Solving BioWare’s Code: Mass Or Steel?


BioWare have just tweeted a barcode. Scanning it, it reveals the numbers 001101010011010100101110001110000011010000110101. Decoding that we’re left with 55.845, which is, as you’ll all be shouting at your monitor, the atomic weight of iron. And iron makes steel. And steel is a word in “Shattered Steel”. And Shattered Steel is a 1996 BioWare game about battling mechs. And BioWare are announcing a new game this Saturday. Any other thoughts? (Alec is the genius behind this, but give me the glory anyway.) And now there’s more…

A second tweeted barcode gives us -128.5 Fahrenheit, which is the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth, in Vostok, Antarctica, 21st July 1983. A temperature cold enough to cause steel to shatter? Or as Alec also adds, there’s a system in Mass Effect 1 called Vostok. And Vostok 1 was the first manned space flight.

If this is building up to announcing Mass Effect 3, we’re flying to Canada to slap them all around the back of the knees.


  1. int says:

    The best game you never played.

  2. brian says:

    What you’re missing is that Shattered Steel has the initials SS.

    BioWare has secretly been creating a game that glorifies the most evil Nazis to ever walk the earth!!!!! Down with Bioware!!

    • wiper says:

      I knew those doctors weren’t trustworthy from the first day I laid eyes on them!

    • BigJonno says:

      What, as opposed to glorifying the sweet, cuddly Nazis? ;)

    • Antsy says:

      Nonsense. They’re glorifying the works of Stephen Sondheim.

    • Oak says:

      It was the next step after Gilbert & Sullivan.

    • Jim9137 says:

      It’s actually Silent Storm: The ActionRPG!

      I’m still a dreamer.

    • Superbest says:

      Many Nazis went into hiding in Argnetina. Soccer is popular in Argentina. There is apparent correlation of toxoplasma infection and soccer performance, which leaves biologists stumped. Biology is referenced in Bioware’s name. Names identify objects. A game disc is an object. Disc are flat, 2D. Biowares earlier games are known for extremely artful 2D visuals. Vision is the primary sense for most people. Computers or consoles may lack sound, force feedback, and so on, but they always display visual data. A computer is a kind of electronic object developed in the last century. The last century saw the birth of spaceflight. Mass Effect featured interstellar travel. Travel is often a perilous business, with attacks by roving bandits or wild animals presenting hazards, as well as getting lost. The Neverwinter Nights games, by Bioware, had random encounters during travel…

      Oh boy, I can do this all day.

  3. Baka says:

    Apparently there’s a minivideo to it?
    link to

    It’s just “Es tut ich leid” for my country though, so no idea what’s in it besides a man aiming a gun (In a maybe futuristic, mech-battling world?).

    edit: woops, didn’t check the frontpage enough, sorry.

    • Whelp says:

      “Es tut ich leid” is not actually good German.

      That would translate as “Me am sorry”…

    • Ghost of Grey Cap says:

      Es tut mir leit.

    • mike says:

      “Es tut mir leid”, sheesh.

    • Wahngrok says:

      I’m in Germany and get “This video is not available in your country”. Well isn’t it ironic…

  4. Tyrmot says:

    I like ‘mechs.

  5. MacBeth says:

    Or they are going to announce iRon, a new haircut-computer game where the player must face off against Perlman, Paul, Howard and eventually Hubbard in the boss fight…

  6. solipsistnation says:

    I know, I know!

    GUNS are made of steel!

  7. Hunam says:

    If the game has giant robots in it I’ll buy it day 1.

  8. Bhazor says:

    Clearly they’re bringing back Barcode Battler.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Glad I’m not the only one that remembers that!

      I had begun to think it was a figment of my fevered imagination…

    • J-Spoon says:

      I’m glad that they’ve modernized the engine to use contemporary QR codes, I think the step up from regular bar-type will be really good for the franchise.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Oh how I loved my barcode battler. It made the weekly trip to Tesco not only bearable but actually fun.

    • Vvartesz says:

      I think there’s an app called “Barcode Beasties” for the android, which seems to be a modern version of it.

  9. Quasar says:

    Quinns will be pleased.

    • The Innocent says:

      Unless it turns out to be an ironic Charlie Brown-Lucy-football moment and the instant he has the iron it shatters.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Actually, I think this whole code (I wouldnt call it a bar code) is actually taunting Quinns.

  10. Whiskey Jak says:

    As reported on joystiq, the gun in the teaser looks awfully as one of ME2 guns and I’m not an expert (far from it) but couldn’t “atomic weight” be changed to “mass” as in “Mass Effect” of course (again from joystiq)?

    • Unaco says:

      Weight != Mass.

      Mass is the amount of matter, and is constant for a body.

      Weight is the force of a given mass due to gravity, and so can change as gravity affecting a body changes.

    • Somnimental says:

      Also you can start Mass Effect 3 as non-Shephard (as they’ve stated previously) so perhaps that’s just the filler character if you died in the last battle. Hmm I haven’t done that yet. Anyone else got a clue?

    • nikos says:

      @Unaco: yes, but *atomic* weight is (a kind of) mass and has nothing to do with gravity.

    • Vinraith says:


      Correct, except that atomic weight IS mass (the “weight” part is a misnomer here). The units on the value in question (55.845) are grams per mole, and grams are a unit of mass, not weight.

    • TeeJay says:

      “the ratio of the average mass of atoms of an element to 1/12 of the mass of an atom of carbon-12”

      edit: “…a dimensionless physical quantity…”

    • Unaco says:

      Apologies then… It has been a long time since I studied Chemistry. I was never taught “Atomic Weight”… it was always “Relative Atomic Mass” for me. The use of “weight” in there threw me off… I assumed it was referring to a weight, not a mass

    • Vinraith says:


      It’s just bad terminology, certainly not your fault for not knowing.

    • Whiskey Jak says:

      Sources are now saying that this is a multiplayer only game developed at Bioware Montreal.

  11. Slink says:

    They just tweeted another barcode, which translates to “-128.5°F”. What’s that mean?

    • Rich says:

      Besides being in stupid units, I can’t find anything.

    • Faldrath says:

      -128F is -89C, which, when googled, gave me “the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth”.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Lowest recorded natural temperature in history.

      In Antartica.

      DUN DUN DUN.

    • doeke says:

      That’s the temperature at which nitrous oxide liquifies. (Also, comments are not working?)

    • Faldrath says:

      -128.5F is -89C, which, when googled, gave me “the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth”.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth, in Vostok, Antarctica, 21st July 1983”

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Antartica is what it means.

      EDIT: I spelled Antarctica wrong.

    • Rich says:

      “The lowest temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth was −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184 K)”

      That would be why I couldn’t find it. BioWare don’t know how to round -128.56 °F.

    • Rich says:

      My comments keep getting eaten, so I’ll keep this brief:
      Apparently the lowest recorded temperature is -128.6F, rather than -128.5F. Bioware seem not to know that -128.56F should be rounded up.

      Admittedly, this comment hardly seems worth the effort now.

    • TheTingler says:

      Why did you edit your post to say you spelled Antarctica wrong when you could’ve just edited the word so it was spelled correctly?

    • jeremypeel says:

      Because there are no secrets here. Our past mistakes stand proud alongside our proudest comments.

    • Pianosaurus says:

      @Rich: Actually, you round down from -128.56F to -128.6F. Behold my ultimate cosmic pedantry!

  12. Alteisentier says:

    That’s the Incisor snipe rifle! I’m telling you!

    But oh god, I’d kill for a new Shattered Steel game ):

  13. Conge says:

    missingno spin-off confirmed

  14. mandrill says:

    Shattered Steel ressurected as a ME spin-off/sequel?

    • mandrill says:

      This might be a bit lateral, but Steel becomes brittle at -20 C (-4F) so the lowest temp ever recorded on Earth is more than cold enough to mean that it might shatter (-128.5 F = -89 C).

      Reading too much into it?

  15. Anarki says:

    Aww how cute, trying so desperately to be Valve, yet I still don’t give a shit.

  16. CMaster says:

    Can’t these kind of barcodes also be translated into URLs? Do these take you anywhere?

    • stahlwerk says:

      A matrix barcode basically is just a binary number with some redundancy added to help decoding. It could be interpreted as many things, a signed integer number, an unsigned floating point number, a string of 7 bit characters (aka ASCII, what would be used to encode an URL), an extremely small rgb-bitmap picture…

      It’s as if Bioware posted: “yes, no, no, no, yes, yes, yes, no, yes, no, yes” and we were to infer not only the questions asked, but what their subject is.

    • Gildon says:

      @stahlwerk: Maybe it’s not a URL, but an IP address. Not that I think it is, but isn’t that a possibility (considering there are 32 decimal digits after base conversion)?

  17. sneetch says:

    Could it simply be “Cold Steel”?

    That would be an unbelievably “macho” title for a game though.

    Mass Effect 3: Cold Steel
    “Time for Shepard to bring in the flock. Of ice aliens made from steel. And ice. And then shoot them.”

    Hey, it sucks but that’s probably the reason I don’t work in the games industry.

    • Archonsod says:

      Or Cold Iron, which is useful for repelling ghosts, fairies and things of that ilk.

  18. Mr_Day says:

    The original Shattered Steel is on GOG if anyone wants it.

  19. AndrewC says:

    I’m really unreasonably angry about this. It seems done badly, at least compared to the best of them like, i dunno, Portal 2 and more like meanly obfuscating information rather than giving us a fun social puzzle game and and OH GOD JUST TELL ME THE ANSWER AAAAAAAAAAA

  20. Jetsetlemming says:

    “If this is building up to announcing Mass Effect 3, we’re flying to Canada to slap them all around the back of the knees.”
    Why? Mass Effect owns. Your POOR TASTE is unwelcome.

    • AndrewC says:

      (it’s because announcing ME3 is hardly a surprise that would necessitate all this teasing)

    • solipsistnation says:

      Sure, Mass Effect is good, but a third game is hardly a surprise worth a lot of buildup and mystery. We all know Mass Effect 3 is coming.

    • Oak says:

      I would like to know that it’s coming in 2011.

    • chargen says:

      Mass Effect is a dull, melodramatic action game. I sure hope they get back to making RPGs at some point.

    • wiper says:

      True. I miss their dull, melodramatic RPG’s!

      (I love most of Bioware’s games, including the Mass Effects, but the accusation of overwrought melodrama is equally applicable to all their releases. As such, your singling out the Mass Effects tickles me somewhat)

  21. alh_p says:

    Are you sure it’s not a supermarket chekout RPG? Where you get skillz for selling booze to 15 yr olds or demanding ID from 27 yr olds?

  22. Slink says:

    What I’m thinking is that this has to be an IP we already know of. Why else would they have the cryptic binary tweets?

  23. Pew says:

    From the Facebook pages: Vostok is the coldest place on earth, the Vostok program put the first man in space (?) and Vostok is a planet with metal rich asteroids.

  24. Jockie says:

    Pat over at VG247 says he’s been told it’s ME3 in the comments over there.

    • AndrewC says:

      I trust this ‘pat’. Just the name, ‘pat’, it feels honest.

    • Man Raised By Puffins says:

      His surname is “Garratt” though, which suggest all types of sneakiness.

  25. Flakfizer says:

    Don’t get your hopes up.

    The way Bioware have been dumbing things down it will be a console only ‘action’ game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      They haven’t dumbed anything down. They have just stopped doeing what they have done for years and have moved on to new terrotories. Why create a new Baldur’s-gate esque game when the original Baldur’s-gate esque games (the whole infinity engine series) is already awesome?

  26. fallingmagpie says:

    It being ME3 wouldn’t really make sense. The video says ‘[from] the creators of Mass Effect and Dragon Age’.

    ‘…comes another Mass Effect game’ would be unusually wank.

    • stahlwerk says:

      ‘…comes another Mass Effect game’ would be unusually wank.

      … but totally par of the course in marketing.

  27. stahlwerk says:

    That’s the Incisor snipe rifle! I’m telling you!
    But oh god, I’d kill for a new Shattered Steel game ):

    free online barcode decoder

    • AndrewC says:

      Or it’s just a company re-using assets from older games as placeholders for incomplete art. Anything is possible in this magical future world!

      Also, when you get a glimpse of the world outside the window in the short video, it looks Stalker or something – a dilapidated but recogniseably real-world wall and gate type construction. Whatever that means, it is certainly a very different art style to Mass Effect’s neon slickness.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yeah, I was getting a war-torn wasteland kind of vibe from the video too. Maybe they’re going to try a competitor to the Fallout franchise?

    • stahlwerk says:

      Dirty is the new gritty is the new brown. I doubt they would tease a new game with placeholder art from another IP, especially if it’s such a distinct weapon design.

      (apologies to alteisentier for stealing his comment in a spam related joke)

    • AndrewC says:

      Distinct weapon design?

      I mean, Ok, fair enough, if you say so. However, ‘all games look the same now’ seems too easy a comment to jusitfy the seeming disparities in art design.

    • AndrewC says:

      But hey, maybe it’s some sort of satire on ‘every game looking the same’, with Bioware trying to see how much we will try and parse distinctive details out of the blandest, cookie-cutter footage imaginable.

    • stahlwerk says:

      two things,
      1. the original comment was not mine, but I took it from up-thread to imitate a spambot posting the link to the barcode decoder.
      2. that meaning I didn’t actually recognise the exact model of the weapon. But, looking at it again (and only having played Mass Effect 1, vanilla), I’d say I do recognise some features like the sturdy frame with a short muzzle-stub, which is found in most of the ME gun designs.

    • Pew says:

      That landscape can’t be wartorn for too long though, since it has a green courtyard visible for a split second. ME3 flashback for a party member’s memories of fighting in Vostok? Did that planet even have a war? Turian-Human war perhaps? Questions!

  28. The Sombrero Kid says:

    omg john your soooooo clever, you must’ve put a lot of work into this ;)

  29. V says:

    See, I don’t care about any of the puzzly stuff. What I want to know, since this is a BioWare game is this: will there be a lady version of the main character, AND IF SO, when can I pre-order?

  30. stahlwerk says:

    What is it with “obvious teaser is obvious” this week? first that totally bland and overdone beatles thing over at iTunes, now Bioware is holding their hands shut behind their back, and although we know they are both containing delicious Mass Effect Candy, they tease us to guess left or right.

  31. EALouise says:

    I think I’ve got it. The first clue is a mass, the mass of iron, that’s Fe, so if the next clue is some eggs then I think I’ve cracked it. Mass Fe Eggs.

  32. Unaco says:

    -128.5 degrees Farenheit is NOT the coldest temperature recorded on Earth. If I remember correctly, in laboratories (on Earth), temperatures around 1 or 2 Billionth of a degree above absolute zero have been achieved. That is significantly less hot than -128.5 deg F.

    As people have said… Unsure if they would tease ME3 with a video mentioning the ME games… so I’m thinking it’s a new IP, or a resurrected IP. And Shattered Steel seems like the only likely candidate… unless they’re bringing back MDK with a gritty, grimy, dark brown reboot.

  33. SirKicksalot says:

    It’s actually a Command and Conquer military FPS where you visit London.

  34. Rich says:

    They don’t quite have the same knack for these puzzle teasers as Valve, do they?

  35. Unaco says:

    How come you can post a comment with only 4 characters… yet when I try to post “Test?” with 5 (that’s a whole 1 more than you!!) characters, I’m told my comment is too short? I was always told it was quality, not quantity that counted.

    Also, none of my posts seem to be getting through anyway, just with no explanation. OK, I know my arguments against starting sentences with conjunctives didn’t go down too well, I may have taken every opportunity I could to make jokes about Quinn’s and Iron (‘cos I thoroughly enjoyed Unofficially Intelligent and The Saga of Onion Brogues and want them finished), and I may have made criticisms on some one’s favourite newly released DOOM mod recently… but am I really to be silenced??

    Maybe 3rd 4th 5th time lucky? I think I could take reply fails over some of the quirks with this new comment system.

    Anyway… -128.5 deg F is NOT the coldest temperature on Earth. In Laboratories (on Earth), temperatures only 1 or 2 Billionth of a degree above absolute zero have been achieved. Significantly colder than -128.5 deg F. Heck, something like liquid Nitrogen is -340 deg F or so.

    As for the game… I doubt it would be a tease for ME3, as they mention ME series in that video. Also, they don’t need to tease it… we know it’s coming (which reminds me, I need to get round to playing both of them at some time). So, it’s either a new IP, or possibly ME spin-off… or a resurrected IP, with Shattered Steel being the only likely candidate… Unless they’re bringing MDK back with a gritty, grimy, dark-brown reboot.

  36. Andy`` says:

    Silly question: whatever happened to Russia/those of Russian decent/any human with a Russian accent in the Mass Effect universe?

    Anyway, I want to bet a penny that this has something to do with being on Earth in a Mass Effect-related video gamery title.

    Doubt that’ll happen, so who wants a penny? :(

    • Matt says:

      America shot first

    • Kollega says:

      Well, there was one guy on Noveria (the one sitting in a secret lab for some reason who provides you with exposition about the “neutron purge”).

    • Chris says:

      Was there not an admiral or something who was, if not Russian, then certainly some kind of Eastern European type? I vaguely remember him being an arse about me having aliens on the ship and wanting to inspect it.

  37. Unaco says:

    Apologies for the multiple posts… But, at the time I got no feedback on my comments after I posted them, and it seemed like they were simply being forgotten or ignored. Therefore, I posted multiple times, to see if any of them went through. Now, I see, my posts are ‘awaiting moderation’. Is that Quinns new job after all the Elemental and New Vegas hullabaloo?

    • Hallgrim says:

      Hey does Elemental have multiplayer yet? Are you really complaining that a game that was so bad it drove the CEO and lead designer to take a sabbatical was unfairly criticized on RPS?

    • Unaco says:

      No. I think you’ll find I actually defended Quintin and RPS for posting the Elemental stuff (it wasn’t actually Quintin, it was a Hivemind post if I remember right, that had a Quintin by-line). I feel their criticism was quite justified, as was their reporting of criticisms from other sources. As was the highlighting of hypocrisy, and general douchiness from Brad Wardell. I was simply making a ‘joke’. I understand these things can some times be difficult on the Internet, both for people attempting them, and people mis-reading them. It obviously wasn’t an especially funny joke… and for that, I apologise.

    • Unaco says:

      I doubt it is ME3, as in the teaser they mention ME (and DA), their 2 big franchises… so it seems like a new big franchise announcement. Also, it doesn’t need teasing… we know it’s coming already.

    • Unaco says:

      If it’s a new IP… I don’t think they would use the cryptic stuff. Which makes me think it’s a resurrected IP.

    • Unaco says:

      … In which case, I would think Shattered Steel is the only contender (unless it’s not a Bioware original IP… or they own and are resurrecting MDK, with a gritty, grimy, dark-brown reboot.

    • Unaco says:

      Also, I’m trying to post my original comments in individual chunks… because this spam filter is atrocious.

  38. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:



    Cold War?
    Iron Curtain?

    These things go wrong leads to world war three?
    Leads to desolate landscape?

    Bioware goes post acop?

    • evilbobthebob says:

      How about a game set during an apocalypse? That would make a nice change.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Or maybe post-post-apocalypse where civilisation has got back on its feet and everything looks pretty much the same as it does now. Except, you know, the girl at the check-out has an extra mutant arm.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      There is a book series called “Wild Cards” that has something similar. You might like it.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Yeah I know about that series, it looked interesting from what I’ve read about it. I didn’t have much luck finding the first book, though.

  39. DK says:

    They still owe us a Shattered Steel sequel/expansion. It was literally announced in the credits, and not in a “Max Payne will continue through the night” kind of way. It was a screen spanning splash screen with concept art and “SHATTERED STEEL 2 COMING SOON!” all over it.

  40. Slink says:

    Where does it say that BioWare is announcing their new game this Saturday? Everything I see say December 11.

  41. Sigma Draconis says:

    BioWare’s new game will be a grand crossover featuring all of their series/universes going up against each other, with gameplay being a combination of Turn-Based Tactics and RPG elements.

    …I’d like to think.

  42. kyrieee says:

    link to

    ME2 Rifle:
    link to


    edit: holy shit I can edit!

  43. Araxiel says:

    You guys are all wrong. Their next game will be about farting cops.

  44. Teiresias says:

    This is clearly ME2:BlackOps edition

  45. Bureaucrat says:

    A multiplayer-oriented shooter with a Mass Effect setting.

  46. kupocake says:



    The Announcement is for Mass Effect 4. And here you all were expecting Mass Effect 3 like ninnys.

  47. czc says:

    Clearly they will be doing a Cold War FPS

  48. Alex Bakke says:

    I think it’s going to be an FPS.

  49. Tei says:

    Confirmation about the iron thing:


    35 35 2E 38 34 35
    Theres 256 characters in the ASCII table, and only 10 are numbers, all 6 words are numbers… so probably this is ascii and encode a number


    The “.” is part of the encoded string. Confirmed, that binary encode the string “55.845”.

    (tool: link to

    What is that string?

    Possible hit in google:
    link to
    Name: Iron
    Atomic mass: 55.845 (2)


    There are 2 images in that account:
    link to

    I dont have a barcode reader here.. what would encode the other one?

    IRON -128.5°F

    • Johnny Go-Time says:

      lol awesome, it’s gonna be an FPS starring Quinns!

      He has none.
      And he’s pissed.”

  50. Shadram says:

    I think you’ll shoot people (possibly from cover), and then talk to people, then level up and have awkward looking sex with someone. And we’ll all love every minute of it.