Minecraft is a great game for many reasons. Chiefly, it allows for an obscene amount of creative expression. Whether you’re a builder, artist, modeler, animator, engineer, or coder, this game provides an avenue for you to have fun and create amazing projects using your skills. Focusing on that last skill, coding, Minecraft houses an amazing in-game coding language to program incredibly complex projects. Players may remove things, add their own custom content, and totally change the way the game is played. I personally love this aspect of the game, and it’s a big reason why I still play Minecraft today. If you find yourself wanting to get into vanilla Minecraft coding but don’t know where to start, well then a lucky day for you because I’m here to get you started.
1. LEARN BASIC CODING PRINCIPLES
Coding in Minecraft requires the use of a coding language. Though it is fairly basic and not quite like Java, C++, C#, or other languages, it is still a coding language through and through, and shares the same basic principles and terminology that make them up. Because of that, it may be helpful to do some light studying on the basics of coding to get to grips with programming logic. Understanding such things as variables, if-then statements, functions, etc. could be beneficial to you before jumping into Minecraft coding.
2. GET TO KNOW MINECRAFT’S COMMANDS
Minecraft’s commands will make up the lines of code you’ll write. These are the tools at your disposal to make incredible things. In total there are a couple dozen commands, with each one performing a specific action. These actions include placing blocks, teleporting entities, summoning entities, and many more. Each command is simple by itself, but pieced together with others they become complex and powerful. Knowing each command, what their purposes are, and what their limitations are is crucial.
You can check out Minecraft’s library of commands on the official Minecraft Wiki. Minecraft was just recently updated to version 1.13, so some information on that page is inaccurate. More command info can be found in 1.13's changelog.
3. GET TO KNOW ENTITy, BLOCK, AND ITEM DATA TAGS
The physical blocks, entities, and items of the game are also important to understand. Most of them have special attributes or behaviors that can be taken advantage of to achieve certain effects you’re looking to create for your coding projects.
For example, perhaps you would like to add an item to the game that generates an explosion in front of you. To do this, an obvious thought might be to summon primed TNT. This would work, however, maybe you’d like to alter the blast radius? Make the explosion more powerful? Prevent the explosion from destroying blocks? Well, unfortunately, primed TNT is limited in customization in these ways. Instead, you could summon a Creeper. Creepers have a number of special “data tags” that can be modified before they are summoned in. Using the tag “ExplosionRadius”, you can control the range of the Creeper’s explosion. Using "primed" allows you to supercharge a Creeper and cause it to deal devastating damage. Creepers don’t have a tag to stop them from destroying blocks, however, the command "/gamerule mobGriefing false" will do that for you. TNT is unaffected by this command because it is not considered a mob, meaning that TNT will destroy blocks no matter what. Creepers, on the other hand, are affected by this command, allowing you to put a stop to their nefariously destructive ways.
In this example, it’s important to know the differences between entities and what they have to offer you, so as to come up with effective solutions to your coding projects. Blocks and items also have different data tags, so make sure to become familiar with those as well. Below are entries on the wiki breaking down these different data tags.
4. KEEP UP TO DATE WITH MINECRAFT CHANGES
To this day, Minecraft continues to be updated by its developers at Mojang. These updates tend to be big and add tons of brand new content, and that’s great for coders! That means with each update we get a bunch of new toys to work with to code even greater things. When the latest snapshots of the soon-to-be update start rolling out, check out the changelog to see what’s to come. See what kinds of new tools are available and maybe try to think of the possibilities they now open. Additions such as new commands are great, but remember to observe everything else too! Maybe there’s a new mob coming with unique AI/behaviors, a new weapon that offers an interesting ability you could use for different purposes, or something else along those lines.
The changelog features the current version of Minecraft as of this writing (1.13), but you should be able to navigate from there to the newest version if there is one.
5. LOOK AT OTHER PEOPLES’ WORK
One of the best ways to learn something is to learn through the masters. Try looking around on YouTube, the Minecraft forums, anywhere creators might show off their work. Download adventure maps and datapacks. Break them down, look at how things have been coded, how different tools have been utilized. You’ll absolutely learn things you didn’t know you could do or things you hadn’t thought of trying.
McMakistein, the fellow behind the Infinity Gauntlet above, regularly shows off his creations on his YouTube channel.
Undoubtedly the best method to learn something and become better at it is good old-fashioned practice. It does indeed make perfect. Set some goals for yourself, brainstorm changes you’d make to Minecraft that you find interesting. You can start out with simplistic projects such as removing Creepers from the game, which is pretty easily done. Later on down the line once you’ve become more comfortable, you can tackle more complex and interesting projects, like adding your own custom boss fight to the game! The boss could require special conditions in order to be spawned, it could have a cool set of different attacks and AI behaviors, and it could even drop some unique items and rewards once defeated. That may sound difficult to code right now, but don’t worry. With some regular practice, you’ll be able to take on that kind of challenge later.
7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS
On plenty of occasions, I’ve been unsure if something is possible or if there’s some sort of alternative solution available to a problem I’m having. As a result, I’ve done my fair share of googling, as well as popping onto Reddit or the Minecraft Forums for assistance. People are friendly and willing to help, so ask away. Also, the Minecraft Wiki will probably be your best friend for many questions you’ll have, so be sure to reference that too. In fact, reading up on all the wiki pages about coding isn’t a bad idea. Here are some links to those resources.
Also if you are interested you can create and host your own Minecraft server with VPS hosting.
With this guide in hand, you should (hopefully) have a decent handle on how to get started coding your own custom features in Minecraft. If you have any questions about anything in this guide or any coding-related questions in general, I’d be happy to address them in the comments section below. Happy coding!