Intel and subterfuge are two interesting components to EVE Online. Not only does the concept provide tangible and manifest benefits within the game, but it plays a very strong meta-game position as well (that being, effects going beyond the realm of the game).
Few networks have become as proficient at the art of intelligence gathering as the dreaded Goonswarm Intelligence Agency (or GIA for short), who have been accredited with some of the most intriguing intelligence leaks and corporate upsets in the history of EVE.
We have today the privilege of speaking to Akay Quinn, current chief of GIA, filling the position that The Mittani once held.
Zeroniss: So when did you start playing EVE Online?
Akay Quinn: Late 2006. November, if i remember.
Z: I see, and how did that work out? What did you head into once you started up as a fresh newbie?
AQ: Mmm, as a Newbie I think my first real goal of the game was a battleship. They were pretty much the sh*t back then. I’ve been rather loyal to the Caldari line so Ravens and Rokhs were the real defining goal. I mostly hung around Empire space, did a little bit of mining for ISK, but worked on missions.
Z: So what was the first truly ‘evil’ thing you did in EVE?
AQ: Can Flipping and some basic item-switching scams. The little stuff really. Had to make a penny here and there. I never actually got into Piracy though, which seems odd looking back at it. In hindsight , it just wasn’t worth it. I could do more damage and cause more havoc by just scamming and infiltrating other corporations and stealing their ships over blowing them up.
Z: I see, so what was your first big break?
AQ: Hmm, Depends how you look at it. Forming my own corporation was really my first real foray into the greater EVE community, and gave me a lot of practice at the underhanded side of Politics and how inter-alliance and inter-corp relations work.
AQ: Most people would probably refer to me joining Goonfleet as the first visible break for me though.
Z: Okay, so once you joined GoonFleet, what went down? How did your rise to prominence come about?
AQ: The real rise came from when Goonfleet lost Delve and Darius stepped down, and Mittani took over. At this point Mittens and myself had been talking a bit and my experiences in EVE as well as acting as a Security GM and Spy-master for a different game – it gave me a pretty natural set of abilities to take over the GIA from Mittani since he was now the CEO.
AQ: Honestly though, I was originally made a Finance director, basically because I can make some pretty awesome spreadsheets using the EVE-API. And after that, well, alot of boring things, like providing the Intel and means for efficiently killing ATLAS, killing Primary., HTA, our good friends IT – although sadly I cant claim sole credit for that one as they were pretty much ready to die anyway – as well as some awesome scams resulting in around 40 or 50 Billion ISK and hundreds of ships being gained.
Z: Impressive. And what about now?
AQ: There’s some other fun things, but they’re still ongoing, So you’ll have to forgive me if i cant share the details.
Z: Not a problem at all, but basically you are still very much active in the game? No early retirement or something?
AQ: Well, yes and no. I am more so now that I happen to be a Titan pilot, but most of my work is done behind the scenes on various chat clients, coordinating and providing Intelligence and Strategic advice.
Z: Very nice. Similar to the TEST Alliance program to train spies?
AQ: *laughter* Well. You see. I actually started that.
Z: Oh! I see!
AQ: The TIA, as they’re so lovingly called, was founded through my direct actions. Needless to say we have a good working relationship with the North and with TEST.
Z: I imagine most of your focus is against your immediate and well known enemies in Sov space? Or do those projects extend into Empire also?
AQ: Well, We have agents pretty much everywhere in the galaxy regardless of standings or Security values. Our main focus is on whoever is the biggest threat currently for intelligence means, but scamming happens everywhere that isn’t ‘blue’.
Z: Understandably. What kind of an impact do you feel such has on newer players?
AQ: It’s amazing some of the information you can get from other 0.0 players’ alts in some no-name empire alliance they think is ‘safe’ to brag in. In empire, there’s a good chance, as long as you’re smart, we wont have an affect on you. Dont fall for scams, dont hand over Millions of ISK or goods to poorly secured Corporations, and such activities and you will be fine. Obviously, my interests lie in you doing the opposite, but you have a sporting chance now.
AQ: If you move to 0.0 or Lowsec and actively campaign against us? Well, We’ll make your life hell. Stay Smart, stay safe.
AQ: Though we tend to not like to burn agents unless its for a massive payoff or its to further a political goal.
Z: That makes sense. So where do you see the progression of intelligence and it’s value in the game as time progresses, particularly keeping in light any changes that may or may not be proposed to the sandbox in the future?
AQ: Intelligence is always going to play a major role in EVE regardless of changes CCP makes. Knowing what your opponent is flying, what drama they’re currently experiencing to rub it in their faces, knowing where they’re going to be, what they’re building, what they’re planning – even who is calling the targets for their fleets before they do – is invaluable.
AQ: You can win battles that are stacked 3:1 odds against you just by killing the person they have calling targets over and over. You can cause infighting just by linking them one of their own drama threads, and watching them argue and witch hunt.
Z: Of course, so you imagine for the most part, that this will be an integral section of the game that will always be deemed important.
AQ: Yep. People will argue about its importance, but those are usually people who haven’t had it used actively against them yet.
Z: Do you have a certain criterion before recruiting a spy or agent? Do they get something in return other than the satisfaction of it?
AQ: Well, before we recruit someone we tend to run a background check and watch them for a bit. They need to be able to act, keep secrets, and stay organized and focused. for the most part the pay is lousy, but every once in a bit we toss them PLEXs for spy accounts, and they get to keep all of their stolen goodies. And depending on what they pull off they get a lot of respect as ‘Heroes of the Swarm’, if you would.
Z: Those are essentially all ‘player’ or ‘meta’ skills per se – so the in game experience requirement would tailor more as per the requirements of the specific target itself? Like, say, you could do with newbie spy characters in a fairly newbie empire corp, but for say Sov entities, you’d want someone more capable?
AQ: Mhmm, well we’ve had people acting as 3 day old newbies infiltrate years old corps in 0.0. Its really about attitude and picking the target that fits right for you. Having some history in newbie corps and empire corps, acting enthusiastic, showing you read some about EVE mechanics. A lot of people will bend over backwards to recruit you.
Z: I can imagine – a game this difficult must still have a very high incidence of ‘unenlightened’ players despite high Skill Points.
AQ: Right. High SP isn’t worth as much to a lot of the good corps out there as overall ability and intelligence. A lot of our oldest Propaganda posters show Rifters and include quotes and phrases from newbies.
Z: So what is the route to becoming one of these agents or spies? Do you let them come to you or do you actively reach out and try to recruit someone?
AQ: At this point its pretty rare for me to go actively pursue an perspective agent either internally or externally. Internally people tend to just learn through the grapevine, stick an alt in some hostile corp, then contact me to figure out what they’re actually supposed to do.
AQ: Externally people can just contact me in game on a neutral alt if they wish and discuss employment. We get agents from everywhere, both internal and external.
Z: Well Akay, you completely had me enthralled with this conversation. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us today.
AQ: That’s fine.
AQ: Ever consider working in Intelligence?
Intelligence and Corporate espionage are risky and perilous aspects of EVE Online. Have you had success in the field? Do you have a tale of glory and secured wealth to tell? Tell us more about it.
Akay Quinn is a Director of GoonWaffe, the Alliance Executors of Goonswarm Federation. He can be contacted in game for any inquiries about working in Intelligence.
Please note that EVE University, as per it’s neutrality policies, does not condone any acts of spying against corporations. Engaging in such actions while being a member of EVE University is grounds for serious disciplinary action and/or dismissal.