Regardless of what mod you play (TerraFirmaCraft being the main exception), the beginning of every new Minecraft game is the same: (1) survive the first night, (2) get a steady supply of food, (3) get resources. This is where most of the larger mods start. But getting anything beyond the most basic parts of big mods like Buildcraft, Redpower, and Railcraft will require diamonds, obsidian, and few trips to the Nether (obviously in that order). I haven’t had a chance to explore the Universal Electricity mods, but from what I can tell, it’s not much different. In other words, the technology trees of most of the big mods are weighted toward the so-called endgame content
Unlike most of the other big mods, Industrial Craft 2 has some really valuable tools and machines that become available without the need for any diamonds or Nether material. These include especially the macerator and the mining drill. The macerator doubles your ore output by converting every ore block into two ore dust, each of which smelts into one ingot. The drill replaces your pickaxes and shovels and is as fast or faster than the diamond versions of both. Both of these devices are going to need redstone, so you’re still going to have to dig your way down to the bottom 20 levels, but that’s easy enough to do.
For the macerator, you’ll need a machine block, flint, and cobblestone, as well as an electronic circuit (more on this below). Finally, you’re going to need a source of energy. The easiest and best option early on is just a standard, coal-burning IC2 generator. For this you’ll need a furnace, a machine block, and a rechargeable battery. A machine block is simply a square of eight refined iron. To make refined iron, just smelt some iron ingots a second time. Super easy.
The battery’s a little more involved. For this you’ll need insulated copper wire (copper and rubber), redstone, and tin. Unless you’re playing with Redpower, as well, tin is only found on the bottom 40 levels. Rubber is acquired from the sticky resin of rubber trees (IC2 ones, not Redpower ones, which are huge sprawling things and grow in jungle biomes). For the drill you’ll need essentially the same stuff as what was mentioned above: refined iron, redstone, insulated copper wire, and tin.
Total list of ingredients for a macerator, a generator, and a mining drill: 10 cobblestone, 3 flint, 8 redstone, 9 copper ingots, 14 rubber, 8 tin ingots, and 23 refined iron ingots.
I didn’t say this was simple, just simpler than the earliest useful stuff from the other mods. Okay, so here are the simplified concrete steps.
1. Find some rubber trees.
This is your main task at ground level. IC2 rubber trees grow in a few different biomes, but I’ve had particularly good luck in swamps. They look like oak trees, but they are distinctive in having two leaf blocks sticking up above the top of the trunk. You need rubber for everything in IC2, so you might as well set up a little rubber tree farm near your base (they drop saplings like other trees do). However you go about this task, try to bring six or more rubber tree saplings back with you. You can chop the rubber trees down and they’ll drop some sticky resin, or you can make a tree-tap and right click on rubber trees that show some resin (exactly what it looks like depends on your texture pack, but it’s generally a yellow dot of some kind on the trunk). Once you make an extractor, you can get rubber from the rubber wood, too (including Redpower rubber wood). Cook the resin in a furnace to make rubber. Once again, you’ll need a minimum of 14 pieces of rubber.
2. Go mining.
There’s just no replacement for good old-fashioned manual labor. You need to bring up with you at least 10 cobblestone (ha! try not getting 10 cobblestone), 3 flint (drops occasionally when digging gravel), 23 iron ore, 9 copper ore, 8 tin ore, and 8 redstone. If you haven’t played much Minecraft this may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t. Once you know what you’re doing, a single well-executed trip down into the ground can bring this up easy. Once again, you’ll have to go down to the bottom 40 levels to get tin and the bottom 20 levels for redstone. Grab as much coal as you can while you’re down in the ground. You’ll need it to power your furnace and your generator.
3. Smelt stuff.
Smelt all the iron, copper, and tin. Then, smelt the iron again. For Pete’s sake, make more than one furnace – they’re cheap and having two, three, or four of them saves you a ton of time. Alternatively, if you have enough iron make an iron furnace (8 iron ingots in a box). An iron furnace cooks faster AND coal burns longer in it. An electro-furnace is even better, and craftable with more of the same kinds of materials you’ll be using for this first project.
4. Make the intermediate materials.
First make your insulated copper wire. Arrange your copper ingots on the crafting table in a row of three stacks of three. This will produce 18 copper wire. Take those, put them back on the crafting table, and put your rubber (at least 14) above the copper. This is make insulated copper wire. Second, craft 16 of the refined iron into two machine blocks. Make sure you have a furnace in your inventory.
Next you’ll need two batteries and two electronic circuits. To make the batteries, take the 8 tin, 4 of the redstone, and 2 of the insulated copper wires and arrange them on the crafting as in the image below. For the electronic circuits, arrange on the crafting table 2 refined iron, 4 redstone, and 12 insulated copper wire as below below (belower?).
5. Finish up crafting.
For the generator, arrange a battery, a machine block, and a furnace in the center column of the crafting table.
For the macerator, craft 3 flint, 2 cobblestone, a machine block, and an electronic circuit like this:
For the mining drill, craft 5 refined iron, a battery, and an electronic circuit like this:
You can place the macerator right next to the generator if you want, but you may want to leave some space for a batbox (which should be not too far down on your priority list). If you place them apart, connect them with some insulated copper wire (right click to place the wire). Once you have them placed, just put some coal in the generator to get generating. Then, right-clicking on the macerator to bring up its GUI will reveal that the lightning bolt icon is filling up, indicating that it has power. Now all you have to do is put ore in the top left box and watch as your ingot-making productivity doubles.
VERY IMPORTANT: you’re going to need an IC2 wrench if you want to move these machines. Using a pickaxe will turn them back into machine blocks.
7. Charge the drill.
Before you can use the drill it needs to be charged. Put it in the slot in the generator while it’s generating to charge it. Then just use it like you would a pickaxe or a shovel. Once you find three diamonds, I recommend upgrading it to a diamond drill (see image below). A diamond drill is faster AND can mine obsidian. The other electric tools (chainsaw, electric wrench, electric treetap) are easy to make and very useful. I also suggest making a batpack before too long.
Once you’ve done this (easily done within the first couple of hours of a new game), you will be set up to mine faster and double your metal production. The only other mod that puts this kind of power in your hands so early in the game (at least that I’m familiar with) is Thermal Expansion (Factorization also gives you the ability to double and even triple your ore output, but the machinery required for it is more complicated). If you’ve watched season 5 of Direwolf20’s solo Let’s Play, you’ll have seen that he starts with Thermal Expansion machines, whereas his normal modus operandi is essentially what I have outlined here with IC2. I’ll likely write another post in the future about Thermal Expansion, which in some ways is even better than IC2 (in a hyphenated word: by-products).