is without a doubt the most glamorous profession in New Eden.
EVE is practically the only game where one can assume the role of a spy
in an environment where intelligence gathering is necessary and makes a
real impact, and won't get you banned. While only a tiny percentage of
the playerbase ends up dabbling in the metagame, a significant number
became interested in the game in the first place due to the widely
publicized efforts of famous agents like Nightfreeze,
or perhaps yours truly.
One of the quirks of my space-job is that I don't do much spying myself. Essentially I am a case officer, someone who handles the affairs of multiple agents and tries to coordinate and parse their output. While the opportunity for the occasional personal intervention will pop up, mostly I sort through reports and manage the nexus between intelligence and grand strategy - which sounds fascinating, but became a matter of habit after a few months. Things become interesting when dealing with a particularly professional agent, or when designing a grand heist.
Over the years, I've dealt with hundreds of spies - most from Goonfleet, but also a significant number from other organizations, be they enemy defectors, mercenaries or allied espionage networks. The vast majority of volunteer agents drop out of the game within a month; spying is hyped as an incredibly exciting activity, but there's a lot of boring scutwork between the rare moments of high drama. In my experience, there seem to be seven general types of agent who have the will to perservere.
- War Profiteers: Think 'Grand Theft Spaceship'. Not content to sit back and quietly report on enemy activities, War Profiteers approach the dull parts of the spy game as an opportunity to enrich themselves. Since alliances are generally full of bumbling, trusting types, an agent with a larceny habit can quickly 'liberate' a number of pilotless ships parked at POS's, ship maintenance arrays, or open public hangars. Unless the target alliance has been sensible about security precations, it's entirely possible for an agent to make off with many billions of isk in ships and modules without any risk of discovery. These guys are hilarious because they achieve a constant stream of hidden triumphs. In Lotka Volterra, one of our best agents was a War Profiteer. Every day he'd log in, send me forum and chat rips, then run around checking LV's towers for any empty ships. If he couldn't fly a ship personally, he'd bump it out the LV tower with his spy character and have a friend fly it away, then split the profit. He made a disgusting amount of money.
- Sadists: It takes a keen eye to determine what will cause maximum distress in an enemy, and the Sadists have it. These guys tend to have an attitude somewhere between bitterness and utter contempt for the organization they've infiltrated, and they respond to the stresses of the job by trying to cause as much interpersonal misery as possible - and then publish it. The best chat porn comes from the Sadists, because they spend their time ripping any controversy off their target's forums, watching chat channels for scuffles or spats, and subtly doing whatever they can to both foment rebellion and encourage a reactionary response from the leadership. When browsing an enemy forum, it's often the Sadists who are the most vehement in posting about how dissenters should be kicked out of the alliance, punished, or otherwise oppressed.
- Operators: The most dangerous agents of all. Operators care nothing for fame or profit and are focused on the destruction of their target with pathological intensity. These are the true 'James Bond' types, but without flashy suits or tendencies to quip that could break their cover. Operators are the rarest sort of spy. One of them is unquestionably the single most deadly agent in the history of EVE, personally responsible for the deaths of 200+ capital ships, several Titans, and entire campaigns being dashed, rerouted or miscarried - and it is doubtful that anyone will ever know his identity. The Operators move from target to target, never coming under suspicion, leaving devastation in their wake.
- Narcissists: The key goal of the Narcissist isn't profit or effectiveness, but in being seen - in public - as a cunning, masterful spy. These guys don't last long working for an alliance, but they thrive in a more informal espionage group based on self aggrandizement. While most public agents have a penchant for self-promotion, the Narcissist can't stand to stay in cover or focus on the strategic aspects of the job. They tend to seize upon a small win such as a middling heist, then retire in a blaze of glory. When the public acclaim has worn off, or the heist money has run out, they'll repeat the process on a new alt.
- Neurotics: Paranoia is a virtue in the espionage game, but the Neurotics take it to an extreme. These agents often significantly overestimate the counterintelligence capabilities of their target, invest in personal subscription-based proxies, and avoid communicating with fleet commanders or secondary intelligence officers for fear of exposure. The Neurotic is absolutely convinced that the slightest misstep will see him exposed and burned - but it's them burning themselves out, usually within three months. That's not a bad thing, from my perspective; managing a Neurotic often leaves me feeling like an overworked babysitter.
- Killmail Whores: These guys are typically frontline PvP pilots who are giving espionage a try, and they bring with them the attitude that the most important thing is to make the other guy blow up. Killmail Whores are completely obsessed with 'big kills' of capital fleets and supercapitals, and will often contact fleet commanders to give tactical intelligence that we wouldn't ordinarily bother transmitting. At the alliance level, the most valuable intelligence an agent can provide is standard reporting- but for a thrill-seeking spy, reporting is frightenignly mundane. Sending daily email clips of what's happening on the forums, alliance mail and chat channels doesn't cut it. The signature Killmail Whore move is to be flying in a fleet with their PvP main character, while flying in an enemy gang with their spy. Even if the spy is in an irrelevant fleet (either too small, or going to another area of space entirely), the Killmail Whore will happily direct his FC to give chase and mow down the enemy, just for the joy of the fight. The only problem with this type of agent is that they risk timestamping themselves every time they give out a piece of tactical intelligence - and since they constantly give this data out to amuse themselves, it's only a matter of time before their character is exposed.
- Femme Fatales: EVE is not a game full of female players. Those who make their gender known are frequently harassed by overeager spreadsheet nerds who wouldn't normally have the confidence to approach a woman in person. Yet the combination of naive trust and hopeful desperation on the part of the male population of New Eden renders even the least socially skilled female agent a veritable Mata Hari. Male players assume a female agent is telling the truth, throwing common sense to the wind. "She's paying attention to me! She might like me! Of course she's not a spy!" Carnage ensues, and due to this misbegotten trust, female agents can get away with the sort of blatant, unsubtle espionage that would get a male agent iced immediately. In one case many years ago, one of our female agents convinced her corporation to move its base of operations. After the leadership placed everything the corp owned (including all their personal assets) in one freighter, our agent followed the freighter and reported its exact location to our waiting fleet, which annihilated it. In the aftermath of this destruction, her corpmates absolutely certain they had been infiltrated, but said, "Well, of course it can't be her." Oops!