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.


  1. bildo says:

    since this can be played in a browser, could this be a candidate for a future facebook game? The popularity of this is spreading like wildfire and it’s not even a full release yet. Just wonderin’.

  2. oceanclub says:

    I just found 2 (TWO!) diamonds. So excited was I, I decided to tunnel at an angle right back to my spawn, using my compass to guide me.

    So excited, I tunnelled right into the protective moat I built, and got washed right back down to where I started. Luckily I managed to dig myself a ledge to prevent myself drowing.



    • Lambchops says:

      Oh my, I’m going to have to watch that, I’ve been using the tunnel back with compass technique but i’m forgetting my spawn is pretty much right beside the sea, wouldn’t do to drown mysefl when i’ve got precious diamonds and iron.

    • oceanclub says:

      Never mind; managed to get back safely (I dug another tunnel upwards, figurnig that I couldn’t possibly be unlucky twice). DIAMOND SWORD! link to bit.ly

  3. DaggleC says:

    Love Minecraft. Love Nethack. If only they would have a baby together :(

  4. Trelin says:

    Man, I was doing a great job of surreptitiously reading this article until I got to “highly unpredictable” at which point I nearly broke out laughing.

    It’s a perfect description and my fit immediately drew the evil stare of my decidedly boring professor while I snort and my cheeks go *puff puff* as I attempt to contain my laughter in the middle of a very quiet room. The fact that I held his gaze probably made him think I was laughing at him; oh well, it’d do him good to make somebody laugh once a while.

    Anyway, best part of my day, thanks Quintin!

  5. Mouseboks says:

    See House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

    • remmelt says:

      Brrrr, exactly what came to mind when he talked about the twitching planet.

  6. Hybrid says:

    I got about two hours of sleep the night this went free…

    Also I broke the rule of of not digging straight down and reached the bottom of the map, explored a bit, but got lost and my way to get back collapsed. I don’t have another pickaxe either… So I started a new map.

  7. Starkiller2000 says:

    You should totally make more mine the gaps,they are awesome!

  8. Brandonk says:

    You should totally make more of these. I loved this so much.

  9. Rils says:

    A great idea for spelunking, place torches on a specific side, like the left wall then when you get turned around or want to follow it back just keep the torches on your right. It’s a simple means to know where you’ve been and which direction you came.

    • Matzerath says:

      This is one of those moments where someone says something so brilliant and simple that I realize my brain may not be running at full capacity.

  10. Tenk says:

    @Tacroy: try using cartographer. (you can find it on the forums by searching for cartograph, or I suppose googling minecraft cartograph) it’s a little java program that builds an image of your minecraft world and spits out a JPG, in either top down or angled views. just put a square of torches where you are right now, take a cartograph map, find your old house or houses, and plot a course from where you are to them :)

  11. Mr Chug says:

    Breaking my last sword on a zombie’s head then punching a skeleton into a lava flow after being ambushed on a nighttime tree run gave me a feeling of triumph on a parallel with completing most other games. I haven’t felt this proud of tiny progress in a game since Trials 2.

  12. Matthew Montoya says:

    I had very little interest in Minecraft for a while. After reading Quintin’s journals he’s persuaded me to buy it, what a jerk.

  13. Malbogio says:

    I spent over 12 hours the other day exploring a massive multi-tiered honeycomb of underground caves at the bottom of the world, dozens of them layered on top of eachother so thick that monsters dropping straight on to my head every few minutes was commonplace. Eventually I stopped mourning lost bows, rare ores, and armors, and set myself to simply rushing down in mass produced gear on suicide rushes every few minutes with nothing both a sword, a pickaxe, a stack of ore for plugging up paths that had too many monsters to kill, and a few dozen torches for lighting the place so well that more monsters cannot spawn.

    I died over a dozen times on some of the nastiest monsters breaches only to have my work undone by a creeper exploding to destroy myself and my torches and in the process destroy a bridge or cause a cave-in that would remove the only connection I had to a whole sequence of caves I’d already secured with little chance of rediscovery as they’re too numerous to map or remember.

    Worse, sometimes they’d blow a hole in the floor of the skeletal archer or creeper ridden cavern I’d been exploring, letting the creatures flood the secured caves below and forcing me to survive a lengthy and deadly ascent to plug the hole. Fighting uphill in Minecraft is a total nightmare.

    Currently I’ve only got half of the complex locked down and relatively safe to mine in, with rerouted lava paths safely blocking the connections to the rest which I occasionally traverse to expand my territory in skirmishes. I’m happy though, because the safe portion of the complex is large enough to provide dozens of diamonds.

    I love this game.

  14. sturmcrf says:

    I spent this evening attempting an underwater lair. I swam out maybe ten blocks from the shore, and built a square wall about four blocks deep in six block deep water, then covered over the top with glass. Tunnelling out to come up underneath it, I initially despaired as the water physics meant it was refusing to drain, instead just cascading into the tunnel and dissipating while the sea-floor room remained waterlogged. But, inspiration! Through a combination of descending through a hole in the glass and ascending through the hole at the top of the tunnel, I slowly filled in the room with dirt, destroying the water block by block until I could dig up without drowning and mop up the rest of it by placing and destroying more dirt. Half an hour later, I have a not especially secret tunnel entrance leading to a glass ceilinged sea lair. Incredible game, if he ever completes it it’ll be more addictive than heroin.

  15. crainey92 says:

    Wow another epic and exciting read, your great at these minecraft storys. To be honest I think your text format storys are alot more exciting than most of the video Lets play commentarys Ive saw asides from when your watching them videos you actualy jump when a monster runs out at the player.

    Ive anyobdy is reading these and thinking, aarh this guy is just glamorizing this it couldnt actualy be this good, well I assure you it is. You can be garanteed everytime you load up the game and every random world generated will have many tales just like this one. Ive saw myself exploring a cave many a time then suddenly I heard zombies or something and then the arrows start flying, you literaly jump out of your seat.

    Notch is a god for devloping such a genius game that seems to be taking the world by storm.

  16. hlife_hotdog says:

    Haha, the texture pack I installed gives the Creepers glowing red eyes just so you shit yourself just a little more when you see them, Haha, btw, this is my current life story. I’m lost in a remote cave, so far from home, with little or no hope of ever finding my way back.

    But i wouldn’t have it any other way

  17. oceanclub says:

    Incidentally, great comic strip from the Penny Arcade (their 2nd Minecraft one):

    link to penny-arcade.com


  18. _Jackalope_ says:

    I tried Minecraft earlier this year, and was just overwhelmed by it and didn’t give it another look. Great article as it finally explained what it is I can do and how to go about it. Now I love Minecraft! (I’m still rubbish, but at least I can make a pickaxe and sword and not die on my first night.) Definitely going to buy it once I get paid! Is the single player dungeon exploring/wilderness survival scenario available to play with a buddy or is multiplayer restricted to world building?

  19. Zwebbie says:

    Eh, earlier today I fell through a gap on the bottom of a map and built a staircase to the highest possible point – the lowest and the highest – that was when I thought I’d gotten a good impression of the game and could leave it be.

    Later that day, I loaded another level, this time with beautiful cliff facings. I dug a 10 meter high entrance hall, built a long bridge to it, built a tower reaching for the clouds, and dug a spiraling staircase down to the bedrock. It’s 2:42 AM. I’ve been clicking at grey blocks for the last five hours.

    Above, Creepers and Zombies roam. But under the rock, I am king.

  20. Tinkerer says:

    I’m enjoying this a lot more than I would, but I have one extra bit to add.

    In my first game I dug down a LONG stairwell (that found surprisingly little) until I hit Bedrock – grey/black indestructable nasties that occasionally have redstone in them (note to self – I STILL havent really gotten to experiment with all the redstone magick). I outfitted my stairway to hell with stone stairs to make the inevitable trek back up to my work area less bunnyhop-filled.

    While mining around down there I found the strangest thing – a block of NOTHING. Not just an empty space, but a hole that led down below the bedrock layer, leading to something navy blue (that I later realized was the sky). Not yet fully comprehending what I had found, I hopped through… and promptly fell to infinity, watching the ‘world’ fall away above me while I slowly lost health and died, and losing all my stuff with no chance of recovery.

    I dont know how often this is, but it’s definitely strange.

    • Fwiffo says:

      They’re void holes. Uncommon but very unpleasant if you’re not paying attention when you mine. If it’s a high traffic area it’s best to plug the surrounding area and put a sign up if you’re especially forgetful.

  21. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    Your sandbox game moment story offering pleases us.

  22. Daryl says:

    Minecraft looks awesome. Too bad I don’t have time to play it. I don’t think I’d be able to put it down, and school has to be my priority. Getting older sucks.

    • Jhoosier says:

      I really wish Quinns had waited to put these up until the end of October, when my course would be finished. As it is, my studies are seriously divided between Minecraft and catching up on Prison Break. Last night I thought I’d play an hour and go to bed. Looked at the clock and it was 5 hours later. Guess which one I’ll blame for ruining my masters?

  23. SevenStar says:

    Best way to not get lost underground: always put torches on the LEFT side of the tunnels as you go deeper so to find a way out, just walk so that the torches are on the right. i used to get so lost before i did that.

  24. Tacroy says:

    On second thought, I can’t buy this game.

    Sorry Notch, but I haven’t done anything but play it since I found out about the free weekend. I just can’t afford to buy it, I might end up starving myself by accident or something.

  25. thebigJ_A says:

    So, you got me to buy Minecraft (before the servers imploded).

    Now, when are you guys gonna continue the Nehrim posts? I need you to decide for me whether to pick it up!! (I have to re-buy Oblivion to do so, is why I don’t just DL it.)

  26. Moonracer says:

    Another good story. Thank you.

    I find Skeletons to be my most feared enemy in the game. I find myself running for cover rather than charging them. And that’s above ground! Creepers are going to have to start watching out though because I’ve recently learned the fun to be had with explosives :D

  27. Peanut says:

    I hit the bedrock at the bottom of the map today, and decided to dig around it since the blocks are placed unevenly, thinking I could get around it, I did. Woo bottomless abyss skybox, fell down it 3 times for fun, while trying to put a stone block underneath the level before dying so I could try and use that space to make a platform (and from there a floating house underneath the map), eventually gave up.

    Although bottomless abysses make excellent trash chutes.

    • Lightbulb says:

      You have found the Void AKA hell. :)

    • Dominic White says:

      On that note, a major planned addition for Minecraft soon is Hell.

      No joke – there are going to be portals to hell itself scattered around the world, but the portals in Hell correspond to truncated coordinates in the ‘real’ world, so that you can travel a long distance quickly by hopping into one hellgate and out of another.

  28. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    Not played Minecraft yet, but I had to draw a paper map in Amnesia to keep from going nuts. I havn’t drawn a paper map since the old Amiga days I think. It was very satisfying – much better than the ubiquitous mini-map because it felt like real exploring.

  29. Discosauce says:

    I finally found my first gold, diamond, and redstone deposits all on the same spelunking trip. Unfortunately that was also the first trip where I happened to tap into an ocean of lava. Haven’t seen redstone or diamonds since.

  30. MadZab says:

    So I developed an entire valley – built houses, put out lots of torches, I have my own little village overseen by a castle that used to be my shelter on top of a waterfall-mountain. I have a blacksmithy, a church, a militia post, a carpenters workshop, and I plan on building an inn, a farmhouse and a spiderfarm at a dungeon that opens into my valley (the spiders currently not spawning due to the torches I put there). The two sides of the valley that are open are walled up and there is enough light to make it near impossible for enemies to spawn at night – it only rarely happens so I can actuall keep building at night.


    There is a mine I dug underneath my castle, going deep down. I found a hollow cave down there, explored the nooks of it, found some redstone and gold (still no diamond for me in that world). Just when I thought I had explored it all and started climbing back up to the tunnel I had dug to get into the cave, I was hit by an arrow. I frantically looked around but I couldn’t see where it had come from. I scrambled back up into my passage, walled it shut and swore to myself to never go down there again…

    Man, what a game! And I haven’t even left the general area of my spawning-point yet! (I tend to build heavy bases in RTS games – why shouldn’t I do that here?)

    • Ardela says:

      MadZab, when I read your comment, all I could think was, “That town should be named Tristram.”

      Cue Diablo music as your little avatar goes down into the bowels of the earth.

    • Lightbulb says:

      Diamonds seem to be associated with lava LAKES ie ‘still’ lava. If you find such a lake mine all around the edge of it – this is where I have most luck finding them.

    • Tei says:


      I have read a report from Minecraft Scientist, and seems diamonds shows in the 15 deeper levels, with level 15 having a really low number of it.
      So the best bet, is explore caverns near adminium, or dig near adminium.

  31. Araxiel says:

    My first day:
    I was venturing through a cave I found while digging my tunnels; there was total darkness so I placed a torches everywhere. I found some tasty tasty iron and red stone. I was getting excited and ventured even further through the cavern. Then I saw a giant cave with a waterfall and a big lake. I was about to illuminate the backside of the this cave when suddenly from the darkness an arrow flew right into my face. It scarred the shit out of me. I wasn’t that scared since a long time in video games. I hastly just put a torch on the wall next to me. That wasn’t a wall on the other side of the cave, it was another cavern system which went even further down. And in that entrance I saw that skelletton. I turned around and run like hell back to my mining tunnels. I went left, straight, right…and then I couldn’t remember where I was. I was lost. Hell, I panicked. There was atleast one monster following me, and I didn’t want to even awake more of them. I rushed some junctions back, took another direction. Then I could see the hole I created in the wall, my entrance, safety. I rushed trough the entrance, placed a door (good thing I just created one before I went down) and ran through my tunnel system back to my home. It was day (actualy day and night do lose their meaning if you spend a lot time underground) and thus I even ran outside, just to bath in the monster-free sun.
    Well, I was digging in my tunnels. I was somewhere in the middle of tons and tons of rock, when I suddenly heard steps. They were coming across the wall. I sealed that tunnel now.

  32. f4stjack says:

    Whenever I play this game I find myself quoting Terry Pratchett’s dwarves… especially:

    ’nuff said I believe.

  33. Brulleks says:

    Dammit, there goes my life. Downloaded it yesterday evening, spent six hours solid on it. Now building my own underground civilisation.

    I was meant to be somebody, you know. Now all I’m ever going to do is sit here and play Minecraft.

    This is my last message to the world. Someone promise to come get me if some kind of war or anything starts up out there on the surface, all right?

  34. dhex says:

    great series!

    question for the peanut gallery:

    1) anyone having severe stability issues in OSX? (10.4.11) meaning grey button of death warning comes up at random moments requiring a complete restart of the system?

  35. SuperBladesman says:

    I just found my first two diamonds \o/

    I just fell in lava /o\

  36. deimos says:

    Why when you guys play the land is lush with green grass and plants. All I get on my restarts are snow, snow, snow!!!

    • Tei says:

      Because you can toss a coin 50 times, and get tail these 50 times. You have not “toss the coin” enough to see a “tail”.

  37. Wyatt says:

    you have to make more of these. i enjoy them so much, and im sure a ton of other people will be dissapointed if you dont. your adventures ensue hilarity and i just, id hate to see this go. please man…

  38. Dirty says:

    Please do not stop writing this. It inspires my own adventures.

  39. Leo says:

    I really love this Mine the Gap serie, keep going ;)

  40. Daniel says:

    Before the compass I would build giant Lava Lamps to signal the way home.
    I just built a 30 block high tower of a single block and another one (where I stood) that was 1 block apart.
    Then Just put a bucket of Lava on top of the other block tower and it will flow to all 4 sides of the tower.
    Its very nice and you can see it from far away (specially at night).

  41. Fawkes says:

    I know you said your probably not going to make another episode , but you really need to find us a dungeon , Just a suggestion :)

  42. Dominic White says:

    I’d love to see another Mine The Gap, but only once a few more major updates are in place. One thing Notch is working on is HELL PORTALS.

    It sounds awesome, and actually is even cooler than it sounds. If you walk through a portal to hell, you’re taken to a parallel dimension, blasted and arid and packed with monsters. But it’s a microcosm of your regular world – by finding another portal nearby, you can travel great distances in the ‘real’ world’ while only moving a few hundred blocks in Hell.

    • Huggster says:

      He is working on a lot of things which aren’t quite happening right now.
      I think the inundation of registered users has swamped him and his team!
      It seems like SMP is a job in itself.

    • Dominic White says:

      Well, he’s primarily juggling two things – setting up his new server framework (one that doesn’t burst into flames – it’s already getting a workout, as he has sold 15,000 copies so far TODAY ALONE), and assembling a team and moving into offices. Development is going to be slow until those things are all worked out. Then it’ll likely be faster than ever before, as he can delegate all the less important stuff to other people.

  43. Kenoscope says:

    I watched that video seven times in a row. it is simply entrancing.

  44. soylentrobot says:

    oh man i had this exact experience
    i somehow had the misluck to choose a cave that branched out into an endless twisting looping maze.

    I called it Hakk’tbuk’t, Devourer of Sanity

    I love you, Hakk’tbuk’t

  45. Astragali says:

    Though I realise that digging directly upwards to the surface is classed as lame, but if you ever find yourself forced to do it, make sure you do it in a chamber two blocks wide. That way, you can mine the ceiling block adjacent to you, and avoid being buried under gravel.

    Can’t really help you with sudden influxes of water or lava, though.