EVE Online's futuristic setting of New Eden is one of sprawling galactic Empires and megacorporations, imposing order on uncharted frontiers through massive industrial infrastructures, elaborate networks of trade routes, and military fleets that ensure the galaxy remains firmly in the grasp of the technocratic elite.
But beneath this orderly paradigm in New Eden, criminal organizations thrive. They prey upon those who cling to the illusion of safety in an unsafe galaxy. They reject your system of values and play by their own rules. They are relentless in pursuit of their goals and completely without mercy. One notable criminal organization devoted to piracy is Veto Corp, headed by their CEO Ethan Verone, who is without a doubt one of New Eden's more notorious pirates. Under his guidance, Veto Corp has been linked to numerous incidents of ransoming, hijacking, and illegal arms sales, among their many other crimes. Their modus operandi of shunning territorial control in favor of remaining fast and free ensures that Veto can conduct 'business' and hit targets anytime, and practically anywhere. Massively recently managed to lock down Verone for a line of questioning, and discussed the allure of life as an outlaw.
You've been described as one of New Eden's most feared and respected criminals by some, and a hated killer by others. How would you describe yourself and what you do in New Eden?
I'd say I have a long way to go to be regarded as one of New Eden's most feared and respected, but that is effectively my ultimate goal. I feel that as more "pirate" corporations are lured toward the bright shining beacon of free combat and loot that is faction warfare, there should be a few of the older and more established pirate corporations such as ours who keep the skull and crossbones flying in a true traditional sense.
As for what we do, I'd consider both myself and Veto Corp as piracy purists. We rarely pirate in a static gate camp, much preferring more active piracy. By active I mean searching belts, traversing whole regions in some instances as we look for our... well, clients, let's call them. Moreover we try to ransom wherever possible, and pride ourselves on our ability to be trusted to keep our word.
What drew you to the galaxy of EVE Online, and what keeps you hunting down targets in New Eden more than four years later?
"The dark side of New Eden is what always drew me to the game."
EVE is the first MMO I've ever played, in fact I'd go so far to say it's my first venture into online gaming, which makes me extremely proud to still be here in such a harsh environment over four years later, rather than running through the woods somewhere shooting giant spiders with a bow and arrow.
The main things that keep me playing are the reputation that myself and my corporation have built over the time I've spent playing, and of course the massive number of fine people that EVE has brought me into contact with. It's a testament to how deep the bonds go through EVE, when you sometimes speak to the people you play with more than some of your friends who live on your doorstep.
What sent you down the long path of piracy you've followed so far? Was there a certain incident that lured you into a criminal career?
The dark side of New Eden is what always drew me to the game. Right from the outset you're thrown into a very dark, almost sadomasochistic world with cut-throat politics and no real sense of self importance.
I'm not sure whether it's my own frame of mind, or the frame of mind of the type of player that decides to pirate, but there's a pull. It's hard to describe but you find yourself drawn to outlawship, and the non-stop riot of combat and laughs it tends to bring when anyone and everyone can freely shoot at you.
I've also always felt that outlawship pulls a corporation together a lot more than running a regular corp in high security space or 0.0, since members rely a lot more on each other for help with logistics from high security space, and support under sentry guns while being hailed down upon. It seemed to be the natural choice for me in EVE, given the type of games I typically like to play.
You formed an alliance of similar-minded individuals, called Veto Corp. What can you tell me about this organization? And what is the scope of its activities?
"Right from the outset you're thrown into a very dark, almost sadomasochistic world with cut-throat politics and no real sense of self importance."
The alliance was actually formed in game to ease the burden of setting standings to other alliances, and to give the corporation our own banner to fly under. The corporations Veto, Veto Academy, Veto Logistics and Veto Investments all operate as divisions in the alliance, rather than individual corps.
Our activities range really. Veto itself concentrates solely on pain, violence, piracy and generally trying to kill or ransom anything that appears on our overview, or die horribly trying. Veto Academy does the same, but is made up of lower skillpoint members who have been recruited to be trained into heavier classes and more competent roles. Veto Corp prides itself on being able to take people fresh to combat, and rookie pilots, and turn them into effective members of a combat force. Since the Academy's inception we've always prided ourselves on providing some of the best combat training and character development opportunities in New Eden.
How does one structure a criminal organization in EVE and is Veto run as a standard corporation or alliance? It's been said that Veto was run as a communist corporation at one point, what was that like?
At one point during a long stint of mercenary work, Veto was run as completely communist corporation. When we started this, every member of the corporation donated all their assets to the corporate hangar, from then on the corporation insured all vessels, and issued everything needed to corp members, when they needed it. We even went so far as to pay for skill books and cloning costs, and every vessel lost was replaced and re-issued to the member who lost it.
It worked very well, but when the corporation decided to return to its roots as outlaws it was decided that it would be scrapped, and the corp would return to a principle of capitalist operation to avoid financial issues.
Right now, we effectively run the alliance "Veto Corp" as a corporation and use all the corps inside it as divisions that perform specific roles. Other than that, Veto Corp pretty much runs the same as any other corp based around an iron fisted dictatorship.
Pirates are generally free spirits in New Eden -- individuals who reject authority and control. How do you foster an environment where members of Veto Corp, roughly 100 such individuals, work together under your auspices?
"It pays in our line of work to have no conscience, no regret, and give no quarter."
I think that the main attributing factor to how well we all work together and how well we operate as a single unit is the way we recruit. It's done very selectively, and every member of the corporation has the opportunity to have their say if they have any concerns over a potential recruit's application, generally this leads to rejection of the application if there is any bad feeling. Finally, every application to the corp has to be approved by myself, so very few trouble makers actually get through the net.
Members also serve a mandatory minimum two month probation period with no roles or real rights in the corporation, before they're accepted as permanent members. I say minimum because it's not uncommon for people to have spent up to six months as a trialee before being promoted to a permanent member of the ranks. I guess this also helps in rooting out potential problems or bad eggs, although I won't deny we've had a few bits of drama in the past.
Really, the key to running a pirate corporation in EVE, I've found at least, is a good old fashioned iron fisted approach and a strong dictatorship where everyone is equal, and the CEO dictates what needs to be done. It tends to work, and solves any problems that come to light pretty fast.
You, and therefore Veto, adhere to a code of sorts -- something that sets you apart from other many others in your trade. Can you tell me a bit about that? Is there such a thing as honor among thieves?
It's somewhat cliché to talk about e-honor, but pilots in New Eden can rest assured that a member of Veto will do as he, or indeed she says. It's part of our most fundamental operating principles to always keep our word. Lies, or any form of deception is never an option for us.
The corporation has a basic set of rules that are laid down in black and white, and there's only one response to breaking them, the loss of the offender's place in the ranks. We take the few rules we do have very seriously, and it's more of an insult to the corporation, its members and our reputation for someone to break the rules, rather than a question of honor.
The rules to us are, if you like a set of commandments, things you should under no circumstances ever do. Other than that, for a Veto Corp pilot, EVE is your oyster, so to speak.
You've attained a great deal of notoriety in EVE. What has reputation done for you, and done for Veto Corp? Is there a downside to having a rep like yours?
"Veto concentrates solely on pain, violence, piracy and generally trying to kill or ransom anything that appears on our overview, or die horribly trying."
The member base of Veto Corp, I see as the meat on the bones of the corporation. Without them, the corporation is useless, and without the corporation to lead them they have no direction of their own. Together, I'm pretty much convinced, and have such solid faith in my members, that I feel we can achieve anything we set out to do together.
As for downsides, there are few. The only main one comes to mind is the amount of people we have who simply refuse to fight without vastly outnumbering us. When we come up against corporations who've dealt with us before, typically we're faced with 2:1 or 3:1 odds, often higher.
There are of course corporations such as PAK, and occasionally 0utbreak, whom rather than mass an immense blob, prefer a healthy and even matched rumble and have provided some interesting and fun fights in the past, we also regard these two groups as having some of the best combat pilots in New Eden flying their colours, so it's always interesting and good fun to see them in action.
Violence seems to pervade your life. Is there anything you've done to the citizens of New Eden that you regret?
Not a single thing. If we've pirated, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. If we've attacked them as revenge or retaliation, they had it coming. It pays in our line of work to have no conscience, no regret, and give no quarter.
With the exception of the occasional mercenary contract, is piracy lucrative enough to be your sole livelihood?
Without a doubt. If our members are sensible in what they buy, given their wealth, then they can survive with ease on the spoils of their time in space.
There's a common misconception that most people have about pirate corporations. Most people believe that many of their members are simply alternate characters of members of large alliances who use them to escape the mundane lifestyle of having such a large amount of positive standings.
I'm happy to say that our entire roster is effectively a fully active combat corporation when they're called on to hit a target. Mercenary work now and again tends to pay the bills, but we rarely take a contract offer as most independent corporations can't afford the rates that we tend to request.
Generally our livelihood comes from piracy, although if we have a rough time, as everyone does now and again, members are given permission to head off to recoup their losses.
Are you active in 0.0 security space, or is Veto strictly active in low security space on the fringes of Empire?
We're active pretty much anywhere we feel there's a good fight to be had. We tend to move around a lot, and the corporation is becoming more and more nomadic as time wears on. Generally our operation is in the low security border regions where we can avoid the simply overwhelming numbers of alliance fleets and the massive latency they tend to bring with them.
Occasionally though, we can be seen running raids through the space of various alliances and picking off pilots for profit where we can.
Is Veto territorial? What are your views on low sec space that is "staked" or occupied by other organizations?
"The political and physical map of New Eden is already starting to shift, and it's going to be a hell of a ride to see where it takes us."
As for people claiming space, we don't recognise anyone's claim to any space, or the rules they may enforce on a pilot while he or she is in it, be it low security or 0.0. We operate the same, regardless of where we are in New Eden.
Many pirates in New Eden make extensive use of gate camps, ganking whoever comes through the stargate. What can you tell me about your methods, or your chosen style of piracy?
We tend to favour piracy, over sitting on a gate all day and annihilating anything that comes through with overwhelming numbers. There's little real skill in sitting static and waiting for targets to come to you.
Although it's profitable, it gets old pretty fast. To us it's pretty much seen as being on par with spawn camping in a first person shooter, often the people coming through have no opportunity to react, and little ability to actually take a shot at defending themselves.
Of course on the other hand, I wont deny that whenever we can, we try to work that little bit of magic with numbers that tips the balance in our favour in combat when we can.
Do you have any affiliations with other criminal organizations in New Eden?
We have a select few affiliations with entities in EVE, including some who're on the right side of the law. We try to keep our friends to a minimum of those we value and hold close in order to keep the number of potential "clients" as high as possible. The less blue, the more spilled goo... so to speak.
Generally we keep those people blue that we value and respect as allies, with similar operating principles and goals, and who're useful for us to have as added guns for our cause.
Conversely, do you ever find yourself in conflict with other members -- or organizations -- of New Eden's criminal underworld?
"Trying to fight us will be like trying to drown a cat. Victory against us will be laced in their own blood, because we'll sure as hell leave our mark either way."
It's a testament to the members of Veto Corp, and their enduring loyalty to their colours in game that I'm able to lead the corporation toward its fourth year while others around us fade away. Regardless of any rules set or instructions given, they remain the flesh and lifeblood of Veto.
I've always been of the opinion that we're never going to be invincible, and we'll never be the "best pirate corporation in EVE." Why? Because being the best is situational, and with every engagement there's a new challenge or something new in terms of tactics to be learned. EVE has never been about "being the best" simply because the landscape and mechanics of the game are so dynamic.
EVE is definitely a case of "win some, lose some," and as we've found out, the rewards for winning can be massive, but the price of failure magnifies that many times.
I've always set out to make people feel that they may beat us, but trying to fight us will be like trying to drown a cat. Victory against us will be laced in their own blood, because we'll sure as hell leave our mark either way.
It's clear that Veto Corp is very much your life's work, your legacy in New Eden. What, then, might the future hold for Ethan Verone -- and for Veto?
Without a doubt, as CEO, Veto Corp is pretty much my life's work when I connect to play EVE. I've invested a hell of a lot of time in building the corporation from the ground up, and filling it with the people I consider the finest group of players who've graced the game.
How far the corporation has come in the last three years really hits home in certain respects. The most prominent reminder is from last year. We were extremely unfortunate in late 2007, when one of our long standing members, Paul "DarkElf" Harding, lost his life. I can't recall a time in my life where I've had such pride, or even begin to describe what I felt when seeing a group of people I brought together under the Veto Corp banner in EVE, who've effectively never physically met, some travelling from overseas in Germany, Iceland and further afield to raise a glass to him on his home soil in the United Kingdom.
I've also had a father who plays EVE with his young son personally thank me, and tell me how much the game has boosted the relationship between the two of them, and given them something extra to do together. That alone is worth the effort that has gone into shaping such an enjoyable corporation be a part of, so all in all I'm more than happy with the first three years of operation.
With regards to the future, I'll still lead as long as my members are still willing to follow. I think as a corporation we have solid ground for many more years of successful operation. I'm looking forward to getting together with the guys and gals out of game even more often as time wears on, and looking forward to a profitable future of many years of piracy in the border regions of New Eden.
I think that in the future the corporation will change dynamically with the game and its content. With the coming of the Empyrean Age, the political and physical map of New Eden is already starting to shift, and it's going to be a hell of a ride to see where it takes us.
One thing's for certain though, where Veto Corp goes, we go together, as one, with the colours hoisted.
If you think you have what it takes to fly them, come find out.
Thanks for your time, Verone.
"Outlaws of EVE Online" is a recurring feature exclusively at Massively, that will profile some of New Eden's most exceptional criminals... the ones who make EVE Online a gritty, unforgiving game. While most citizens in New Eden follow the rules society dictates, there are some free spirits who shun the status quo -- and the law -- and live on their own terms.
They are the pirates who prowl lowsec space, hunting you down.
They are the smugglers who move freely across your 'secure' borders, trafficking all forms of illegal substances and contraband.
They are the spies who infiltrate your corporations and alliances, the ones you trust... as they set you up and burn you down.
These criminals push the boundaries of what is possible in the setting of New Eden. Espionage, piracy, assassinations, scams, and embezzlement are but a few of the methods these individuals and collectives use to achieve their goals.
The chosen paths of EVE's outlaws brings them into near-constant conflict with other pilots in New Eden, and they wouldn't have it any other way. Watch this space as Massively exposes them in the coming months, one by one, and gives you a close look at New Eden's criminal underworld.