Equinox Interview Part I: Career Beginnings

Equinox Spirit Hood

Jon “Equinox” Peterson is a talented Heroes of the the Storm player who has played at the top of the scene for over a year. He’s well known for his incredible prowess on melee assassins such as Kerrigan and Illidan, and often assumes the role of shotcaller on his teams.

I recently sat down with Equinox to talk about his HotS career and some of the things he’s learned from progaming. Part I consists of his beginnings in gaming and the MOBA genre and how he ended up as a progamer.

Special note: Too often Equinox has been given a bad name in the Heroes community due to drama or circumstances out of his control. His outspoken criticism certainly doesn’t help his case. But to me, he has always been a kind and fair friend as well as hands down one of the best players in North America. I hope that, by sharing the story of his career, others can see what a fantastic player he truly is.

On Getting Into Gaming

How did you get into gaming? Can you share one of your earliest gaming experiences?

I got into gaming mostly from consoles (N64, PS1, PS2). One of my earliest gaming experiences that I really enjoyed was playing a game called vigilante, was just a really destructive game and I liked it. One of my memorable gaming experiences was playing God of War 1&2 on PS2.

What was the definitive point where you decided to start playing competitively? At what point did you think, “Hey, I could do this for a living”?

When Heroes of the Storm was announced at BlizzCon, me and my friend decided right then and there we would try to go pro in that game no matter what. He ended up pursuing other opportunities while I stayed in HotS and made a career out of it. I just set my goal and went for it.

On School and Career Decisions

Did you go to college at all before beginning your esports career? Did you have any particular career path you were debating about heading down?

I didn’t go to college at all, but I do have a career in mind after I get done with esports, that being working in computer engineering.

Many players constantly weigh in the dangers of going to school versus pursuing a career in professional gaming. You were probably faced with this decision at some point. Was that choice easy for you?

For me it was an easy choice. I have plenty of time to pursue a regular career so why not just go after my dreams first while I still have so much time to make them work.

So will you stay in esports indefinitely if you can? Or would you eventually move on and get a “real” job?

If I can find jobs inside the esports industry within management, coaching, or whatever it may be, I’d take that over pursuing a normal career if it still allowed me to live life comfortably.

On Previous League of Legends Experience

You used to play quite a bit of LoL, right? Why were you drawn to the MOBA genre over others?

My friend who got me into League was also the same person I went into Heroes with. I played it from the end of S3 through S4 (started right after S3 Worlds ended). I got to like gold something and wasn’t very good at the game but knew a lot of stuff from watching pro-play like good habits, good decision making, stuff like that.

Once I started playing League I got hooked pretty quickly on the genre. It feels really rewarding when you play well but also makes it really obvious where you need to improve, and I like games that have those aspects.

Which friend was this?

He’s a friend I met on WoW when I was heroic raiding in Cataclysm. His IGN is Zycosis, used to play with me a lot in the really early alpha days on Justus.

Did you ever consider playing Dota 2 much?

When alpha went down for a couple weeks I tried Dota 2. I…really don’t like that game. It feels so slow.

What are some of your favorite LoL champs and why?

Favorite League champs are Orianna, Zed, and Shyvana. Orianna because her ult is one of the most satisfying abilities to land—you just watch their team’s hp bar evaporate. Zed because he’s a super mobile assassin that looks really flashy, it just feels good playing him. Shyvana because I just like dragons and her skins look good (darkflame and super galaxy are my favorite).

Super Galaxy Shyvana

Super Galaxy Shyvana from League of Legends

Idk how people couldn’t like those. They’re so fun.

What are some of the biggest things that you learned from LoL that helped you in your pro career in HotS?

Trading objectives. A big thing in League is learning when you can trade objectives and get something of higher or equal value without contesting. Trading dragon for inner turret or inhibitor for baron are trades that you’ll sometimes see. You do this to avoid a fight you can’t win due to not having your power spikes yet or just because that’s your option based on the circumstances.

In HotS you trade bosses for keeps, forts for tributes/altars, kills for Immortal, stuff like that. It’s all about making sure you get SOMETHING out of it, otherwise you’re just playing a reactionary game that you never win.

On Heroes of the Storm Alpha/Beta

How early did you get into alpha?

Around March in 2014.

So that’s basically the very beginning (3/13 was when Technical Alpha began). What was the most broken strategy that you liked to play during alpha/beta?

The most broken strat in alpha early on was probably double Odin Bloodlust back when Abathur had ult on his clone. Another memorable one was Abathur/Azmodan—the splitpush that was so hard to beat.

Who was your favorite Hero in the early days? Still Kerrigan?

Tychus and Abathur were my favorite Heroes back in alpha. I didn’t start playing Kerrigan till around beta. I used to have well over 800 games on Abathur because of how much fun he used to be. I liked him the most when he was invincible while symbioting.

You’ve pretty much only played carries in your competitive career. Did you consider other roles like Tank or Support during alpha/beta? Did these roles really even exist?

I tried out playing tank for awhile and I liked it most while being a shotcaller because of being able to lead the fights, but I loved playing carries a lot more than I did playing tanks so I just moved into the melee role.

Many people don’t remember the alpha days (summer/fall 2014) or weren’t around. How would you describe those early times? Do you miss the game or community at that time?

The community was pretty close and tight knit, but it was harder to break into the competitive scene unless you impressed some of the players or just made your own team. The matchmaking was accurate, the only way teams could scrim was by queuing Quick Match into each other, and you had to have similar MMR so some teams just couldn’t scrim or had a hard time doing it (tournies were also ran this way).

Gameplay was a mess, all kinds of crazy splitpush and cheese strats were popular for a very long time. VP/Grav-O-Bomb, double Robo-Goblin backdoor, double Odin, was just a much crazier era in the game due to all of it being new and no one knowing how to play vs it.

On Blizzard’s Approach to the Game

Fast forward to the future, Blizzard has taken a very hands-on approach to Heroes in 2016 by constantly tweaking Heroes and making big changes. Contrasted with the fairly infrequent patches of 2014/2015, do you think this a better approach?

It’s a much better approach. I think the timing of their patches need to be communicated with their esports division a tiny bit more, but other than that the frequency is needed to keep the game healthy.

Would you say that Hero design (Auriel Gul’Dan, Medivh, Chromie, Tracer being the last five) is heading in the right direction? Or do you think the design team should use other ideas?

I actually liked the direction they were heading with Medivh, Tracer, Li-Ming, and Chromie. Heroes that can make plays by themselves (minus medivh) and are pretty game changing when played correctly. Gul’dan feels weird to me. They should have stuck with a DoT theme or a sustained damage theme but they kind of just did both, and it has no synergy together.

Going into Auriel, her kit is fun but requires good positioning aggressively and defensively. However, my favorite part about her is the talents she has. They work so well with her kit as the game goes on, and she just feels smooth to play.

I think they need to keep making playmaker Heroes though, more Li-Mings and Tracer are healthy for the game.

What do you think about Striker Li-Ming? Kappa
x-x I like that skin.

Striker Li-Ming

 

They made her abilities look really nice.

Okay, one more question. I’m sorry it’s only one question because there’s a million different things to say about it, but: How is the state of Hero League and matchmaking?

The matchmaking itself is fine, however the player base is not. People complain and complain that the matchmaker isn’t doing it’s job, but if people are around the same MMR and games are stomps, is that really the matchmakers fault? It’s more of a massive skill gap issue. You’ll notice it even in high MMR or even pro games, there’s a drop off in skill that people don’t take into account. The only fix I can see to this for now is just to be super strict with matchmaking—have only Grandmasters be able to queue into Grandmasters/Masters and go down the list like that.


EsportsJohn unabashedly loves the Resident Evil movies and Mila Jovavich. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

On words. And becoming an esports writer.

After discovering the literal holy grail of articles on working in esports, I’ve decided to offer up my own thoughts and fill in some of the holes in them with my own experience.

I think it’s important to note that I’m not really anyone significant. I’m not the guy who has 100K Twitter followers. I’m not really widely known or respected. I’m not making that much money as an esports writer. And to be truthful, I’m not even that good at writing.

Nonetheless, I do have a decent amount of experience in this field, and I’ve helped a lot of friends significantly improve their writing and find paid work in esports. Yes, paid work.

Learn How to Format Your Stuff

For the love of god, learn how to format articles correctly. Formatting is like 90% of an editor’s job. As such, organizations look specifically for people who can present a fully fleshed-out article. Even if the content isn’t top-notch, a good-looking submission is enough to convince orgs that your work is worth paying for.

  • Break your paragraphs up with images, videos, or lists. No one wants to read a wall of text.
  • Always write cleanly and concisely. Avoid excessive punctuation, overly wordy descriptions, and long sentences.
  • Use key words in your headings and paragraphs.
  • The standard article length is 800-1200 words.
  • Resize your images to a standard size (varies depending on the publishing client)
  • Learn basic HTML/BB code (headers, italics, bold, hyperlinks, images, blockquotes, etc.)

The typical format for an online article is very similar to a high school paper. Pick a topic, provide at least three main points, and tie it all together with a conclusive sentence or optional conclusion section.

    Header 1
    Introduction (no heading)
    Header 2
    Body Paragraph
    Header 2
    Body Paragraph
    Header 2
    Body paragraph
    Conclusion (optional)

Elements of Style

Elements of Style is one of my favorite books of all time. Anyways.

Brevity is paramount in the industry of online publishing. Though you may enjoy the flowery descriptions of classical writing from Dickens or Tolkien, it simply doesn’t have a place here. People are scanning through your paragraphs for key information. Multiple headings with short paragraphs using short sentences with lots of periods—that’s the way to go.

The golden rule is generally 3-5 of everything. 3-5 headings, 3-5 paragraphs per heading, and 3-5 sentences per paragraph. This also loosely applies to images/line breaks and bullet point lists too. Longer articles can play with this formatting a bit, but a standard online article typically sticks to this rule.

You need to be (sometimes overly) clear in your wording. Explain everything as if your reader “is dumb”, especially for analytical articles. This is both for the reader’s sake and your own. It’s easy to connect points A to C in your head as you’re writing, but sometimes you may skip over certain points of logic entirely in the article.

Outgrowing “Volunteer” Hell

You’re going to have to volunteer for things at first. That’s just how it is. Traditional careers have “internships”; esports writing has “volunteer work”. I worked for TeamLiquid.net for several years as a volunteer before I was ever actually taken seriously, and that time was invaluable to me in terms of refining my writing and getting a feel for online publishing.

You need skills and experience before you’re ready to publish biweekly articles for money. You have to learn how to format the articles correctly, connect with your audience, and create storylines.

Blogging is also a legitimate way to learn skills. There are several great writers in the Heroes community alone who have started with outstanding posts on Reddit or the TeamLiquid.net forums and bloomed into successful writers. Volunteering for an organization allows you to get more exposure, but it’s not the only route for gaining experience.

The point I want to make is that “volunteering” is not a dirty word, it’s a chance for you to build competency in a low-pressure environment. Once you’re at a decent level, you can start to look for paid jobs.

How to Look for a Big Boy/Girl Job

So you’ve grown out of your volunteer days, and now it’s time to find a “real” job. Spoiler alert: paid writing jobs are hard to come by in any industry, but especially in esports. Nonetheless, there are paid jobs out there, you just have to look.

eSports Career is probably the easiest resource for finding a paid writing job in esports. I have found and applied for multiple jobs through the site, and some of them (like Esports Edition) have turned out to be real treasures.

Another method for a job search is campaigning. Think of every sponsored esports organization you can think of (Dignitas, Tempo Storm, Red Bull, SK Gaming, Coke, etc.) and just email them with your credentials and an inquiry about joining their editorial team. It’s not the best way to find a job, but you’d be surprised at how many people will actually respond to you with mild interest.

The third major way of landing a writing job is networking. I spent a good amount of time earlier this year just lurking in streamers’ channels, following community members and pro players on Twitter, and looking for every possible opportunity to interact with them. It’s much easier to get a job with an organization if you have a friend who can give you a heads up or vouch for you.

A word of caution to this tale: make sure you research all organizations you’re thinking about joining. Look for past history of management problems, failure to pay, or legal issues; these are all red flags. Look up who’s in charge and find out more about them. Make sure the size/prestige of the organization matches the size/prestige of your goals.

Understanding Base Rates for Writing

Another super important consideration for a job is the payout. Before becoming a freelance writer, I had no idea what I should get paid. I had to do a lot of digging and research before I was able to figure out what the “standard” rate was.

I’ll make it easy for you: don’t take a writing job for less than $0.05/word.

Just don’t do it. Unless you are an ungodly prolific writer who can spit out 10k words of quality articles per day, it’s just not worth your time to write for any amount that low. That said, your base rate as a noob esports writer should start at $0.05.

    Min rate: $0.05/word
    Max rate: $0.25/word
    Target: $0.10-$0.15/word

A really sweet gig will net you up to approximately $0.25/word, but those types of jobs are few and far between in the esports world. Shoot for the median $0.10 to $0.15, and you’ll make a reasonable income.

For flat rates per article (i.e. $50 per article), compare them to the average article length (800-1200) to get the rate per word. Then try not to go overboard; the longer your article gets, the less your time is worth.

Always sign a contract.

Seriously, always sign a contract. (Beware of non-competes).

Discovering Your Worth

Your worth is how valuable you are to an employer. Brand new writers with little experience in online publication and writing for an esports audience aren’t worth much. Competent writers who have been around for a few years are going to be worth much more.

When you discover your worth, you can determine the proper payment for your work. Do not be afraid to negotiate with organizations.

As a general rule, undervalue your worth but negotiate higher. For instance, if I know I’m a noob who still has a lot to learn, I will value myself at $0.05/word, but I will negotiate for $0.10/word. If I can convince my employer to bump up my pay by even one cent, I’ve succeeded in raising my worth for future jobs.

Your worth is a big part of your identity as a writer, and it’s important to soberly recognize where you stand in the grand scheme of things. Practice self-awareness.

Your Future in Esports

You can do it. You may need to work another job to keep afloat while your esports career takes off, but it’s not impossible. All you need is a lot of hard work, dedication, and a support group of community members who can encourage you.

Esports is a rapidly growing industry. News sites and small orgs are springing up everywhere looking to cash in on the money train. As we move into the future and esports becomes more integrated into our daily lives, there will be an increasing demand for skilled writers. Right now is your chance to get in on the ground floor (maybe second floor) and make a name for yourself before competition becomes too fierce.

If you ever need any help, I’m always free to help review/edit articles and recommend jobs. Just hit me up on Twitter and I’ll be happy to help out :).