Thievery: A History by The Mockers

Beginnings & ATG
Formation & TurfWars I
TurfWars II & III
Tournaments of Darkness

The Beginning

T he Thief series of games by Looking Glass Studios (LGS) pioneered the 'First Person Sneaker' genre, emphasizing stealth and tactical gameplay over more traditional run-and-gun offerings. The Dark Project and its sequel The Metal Age became cult hits, placing the player in the role of jaded thief Garrett as he indulged his kleptomania. Through The Looking Glass (TTLG) fansite members soon hankered for a co-operative multiplayer mode, and hopes were high with rumours of LGS including such a gameplay option in further patches. Unfortunately, the studio closed its doors before completing the project.

TTLG members Dalai and oRGy decided to take matters into their own hands, recruiting a team that would eventually become Black Cat Games. Their aim was to create an experience that would do justice to LGS's artistic vision for a Thief multiplayer game. Thievery's first public release crowded the official server with players clamouring to fulfil the promise of an intense Thief multiplayer experience - among them, a young enthusiast named Shadow Rodent.

Eager to be involved in the burgeoning guild scene, Rodent decided to recruit players from his own timezone to increase the chances of their play time matching his. The Australian Thievery Guild (ATG) was born, including Thievery developers Joel (El_Foolio) and Cythe (miss_c), alongside Yenzarill. In the early days guild matches were unheard of; rather, their members displayed tags to increase their status and reputation in public servers. To this end, Rodent began to recruit as many of his fellow countrymen as possible. Monolith, Tafferboy (now Gladius), Beast, Impulse and Splattzz joined the swelling ATG ranks. Shug joined months later, but ultimately left the game due to an unreliable Internet connection.

A potent combination of high ping times and fast strafing ability in earlier patches made it natural for Australian players to pursue circlestrafe blackjacking DeathMatch tactics. Unwary opponents would find themselves unconscious before the thief model had even moved inside their guard, sparking off frustration at the game's combat element. The term "DMer" became a derogatory way to describe a Thievery opponent, but the strategy's effectiveness kept its use common. In particular, the trio of Impulse, Rodent and Yenzarill were noted as some of the best DMers in Thievery, and were commonly cursed due to their difficulty to subdue.

Meanwhile, other players were mastering the game and creating their own legend. With public play the pinnacle of Thievery, players including Longnames, Frantic, GreatSnafu and Freaky_Alien were beginning to uncover the secrets of Thievery's maps and gameplay. Unflareable hiding spots, a knack for handling flash blindness or incapacitation at the hands of crack, the ability to look and even shoot through walls; these were the hallmarks of the best in early versions of Thievery. They played on a level higher than the casual regulars and were acknowledged as the cream of the crop. Max Steele and Crackaz Thievery Guild ran popular servers, and the player base flourished.

During 2002, Thievery experienced a number of growing pains. Numerous gaps were found in the multiplayer code, allowing nefarious players to conjure extra items and seize unethical advantages over their opponents. The thief sword could be used to permanently block guard melee attacks, and similar outlandish tactics prospered. The player base was divided over the topic of in-game exploits. Frantic was a guiding force in the development of future elite players, including Rodent, Gladius and Yenzarill, pioneering new routes and teaching tight, effective thief tactics. In December of that year, the ultimate controversy was ignited amongst Thievery's fledgling community. A panel of server admins declared Frantic a cheater, and he was banned across all servers. The news sent the Thievery forums into uproar, exacerbated by the accusers refusing to release their evidence. Ostensibly this was to prevent other players from using similar cheats, but in truth, it was almost impossible to prove definitively that Frantic was hacking and a judgement call had been made.

Ultimately, the release of Thievery's 1.3 patch brought a dramatic change intended to combat the rampant DM problem. Instead, it turned the game on its head, with the commonly-used genius AI setting decimating thief teams. The 1.4 version was rushed out, and a host of fixes along with new maps meant Thievery was a more robust and competitive game than ever. It was time for the Guilds to take a more prominent role in the game.

Formation of The Mockers & TurfWars I

I n November 2002, CTG Guildmaster LaughingRat proposed the idea of TurfWars. Officially released maps from Thievery were to be divided amongst participating Guilds, with the combined loot totals of maps in their possession as a running score. Guilds would challenge to control turf and be forced to defend their own against competitors in a battle for supremacy. Simultaneously, a major change was underway within ATG. Shug had recently returned to the game and become an unofficial forum spokesman and co-leader for the guild alongside Rodent. Together, they dared imagine a more competitive team that could challenge the dominance of North America and Europe.

To challenge for supremacy of the Guilds, it was decided that skill and attitude were more important than player location - and as simply as that, the most infamous guild of Thievery was born. The Mockers struck inactive players from the roster, adopted the ubiquitous .:m. tag, and signed up to play TurfWars I with an active memberlist featuring Rodent, Yenzarill, Foolio, Impulse, Monolith, Beast, Immortius, Gladius and Shug. Although the restriction on international members had been lifted, the team would remain wholly Australian for a time yet.

The Mockers' debut competitive match was a TurfWars clash against Thievery's oldest guild, Tears of Blood, in March 2003. A two against two confrontation on Theatre was a tough ask for the as-yet inexperienced Rodent and Yenzarill, and they tumbled to an early deficit as ToB successfully thieved the first round. However, supreme confidence in their DeathMatch abilities saw the duo strike back decisively to force a tiebreak on Darkened Enlightenment. ToB's defence of the bookhouse (a common tactic at the time) and the map's plentiful AI kept the Mocker team on the back foot, but a momentary lapse in discipline as DarkProject went searching for food saw the book stolen and the round surprisingly won by objectives. The Mockers had arrived.

Despite a lengthy delay before their second match of the tournament in July 2003, confidence was high leading in to a confrontation with heavyweights The Chosen Ones. A last minute lineup change to include Beast alongside Rodent and Yenzarill did little to change the atmosphere, as Rodent smoothly led his teammates to a thief victory on Nostalgia, seizing 1500 loot and escaping without requiring the lyre. However, the return leg saw TCO seize the main objective in a rush (the lyre was pure loot in earlier versions of the map), and with loot drop on death set at a mere 50%, they calmly finished off the round to send the issue to sudden death on Spider.

A determined Mocker guarding outfit narrowly turned away the initial rush, and were granted a boon as their opponents unlocked the door to the apartments before dying. With TCO unable to breach the defences, the Mockers took Nostalgia and hurtled to the top of the leaderboard by claiming back to back maps with high loot counts. Unfortunately, this heady initial success was to be short lived, as they met opponents The Unforgiven in the next match.

At the inception of TurfWars, concerns had been raised about The Unforgiven - they were a faceless team, their players all members of other guilds using aliases to play with the ~TuF~ tag. Guild leaders, in particular those from Crackaz, were aware of the possibility members of multiple teams could steal strategies, and dual membership seemed a violation of TurfWars rules. Controversy exploded when a member of Crackaz (possibly CrouchingDork) was approached to join TuF and asked to remain a spy inside his own guild, confirming the intent of TuF. He blew the whistle on the operation. When the TuF leadership account on Black Cat Forums, The Keepers, was deemed to have taken too long to respond publicly, CTG leader LaughingRat exposed the account as TheMachine based on IP logs.

The Black Cat Forums exploded with anger, and TuF spies within multiple guilds were exposed. TheMachine from Wraiths, Fixxxer from FAG, Dragon from TCO, and Daniel from ToB were all key members for their individual teams who had defected to TuF, leaving their former guildmates in disarray. TheMachine, as defacto leader, was angered by what he saw as unnecessary intervention by the Crackaz leadership team in Grank and LaughingRat (at that time, the dominant decision makers of the community), and claimed that TuF was going to disband in the course of time due to the TurfWars rules. As it turned out, they became an open guild, retaining their formerly cloaked members to become an overnight powerhouse - much to the dismay of other teams.

Despite an early surprise loss to the mercurial KYO with an understrength team (allegedly a drunk and stoned Seemann was something of a liability to his teammates), TuF were still considered one of the teams to beat in TurfWars I. The Mockers were scheduled to meet them in the third round, and with two upset victories already to their name, rival guilds were taking notice. The match was considered to be the most important of TurfWars I, and took place in October 2003. The Mocker team of Rodent, Gladius and Shug were to play Dragon, TheMachine, Fixxxer and substitute Gabriel on Spider. With a full strength lineup, the Mockers were eager to submit Thievery's top team of that era and take a hefty lead on the TurfWars scoreboard.

Alas, the controversial match did not go to plan. The Mocker defence headed to the apartments early anticipating the standard rush, but nothing materialised. With a whistler on every door, the guards were prepared for any forced entry attempt. Several minutes into the round the quiet was punctured by the sound of a thief climbing a rope arrow, and he was struck by a crossbow bolt before disappearing. Then, all hell broke loose. The objectives chime sounded twice as 800 loot and the Grail were picked up by the thief team, despite the apartment doors being closed and locked. The Mocker guards were in disarray, and despite a hastily assembled exit hold, the gates were opened and TheMachine shot straight through to win the round.

The team was in shock, running into a seemingly unbeatable strategy in the opening round - but confidence in their thief abilities was high and a quick talk nailed down the strategy before the next round began. The Mockers opted to avoid a pure rush strategy, instead cautiously sounding out the defence. Two guards appeared to be missing, although the main courtyard was stacked with AI. Thinning out the AI was a tough ask, especially with Dragon acting as the roamer for TuF. Rodent elected to use a staggered rush, drawing the AI deep into the courtyard recesses before using invis to make it through the trapped and locked apartment doors. Inside, he found Fixxxer and TheMachine waiting for him with traps placed throughout the Grail room. TuF had managed to seize a huge advantage on both rounds, and the thieves knew they had an uphill fight ahead.

Rodent rose to the challenge, recognizing the threat in an instant and evading both guards despite the tight quarters. Attempting to manoeuvre for the Grail, he stood on a cleverly disguised mine and was killed on the first foray. The team was shaken up by the unexpected turn of events, and realised they would need to thin AI numbers and pressure the guards to have a legitimate shot at victory. This tactic was a tough ask on Spider, with its surplus of AI, no-guard-killing rule and the calibre of the guarding team involved. Nevertheless, Shug and Gladius pursued it with mixed success, attempting to stalemate Dragon's outer defence. Ultimately he removed Shug from the game, and Rodent and Gladius were left on their last lives. Their efforts did not disappoint, and tension was high as time ticked down.

Their task was to sneak one thief into the furthest room on the right, and from there, manoeuvre him to the Grail spawn in the second room from the left. Rodent was chosen for the grim task, made extremely difficult by the constant bolt spamming down the crawlspace. Despite some exquisite timing he was shot halfway, and TheMachine followed him into the third room while spectators looked on with baited breath. A frenzy of slashing could not uncover Rodent, and Machine was forced to return to his post in the second room, with Fixxxer holding the first. Rodent popped up inside the first room to flash Fixxxer, who was throwing flares in all directions. A quick sprint through the door to Machine's grail room saw the guards go berserk in anticipation of the Grail being snatched, but a panicked firebolting of the area revealed nothing as Rodent mantled atop a cupboard to hide. The room erupted like a kicked ant-hill, but a frenzy of slashing and flaring was fruitless. Almost a minute after the initial incursion, the Grail was snatched from atop the supply chest. Rodent flung open the door in the same motion as jumping the caltrops, but his trailing leg snagged on the front spike and he was butchered by the guarding brothers. Gladius burst into action, luring and trapping Fixxxer in the crawlspace with a crack. Unfortunately he frobbed a KO'd body and was unable to throw it away in the confined tunnel, slowing him down measurably and allowing Dragon plenty of time to reinforce the area and bolt him to death.

Although the team was expecting a tough encounter against The Unforgiven, the nature of their defeat left a bitter taste. In both rounds TuF had devised methods to boost into the apartments using the lower air ducts traditionally used for escape rather than entry; to make matters worse, the map creator was Joel, a Mocker contemporary, who had not realised the potential for such a strategy. The war team vowed never to be caught off-guard in a competitive match again, and agreed that no tactic would be too extreme in a TurfWars match.

For a time, TurfWars stalled as challenges went unplayed and several teams ran into membership problems. It wasn't until six months later that the Mockers were given an opportunity to return to winning form against spiritual rivals The Shadow Guild (TSG). As a dedicated ghosting guild, members such as Omega had publicly expressed contempt for the more physical Mocker tactics in the past, and tensions were high leading up to game day in April of 2004.

The map was to be Breakout, with a tie-breaker on a second map if necessary. Unfortunately, shortly before the game was to commence it was revealed that TSG would only field two players, a distinct problem for the Mockers if the game headed to a tie-breaking defence with two men on the wide-open Nostalgia. Both rounds would need to be secured on Breakout to be sure of victory.

A full strength Mocker team was available, so Shug and Rodent were sent in to thieve in the first round. A plan was devised to load Rodent up with potions, using Shug as an equipment source and trap clearer. Early on Shug was gruesomely killed by the prison bars when Rodent alerted the upstairs watcher, an ominous portent of things to come. Minutes later, Shug mossed the A doors and suicided onto the mines, allowing Rodent to invis through to the main halls. His looting went smoothly until TSG's PhaeThorn conducted an investigation of the upper levels, concerned by a lack of activity at the doors. He spotted Rodent and managed to slow his escape by closing a door on him. He was cut down with a significant loot amount, and with no voice communication and little time to discuss a new tactic, the Mockers fell back on what they knew best. It was a fatal mistake.

Now armed with swords, the fighting turned ugly on the upper stairwell. Despite devastating the guard lives, it ultimately played into the hands of experienced mace guards in Biohazard and PhaeThorn, and TSG secured the round by kills with an AI life in hand. The pressure was immediately put onto Louie and Gladius to guard Breakout on the return leg, and it seemed that concerns over the difficulty of a tie-breaking round on Nostalgia could well be moot - the contest might be over in two rounds.

Early in the next round, much to the dismay of spectators, the Mockers once again faced a serious setback. Despite rebuffing an early assault on the upper level, Gladius falsely suspected a thief had broken the defence and ordered a fallback to the exits. This split the two Mockers across the map with no hope of aiding each other, and opened the loot up to the TSG assault. Cautious at first, they soon grasped the situation and quickly gathered the necessary objectives. Louie held the inside exit, while Gladius took the snow exit. The responsibility for the round would ultimately fall upon him.

The air was electric amongst the spectators with multiple Mocker teammates and Thievery lead developer Dalai waiting to see if Gladius could hold off multiple TSG assaults. He opened with a stunning multiple bolt kill on PhaeThorn, but it was only a short respite with the loot now wide open. TSG struck again, this time cracking Gladius in the doorway, allowing Bio into the exit antechamber. However, the loot had been split between thieves with Phae's earlier death, forcing a double exit to win. Bio opted to vine out of reach rather than confront Gladius, seeking to remain faithful to the guild's ghosting philosophy. More than that, a ghosting victory over the Mockers would bring them great acclaim and personal satisfaction. Alas, that left Phae to fend for himself.

Realising the gravity of the situation, Gladius opted to block the exit with nearby barrels and crates. All hell broke loose. The situation was compounded by a non-binding prematch agreement made by Rodent not to use the barrels at the exit (alas, without the knowledge of his teammates). However, it was never entered onto the official match thread and therefore, despite the threats of TSG players to have Gladius sanctioned post-match, he left the block in place. Finally, TSG suicided in protest rather than attempting to win the round. Cynical observers noted that it was a hollow gesture, given they would be thieving Nostalgia the next round for an overall match victory.

Louie and Shug were sent in to desperately attempt the indefensible, a two man hold of Nostalgia. The game wrapped up quickly due to an embarrassing misuse of sound setup by Shug, who essentially left the lyre wide open for Biohazard in the mistaken belief that he was entering from the other direction. With the lyre in hand the thieves made a hasty exit, and the Mockers crashed to a second straight defeat in TurfWars I.

With the combined forum fallout over the barrels controversy and the community belief that their initial performances were simply beginner's luck, the Mockers found themselves at lowest ebb. Ultimately they would play no further matches in TurfWars I, and The Unforgiven were declared winners with the highest loot total after inactivity took over. The Mockers finished a lowly fourth of eight contesting guilds, a humbling lesson in the necessities of competitive play.