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Spy Discovery

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It is said by many players that it is almost impossible to discover spies in the game; I don't agree with this assessment.

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I have discovered and dealt with a number of spies that were working for hostile alliances and have ejected (and sometimes severely punished) them. This is not a particularly difficult process but it does demand quite a lot of time to be effective and this is why I feel no anxiety about publishing my methods here.

Some players may feel inclined to object because I am making this information available to all; spies and potential spies included. But I have no problem with this; spies are, in essence, lazy people, bullies and, mostly, lacking intelligence (in the personal sense) and they won't have the patience to follow the methods I am going to explain here. I say this about spies because I have some personal knowledge and because the game is largely true to life in my opinion and players will generally behave in the ways their real life has conditioned them to. It is POSSIBLE to change your behaviour in the game but eventually you will lapse back to your real-life character, and so it is for spies. They may THINK that they are very clever causing all this grief and disruption, but no, they are not clever, rather just stupid, lazy, short on intelligence and just, well, rather pathetic!

OK, first we need to talk a little about some of things spies try to do and, indeed what exactly are spies in the game. First we need to appreciate that a player can have multiple accounts on the same server, probably only limited by the number of email addresses they have (or can open). So, as a current player we open an alias account, a second account with a new Lord's name entirely separate from our first account. So now we have an entirely independent 'player' with their own cities etc but under our full control. So, lets say, we want to do a little spying of our own with our alias account (lets call her I-Spy). I-Spy applies to join alliance TheCave because WE want to know why TheCave keeps making unprovoked attacks on our own alliance, PeacefulPeople! So, she joins and there you are, you have a SPY in TheCave! And of course I-Spy plays a full part for a while and joins in the alliance chat, asks a few innocent questions and so, in no time at all, you have the intelligence you need and you now know why TheCave keeps attacking PeacefulPeople. In passing, I would say that I feel this to be a 'legitimate' use of a Spy, to discover why unprovoked attacks are being made.

On the other hand, someone intent on finding 'easy' targets within another alliance can use the very same spying techniques to gain intelligence about such potential targets. This, for me, is unreasonable, unfair, and effectively vandalism of the worst kind. They are just trying to take shortcuts which is not wrong in itself but is wrong (in my opinion) when they are harming others, just as in real life people should be allowed to do as they please provided they harm not others lives. And I use 'others' in the loosest sense. As (hopefully) we are a moral species!

Then of course there are all sorts of disruption and mayhem spies can cause within an alliance; they can start wars between alliances by making unprovoked attacks which then escalate rapidly into full-blown wars. I presume the 'spy master' then goes off to snigger in his corner at all the disruption he has caused. They really do need to get a life! Sometimes it is even simpler for them just to spread false rumours or make other false claims on the world chat channel. Spies can cause a lot of damage.

So, how do we find spies and deal with them? Basically there are just three techniques that I have used (there are more techniques available that I have not used and, quite probably, even more techniques that I have not even heard of). Those I have used are:

1 Keeping excellent records
2 Testing people
3 Confrontation

1 Keeping records

In Evony all events are time-stamped so it is relatively easy to keep records about what is happening. The method that I use is to take a 'screen-shot' and store the image in a file, that could be Windows Word or Open Office Writer; other file types can also be used. The most useful pages to store, I find are: Alliance Member list (sorted by 'last online' or 'position') for a large alliance you will need several screen shots to cover all members. Alliance Events, Alliance war Reports. If you do this once per day you will soon build up a record of activity.

The point of these records is that they enable you to distinguish active from passive players and they also help to determine who was online when key events happened. Note that this latter is not always conclusive but that many players can be eliminated. For example, lets say that we suspect that a spy is passing on troop movement information during a series of attack waves to give an unfair advantage to the attackers. By careful analysis of the relevant records we can see who might be online and who is certainly not on line, so some narrowing of possibilities can be achieved.

Spy aliases will normally be fairly inactive as regards city building, troop training, wall defenses and hence prestige building. Most players do not have time to spend a lot of effort on more than their main account. So, therefore, low activity 'players' are the most suspect. Then there is the chat activity; spies tend to ask pertinent questions about why things happen and may then go silent for long periods. Silent players are suspicious, this is not a natural law, just an observation. So, add the chat activity to your records files (you can cut and paste straight from the chat channel).

2 Testing people

This is best undertaken by a trusted group of two or three players; you can do it on your own but it is very much more difficult to achieve. Aliasses can be used but that also brings challenges - try to get together a group of trusted players for this. The testing step is needed when you have one or more spy suspects and you need to start investigating them. Firstly you need to start gaining the suspect's confidence and therefore it helps if you and your 'group' have low rank within the alliance (or aliasses with low rank, or other players who can do the testing for you). As in real life, friends have a strong tendency to agree with your opinions unless those opinions are very extreme. So the first method of testing that I use is to start talking about the game and whether there should be ethical 'rules' in it. I find that this usually takes me a long way when trying to determine whether a suspect really is a spy. You will have to play it your own way, ie in a way that is natural for you.

Of course, you are looking for the suspect's opinions about spying and whether it should be considered acceptable behaviour or not.

Another form of testing involves making information available as bait and seeing whether there is a result that implicates your suspects in passing-on that information. This scenario can take several forms but perhaps the most obvious is to set up a conversation between two alliance members talking about troops, wall defenses and even co-ordinate locations, when it is known that one or more of the suspects is online and 'listening'. Or, if attacks are in progress, try mentioning a planned massive troop recall or garrison and see if there is a reaction. You are looking for concrete attack results as well as comments and reactions.

Yet another form of testing is provocation. This is probably to be considered as the final step to be taken before step 3 'Confrontation'. By this stage you should have been able to narrow down your suspects, clearing some and homing-in on others. So, provoke the suspects by indicating in conversation that you are close to unmasking a spy. the conversation might be directly with the suspect or, more likely, with someone else whilst the suspect is listening. Let a list of possible suspects emerge, make comments, doubting the claims ask questions of everyone who is online, be confrontational without actually accusing.

3 Confrontation

By the time this point has been reached, you should be fairly certain who are your 'hot prospect' suspects. You may even be certain you know the truth. So, it is time to confront your suspects with your evidence and directly accuse them of spying. This will often result in an admission of guilt or possibly a strong defense and denial. Admission makes it easy and clear-cut, denial requires further work because you have either got it horribly wrong or your suspect is a 'professional' and is intent on 'bluffing it out'. You have gathered the evidence, sifted it and considered the options over a period of time so, at this point you will have to make a decision, no one else can do this for you. Either apologise if you are convinced you were wrong or go ahead and eject the suspect from the alliance if you are still convinced you were right.

Alliance members will often want to extract revenge on players who are proved to have been spying. Apart from punishing the wrongdoer, this acts as a form of closure, particularly for players who have been 'damaged' so it is probably quite a healthy step to take.

Reference:

A Screen Shot can be activated by aligning the page you want to store on your computer screen and then pressing 'shift' and 'print screen' (PRTSC) simultaneously (Windows). Then open a page of the file you want to store it in, click into it and then press 'CTRL' and 'V' simultaneously.

On Apple Mac use the utility Grab Screen.

Written by: Cranmer [The Archbishop]

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