Spaceship Diplomacy: Spies And Information In EVE Online

By Rich Stanton on June 4th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

In this, the last of our reports from EVE Fanfest 2014, Rich Stanton sits down with one of the MMOs’ enigmatic space diplomats.

One of the most curious aspects of EVE Online is that the more influential the player, the less time they spend in the game. Or claim to, at least – The Mittani positively exults in how rarely he logs in. I still haven’t worked out if this is due to using alts (high-profile ‘mains’ are doubtless targeted by all sorts), a perverse point of pride, or simply a side-effect of devoting so much time to communication outwith the EVE client. The last is an inevitable side-effect of a game where ‘diplomat’ is a valid career path, so I decided to speak with one – and along the way, bumped into PvP specialist from “the gayest corp in EVE.” Only in New Eden.

“I’m an astrophysicist,” says EVE Online player Feiryred, a very smart Scottish woman. “But in EVE I’m a diplomat. I work for Fatal Ascension which is part of the CFC [Clusterfuck Coalition, the biggest in EVE], and I actually consider my alliance is my corporation so I look after all of them. Basically however horrible they are and whatever terrible deeds they do [laughs], when they do those terrible things then I’m kinda the person who sorts it out. It can get very awkward.”

Someone unfamiliar with EVE Online, of course, might be surprised that ‘being a diplomat’ is a possible way to play. “I can understand that. If you’re a new person to EVE then you might not know that when you start to get more involved in the game and get into a corporation and so on, then you get into alliance politics between the corporations. And something might happen. For example, your expensive ship might get killed somewhere and the person who killed your ship is blue [friendly] to your alliance. Then you would have to go to a diplomat to get them to sort it out for you so that you will get reparations. This can be complicated.”

Happen often? “Fortunately not that often.” So what do you spend most of your time doing? “I do most EVE when I’m not logged in,” says Feiryred. “We have the instant messenger Jabber so when I’m working and I’m not logged into the game, I have it up all the time. The job of a good diplomat is to oil the wheels all the time. Making sure that either wars don’t happen, or if they are happening making sure they go our way [laughs] For example with B-R5, the big battle that happened and was everywhere – I work from home, saw a jabber ping just before downtime, and I knew something was about to go down. But I couldn’t actually log in. And even if I could, I knew there was no way I could get to the system involved.”

“So what I did was intel, and I spent about fifteen hours doing it – passing on intel through various means…” Various means? “Spies basically,” laughs Feiryred. “And all I had was people pinging me saying ‘can you tell us what’s happening here there and everywhere’ and you keep on doing it and keep on doing it and then you look at the clock and fifteen hours have passed. I actually had people ask me ‘so what did you do in BR-5′ because I wasn’t in the system. Of course I wasn’t! There was no way I could’ve got there and survived. So what I did was information. Well you don’t get a medal for that, but I suppose in some ways the sign of a good diplomat is that nobody notices you.”

At this point Feiryred and I are joined by a jovial Australian who goes by the EVE name Splockster. Some people at Fanfest take EVE too seriously, but in this case these are in-game enemies meeting up for a beer and a laugh. “Splockster’s in Finn Fleet, the gayest corp in EVE,” laughs Feiryred. “One of these corporations that can basically go where they want, do what they want, with whoever they want, and do so regularly.”

Never one to miss a chance I ask Splockster if this is an accurate description. “Aw yeah,” he laughs. “We’re one of the oldest corps in EVE. I’ve personally been playing since 2005, but the corp has been around since the very beginning. I stick around because they’re a great bunch of lads, gay as hell, take care of their own and have a laugh. We’re big enough and powerful enough to do whatever we want when we want.”

It turns out that Splockster and Finn Fleet are quite the PvP specialists, and I ask if they fight against Feiryred’s CFC alliance. “Ohh yeah! In-game I hate them like the plague. Old history from way back in the day, the kind of thing no-one really remembers how it started – someone stabbed someone else in the back once, and it’s never been made up ever, so we’re enemies. I mean we were a part of BOB which got disbanded in 2009 by a spy from the goons.”

Splockster’s been playing EVE for almost a decade, one of the ‘oldest’ EVE players I’ve met. So what keeps him interested? “I love the game, and I love the people in it,” he says. “I don’t play other games. More than anything else I’d say it’s the social side that keeps me in it, it’s my corp mates that keep me in it, the people I talk to every day. And I even slightly love the CFC [laughs] because they create content for me, lots of ships to blow up. Although to be fair they kicked our arse awfully badly a few months ago, basically destroyed our entire supercapital fleet. We were on the losing side at B-R5 and I think we needed to lose, we’d started to underestimate them and they kicked the shit out of us.”

After that I need a cold shower and some slightly more diplomatic language. I ask Feiryred about the single thing she’s most proud of in the game, but here we hit one of those strange impasses that only seems to happen with EVE – a kind of kayfabe around what goes on behind certain doors. “Basically there was a situation that happened over Christmas and I spent ten days straight with the CEO of another corporation,” says Feiryred. “Obviously I can’t name names, but something unfortunate happened to one of their members and it was just… how the fuck, I mean we had no idea how to even start sorting it out. So I said: here’s what you do. You write a very carefully-worded petition to CCP, and you say this and this and that. I know this sounds unbelievable, but that was ten days straight of work and digging. And at the end of it, it worked.”

CCP got involved? “We got an answer. I can’t help but be ambiguous about that particular situation because there were so many variables and so much could have gone wrong.” This ambiguity is interesting because EVE is fundamentally a videogame. “Yeah,” Feiryred deadpans back. “I know I’m being ambiguous here but the best way to do anything is asking direct questions: what do you want to know?”

Are TEST fucked? Because I’ve been on their comms and those guys are the worst. “Actually I think TEST are going to come back,” says Feiryred. “They’re trying really hard. And unlike many other players, I don’t actually hate TEST. I’ve thought they sucked at times. But EVE needs TEST, and the fact that they have joined Honor and hooked up with Brave Newbies and Spaceship Samurais… I would like to see TEST reinvigorate themselves and come back.”

Feiryred works for the CFC, the largest alliance in the game and the subject of various theories centering around ‘the blue donut’ – basically, the CFC holding an insurmountable amount of EVE Online’s map through smart alliances. Are they too big to be taken down?

“Bullshit,” Feriyred shoots back. “Absolute bollocks. The reason why is all you’re seeing with the big blue donut is space and what we control. But what you’re not seeing is all the other bits that other people do in and around that. I’m in FA and we’re in Fountain which is one of the hottest bits of space in EVE, and it is that way because it’s a target-rich environment, much of which is us. It’s a tonne of fun and more people apply to come and live there than we have room for.”

I can’t help but feel that, at some point I can’t put my finger on, Feiryred went into diplomat mode and I didn’t even notice. Does she mean what she’s saying, or does she want us to believe it for the sake of her alliance? “Think of it like this,” Feiryred smiles, and finishes her cigarette. “Don’t you think that the CFC want to have some fun?”

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37 Comments »

  1. Neith says:

    Um…. no.

  2. nojan says:

    seriously?! You guys post every day about eve , I can’t say you should do it or not, but atleast you can cover news from other space games too, like the release of arena commander for star citizen – biggest crowded funded project in history- this must be the only big pc gaming site that havent covered this!

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      This is the last one.

    • lordcooper says:

      Personally, I’m quite glad to see things that aren’t on every big PC gaming site.

    • Distec says:

      Maybe there’s not much good reason to be excited about SC.

      I imagine they’ll get to a post eventually…

    • evileeyore says:

      1 – Hyperbole much? They don’t write about EVE every day. Once a week, yeah.

      2 – So what if they did? I enjoy hearing about games no one else really talking about and the interesting tidbits about EVE have been interesting.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Well, they did have a story on it yesterday or the day before. And once a week seems like a pretty hefty load as well. I don’t think any other game gets quite that coverage. And while Eve is iconic in its own way, it’s got strong positives as well as strong negatives.

    • ostrich160 says:

      EVE online isnt a space game mate. Its like saying Warhammer (the board game) and MechWarriror online are the same thing because they have robots. EVE isnt a space game, its a political MMO that happens to be set in space, do the same thing on land and there is no difference.

    • Chalky says:

      The first line of the article reads:

      “In this, the last of our reports from EVE Fanfest 2014, Rich Stanton sits down with one of the MMOs’ enigmatic space diplomats.”

      So much rage, so little comprehension.

  3. Sathure says:

    Is that an Oreo in her eye?

  4. Arglebargle says:

    Blah, blah, blah, Eve; blah blah blah.

    Your mileage may vary….

    • Distec says:

      Oh wow, then just fuck off already, duder.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Oh, you must play Eve….

        • Distec says:

          Seriously, what makes your post any different from the troglodytes that show up in Cara’s S.EXE column and go “I don’t know why RPS is writing about this stuff get rid of it”. Perhaps I’ve overlooked some nuance and you didn’t intend to come off that way, but here we are.

          Regardless of one’s opinion on Eve or its players, it cannot be denied that it’s a pretty fascinating anomaly in gaming. It’s interesting that there exists a kind of society with diverse roles that amount to far more than hitting mobs and crafting leather gear. That makes it far more worthwhile to cover than a Dogfighting Module, Sprite-Based Indie Game #1438, or some AAA modern combat wankery.

          And if you decide you’d rather not read it, or even meaningfully comment on the article’s contents, here’s a tip: The title says it all. You can skip it.

          • Arglebargle says:

            Well, this sort of read like a fanpost about a D&D campaign. Now not all of those are bad, but…. The gist of this seemed to be, ‘I use social media’ and ‘This stuff can really affect my life 24 hours a day sometime’.

            I checked up on it, because it was not immediately evident it wasn’t going to be about rules changes or a new design focus or something. Eve has that going for them: They are a very different game model, with some unique ideas. It’s interesting to see how they play out, be it successful or if it falls to the Dust.

            Mostly theoretical interest though, as in my circle of game playing friends, every single one has bounced off it. And I note now — Another article on Eve the day after this one….

          • Dozer says:

            oh goodness Argleblaster. What a terrible day you’re having. I’m so sorry for you.

  5. Hydraulic Meercat says:

    Fun fact: I mentioned time dilation as a possible way to prevent lag in big fleet fights casually in some random thread on the EVE forums. Then later saw Mittani had made that suggestion in the suggestion forum and took all the credit for himself.

    Know no one will believe me, and i don’t even care. Played EVE since ’05 and haven’t looked back since these other spaceship games appeared on the horizon.

  6. dan! says:

    Obligatory: EVE is less a game and more a spreadsheet simulator.

    Obligatory: I will never play EVE, but I love reading about it.

    Obligatory: RPS post too much EVE stuff!

    There, I believe that’s everything. Good day, gentlemen.

  7. Mister_Inveigler says:

    I think Rich has done a fabulous job of capturing what it’s like to be a part of EVE: The Game, but also what it’s like to be a part of EVE: The Culture.

    They’re also extra special to me because EVE is one of those games I really want to play and become completely immersed in.
    But I won’t because it’s one of those games I really want to play and become completely immersed in.

    It sounds like it requires a massive commitment in order to get any sense of fulfillment from, but it’s incredibly rewarding in the long run. I mosied about on a trial account for a while, but as I was flying solo, I guess I didn’t get the enjoyment associated with being part of a Corporation.

    So for now, I’ll live vicariously through articles such as these.

  8. trentonmurphy53 says:

    My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My neighbour’s sister has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.

    This is what I do>>>>>>>>>>> W­­W­­W.B­­A­­­Y­­­­9­­­­­1.C­­O­­M

  9. ostrich160 says:

    I know most people dont like these EVE posts, but I dont see the problem. I love them, admittedly I love EVE, but had this been WoW NOBODY would be claiming or at least not as near as much

    • jrodman says:

      Claiming what?

      I think there’s actually a lot more wow haters than eve haters. Of course I think that’s because a lot more of us have played wow than eve.

  10. Phier says:

    Maybe its because I played eve a long time, and quit cold turkey years ago that these posts bring up so much bile in me. Eve was a wonderful game for a while, one where I reached the highest levels that a player could get outside of scamming or running corp/alliance, and I was happy with it. Then the life crushing nature combined with lag and a elimination of all but blob warfare in 0.0 made me realize that under the libertarian dream was just a mediocre game and a developer that wasn’t quite sure what it was that made people like it.

    Good while it lasted.

    • Hydraulic Meercat says:

      The problems with 0.0 and hisec were always very clear, but instead of facing up to facts they decided to blame the playerbase for either being risk averse or antisocial. Anyone playing EVE in the first place is definitely not risk averse, and not wanting to be a CTA drone in a thousand person alliance doesn’t make you antisocial. Hell, there is more social interaction in the average hisec system than there is in any of those alliances. CCP just never faced facts, and now i fear it’s too late. The game is only going to be able to retain players with all the coming competition by going free to play, and even then it could be grim.

  11. v21v21v21 says:

    My last paycheck was $8538 working 10 hours a day at a desk. I’m not sure how much it is in pounds, the paycheck I mean, not the desk. My sisters neighbour make less, yes they live together.

    It can’t be much, though, I mean, it’s just a small piece of paper, no?

    Here’s what I do >>>>>>>>>>> I go down to the bank and deposit it to my account.

  12. JSeverasse says:

    I run the spy network for Test, if you would like to confirm this my twitter handle is @JSeverasse. I can tell you for a fact that anyone who says that they “play eve” outside of the game does not have a whole lot of ingame experience. Also Test Alliance Best Alliance.

  13. sinister agent says:

    This is what bothers me most about EVE. I’d love to play in a world where I can be a diplomat or information broker or something like that. But, y’know, I’d want to actually play that game, not arse around in forums and external chat and spying with alternate accounts and urgh. I doubt it’ll ever happen, sadly. But EVE does clearly fill its bizarre niche(s) extremely well.

    • Dozer says:

      The forums and IM systems and identity management are the playing fields on which the diplomat/spy/information broker game is played. A game where, for example, each alliances’ forums are on the client’s internal reimplementation of PHPbb and hosted by the game’s servers, is different to a game where the forums are on privately controlled servers – more of a feeling you’re on someone else’s sovereign territory when an external organisation is hosting and administering the forums. I guess.

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