The Average Gamer

Tracking The London Mass Effect 3: Space Editions

ME3: Space Edition - San Fran LaunchBioware and EA are going to release copies of Mass Effect 3 attached to weather balloons from a London launch site at 11:30am, Monday 27th Feb 2012. Thanks to the Met Office and my aviation training, you can improve your chances of retrieving a copy of the game.

Using the some of the Met Office’s aviation weather forcasts alongside the live GPS data from the Mass Effect: Space Edition website you will have a much better idea of the weather balloons’ direction of travel.

San Francisco’s ME3: Space Edition at one point was heading out into the Pacific Ocean according to XtremeGaming 24/7 before it finally landed back on earth high up in a tree out of everyone’s reach. With the English channel and France being so close to the London launch site, a decent south easterly breeze could result in a watery grave for Commander Shepard.

To work out the wind strength and direction for launch you need to use the Met 214 chart.

Met 214 Chart:

Met 214 is a low-level spot wind chart for the UK which is published 4 times a day (midnight, 6am, 12pm and 6pm). Each chart is valid for a specific time frame which is indicated on the report just above the map of the British Isles

For various latitude and longitudes across the UK you can read off the direction (degrees) and strength (kts) of the wind and the air temperature (Celsius) at 1, 2, 5, 10, 18 and 24 thousand feet above mean sea level. Note: Weather balloons can reach altitudes of 40km or more.

MET 214 - Instructions

Since there is no spot reading for London you have to work out the direction and strength of wind by taking the average of the measurements at these locations:

  • 5230N 00E
  • 50N 0230W
  • 50N 0230E


For reference, EGLL is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) code for Heathrow airport, located to the west of London.

Worked example:

Taking just the wind direction and strength readings at 5,000 feet for the 3 locations around London. I’ve ignored the temperature measurements that you also get on the met 214 chart:

  • 5230N 00E – 340 10
  • 50N 0230W – 010 10
  • 50N 0230E – 010 15

The average of the first two values gives us a wind direction of 355 degrees at 10 kts. (Divide the difference between 340 and 010 by 2 and add 340).

Now using this 355/10 value we can work out the London wind direction and speed average using the 50N 0230E 5,000 feet values which are 010 (degrees) 15 (knots):

  • Difference between 355 and 010 = 15 degrees
  • 15/2 = 7.5 degrees
  • Add to 355 to get the approximate wind direction of 002.5
  • Wind speed is the average of 10 and 15, which is 12.5
  • Round up the values and you’re done

The estimated wind direction and strength for London based on these figures would be 003 degrees at 13 knots. With 1 knot (kt) = 1.85kph, the balloon would travel ~24.05km an hour on a heading of 183* degrees if it remained at a height of 5,000 feet.

*Remember we’ve just calculated direction from which the wind is blowing so to work out the flight path of the balloon (i.e. the other way) we need the reciprocal value of 003 which is 183 degrees.

The New York and Las Vegas Balloons:

Looking at the flight tracks of the 2 previous balloons (New York and Las Vegas). They both travelled ~144km on approximate winds of 18kph and 19kph respectively.

So a balloon released in central London by the Houses of Parliament, following a heading of 183 degrees, and travelling a similar distance would end up somewhere in the English Channel. Obviously, this is based on approximate wind figures for today.

The London Launch:

Update 27th Feb 12 – I’ve updated the above Met 214 chart to show the latest winds predictions covering today’s launch window.

Update 27th Feb 12 17:30 – The first London Mass Effect 3: Space Edition balloon’s brief journey into the atmosphere ended earlier on this afternoon ending up in Becon Wood Country Park. A journey of ~90km. If EA/Bioware released this balloon in London and it had travelled a similar distance it would have ended up in the English Channel.

However, there is another balloon still to find…

Good luck tracking the Mass Effect 3: Space Editions. Let us know how you get on. The Twitter hastag is #ME3Space

Mass Effect 3 is released on the 6th March 2012 in North America and 9th March 2012 in Europe for PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360.