What can I do to help orienting myself in Minecraft Alpha?

The current cave I’m working on is becoming unwieldy and disorienting. It’s becoming harder and harder for me to keep bearings of where I am and what is the fastest way to my shelter. I’m looking for a cost effective way to fix this.

This is mainly due to my policy of digging through all earth and gravel in mines. It may be an excellent way to find coal and iron veins (not to forget openings to further areas) at zero cost, but it makes areas hard to navigate fast.

So far the only idea I have is to get going with signs:

┌───────────────┐ ┌───────────────┐ ┌───────────────┐
│     CAVE 1    │ │   SHELTER 1   │ │ SAFETY  FIRST │
│    DEPTH 15   │ │               │ │  Be advised:  │
│ <== Shelter 1 │ │  Cave 1 down  │ │ Sea above the │
│  Workshop ==> │ │ mind the lava │ │     cave      │
└───────────────┘ └───────────────┘ └───────────────┘

I love this idea – which is why signs are quite costly to make (~1½ log each):

I could use a compass, but that’s not very good when you are in a hurry. Besides, the cave extends below the spawn point. Also, I still have no Redstone to work with.

I could also make additional ways up, but this costs even more between torches and doors (to keep the ground level mob outside) and opens flooding risks (see sign 3).

What is, then, a good, cost effective way to help orientation in Minecraft caves?

Here’s, to give you an idea of my progress, my full inventory as of a few game days ago:

384 earth, 1 cactus, 6 tree, 2 glass, 98 sand, 42 coal, 3 gold ore, 2 iron picks, 35 wood, 2 gunpowder, 918 gravel, 107 lamps, 540 stone, 24 arrows, 29 feathers, 6 gunpowder, 73 flint, 16 iron ingots, 6 eggs, 5 iron ore, 3 cloth, 4 leather, 1 sign, 1 stone sword, 5 sticks.

In the background, Shelter 1. 🙂


Place redstone torches on north walls. Redstone is quite easy to find deep underground and not required for much else.

Punch the ground directly beneath you. The break pattern is always the same relative to north.

Cheaper than torches, inlay the right-hand side of the floor with a dirt block every three squares. Build wide main corridors which you can follow back when you find one.

Grow a tree farm. Use the wood to make plenty of signs.

Design each area with its own character, so you can recognise them. Identical corridors are a good way to get lost. Place occasional markers, such as sand or wood.

Dig arrows into the wall pointing toward the nearest familiar spot. You can fill the arrow with dirt for extra visibility.

Create staircases upward occasionally. At the top, use excess stone to build a hut with a door and an observation tower. Use this to travel back to your shelter by aboveground when completely lost. Style your observation towers differently to use them as landmarks and build cobblestone roads between them.

Source : Link , Question Author : badp , Answer Author : Joe Dovahkiin

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