me at the bottom of the ladder. Myself, my tools, my ores, my workbench, forge, chest, and sixty percent of the castle were either vaporized or flung to the winds in one tragic moment. I hate Creepers so much.

    So…more Minecraft diaries? Because these are really excellent.

  36. Rich says:

    My first and only death in the world I’m currently working on was due to an unfortunate smelting accident. Note, if you want to use lava in a furnace, right click on the furnace while holding something other than the bucket of lava. Emptying its contents on top of the furnace resulted in a lot of burned loot, a temporarily shut down tunnel, and a very dead me.

    Having been incinerated I then found myself outside, miles from home, in the middle of the frozen sea, AT NIGHT. Thankfully the ice and snow makes seeing at night possible, so I could see, scream at, and run away from the spiders that were hanging around. In the end the only way I could think of to get home was to build a pile of mud big enough that it could be seen when using a mapping tool. Worked well and I realised I was going in completely the wrong direction.

    Oh, the joy when I saw the lights outside my house.

    • Jhoosier says:

      “Note, if you want to use lava in a furnace, right click on the furnace while holding something other than the bucket of lava.”

      I’ve done this.

  37. Skinlo says:

    I created a moat defence system, that drains anyone caught into it to the bottom of the hill, which I’ve built a viewing platform to watch :D

  38. Army of None says:

    Minecraft seems to be the natural evolution of spelunky, in its own way. The variety of personal stories of various escapades is so reminiscent to me of when Spelunky first came out and everyone was excited about it (I still play it at least once a week). Very good sign, will be purchasing a legit copy once I have my paycheck.

    • Lambchops says:

      Seriously if someone released a Spelunky mod for Minecraft that would be it for me. I reckon it could be done as well. Just limit the size of levels, stick in an exit, some damsels and some shopkeeps and so on and you’d have it. Minecraft has become my new “fill in an odd hour” game like Spelunky used to be (i still play it but nowhere near as much). A combination of the two would be incredible,

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Notch has said he would add an “adventure” mode. Dungeons, no building/mining, get loot and get out with your life intact.

      I liked Spelunky, but loathed it for the same reason I do most roguelikes: I like to be able to save my progress. Yes I know why you’re not supposed to but that just doesn’t work for me.

      But perhaps Notch should add an “instant action” or “quick challenge” mode later on. Here the map generator would conform to more specific rules: make something much smaller, tighter and constructed around dungeon survival. And no saving I guess? Though I’d want to.. >.<

  39. Tei says:

    I get lost in caves, but I get lost in a professional way. I don’t know where I am: lost, really deep undeground in the earth. What I don’t know is where is my home. Somewhere on the surface. From my point of view, is my home the one that Is lost. I know where I am.
    So, step by step, I rebuilt the caves, to look like something made by the men. I build stairs from the nothingness, I make the caves look like rooms. The more rought the cavern, the less of me has been in the place. I civilize the undeground land. I make the deeps, my new home. Also, I have not problem digging that long stair up. It could be long, but is a promise for freedom that always pay.

    Another way to mark caves, is using redstone, you can make a path from the entrance of the cave, to has deep as you can (the moment you don’t have more reddust). If you place some redstone torchss, you can make these marks glow.

    • Tei says:

      grrr.. I need a edit. What I mean that I know where I am: on a cavern, lost. So I am not lost, what is lost is my home, not me.

  40. Westcreek says:

    This is indeed one of the better games I have played in a while. Had been keeping an eye on it for a bit, and the day i finally got around to buy it I noticed the free thing. Suffice to say, Mr. Notch will get my money as soon as his servers are back up and running. I just hope his servers can handle what i think will be a massive traffic flow once they do get up.

    Also I hope my savegame from this free version can be transfered when I get it, I tried looking for the save file but no luck, anyone have any insights on this?

    • Mathew Jensterle says:

      I found a minecraft folder with what appears to be saves in the \appdata\roaming folder under my userprofile directory in Win 7 (C:\Users\*YOURUSERNAME*).

      Sorry, that’s probably the least clear answer I’ve given to anyone all year.

    • Lightbulb says:

      Windows key + r and type: %appdata%\.minecraft

      There you go.

      C:\Users\Lightbulb\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft (your user name of course) is the Windows 7 path.

    • Westcreek says:

      Thanks alot guys! Awesome!

      This is my kind of game, will be spending far too much time on it! =)

  41. panther says:

    I remember the first time I went deep into a natural cavern and went through theses winding natural tunnels which ended up opening into a huge cavern. The only illumination was a stream of vertical lava poured that poured down the center of the large opening, and the only thing I could hear was the rushing water of an underground waterfall that was closer to my right.

    Was awesome, and blew me away.

  42. Lambchops says:

    More excellent stuff form Quinns.

    Apart from being too wimpy to jump in underground rivers. That has to be my main strength/weakness in cavern exploring. I simply can’t resist throwing myself down any underground waterfall or flinging myself from on high into underground lakes. Sure I’m going to get hopelossly lost but too me underground water signals new adventure. Though one of these days it’s just going to fling me straight into some lave, then I’ll be sorry,

  43. Clive dunn says:

    Early days for me, though the thought of redirecting rivers into lava got me thinking. By good fortune there was a waterfall and a lavafall either side of my house so I started constructing a massive aqueduct to divert the water. After a hour or so I finally got the two to meet but did I get obsidian? Nope. Just read that you have to get the water to meet the lava source. Even though I have to totally rebuild the aqueduct for some reason I don’t mind. I’ve given up on games for far less than that. I can only conclude that this game possess’s some kind of genius. Oh, and when that piano strikes up when I’m cresting a mountain I get shivers as if I’m on an actual mountain.
    I see what they mean by minecrack tho, nearly missed picking my kids up from school. How’d I explain that one to the teacher?!

    • suibhne says:

      You have to get them to meet, then pull them apart again. Where they met, you’ll find a field of obsidian blocks.

    • Lightbulb says:

      To get obsidian you need to pour water onto STILL lava. That is lava that is not flowing anywhere. This requires either:

      buckets and a lot of small lava streams. You can then place the lava into a pre-dug hole (mold) then pour water on it;


      finding a lava lake – typically quite a long way underground.

    • Fwiffo says:

      I’ve been dropping buckets of lava into flowing water for mine. I even engineered a dedicated obsidian manufacturing area where I can make batches of 10 blocks in short order. It’s just a trough with a water source next to some very large magma resevoirs I found.

  44. Sobric says:

    I’ll use this space to announce that on the RPS server, there is an absolutely, mind blowingly huge cavern underneath the Frozen Ocean. We’ve built underwater, glass stream that goes out to it, but beware your boat will smash against the side due to mental currents. At the end, the spiral staircase leads to fields of lava, winding caverns and some pretty mental waterfalls. Go wild in it.

    • MWoody says:

      I would love to, but every time I’ve tried to log in since Saturday I’ve either gotten “connection refused” or “server full” error messages. :( I miss my underground mining base.

    • MWoody says:

      A problem mysteriously alleviated, I’m embarrassed to admit, by switching off Kaspersky antivirus. Why a non-firewall antivirus package saw fit to block a port without warning or error I don’t know, but hey, at least I’m back in!

  45. Neon says:

    Why not buy a copy and give it to someone that gets too much fresh air?

  46. oceanclub says:

    I was cockily walking around a dungeon miles from my spawn last night (having finally acquired a bow and therefore no longer being totally scared of skeletons) and found my first ever mossy cobblestone. I was so excited to find it, I didn’t notice the zombie sneaking up on me. Back to the spawn FAIL.


  47. Lambchops says:

    i just found my first diamond. Now to get the stuff home, I’m treading carefully at the moment as I’m flimming miles away from safety.

    • laikapants says:

      @Lambchops: I’ve been playing off and on since early March and I’ve yet to see a bit of Diamond. I’m starting to lose hope. One day I hope to bask in its excellence. Though fwiw, the save I’ve played the most on was before he added caves into InfDev (Alpha) so digging means removing every last block.

  48. BallisticsFood says:

    I got lost with only three torches once. Leapfrogging them in an effort to stay in the precious, precious light was equal parts terrifying and awesome, especially when I found my way to a deep chasm with a waterfall and finally swam up to the surface. It kinda reminded me of Journey to the Center of the Earth