Typically green, Tiberium is named after the place of its initial discovery on the River Tiber (although Kane claims that he himself discovered it, and named it after Julius Caesar Drusus, the disinherited son of Tiberius). Tiberium leeches metals and other heavy minerals out of the soil, concentrating them in crystals which can be easily collected and processed. The leeching process leaves the landscape depleted, leaving the ground underneath effectively useless for agriculture.
In the story line, it is treated as a valuable resource, and is the principal source of money in-game. Harvesters (large, heavily armoured vehicles with specialised equipment) collect the crystal by sweeping it up from the ground. The crystal's growth speed and amounts of materials it contains depends on variables such as soil conditions, moisture, yearly-average temperature, and local weather.
The original inspiration for Tiberium comes from the 1957 B-movie "The Monolith Monsters".
Tiberium first reached Earth during a meteor shower in the 1990s. The first patch was discovered by Dr. Ignatio Mobius (although some would argue that it was actually Kane himself) by the Tiber river in Italy and has since spread all over the planet.
Tiberium can spread almost anywhere, with the rate of spread being influenced by soil density and ambient temperature. Only the polar caps show low levels of Tiberium infestation. Tiberium spreads through a variety of methods, depending on the local environment.
No matter how small, an isolated patch of Tiberium can spread to cover acres. The process is not entirely understood, but it is believed that a patch of Tiberium will release underground shoots in every direction, which will then grow into Tiberium proper. In this way, the amount of Tiberium in an area will increase exponentially. In-game, Tiberium patches can be completely de-'forested', but can grow back if even the smallest amount of Tiberium remains. Some of the immature Tiberium sprites are fairly non-descript, allowing the illusion that Tiberium is growing from out of nowhere.
A more disturbing method of Tiberium growth is witnessed when the area Tiberium is in has any sort of foliage, such as trees or bushes. Through an unexplained mutagenic process, Tiberium alters these trees into "Blossom Trees", or Tiberium Ripariuses. These "trees" are fleshy stalks with a large bulb at the top. The bulb regularly contracts and relaxes, releasing microscopic Tiberium crystals into the atmosphere. As long as there is a Blossom Tree in an area, Tiberium will constantly regrow around the tree. Most attempts at injuring or removing Blossom trees have been ineffective.
Tiberium Vinifera, the highly combustible blue-coloured Tiberium variant, has its own specific form of spread. If a large enough patch of Vinifera grows to maturity, the crystals will meld together into a massive blue crystal, roughly 10 meters high. These large Vinifera masses act similarly to Blossom Trees (it is unknown how), but at a much slower pace. These crystals are very volatile, and if a vehicle manages to be destroyed over a patch of Viniferia, it will start a slow chain reaction. The crystals will catch fire and then explode after a short time, and some small pieces of debris will land on other areas and catch them on fire and so on, until very little of the original patch remains.
By the 2040s, 30% of the Earth's surface (designated as 'Red Zones') has been rendered completely inhospitable to carbon-based life (though not to mutated, Tiberium-based life). A further 50% ('Yellow Zones') is severely afflicted and war torn, yet home to most of the world's population; while the remaining 20% ('Blue Zones') is relatively untouched. Much of GDI's efforts are focused toward the conversion of Yellow Zones into Blue Zones, and the complete sterilization of Red Zones.
Tiberium first appears as manhole-sized lumps of rock or soil. As these lumps expand, the top of the lump pulls away, to reveal immature crystal formations. As the patch of Tiberium grows, both the lump of rock and crystal grow rapidly. The typical mature Tiberium crystal is roughly 1 to 2 meters tall.
The color of the crystals is dependent on the amount and concentration of minerals that the Tiberium has leeched from the soil.
It appears to require both warmth and moisture to grow quickly, as it will grow much slower in deserts and polar regions.
Effect on organic matter
Outcroppings of Tiberium release odorless gasses as they appear. While Tiberium was originally considered harmless (and perhaps even beautiful to some due to its unearthly shimmering sparkles), these fumes will heavily poison any human that ventures through it.
Long-term low-level exposure to Tiberium causes illness of various systems amongst all terrestrial life. As the exact mutagenic means by which Tiberium affects terrestrial biology are largely unknown, treatment is generally restricted to alleviating the symptoms rather than curing the cause. Unfortunately, this means that victims of Tiberium poisoning almost uniformly experience a gradual decline over a number of years until eventually succumbing to the effects. A research study funded by GDI that was conducted during the First Tiberium War produced the following statistics:
|Immune system ailments||14,681,994||29,377,224|
Long-term mid- to high-level exposure to Tiberium can result in effects that reveal an alarming aspect of the mineral/life-form: Tiberium is a mutagen. Furthermore, it is unlike any terrestrial mutagen, it can cause quick evolution in the infected being.
Generally, exposure to Tiberium (either a single heavy exposure or a long-term light exposure) will cause death by some form of total system failure.
What was not initially apparent, however, were the intra-organism mutations that could cause subtle mutations seen only within a few generations of exposure. The growth of Tiberium crystals on the skin and flesh, increased resistance to the effects of Tiberium poisoning, and even the ability of tissues to achieve accelerated cellular regeneration when in the presence of Tiberium were only known to Nod researchers.
When exposed to very high concentrations of Tiberium, such as while passing through an area of dense Tiberium growth without protective apparatus, the short-term effects of Tiberium poisoning are immediately experienced by individuals. If an individual dies from such exposure, irregular Tiberium mutation can sometimes result. This mutation causes the individual's body to literally break down into a somewhat inside-out, amoeboid organism. These are known as "visceroids", with the strange tendency to "bleed" fluids in both gaseous and liquid forms. Visceroids tend to feed upon nearby sources of Tiberium, or, if available, they will attempt to digest organic matter of vaguely similar genetic composition to the host organism that preceded them.
Interestingly, plants seemed more susceptible to viable mutations than animals and humans, with the 'blossom trees' being an early-recognised example of such mutation in plants.
Tiberium as a terraforming agent
The most common belief held on the nature of Tiberium both in-game and in player speculation is that the crystal is a terraforming agent of the alien race known as the Scrin. All evidence of the Scrin shows that they are a Tiberium-based lifeform with control over Tiberium mutations. The most obvious sign of these abilities is the Tacitus, a computer-like Scrin device that can control the mutations and contains great information on them. Furthermore that EA has announced in the upcoming Command and Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars the Scrin race will not be damaged by Tiberium unlike the NOD and GDI footsoldiers.
If this is true, these are the assumed goals of Tiberium from the Scrin point of view:
- Deposition - The Scrin seed the intended world with Tiberium.
- Exploration - Beings on the intended world discover Tiberium and spread it by contact from place to place, acting as carrier agents.
- Conflict - The invasion and alteration of native environments by Tiberium causes a scramble amongst native species to survive the potentially toxic effects and escape to unaffected areas, thus spreading the contaminant over a much wider range and confining possible native resistants to limited areas.
- Mutation - Tiberium forcefully mutates planetary flora and fauna, changing the environment into something more conducive to colonisation by Tiberium-based lifeforms, such as Scrin.
- Colonisation - Scrin invade after the intended planet is sufficiently mutated. Scrin dominate the new ecosystem, to which they should be more or less familiar, but which will be unstable in and of itself due to the rapidity of the vast enhancements made to the planetary sphere.
A developer's diary that was recently released detailed Tiberium and most interestingly states that 'Red Zones are like the surface of an alien world. Scientists have speculated that Tiberium is actually a terraforming agent for an alien civilization, slowly transforming our world into an environment suitable for beings that have evolved on a different planet. No definitive conclusions have been reached.' This further reinforces belief on Tiberium being a terraforming agent of the Scrin. Some more technically-minded players have speculated that Tiberium may be a form of mature Molecular Nanotechnology, which could explain its complex, extremely particular behaviour (which would have been unlikely by natural accident), and would explain its deliberate employment as a terraforming agent.
The recent revelation of an alien race, the Scrin, in Tiberium Wars seems to support this theory.
- "Molecularly, it is a non-carbon-based element. It appears to have strong ferrous qualities with non-resonating reversible energy that has a tendency to disrupt carbon-based molecular structures with inconsequent in unequal positrons orbiting on the first, second and ninth quark rings."- Dr Ignatio Mobius
For the latest Command & Conquer installment, Tiberium Wars, Tiberium has undergone several changes (No Pods, basic assimilation besides the normal mutation, resulting in crystallized humans) which have been the subject of much discussion in the fan community. The following is the most recent in-character explanation of Tiberium:
- "...The significance of the heavy particles within Tiberium's crystal lattice is that they are the key to the matter transmutation process - Tiberium's most interesting property. Because of the high mass and energy of these particles, when Tiberium comes into contact with other matter, the particles at the boundaries of its lattice randomly collide with the nuclei of the target matter, smashing it to pieces (in the case of smaller nuclei), or incrementally knocking protons or neutrons off (in the case of heavier nuclei). Somehow, the Tiberium is able to capture a fraction of the protons and/or neutrons that are ejected during this collision process and incorporate them into its own structure, thus growing. Whenever a muon or tauon collides with an atomic nucleus, fission occurs, which results in the random production of alpha, beta and gamma radiation, as well as other forms of electromagnetic radiation (such as 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. The result is a complete elemental transformation."--The C&C Science Bible (EALA)
- Tiberium composition
It should be noted that the composition of the crystals varies based on where they are growing and is therefore not a constant.
- Tiberium gas composition
- Tiberium Spore Tree (also known as Blossom Tree) - A mutated tree that puffs out spores that quickly grow into green Tiberium crystals in the immediate vicinity.
- Tiberium Riparius - referred to as green Tiberium for its color, this variant of Tiberium has a low level of leeched minerals and is therefore the least valuable resource in-game, albeit the most common.
- Tiberium Vinifera - referred to as blue Tiberium for its color, it leeches minerals from the soil in high concentrations, making it more valuable in-game. It grows at a slower rate than green Tiberium but is volatile and prone to explode when fired upon or struck by shrapnel or lightning, and is rare compared to green Tiberium.
- Vinifera Monolith - A massive blue crystal form of Tiberium that functions like a spore tree but rather than spreading Tiberium Riparius, it spreads Tiberium Vinifera.
Note - large areas of green or blue Tiberium with the appropriate proliferator (blossom tree or Vinifera crystal) at the center is colloquially referred to as a "Tiberium field". The above varieties are the only types harvestable for commercial gain.
- Tiberium Cruentus - a large version of the Vinifera Monolith. It is not harvestable, but it is highly explosive. It is called 'Cruentus' meaning blood-red, even though the crystal itself is dark blue.
- Tiberium Veins/Veinhole Monster - Perhaps the oddest Tiberium being, the Veinhole Monster is simply a massive mouth-like orifce in the ground, with many orange tendrils flowing outwardly from the mouth. These tendrils harm anything larger than a human beings. Their only use in-game is for a super-weapon used by the Botherhood of Nod.
- Tiberium Aboreus - An unknown kind of Tiberium, unlikely to be noticed by players due to it sharing the graphics for blue-colored Tiberium. Basically, it appears as blue Tiberium in-game, but it has a different value. This is hard to notice. Fans editing the game have been able to bring this back as a new kind altogether with the use of a modification.
- Tiberium Gas - This is a dangerous form of Tiberium which forms toxic clouds. It is often observed being emitted by Veinhole Monsters and Tiberium Floaters. The gas quickly mutates or kills infantry and heavily damages cyborgs and mutants, and in larger concentrations can cause heavy damage to structures and vehicles.
- Unknown Strain (Cruentus) - This new strain of Tiberium is not actually used in the game, apart from a few appearances that are not of great significance. It appears the designers cut this type of Tiberium altogether, not implementing a spreading and harvesting mechanism, making it worthless.
- Tiberium Algae - Tiberium colonies that extended from either Riparius or Vinifera on the seafloor to the surface by strands. The Tiberium poisons and clogs waterways. By the time of the second Tiberian War, most of the oceans have been covered by this unhelpful variant of Tiberium which makes travel by ship impossible. Unlike land-based types, this form of Tiberium does not leech any units. It also does not affect gameplay save as a lore-based reason for a lack of seafaring units.
- Tiberium "Creep" - A sludge/moss form of Tiberium in blue and green variations which marginally slow down travel but are otherwise unobtrusive.
- Visceroid - Originally discovered during the First Tiberium War, the Visceroids are reddish-purple masses of organic matter, which defend themselves by shooting out sprays of Tiberium gas. During the Second Tiberium War, visceroids changed into pinkish/flesh colored masses of organic matter which strike at enemies with pseudopodia. Visceroids are spawned when Tiberium concentration has reached saturation in an organic body. Immature visceroids, found later during the Second Tiberium War, are smaller and tend to be non-hostile. However, when two or more of these visceroids merge, they become extremely dangerous. It is believed that within the fledgling Tiberium ecology that spawned them, these life forms act as the "white blood cells" erasing potential threats to the ecosystem. Closer inspection reveals some traits of the original organism that produced them. These include misappropriated eyes and mouth periodically appearing on the creature. In Command & Conquer: Renegade, enemies exposed to large amounts of Tiberium may suddenly mutate into visceroids. Visceroids, like all Tiberium-based lifeforms, are capable of rapid cell regeneration when exposed to the effects of Tiberium radiation.
- Mutant Humans - As Tiberium spread closer and closer to populated areas, many people began suffering from varying degrees of Tiberium mutation. Many of these unfortunate people have Tiberium crystals in their flesh, and most likely will some day no longer be human. Most of these mutants consider themselves as "The Forgotten", as many of these civilians were initially ignored by GDI and forcefully studied on by Nod during the events and aftermath of the First Tiberium War. They are often referred to as "Shiners" due to the Tiberium crystals that protrude from their skin. Other than the crystals on their skin and their rapid cell regeneration however, mutants appear to have no other difference to humans, the psychological and behavioral side-effects of the subject's mutation being apparently minimal. Artificial mutants produced by Nod during the First Tiberium War, however, exhibited inhuman strength, endurance, resilience, data processing capabilities and, in Raveshaw's case, a reduced intellect. These first mutants were created by Nod's Tiberium experiments, a project named 'Re-Genesis' (which means rebirth and follows the line of Tiberium-related divination that Nod preaches). Codenamed "Initiates", these mutants were stronger than any bodybuilder and had a basic understanding of weaponry.
- Tiberian Fiend - The 'fiend' is a horse-sized animal, resembling a terran dog. The flesh is blackish or red, and the back is covered with Tiberium Crystals. It is believed Tiberium fiends were actually once dogs. The fiends can launch these crystals at enemies, causing both damage as well as Tiberium poisoning. Often, they bury themselves in Tiberium fields (the Tiberium on their backs concealing them) and lay in wait to attack Tiberium Harvesters. They do react to perceived acts of kindness, and The Forgotten have been able to actually "tame" a significant number of them for use as watchdogs.
- Tiberian Floater - Looks like a large, hovering/floating, greenish/yellowish jellyfish. It can build up an electric charge in its tentacles to zap threats. The Tiberium floater can release Tiberium gas to propel itself, as a way for movement. Note that, even though they float in the air, they are considered ground units in combat. In-game, all floaters recover hit points while above Tiberium field.
Though limited in variety, Tiberian flora has been exhibited throughout the Commander & Conquer universe:
- Blossom Tree - Sometimes referred to as the Tiberium Spore Tree and officially called "Tiberium Riparius" by the game. Blossom Trees are born when normal trees come into prolonged contact with Tiberium. Once contact is made, the tree will slowly die. When it is a withered husk, a blossom will move from the roots up to the top, bursting out from underneath. The tree will also develop fleshy organic parts over time. Blossom trees' main purpose are the proliferation of Tiberium through periodically releasing Tiberium spores to the surrounding area. When these spores land on the ground, a new Tiberium field will begin forming. Blossom trees can spread green Tiberium at an alarming rate, and are known to sprout from any type of tree species.
- Tiberium Plants - These plants have not been given names. They are largely ignored, because they do not actually add to the gameplay, apart from creating additional atmosphere and decoration on the battlefield. The scientific background is that they release Tiberium gas and add to the suspected terraforming process of Tiberium. These plants come in both blue and green variants and grow either on the Tiberium creep, or on terrain soil. Some of these plants can respond to their surroundings and threats. Strangely enough, something that looks like a Tiberium-mutated plant (possibly a bonsai tree) can be found on a coffee table in the Cairo Temple in Command and Conquer:Renegade.