The real-time strategy genre as we know it today--gathering resources, building bases, and massing huge armies to sweep your opponent from the map--owes a lot to Command & Conquer. The original Command & Conquer was one of the first true real-time strategy games, as well as one of the best games ever made. So it's little wonder why strategy fans are looking forward to Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, which is due out in March. Set in a war-torn future, Tiberium Wars will once again pit the forces of the noble Global Defense Initiative against the evil Brotherhood of Nod. However, developer EA Los Angeles is introducing a new alien faction to really shake things up. The existence of this faction was only recently revealed, but even then, details such as the faction's name and background were kept a secret. That is, until now. In this edition of our designer diaries, executive producer Mike Verdu gives us an introduction. So let's meet the aliens.
Meet the Scrin
By Mike Verdu
Executive Producer, EALA
In the dark future contemplated by Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, the world has been torn by conflict for almost 50 years as two factions battle for control of the planet. An alliance of advanced nations known as the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) has been locked in a long twilight struggle with the Brotherhood of Nod (Nod), a stateless superpower that is a strange mix of terrorist organization, religion, popular movement, and corporation. Meanwhile, the Earth is being consumed by Tiberium, a green crystal of extraterrestrial origin that is both a gift and a curse. Tiberium is a source of unlimited energy, but it is also the worst environmental disaster in history. Left unchecked, Tiberium would eventually wipe out all life on Earth.
The simmering conflict between GDI and Nod has flared into a global firestorm three times, and it is in 2047, during the third and most violent of these Tiberium Wars, that the world will change forever. Humanity will discover that it's not alone in the universe, and that it's not the only race fighting for Tiberium. With Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, we are introducing a new faction: an alien race called the Scrin. This is the first time we've officially confirmed the identity of our aliens in print--we've kept the name of the new faction under wraps for months.
The Scrin have actually been in our solar system for many centuries, concealed behind an asteroid beyond the orbit of Neptune, their ships dormant and their crews in suspended animation. They waited quietly as the human race fought its way out of the dark ages and climbed the ladder of civilization. They waited as the first radio waves were broadcast into space, the first nuclear weapon was used in anger, and the first primitive human spacecraft were launched into low Earth orbit. They waited for a signal, a blast of radiation that finally arrives just as the intensity of the Third Tiberium War on Earth reaches its peak. When the signal is confirmed, the onboard artificial intelligence systems begin bringing the huge alien vessels to life, waking up the crews, and setting a course for Earth.
When the Scrin arrive on Earth, they land in the Tiberium-infested wastelands designated as Red Zones by GDI. Vast Scrin armies pour out of the Red Zones and engage GDI and Nod indiscriminately with seemingly overwhelming force. At first, there doesn't seem to be a pattern to the alien assault. Later, GDI realizes that the Scrin aren't really interested in the human race. They're here because of the Tiberium on Earth. The game story will unravel some of the mystery surrounding the arrival of these aliens and their relationship with the green crystal. Many questions will be answered, and others will almost certainly be raised--we've made sure that the mythology surrounding Tiberium and the Scrin runs very deep.
While GDI and Nod have a mix of new and classic units, the Scrin faction is all new. We created them from the ground up to give Command & Conquer players cool new units, structures, and strategies. This new faction is where we've been able to bring some innovations in unit design and gameplay to life.
Basic Scrin units include swarms of flying razor blades called buzzers, which serve as the frontline infantry; hordes of disintegrator drones, which use short-range laser-cutting torches to disassemble enemy units; insect-like shock troopers; and vehicles such as the seeker tank, which fires plasma bursts at vehicles and aircraft. Midgame units like the liquid-Tiberium-spewing corrupter and the Tiberium-guzzling devourer tank make life interesting for GDI and Nod players, as the Scrin player techs up to gain access to his or her powerful late-game units.
The late game is where the Scrin really come to life, fielding advanced units that can dominate the battlefield and are--not coincidentally--totally fun to play with. There's the annihilator tripod, a huge combat walker with three independently targeted beam weapons on flexible Medusa-like stalks. Or, the devastator warship, an enormous flying artillery unit that can blast a base to pieces with its long-range plasma weapons. Or, the planetary assault carrier, a vast flying battle platform with swarms of smaller fighters that can independently engage many targets on the ground.
On the very high end is the mothership. This city-sized ship flies very, very slowly, but if a Scrin player can move it into position over an enemy base, it is game over. Specialized infantry include the assimilator--basically an engineer--and the mastermind, a nasty high-end unit capable of teleporting allied units from place to place and taking over and directing enemy units and structures.
Scrin technology is very advanced. Their base production structures work by bending space and time to allow reinforcements to warp in from other locations, including Scrin ships in orbit and other bases on Earth. This technology finds its highest expression in the rift generator, a superweapon that creates a rift in space-time over a target zone that sucks in enemy units and structures and warps them into orbit. The Scrin also have a very special relationship with Tiberium, and many of their units, weapons, and special abilities rely on the use of the green crystal.
Scrin powers include the ability to project force fields around their units, phase them partly into another dimension to reduce their vulnerability to enemy fire, and summon powerful ion storms. Some of the larger Scrin units like the planetary assault carrier can also summon ion storms, giving buffs to nearby flying units.
We really feel that the third faction in Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars adds tremendous depth to both the fiction and gameplay. The arrival of the Scrin is not just a classic third-act reversal in the game's story, but it's also an event that dramatically expands the Command & Conquer universe. On the battlefield, the Scrin have their own unique style of play that complements that of GDI and Nod. They also have a collection of units and structures that are a blast to play with.