With the release of Dota 2 we will have a lot of new players looking to join the already big player base. To celebrate we have started a new series of interviews with out Monster players where we go back and ask them how it was when they were new to Dota! First out is the fantastic support player of Alliance, Joakim “Akke” Akterhall.

Erik Barge: Hello Akke! Thank you for joining me today. I would like to start at the beginning, when did you start to play Dota?

Akke:  Hey! Thanks for having me. I started playing in the end of 2004 if I'm not mistaken.

That’s a long time to have played one game, could you explain what makes it entertaining today after all these years?

Akke:  Even if it's one game it just feels like every match is different. The matchups, the lanes, the movement, the items… it's just so much that can differ from one game to another! That is one of the things that makes it still be fun to play. I also love the competitive part and that you play as a team.

How did you come to start playing Dota? Did anyone recommend it to you? 

Akke:  I went to school with Loda, back then we played a lot of custom games in Warcraft III and he recommended Dota to me! 

Do you remember the first game you played?  

Akke:  Yes, I actually do! 

Tell me about it, who did you play? What happened? 

Akke:  Well, I played Slardar and bought 2 gauntlets of strength. I remember that I went mid, and that we lost hard. I was pretty lost at start but I played a lot of similar custom games so I understood how to play it pretty fast. 

Did you play mostly alone or did you play with friends? 

Akke:  During Dota when I started playing I played a lot by myself as well as together with friends. Me, Loda, my girlfriend and another friend of ours often went to internet cafés and played. Back then I used to play alone but nowadays I never play public games alone. I think out of all my pub games in Dota 2 I have played one game alone, maybe two. Pretty much all my games that I play are scrims or official matches. I have like 7-800 public games played in total since I got the game and I entered the beta in the end of 2011, so not so many pub games! A big reason for that is also the lack of some kind of ladder progress. I would love to at least see my own "official" ranking or something like that, would probably motivate me to play pubs once in a while. 

Do you have any examples of stuff you did in when you were new to Dota that you look back upon now and laugh? 

Akke:  Not really. Something that I do find fun is some old stuff that they changed; like that you could buy an item that was like an aegis that was really imbalanced. You even had four charges and got teleported to base when you died so was pretty hard shut down someone that had that item! It even had good stats, like hp regeneration, armor and magic resistance if I remember correctly. 

What obstacles did you face in the beginning? Was there anything you felt was difficult learning or any heroes you had a hard time to deal with? 

Akke:  Something that was hard to grasp at the start was the items - you have to sit and read and find the items in order to create some of the better ones. So it was a good move by Valve to make the shop easier! Some players also bought a recipe and thought they would get the full item. 

At what point did you start becoming good?  

Akke:  Pretty fast I guess. I played a lot of similar custom games so after I got a hang of it I was pretty good. Loda played even more than I did in the beginning so he was the only one I knew back then that was better so I remember I analyzed how he played (his movement and such) because I noticed he always ended up with a lot of farm no matter what hero he played. 

Did you do anything else to accomplish it, read guides etc? 

Akke:  Dota was quite new then so I was pretty early with being good. I did read some guides but I remember me and Loda kind of laughing at some during our programming classes (we were reading on Dota forums instead of doing our school work…). 

Imagine you are a new player to Dota today, what would you like to know now that you did not know when you started playing?  

Akke:  Today there are a lot of good guides as well as replays (that you can watch in-game) where you can check a person’s movement by "first person view". By doing that you will learn stuff that we had to learn ourselves since it was hard to get your hands on a good replay (and also impossible to check a players first person movement). One of the fun things about Dota when the game was pretty new was that people discovered new stuff all the time. For example it wasn't common that someone who played Chen would go to the enemy’s forest; having a dual lane in mid or doing a trilane (everyone went 2-1-2 lanes). 

There is a dark side of most online games; many players are met by a rather hostile environment, especially when you are new. Did you experience this as well? If so, how did you handle it? 

Akke:  I guess there was kind of the same mentality back when I started as well which seems to be pretty common on the internet. The best way to handle it is probably to ignore them and try to play with friends as much as possible. We often played inhouses with 10 Swedes and by doing that you don't have to deal with the hostile players that you end up getting into the same team with. 

What keeps you motivated to come back and play the same game day in and day out?  

Akke:  It's just that Dota is made in such a good way that you never feel like any game is like another. You never go into a game and feel like "oh it's this again". Not only that there are so many different heroes, there is also different item builds and if you try to play in one way it's going to be countered the next time. You always have to think one step ahead and develop new strategies (even if it's small adjustments) in order to be on top.