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A deposit of Tiberium as seen in the original Command & Conquer Tiberium deposits seen in Command & Conquer (1995).jpg
A deposit of Tiberium as seen in the original Command & Conquer

Tiberium, known as Ichor to the Scrin, is a fictional substance that is central to the plot of much of the Command & Conquer series of real-time strategy computer games. Within each title set in the Tiberium story arc ( Tiberian Dawn , Tiberian Sun , Renegade , Tiberium Wars , Tiberian Twilight , and their expansion packs), the Tiberium crystals represent both the tools and spoils of war and are used by players to purchase new units and buildings, with each of the series' factions either directly or indirectly battling for control over the crystals. Tiberium has extraterrestrial origins and comes in a variety of forms, mostly the common green crystal but also the more rare blue crystals, the extremely rare red crystals, and in "veins". It was also demonstrated in a liquid form by the time of Tiberium Wars. Parts of the chemical composition of tiberium remain unknown.

Command & Conquer (C&C) was a real-time strategy (RTS) video game franchise, first developed by Westwood Studios. The first game was one of the earliest of the RTS genre, itself based on Westwood Studios' influential strategy game Dune II and introducing trademarks followed in the rest of the series. This includes full-motion video cutscenes with a notable ensemble cast to progress the story, as opposed to digitally in-game rendered cutscenes. Westwood Studios was taken over by Electronic Arts in 1998 and closed down in 2003. The studio and some of its members were absorbed into EA Los Angeles, which continued development on the series.

Real-time strategy (RTS) is a subgenre of strategy video games where the game does not progress incrementally in turns. This is distinguished from turn-based strategy (TBS), in which all players take turns when playing.

The Tiberian series is a series of the Command & Conquer franchise of real-time strategy video games developed by Westwood Studios and Electronic Arts. The games of the Tiberian series compose the storyline of the original Command & Conquer universe. The 1996 Command & Conquer: Red Alert, made to be the prequel to the 1995 Command & Conquer, is the genesis of an alternate history in which games outside the Tiberian series are set. In Command & Conquer, an anomalous extraterrestrial substance known as tiberium is brought to Earth through a meteoric collision in the early 1990s. The substance's intriguing yet hazardous properties fuel an escalating war between two global factions: the United Nations' Global Defense Initiative, which seeks to prevent the proliferation of tiberium, and the mysterious and ancient Brotherhood of Nod, which embraces the substance as the herald of a new age and the next stage of human evolution.


Tiberium is presented as a double-edged sword within the context of the story arc of the respective video games. While it is the greatest mineral resource ever encountered, conveniently gathering many potent elements into an easily harvestable form, it also brings with it considerable hazards: areas rich with the rapidly spreading Tiberium substance are eventually exhausted of their native ecosystems, and become too toxic to support normal carbon-based life. In the context of the gameplay, Tiberium can also be seen this way with its obvious tactical advantage as a resource, and its destructive effect on infantry, sometimes transmuting them into destructive "Visceroids".

Mineral Element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes

A mineral is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound that occurs naturally in pure form. A rock may consist of a single mineral, or may be an aggregate of two or more different minerals, spacially segregated into distinct phases. Compounds that occur only in living beings are usually excluded, but some minerals are often biogenic and/or are organic compounds in the sense of chemistry. Moreover, living beings often syntesize inorganic minerals that also occur in rocks.

Chemical element a species of atoms having the same number of protons in the atomic nucleus

A chemical element is a species of atom having the same number of protons in their atomic nuclei. For example, the atomic number of oxygen is 8, so the element oxygen consists of all atoms which have exactly 8 protons.

Ecosystem A community of living organisms together with the nonliving components of their environment

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one-another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes.

Tiberium is a commodity, with everything that one builds in the game costing Tiberium-based credits. It can appear anywhere on Earth, but spreads much more slowly in areas of extreme cold climate. In Tiberian Dawn and Tiberian Sun, it will spread very slowly in-game but primarily comes from special Tiberium-generating Blossom Trees, infested trees that release Tiberium spores into the air; in Tiberium Wars, these trees are replaced by Tiberium Fissures in the Earth's crust, and Tiberium will not spread outside a certain radius of these fissures. [1] [2] [3]

Commodity marketable item produced to satisfy wants or needs

In economics, a commodity is an economic good or service that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them. Most commodities are raw materials, basic resources, agricultural, or mining products, such as iron ore, sugar, or grains like rice and wheat. Commodities can also be mass-produced unspecialized products such as chemicals and computer memory.

Earth Third planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite. Earth revolves around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.

Tree Perennial woody plant with elongated trunk

In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. Trees are not a taxonomic group but include a variety of plant species that have independently evolved a woody trunk and branches as a way to tower above other plants to compete for sunlight. Trees tend to be long-lived, some reaching several thousand years old. In wider definitions, the taller palms, tree ferns, bananas, and bamboos are also trees. Trees have been in existence for 370 million years. It is estimated that there are just over 3 trillion mature trees in the world.


The substance is named as such because it was first discovered near the river Tiber in Italy. Kane, who claims it was in fact the Brotherhood who first discovered Tiberium, states that he himself named it after Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus. [4]

Tiber river in Italy

The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing 406 kilometres (252 mi) through Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, where it is joined by the river Aniene, to the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Ostia and Fiumicino. It drains a basin estimated at 17,375 square kilometres (6,709 sq mi). The river has achieved lasting fame as the main watercourse of the city of Rome, founded on its eastern banks.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern and Western Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.

Kane (<i>Command & Conquer</i>) character in Command & Conquer

Kane is a fictional character in the alternate history universe of Westwood Studios' and Electronic Arts' Command & Conquer real-time strategy video games in which he is a seemingly immortal mastermind behind the ancient and secretive Brotherhood of Nod society. Little is truly known about Kane; many of his followers draw a direct connection between him and the Abrahamic figure of Cain, which he does not go out of his way to confirm or deny. Considered a charismatic and brilliant sociopath by the outside world, Kane is seen by his followers as a holy figure and a messiah.

The Scrin name of Tiberium, Ichor, comes from Greek mythology, in which it is the substance that flows in the gods' veins.

In Greek mythology, ichor is the ethereal fluid that is the blood of the gods and/or immortals.


Tiberium was first introduced in the original 1995 Command & Conquer game to replace the "spice" from Dune II as the mined resource for building and expanding, and was inspired by the 1957 B-movie " The Monolith Monsters ". [5] [6] According to Westwood Studios co-founder Louis Castle "It solved one of the fundamental problems we had with making an RTS, which was that we wanted to have a central resource that everybody was fighting over. Dune has spice, which made perfect sense — and it was also used when we came to the idea of Tiberium. It became the anchor of the C&C universe because people were arguing over a limited resource that represented wealth and power". [5]

<i>Command & Conquer</i> (1995 video game) 1995 video game

Command & Conquer is a 1995 real-time strategy video game developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Interactive. Set in an alternate history of modern day, the game tells the story of a world war between two globalized factions: the Global Defense Initiative of the United Nations and a cult-like militant organization called the Brotherhood of Nod, led by the mysterious Kane. The groups compete for control of Tiberium, a mysterious substance that slowly spreads across the world.

Melange (fictional drug) substance in Dune universe

Melange, often referred to as simply "the spice", is the name of the fictional drug central to the Dune series of science fiction novels by Frank Herbert, and derivative works.

<i>Dune II</i> video game

Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty is a real-time strategy Dune video game developed by Westwood Studios and released by Virgin Games in December 1992. It is based upon David Lynch's 1984 movie Dune, an adaptation of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel of the same name.

In Tiberian Dawn, Tiberium is said to be composed of 42.5% phosphorus, 32.5% iron, 15.25% calcium, 5.75% copper, 2.5% silica, and 1.5% unknown substances. Its gaseous emissions are composed of 22% methane, 19% sulfur, 12% naphthalene, 10% argon, 6% isobutane, 2% xylene, and 29% unknown gases.

For the development of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars , Electronic Arts decided to radically alter its composition, and commissioned scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide a white paper describing the biophysics of Tiberium, its atomic structure, its method of transmutation, the form of the radiation that it emits, and the way to harness it for powering machinery and weapons—giving it the same treatment as would be suitable for a scientific journal article on a real substance. [7]

Mike Verdu, executive producer for Electronic Arts, gives the following scientific analysis of Tiberium from the perspective of the game universe: [8]

Tiberium is a dense "dynamic proton lattice" held together by exotic heavy particles. When Tiberium comes into contact with other matter, the heavy particles randomly collide with the nuclei of the target matter, smashing it to pieces (in the case of smaller nuclei) or incrementally knocking off protons or neutrons (in the case of heavier nuclei). Tiberium captures a fraction of the protons that are ejected during this collision process and incorporates them into its own structure, thus transmuting matter into more Tiberium. Whenever one of the heavy particles—a muon or tauon—collides with an atomic nucleus, fission occurs, which results in the production of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation as well as other forms of electromagnetic radiation (like infrared). During the transmutation process, nuclei that Tiberium has come into contact with may be changed into nuclei with different (usually fewer) numbers of protons or neutrons.
Mike Verdu, Living with Tiberium

Verdu describes Tiberium as being at the center of the fictional C&C universe as well: "This enigmatic crystal is at the core of our gameplay as well as our fiction. [...] Tiberium is our Force, our Spice, our One Ring, and our Matrix. Everything in our game world is defined by its relationship to Tiberium." [7]

Tiberium has similarities to The Colour Out of Space featured in the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name.


In the game universe, Tiberium crystals proliferate in a number of different ways. In the simplest and most common way, a tiberium "pod" will send out "roots", which create more pods. Tiberium also spreads by infecting trees and mutating them into so-called "Blossom Trees", which seed the substance across large areas of land. Destroying a Harvester, Refinery, Cyborg, Tiberium Spike, or other Tiberium-containing unit or building can cause a small amount of tiberium to be released. In Tiberium Wars, it spreads by growing out of the ground from Tiberium fissures within the Earth's crust. Verdu describes these Tiberium concentrations as "oddly beautiful fields of green crystal that [kill] everything around them". The substance is radioactive and is extremely toxic to carbon-based life, causing either death or severe genetic mutations in plants, humans and animals alike. It replicates by converting everything around it into more Tiberium either through oddly directed mutation of plantlife, or through direct assimilation of other substances on the atomic level, through this gradually covering the whole surface of the Earth. It gives off radiation, which in the game universe is harnessed both for energy and as a weapon. In Verdu's words it is both "a gift and a curse — a resource and a plague". [7] [9]

Tiberium is extraterrestrial in origin and was introduced to the world through a meteorite impact near the Tiber river in Italy, in the year 1995. Exposure of human beings to Tiberium, which can be through touch or inhalation, either results in death or extreme mutation, the mechanism (or purpose) for the latter not being revealed in the game. Part of the game storyline comprises scientific speculation that an alien species is using Tiberium to terraform Earth to its own requirements. [8] This speculation is borne out in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars , when the alien force known as the Scrin arrive at Earth to mass-harvest Tiberium (which they name Ichor).

This effect on both humans and materials has consequences for harvesting. Unprotected infantry passing through a Tiberium deposit are at risk, both from direct exposure to Tiberium itself and thus conversion into Tiberium and from secondary radiation burns and radiation poisoning as others are contaminated and converted around them. Soldiers, tanks, and other vehicles in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars thus have protective shielding against Tiberium. However, this shielding is imperfect, since it simply slows down the process of conversion, it being based upon the fact that some materials take longer for Tiberium to convert than others (there are other shields against Tiberium. "Sonic resonators", devices that emit sound at particular frequencies, stop the spread of Tiberium and are used to ensure that Tiberium deposits there are contained). Partial contamination of a human, which can occur within 20 seconds, requires immediate treatment in properly equipped medical facilities. [10]

What happens if you're exposed to Tiberium? Nothing good. If you come into direct contact with Tiberium, the green matter will start to fuse with your skin within about 20 seconds. You'll feel an intense burning sensation, similar to touching a hot pan or spilling acid on your skin. A full blown infection will manifest if you aren't treated immediately. Your flesh will begin to take on a glassy-greenish appearance as it begins to crystallize; eventually your internal organs will shut down as Tiberium extends rigid crystalline runners throughout your body. If you breathe in the crystal, then it will become embedded in your lungs. You'll lose the ability to process oxygen as your lung tissue crystallizes. Eventually you'll start coughing up blood and will hemorrhage to death.
Mike Verdu, Living with Tiberium

Tiberium, is, in Verdu's words, a "simple" and an "elegant" piece of game design. It is a resource that drives both the overall storyline and the economy of actual gameplay. Its several properties, including the tradeoff between harvesting it and the damage that it does to infantry that come in contact with it, make game strategy more complex for players. Tiberium deposits provide focus points for conflict, and the depletion and regrowth of such deposits both controls the pace of game play and prevents a runaway economy. [10]


The Tacitus, in the Tiberium story arc of the Command & Conquer series, is an extraterrestrial data storage device containing information regarding Tiberium. It appears in Tiberium Sun, Tiberium Sun: Firestorm, Tiberium Wars, Kane's Wrath and Tiberium Twilight. Before Tiberian Twilight, it was a MacGuffin, a plot device to spark more conflict between the already warring factions as the player was required to capture or secure it. Nod and GDI both said that it was a crucial source of information about Tiberium but its existence had no tangible effect. In Tiberium Twilight, however, the Tacitus is used to build the Tiberium Control Network to tame the Tiberium and eventually reverse its wildfire growth.

The Tacitus is shown in the intro video of Tiberian Twilight; it is an orb roughly the size of a soccer ball. It is named after the Roman historian, Tacitus.

See also


  1. Pizer, Patricia; Lamothe, Andre; Barron, Todd (2001). Multiplayer Game Programming. Thomson Course Technology. p. 17. ISBN   0-7615-3298-6.
  2. Barron, Todd (2003). Strategy Game Programming With Directx 9.0. Wordware Publishing, Inc. p. 10. ISBN   1-55622-922-4.
  3. Bates, Bob (2001). Game Design: The Art & Business of Creating Games. Thomson Course Technology. p. 11. ISBN   0-7615-3165-3.
  4. Westwood Studios (1995). Command & Conquer. EVA: Tiberium is named after the Tiber river in Italy where it was first discovered. Kane: Discovered by the Brotherhood, that is. And I named it after Tiberius Drusus Ceasar.
  5. 1 2 Porter, Will. "Command & Conquer — Origins". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
  6. Mallinson, Paul (31 May 2002). "Games that changed the world: Command & Conquer". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 22 December 2006.
  7. 1 2 3 Adams, Dan (9 May 2006). "E3 2006: Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars Exclusive Interview". IGN.
  8. 1 2 Verdu, Mike (26 July 2006). "Command & Conquer 3 — Living With Tiberium". ign.com. IGN Entertainment, Inc.
  9. Azrai, Ahmad (25 March 2007). "Tiberian resurrection". Malay Mail .
  10. 1 2 Verdu, Mike (1 August 2006). "Command & Conquer 3 — Tiberium as a Game Resource". IGN.

Further reading