Minecraft is the sandbox gaming sensation that's taken the internet by storm. Don't let its seemingly crude graphics confuse you, it's a surprisingly deep freeform play experience that allows players to mine, build, farm, and adventure to their heart's content. Try it out by downloading the demos here at Tom's Guide!
Next, our very own new player's survival guide!
Minecraft's user interface provides a sleek first-person view of your surroundings. The W, A, S, and D keys allow you to move forward, strafe left, move back, and strafe right, respectively, and the spacebar allows you to jump. The left mouse button is used to attack a block of terrain or mob (the term for monsters, animals, etc.) with your currently selected tool or item, and the right mouse button unleashes any special power your tool has on any target in your crosshairs.
The health and hunger bars show the general state of your player. Don't let either of these drop. If you run out of hearts, your player dies and has to respawn without any of your precious equipment. If your hunger bar drops, then you might be unable to sprint. You could also start losing health.
Finally, the Item Hotkeys, mapped to your number keys, allow you to quickly switch between various tools and items.
You'll start the game without any useful tools, so the first thing you'll need to do is to make some by attacking trees until they are reduced into usable blocks. Keep breaking down trees until you've collected a dozen blocks or so to work with. If you're lucky, you may also get your hands on some apples and saplings. Keep those, they will be useful down the line.
Now that you've got some wood blocks, you'll need to craft them into usable items. Open up your inventory with the 'E' key. Select the wood blocks and place them within the crafting area. Your crafting will allow you to convert a single wood block into 4 wooden planks, which can be turned into tools, building materials, or sticks, which can be used as handles for tools and torches. Right click on the Planks 'til you've crafted around a dozen sticks. Keep at least seven of the planks, convert the rest into sticks.
Your personal crafting space is limited to a 2x2 square layout. You'll need a bigger space to craft complex items. For that, you'll need to make a crafting table. Take your stack of wooden planks and right click on your crafting space to place a plank in each square. This will allow you to craft a table.
Notice how crafting is all about taking your raw materials and arranging them in the shape of your product? That same principle will apply to toolmaking later on.
Now that you've crafted a table in your inventory, drag and drop it into one of your hotkey slots (the bottom row of your inventory). Then select it, look for a nice flat surface to place it on, and right click to place the table on the ground. This is also how you'll place building blocks later on in the game. Select a block of material from your hotkeys, and then right click to place it on the ground in front of you.
Now that the Crafting Table is deployed, walk up to it and press right click. You'll be presented with a bigger (3x3) crafting space. Take some planks and sticks and arrange them like on the right in order to manufacture a wooden pickaxe. It's not an incredible tool, but it will allow you to mine through stone. The pickaxe is most important right now, but you might want to try your hand at making a shovel (best tool for digging through soil, dirt, and snow), an axe (best tool for efficient logging, and a decent backup weapon), or even a sword (never walk in the dark without one!).
When you're done, you can disassemble the craft table by attacking it with your fist or a suitable tool like an axe or pick. You can also leave the table where it is if there's a suitable mining site nearby as wood usually isn't too hard to replace.
Now that you've got a basic tool to work with, it's time to start mining for materials. The purpose of this is two fold: One, you'll want something better than wood to make tools out of, and two, you'll want to start digging some kind of shelter for yourself when night falls. Why? Because monsters spawn in the darkness. Use a pickaxe to dig through stone, and a shovel for dirt and gravel.
You'll want to look for grey stone blocks to harvest into cobblestones. These can be used to make more sturdy stone tools and also function as sturdy building materials. Rocks with black pixels scattered on their surface contain coal, which can be used as fuel, and is a component for another important item: the torch. Stone blocks that look like coal but with a brownish streak contain iron ore, which can be smelted for iron ingots used in toolmaking. As you delve deeper in the future, you might encounter other, stranger materials deeper underground.
Finally, as a safety note, never dig straight down, as you never know when you might burst through a cavern, plummeting to your death.