Command & Conquer fans spent over a decade wondering whether a mysterious, poorly-rendered tile depicted a crashed UFO. Now, with the release of the remaster of the seminal real-time strategy game, they can see this infamous UFO tile clearly for the first time.
Mission three of the GDI campaign contains an odd-looking tile west of the cliff in the starting area. In the 1995 game, this pixelated piece of virtual battlefield was difficult to identify. Players thought it looked like a crashed UFO, or a Scrin ship (in Command & Conquer, the Scrin are a technologically advanced race suspected to have originally seeded Earth with Tiberium using a meteor). And so for years the tile was thought to be some sort of alien craft.
But it is not a UFO - at least, it was not meant to be. In 2007, 12 years after Command & Conquer came out, developers at Petroglyph, the studio founded by former staff at original developer Westwood Studios and developer of the remaster, revealed the tile was in fact meant to depict a helicopter crash.
"The artist that created that particular piece and I had a talk about this very issue once, so I'm simply relaying what he told me about it," Adam Isgreen, who was a designer at Westwood Studios and now works at Microsoft on Age of Empires, revealed on the Petroglyph forum 13 years ago (redditor Nyerguds rounded up all the relevant comments in a useful post on the Command & Conquer subreddit dated one year ago).
"It's the canopy of a wrecked helicopter.
"He was very amused by all the theories as to just exactly what it really was, but it isn't a UFO or a Scrin ship. It's a helicopter canopy. It was there since C&C (DOS)."
Brilliantly, the Nintendo 64 version of Command & Conquer, which came out in 1999, remodelled the tile as a tiny spaceship because, according to former Westwood senior artist Joseph B. Hewitt IV, "the artist that did the conversion just went off what the terrain art looked like."
"I'm sure he didn't have any idea either," Hewitt revealed in the same 2007 thread on Petroglyph's forum.
"I think that all might have been outsourced but I could be wrong. I remember touching up some of the interface art, but don't remember anything about who did the terrain, buildings and units."
Now, with the release of the Command & Conquer remaster, we can see this tile redone by Petroglyph - and it looks like the canopy of a crashed helicopter, as originally intended.
But the tile's origins as a supposed mystery UFO crash site - one that went unexplained for 13 years - have not been forgotten. And so, perhaps inevitably, a modder has tweaked the Command & Conquer remaster so this re-done tile is re-done as a crashed UFO, as people thought it was 25 years ago.
Steam Workshop user NightShadow02, alongside redditor Nyerguds created the UFO Tile mod as a "silly and glorious piece of misinformation". The Command & Conquer community has taken notice, and is having fun with it.
"I always thought that thing was a toilet tbh," wrote redditor Odarien.