This is a collection of short in-character fiction pieces about Awakened Industries, a group of capsuleers and their crews living in the enigmatic and dangerous regions of Wormhole Space in EVE Online. None of the protagonists are actual characters or corporations in-game. All similarities with persons fictional or real are possibly coincidental and only sometimes intentional. - Emergent Patroller

For an introduction to this blog refer to this link. You may also want to check out the guide for new readers

: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.

14 Feb 2014

TRS - Shadow Warfare - Spying in EVE Online Part 1

[Image credit goes to the Ctrl+Alt+Del Webcomic  sorry guys for not giving you credit right away]

The history of EVE is rich in stories about spies bringing down or at least seriously damaging alliances. This arena has it's own B-R5RB's and Asakai's. Most people will have heard about the heist of Guiding Hand Social Club, the demise of BoB or more recently the disbanding of S2N Citizens. While those events are spectacular and get a lot of attention, they are often the result of special circumstances and even simple luck. The day-to-day reality of spy work is much less spectacular, but it still can be an exciting career that will keep you occupied in-game and out of game.

In this series I will make an attempt to explain a bit about the spy game. How you become a spy, what you can do, which difficulties you will face and which rewards you can gain. The spying metagame is an established factor in many larger alliances. Some even have their own intelligence- and counter-intelligence agencies. I will - however - focus more on the career path of an independent "freelance" spy. This is also more suitable for new players who are not yet part of an established in-game entity and who have a specific advantage in this field as you will see when you read on.

Are you spy material? 

To be a successful spy you need a few personal skills and traits:
  • Be a good listener One of the main things you need to do as a spy is to collect information. You should be able to remember well what people say and how they say it. It is particularly valuable if you are the kind of person who can make people talk and maybe tell you more than they should. It will also be very helpful if you can identify voices on coms quickly and remember many different people by name.
  • Keep your ego in check Creating drama or being a very argumentative person with strong opinions is not very beneficial as a spy. You want people to open up to you or at least consider you a nice person to talk to when they are chilling out. People who wave their dick around too much will not make others feel at ease with them.
  • Be a good sport Joke and laugh with your corpmates. Immerse yourself in their culture and emulate it. If jokes are being made at your expense, play along with it rather than being defensive. Use self-depreciating humor to make yourself appear as someone who doesn't take themselves too serious.
  • Be at ease socially It is very helpful if you are the kind of person who makes friends easily and has no problem fitting into a group. Socially inept sperglords usually do not make good spies unless you specialize in a form of spying that requires you to be that kind of person. Even then, it should be a role you play rather than your actual personality.
  • Maintain self-control You want people to get a certain image of you. Make sure you can maintain that image and keep it up. If you are prone to mood swings or have the tendency to get drunk and talk too much while playing, you might damage that image or even expose yourself completely.
  • Be patient Spying requires time and patience. The good thing is, you will be playing the game while building your spying career, so that can provide diversion. You do need to take the time to build up trust both with your mark and with the people you are spying for. It can take months.
  • Stay detached Hanging around with people for a long time and developing a personal relationship with them with the intention to betray them is not an easy thing to do. Make sure you don't get too emotionally invested in your targets. It's a fine line to walk and in some ways it can become borderline psychopathic.
All of the above can be summed up pretty much by saying that you need to be a people person as well as a social chameleon. None of those skills require you to have lots of in-game skillpoints. Actually new players have an advantage when it comes to spying because they don't have a long corp history and generally come across as harmless. I myself started in this field when I directly came from highsec to nullsec. Nullsec players tend to have a rather overblown sense of importance and generally view people from highsec as being clueless. If you look clueless to your mark, you can stay under their radar much easier.

Starting your career

The most difficult thing in the beginning is to get into an alliance you want to spy on. Most - if not all - will have recruiters who will do their best to identify spies before even letting them in. Your first objective is to get past the recruiters.

Choosing your mark
When you choose your target, it is important to know about the political landscape of EVE. Make sure you are familiar with the things that are going on. Reading the news sites is a must. I would also recommend listening to the Podside Podcast because there are regular discussions of current events from the perspective of line members. You want your information to be valuable to someone, so make up your mind about who you want to spy on and who you want to sell information to. Learn everything you can about both your intended target and your prospective "customers". Who are their enemies and friends? Are they currently involved in a conflict or does it look like there might be one soon? Who are the prominent leaders and diplomats?

When you have decided who you want to spy on, do not choose the most high-profile corporation in an alliance. If you want to spy on the CFC you don't start by infiltrating Goonswarm (which is very hard to do in any case if you are not part of the Goon's out-of-game community). Go for a second or third tier corporation. Their counter-intelligence will often be much more lax and you can start building your operation more easily. Renters and industrial corps are often a good choice, but make sure you don't end up being too isolated from the alliance at large. Later, when you want to get closer to the real action, the chances for you to move up in the hierarchy are much better if you come from within the established structure than from without.

Establish your narrative
Recruiters will ask you questions about why you want to join their corp, what you did before in EVE and what you like doing most, what your perspectives are etc. Make sure you have an answer for all those questions without making it sound too rehearsed. Come up with a personal story about who you are as a player and stick with it. Prepare some stories from your personal EVE experience that you can tell. Stick as closely as possible to the truth. Make sure that public killboards reflect your backstory and that nobody from previous corps you were part of would falsify anything you say. Again, you are at a distinct advantage here if you are a new player, because there will be less information available about you. Also make sure your backstory is not too complicated, otherwise you might be in danger of forgetting things or telling them differently.

Clean House
Before you apply to any corp, make sure any information that can be retrieved through the API is cleaned up. Delete all mails that give information about contacts you don't want to be known. Also, make sure your wallet transaction journal is filled with non-suspicious entries. Best thing to do is to run missions for some time and then sell your salvage. Exchange money between yourself and some alt that sits in Jita and buys stuff for you. Make sure you have nothing in your wallet journal which indicates that you have been given ISK by any third parties you don't want to be known to your new employers. If you have stuff lying around in stations anywhere else than highsec, then move it to a highsec station. At best to something inconspicuous like a trade- or missioning hub.

Start a "Spy Journal"
Get yourself a notebook (yes the pen-and-paper kind) and use it to take notes about everything that seems important. Throughout your career you will encounter many different people and hear a lot of different things. It can become overwhelming to keep all of that in your head. Once per week, take the time to review your notes for that week and write down a more concise summary of any information you gathered. Also set yourself goals for each week. An example could look like this:

Was flying with FC A in three fleets this week. He rages a lot and loses control of the situation when he does. Can be triggered to rage very easily by making small mistakes.
Corpmate B, C and D are mostly PVE pilots who are very rich and fly a lot of pimped out ships. They have specific systems they always return to for ratting. C likes to talk about movies a lot and can be distracted easily when engaged in conversation about this.
The deployment for next week will be difficult for the corporation. Many people still don't have all their assets moved from last time and two of our carrier/jump freighter pilots are away next week. A lot of the logistical burden will fall with alliance logistics who are annoyed that we can't properly take care of ourselves.
Goal for next week: Finish training for cyno alt so I can be an active part of logistics and know which routes they are taking.

The first steps

Once you are member of a corporation that is part of your marked target, make yourself familiar with the way things are run. Read their forums and look specifically for anything that refers to counter intelligence. Did they have spies before who they found and kicked out? If so, how did they find that spy? Make sure you avoid being found the same way.

Another thing that you should look for is internal drama and dissent. Are there people who are complaining about leadership or have problems with others in the alliance. Take note of such people and see to it that you stay close to them. They can be valuable sources of information on the internal problems and could even become a means to seed further dissent.

Participate in fleets as much as you can and with as many different FCs as you can. Learn about the fleet doctrines and how they are used. Also take note who the main opposition FCs are. They can become potential "customers" who will buy the information you are able to provide. Pay special attention to those who lose a lot of fights against your mark. They will often be most desperate to get an advantage.

If your mark is using out-of-game communication like Jabber, make sure you are logged in whenever you can. Especially during times when people do not play, they will idly chat about many things both game-related and not. Start profiling people in your spy journal. Over time you can build up whole dossiers on important people in the corporation and alliance.

Become familiar with the alliance infrastructure. Where are important POSes? What does the Jump Bridge Network look like? Who are the main people taking care of logistics and trade? Where are preferred ratting systems and trading stations. Which are the PVP staging systems. How many ships are available on contract and who supplies them? If there is a ship replacement program, how well does it run and how much stress is put on it?

And next?

If you have followed the path of the spy until this point, you will be embedded within the alliance you have marked as your target. The first big obstacle for your spy career is behind you. Now you can begin your work in earnest. In the next part I will write about the things you can do for spying, how to sell your information to the opposition and then spend some time with possible dangers and how to avoid them.

I hope that you found this guide helpful and informative so far.

Good luck with your spy career.

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