Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars Designer Diary #4 - Comparing the GDI and Nod Factions

The designers of Command & Conquer 3 compare the forces of the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod.


One of the highest-profile games of 2007 is Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, the first new chapter in the landmark real-time strategy game series since 2003's Command & Conquer Generals. And Tiberium Wars goes back to the series roots, as you'll get a chance to lead the forces of either the Global Defense Initiative, the evil Brotherhood of Nod, or a yet-to-be-revealed third faction in the battle for global supremacy. At your command will be armies filled with futuristic technology, such as stealth generators and lasers, and you'll be tasked with harvesting Tiberium (the main resource in the game), constructing a base to build units and research technology, and then building armies to crush your opponents. In this edition of our designer diaries, some of the key developers of Tiberium Wars discuss what makes the GDI and Nod factions so special.

Comparing the GDI and Nod

By Jason Bender, Greg Black, Jasen Torres, and Amer Ajami
EALA Development Team

GDI was forged out of an alliance of the modern military powers of the late 20th century. GDI believes in the tried-and-true method of deploying highly trained personnel with the most reliable and proven technology of the day. Heavily armored vehicles, high-tech aircraft, and cutting-edge space weapons allow GDI to establish a formidable presence on the field, but at the expense of agility. GDI armies look and feel familiar, but they allow you to live out the fantasy of next-generation warfare with futuristic military weaponry.

While the GDI is inspired by modern military equipment, the Nod is equipped with mechs and other futuristic weapons.
While the GDI is inspired by modern military equipment, the Nod is equipped with mechs and other futuristic weapons.

Most GDI players prefer solid head-on tactics that overwhelm the enemy. Very often GDI players will build a strong economy supporting a well-defended base. Offensive forays include massive armor forces and tank rushes that can smash anything in their path, with orca scout aircraft deployed to take out choice targets. The need for flanking and retreating is somewhat diminished by the heavy armor of the vehicles, but this comes at the cost of speed. Who has time to worry about that stuff anyway? Let the Nod raider buggies do donuts in the desert while GDI tanks roll directly into their base!

Another approach GDI players tend to embrace is the slow rolling artillery method. Juggernaut mobile artillery units with sniper spotters can deliver great damage over any range, allowing the GDI player to concentrate on protecting those vulnerable flanks. The GDI commando is especially dangerous, since just when most opponents feel they're getting the better of a GDI position, they will find the rug pulled out from under them by way of commando explosives. Simple, effective tools keep the worrying to a minimum and the impact at a maximum.

Players that tend to play GDI like to know what they're getting; commanders seeking reduced risk with predictable results. A platoon of mammoth tanks supported by dominant air power and support weapons will steamroll anything in the way. That can be expensive, but GDI players are comfortable with that. They like a robust economy with plenty of defenses. They don't like giving up ground once they've gained the territory. Big guns, big armor, and big bases mean a big win.

In other words: Who would choose to command the forces of GDI? Players who understand the value of overwhelming firepower. Players who appreciate a more-direct and methodical method of waging war. Players who seek total situational awareness. GDI learned the value of overwhelming force long ago and the faction has structured its military accordingly. GDI commanders tend to be pragmatic, direct, and decisive--the battlefield is no place for the indecisive. Using limited resources and technological prowess to their fullest, the GDI has fielded massive pieces of armor, from the iconic mammoth tank to the massive juggernaut artillery walkers. The focus on high-level training and force preservation is reflected in the elite nature of GDI infantry.

Intended for deployment in extremely hostile territory, a standard GDI rifle squad can handle massed hordes of poorly trained and ill equipped Nod militants. The GDI has mastered off-planet militarization, and can not only provide its commanders with a total overview of the battlefield, but can rain down destruction with its orbiting ion cannons. GDI's strategy and tactics can probably best be summed up with three words: local fire superiority.

What some of us enjoy most about playing GDI is using a slow, territory-controlling strategy. GDI has a good number of durable units such as the predator tank and zone trooper--a heavy infantry unit in power armor that's tougher than any of Nod's comparable units, and upgradeable to boot. When combined with a new unit that we call the rig, which has the ability to deploy into a forward battle base, these units can target key areas on a map and control them. Once this strategy is up and running, it's possible to focus on holding territory and pushing forward, slowly gaining ground and ensuring access to any tech buildings and addition Tiberium fields on the map. And once the important areas are held, we can concentrate on advancing technology back at the main base, building up to mammoth tanks and outfitting both types of tanks with the rail gun upgrade. This type of field strategy is slow and methodical, and when deployed well, really pushes the enemy back and makes them feel like their impending doom cannot be stopped.

And here's another take on GDI's strategy: defense. Many players, including some team members, use "turtling," a strategy that relies on defenses to protect the base and army they get built up. Of the game's three factions, GDI is easily the one that's most suited to turtlers. For instance, the GDI can build a refinery before queuing up a power plant, simply to kick-start the economy early. From there, we can build our power plant, which unlocks the anti-infantry watch tower. It's only at this point that we'll place a barracks and generate about four GDI rocket infantry who, along with existing base defenses, act as a small but effective force that can defend this fledgling base against any rushing infantry, engineers, or vehicles.

After that, GDI players can quickly tech up to mammoth tanks, which involves building a war factory, a command post, and a tech center. By the time we get around to our tech center, we can have built at least one more harvester, then purchase a second refinery, which brings the total number of harvesters out in the Tiberium fields up to three. We can also have spent a good chunk of funds on additional base defenses like the golem cannon and the gatling gun to defend against the mid- to late-game units that opponents will surely have at this point in the match. Lastly, we can spend another chunk of change for rail gun upgrades from the tech center, and more besides for mortars. The cost can be hard to swallow, but the upside is worth it--there aren't many units that can stand up to a fully-upgraded mammoth tank.

By now, our war factory is cranking out mammoth tanks at a snail's pace, which is why turtling players would want to build a second war factory by now to generate pitbull scouts and APCs in parallel. Mammoth tanks are extremely powerful, but they're slow and can easily be flanked by faster units. That's why it's not a good idea to take them out on the battlefield without an escort. Some GDI players will fly air cover over their mammoth forces, but it's possible to just use pitbulls that have been upgraded with mortars, as well as APCs that are carrying zone troopers.

When we have about four of each, we can take them out of the base as a single control group, and using the game's move-in-formation command, we can simply mow down anything that stands in the way. Like a lawnmower. These dozen units will do some serious damage and even take out a significant port of an opponent's base before they're defeated by an overwhelming force of units. Of course, by the time that happens, there'll be another group of mammoth tanks right behind them.

The Brotherhood

The appeal of Nod is completely different than that of the GDI. With Nod, bad is good...especially when bad gets all the best toys. At a glance, Nod appears to offer style over substance. Why fight a battle when you can't go toe-to-toe with the heavily armored tanks of GDI? The trick is to never fight fair. Nod was formed in hiding, and has taken those lessons with it. It also has the added advantages of super-science and extremist loyalty.

The GDI can call in massive units, such as the juggernaut artillery walker.
The GDI can call in massive units, such as the juggernaut artillery walker.

Nod players look for underhanded tactics that can trick and confound their opponents into showing weaknesses. To this end, Nod has a wide variety of tricks to discover and exploit the gaps in GDI's armor. Nod deploys a wide variety of stealth units that circumvent defenses and knock out crucial structures in opposing bases to pave the way for direct assault. Vertigo bombers can hand-pick targets and return to base without drawing fire from enemy forces. Waves of infantry rush over the battlefield and tie down enemy forces while high-impact units circle around to undefended targets. The best defense is a good offense, so Nod weapons deliver plenty of damage from high-speed platforms. The faction's most expensive weaponry, such as the obelisk of light, can deliver incredible damage relative to Nod's overall appearance of light armor.

Nod players tend to revel in the knowledge that their opponent's head is spinning. They enjoy throwing a wide variety of weapons into the fray to keep their enemies on their heels. Nod players know that if they control the pace of the match, they can surgically dissect even the most fortified positions and massive tank armies. Their dastardly tactics can easily draw attention to a particular location while they knife their enemies in the back with the real threat. The perception of weakness is a weapon for Nod players, and they enjoy knowing that their opponents are never quite sure when the real attack is coming. These players are often adept at micro-management and will drive circles around their enemies given the chance.

To put it another way: Who would choose to command the forces of Nod? Player who understand the value of stealth, surprise, and indirect strategy. Players who will sacrifice everything for victory. Players who revel in the challenge of waging an asymmetrical war. Viewed through the lens of traditional military thinking, the Brotherhood of Nod appears to be at a disadvantage regarding its GDI opponents. Thusly, Nod has sought to use speed and stealth to counter GDI's masssive force, using GDI's own lumbering weight against it.

To rise up through the ranks of the Brotherhood, a Nod commander must be fanatically loyal, strategically insidious, and downright ruthless in practice. The Brotherhood is willing to sacrifice anything to succeed, even the lives of its own men. This is most terrifyingly embodied with the avatar warmech unit, which is designed to "consume" fellow Nod units in order to enhance and upgrade its own weapon systems.

Another area where Nod has maintained an advantage is stealth technology, countering GDI's overwhelming situational awareness with near invisibility. Along with disruptor towers, stealth field generators, stealth bombers, and the infamous stealth tanks, Nod can strike unexpectedly at anywhere and at any time.

Nod really is a completely different animal than GDI, and that's not a bad thing; These forces excel at stealth, trickery, and hit-and-run tactics. When Nod, one good strategy is throwing fast-moving scorpion tanks and attack bikes into the fray quickly to harass enemy bases. It's also good to alternate with some saboteurs to capture a building or shadow special forces units to take out some base defenses. With the enemy distracted, we can then concentrate on researching stealth tanks and vertigo bombers; both units employ stealth technology that makes them hard to track down and target. When we have enough of both of these units to do some real damage, we can employ a series of hit-and-run attacks on multiple fronts. Just throw whatever scorpion tanks and attack bikes we might have left at one part of our opponent's base, stealth tanks at another location, and when the enemy is busy and distracted, we can swoop in with our vertigo bombers and take out something critical. Out of nowhere, a seemingly small skirmish that looks manageable becomes a crippling blow.

Here's another approach. Whereas playing as GDI is often a race for mammoth tanks for defensive players, some Nod players on the development team tend to take their time and make use of a wider variety of units when playing Nod. The faction isn't very good at turtling, so we can instead quickly build up a small force of scorpion tanks and raider buggies to harass our opponents. Build times on all Nod units are faster than their GDI counterparts, which makes it easier to capture tech structures on the battlefield. Unfortunately, many Nod units can't survive a toe-to-toe battle with their GDI counterparts, so this kind of strategy may cause Nod players to rebuild a lot of the same units over and over.

While early-game units keep the opponent distracted, we can tech up to flame tanks and stealth tanks--two very powerful units indeed. Stealth tanks require constant attention, but they can be absolutely deadly when used properly. We can park three of four in enemy Tiberium fields, wait for our opponent's harvester to return, then ambush it and make a hasty escape. If we can successfully do this two or three times, we can slow down our opponent's economy to buy enough time to research the ultimate Nod weapon, the avatar warmech.

These walking robots are the most versatile units in the game because of their ability to grab existing weapons from other units and make them as their own. We can sacrifice a few of our own flame tanks and stealth tanks to equip our avatars with a deadly flamethrower and make them invisible. Few things are more satisfying than sneaking a handful of these walkers into an enemy base and watching them wreak absolute havoc.

And things get really interesting when you add our new, third faction. But that's a topic for next time.

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