So I Asked David Brevik What He Thinks of Hellgate: London 2018 (Steam Version)

I hope this is not an out-of-season April Fool’s joke. In two days’ time, Hellgate: London will be relaunched in Steam. Or at least a form of its previous incarnations.

Hellgate: London was released back in October 2007, a game developed by the ex-Blizzard team including David Brevik. I had a lot of fond memories with the game even though it had a really rocky start.

I remember having bought the game on day one, eager to get into “London” and to witness hell breaking loose. The game was buggy back then. I have made some progress and within days (or hours?), they have to deploy a patch (was it 1.04?) that wiped off all the progress. I kept playing for quite a while. When was it? What was I doing back in October 2007?

To answer that question, I looked up World of Warcraft in Wikipedia.

The Burning Crusade was launched back in January 2007. I vividly remember introducing the game to my wife thanks to the beautiful blood elves being introduced in that expansion. That was after my wife has passed the Financial Risk Management examination. I was pretty much addicted to WoW and I would imagine playing Hellgate: London as a filler. Because by then, I might have well been leveling my “alts” in WoW. Or doing some mindless dailies.

What did I like about Hellgate: London?

In a strange way, the realism of venturing into a lifeless city (which is kind of the plot as the city was overrun by demons). There was danger everywhere (yup, lots of death). I got to control the left and right guns with the left and right mouse buttons. The big demons were scary. Their number could be overwhelming. And it was satisfying just to survive, perhaps with a few good loots as souvenirs.

They say third time is a charm. I sure hope so. The first time Hellgate: London was launched, it has failed. Then a Korean company bought that over and turned that into an MMO with microtransaction. That didn’t work well. Now, the same Korean company is reviving it into a single player game. I do not know how much of its former self still lives in this latest iteration. I will have to wait for two days and see if it is not an April Fool’s joke.

Back to the title of this entry. I am in the Discord channel of It Lurks Below, the latest game created by David Brevik. And I asked him how he feels of his game coming back to life through Steam.

And he responded as follows.

I’m pretty excited about it. I’m happy that people will be able to play it again and a new generation of gamers will get a chance to experience it, but I am not sure how it stacks up to what I made vs. the changes they made once it was made for Korea/Asia. I don’t know how grindy/mtx/etc it will be now. I’m still happy though!

Mr. Brevik has a point. Rest assured that I will report back in after I have experienced what at best would be a fragment of my fond past in two days’ time.

Mylène Farmer’s “Timeless” Concert Recording

Mylène Farmer and I have come a long way.  When I first started working as a management consultant, I was posted to Paris and worked at my client site. At times, for months. I would stay in a hotel, which contrary to what some may think, it is not really that much fun to stay for long. There is a home. And there is a hotel. The two are distinctly different.

Every morning, before having my shower, I would turn on the TV and listen to the latest music videos. Mylène Farmer was on MTV all the time! I did not know who she was but I like her music. I love her videos. Whenever I hear of her music many years from then, I feel as though I am being transported back in the late nineties, Paris, La Défense, Société Générale, champagne and cheese, and more.

And more.

And that breakup. It was Paris. La Défense. Long story short, my then-girlfriend sent me a letter informing me of a breakup. There was heartache. Sleepless nights. And there was Mylène Farmer.

Mylène Farmer and I have come a long way. I was used to listening to her music on my Sony Discman. Paris metro. Singapore MRT. Hong Kong MTR. I don’t understand the lyrics. But I am drawn to the emotion. While I was working in Paris, I even bought her music videos on LP’s (Laser Discs) knowing very well that I did not have an LP player (back then, no YouTube I think). My ex’s family had one though. But because of the breakup, I had the LP’s but I could not watch them. Years later, I bought the DVD version of the LP’s. I have no idea why I bought the DVD’s back then. They are still unwrapped, I think. That sense of owning something tangible.

Fast forward to today, there is YouTube. I did not expect to find her 2013 Timeless concert on YouTube but I have. The resolution isn’t that good and I was prepared to import a Bluray version of her concert from France to Singapore. I was hoping to find a trailer. I did not expect a full concert.

Mylène Farmer is 57 years old this year. At the time of recording, she was 52 years old. She looked young and radiance. She put up a stunning performance well connected emotionally with her music and the audience. I don’t know all the songs she sang. But I know enough to hum along. The stage was amazing. There were dancing robots as well. She arrived at the stage as though she has stepped through a time machine. And she left as though she was on a rocket leaving many fans at awe and in tears.

 

At Dimbulah I Saw A Staff Cutting Lettuce

Dimbulah serves the best coffee in Singapore. On the ground floor of my office, there is one. I often visit because, with staff discount, it seems slightly more ‘affordable’. Just under five dollars. It is still way more expensive than the Spinelli served inside my office building. Between the two, it’s a no-brainer.

Very often, there is a long queue at Dimbulah MBFC, though the queue does move pretty fast. While queuing, most browse their phones. I … I often observe what’s going on behind the counter. One at the cashier taking orders. Two making coffee. One bringing rounds of coffee to the customers at the tables. And one more behind the kitchen counter preparing food.

The other day, as I was observing the staff behind the kitchen counter preparing lettuce. She would take a fresh lettuce out from the wrapper, lay it down on a chopping board, and then take out the core. A rather large piece of core, much larger than what I would have cut out from a lettuce. She would then examine the leaves one by one and toss out the imperfect ones. Only the best leaves would make it to the plastic containers.

No wonder a bowl of salad costs so much in Dimbulah! Quality doesn’t come cheap.

While the staff was going through lettuce by lettuce, discarding cores and leaves, I couldn’t help but think – if I could collect these discarded close-to-perfect leaves from Dimbulah on a daily basis, I could have a free vegetable dish every evening. Oh yes, I would eat that. The leaves did not look old or bad to me at all. Just less than perfect. I may discard a few. But I can eat the rest.

For the cores, I was thinking of my old rabbits back in Hong Kong. Poor rabbits, rest in peace. Had they still alive, I am pretty sure they would be happy eating these large and generous pieces of discarded cores.

Season of Gfriend – What a Treat for Fans

Confession. I am a huge fan of the Korean girl band Gfriend. It took me a while to tell the girls apart, remember their names and roles, and to recognize their voices. But after many nights of watching Gfriend on YouTube, I am there. I love their story. They came from a small recording company. I don’t think they have done that well during their debut. There had been setbacks. Online comments, some were rather mean. But they kept going. Three years later, they are one of the top girl bands in Korea with a good number of hits, won a good number of awards. Hardworking does pay off, for some. And for Gfriend, I love their choreography the most.

I have been wanting to watch them in concert. Sadly there isn’t one from where I live. The next best thing would be a Bluray recording.

There ain’t many stores in Singapore that sell Bluray discs anymore. Those that do don’t carry Season of Gfriend. In my desperation, I searched online and came across Kpopmart.com. My friend Yudha from Google+ is a fan of Korean music. I wasn’t too sure about the legitimacy of Kpopmart.com – after all, plenty of online scams these days – but he reassured me that the site is legit.

Season of Gfriend (Bluray) cost me US$53.50. There are several shipment options. I went for the ‘cheapest’ express one that cost US18. The cheapest normal shipping would be $9.20 but that would take more than two months.

Two months?!

Total damage was more than S$100. The package arrived at my condo’s concierge in less than a week. It was worth it. I am so glad that my friend Yudha has nudged me into buying it. He is right. This product is selling out fast. For the fans, this is a real treat, a must-have. It is a recording of day 2 of Gfriend‘s very first concert back in January early this year. Both concerts were sold out in minutes.

Now, onto why this recording is a must-have for fans:

  • It has a good selection of their hits.
  • The recording is divided into sections or themes, each is introduced with a short video clip.
  • Great dancing. Great costumes.
  • There is a section on solo performance! I love all six of them. All of them awe me in a different way. I am much impressed by a side of them that I have not seen.
  • Some songs have a different rendition.
  • They do tease each other in prerecorded video clips – which I find entertaining.
  • English subtitles! There is a fair bit of talking. Plenty of emotion tears towards the end. I am so glad that I can understand what they say.
  • The entire concert + video clips + talking on stage lasted more than three hours!
  • The package does come with photocard and postcard too.

I wish that my favorite track Time for Moon Light was in the song selection list. But that wouldn’t be possible because the song was released in April after their first concert. I am looking forward to their second concert recording for sure. By then, they better add that into the list!

At Times I Think I’m Talking Too Much

If someone is to ask me what are the main differences between working in my current team and my old team – besides the people in my current team are super nice, helpful and supportive – would be that in my current job, I speak a lot. Throughout the day, I talk to a lot of people. Meetings. One-on-one. Random catch-ups pondering upon work and life in general. Casual meet-ups – coffee, lunch, etc. Phone calls. More phone calls. I hardly have the time to sit at my desk for long. To stay quiet doing my work could only happen after eight or nine in the evening. Even so, someone may also be in the office at those late evening hours. Two tired souls seeking solitude from one and other.

Talk.

At times I think I’m talking too much. At times I am tired of talking, tired of hearing my own voice.

That’s why I treasure those quiet moments when I take a train to work – alone – with my Spotify. That’s why I treasure those quiet moments walking side-by-side with my wife, hand-in-hand as I enjoy her presence. Or as I quietly blog here at home, in my study room as my wife is playing Diablo 3, solo.

There is a slight problem with this picture though, is that my wife would very much prefer us to talk.

We talk, of course. Just not enough perhaps from her perspective. I think there is an overall bandwidth for our brains to facilitate oral communication. When I am talking too much at work, I am not talking enough outside work.

Work. Life. Imbalance.

We’ve Moved to Tiong Bahru!

23 years of relentless hard work here in Singapore, I would say that this is well deserved. My wife and I have moved to somewhere near town. From our new home, we can see the central business district. To reach the office is a mere four train stations away. I am still living the dream. Right now, it still feels unreal.

We don’t have children – God’s plan, not ours. We don’t have someone to pass our worldly possession to. My wife and I just have each other. We could keep on saving. Or we could do something nice to ourselves.

My wife has picked the location and the property. I have refrained from making any investment decisions. Because so far, I have been pretty bad at it.

While this new home is more than twice the cost of our old home – comparing square meter to square meter – I am happy with my wife’s decision because Tiong Bahru reminds me of my birth town Wanchai in Hong Kong. It is so convenience. Everything I can think of is just within either walking distance or a very short drive. Traveling to Orchard is just 6 to 8 minutes’ drive. To be honest, I am still struggling to justify the need of a car. Perhaps I shall convert it into a weekend car and save some money.

I have always enjoyed blogging. I am not sure since when I have stopped. Now that we have sorted out this big milestone of ours, I am looking forward to rekindling my old hobbies – one by one.

On Your Wedding Day – A 2018 Korean Movie That Made Me Fall in Love & Heartbroken Once Again

I am a big fan of the Korean actress Park Bo-young. I don’t have access to many Korean TV-series here in Singapore. But through Netflix, I have watched Strong Girl Bong-soon and Oh My Ghost. She is by far one of my most favorite Asian actresses of the recent time. So when I read that her latest movie On You Wedding Day was out in August this year, I hit the local cinema websites every now and then in anticipation of a Singapore release. Happy me, I have managed to catch it yesterday.

It is a love story that spans from teenage to adulthood. There is a bit of flashback here and there. The movie has four parts to it. Each part tells a story of a particular period when the two lovers fall in love only to realize that timing always gets in the way. From the audience standpoint, it is so obvious that the two are fated to be together. Yet, circumstances always draw the two apart.

Watching On Your Wedding Day has drawn out many of the past fond memories from within me. It has also temporarily opened up old wounds too. In any given relationship, timing is so important. On a hindsight, life is full of could-have-been. Unfortunately, when we are in a relationship living the very present, there is no hindsight. So we fall in love, make some stupid mistakes, perhaps say or do the wrong thing, perhaps do not say or do the right thing, etc. We hurt someone emotionally, may have even scared the one we love physically. All of a sudden, you find yourself on your knees, begging for that one more chance. And you and him/her and the people around all think that this love affair has to continue. It has got to. It is destiny. It is meant to be. Fated.

And then he/she says, “No. It’s over” with a sense of finality.

You wonder why.

The people around wonder why.

We stop breathing for just a bit, taking in this new twist in life. Surely, a decision can be reversed, can it not?

On a hindsight, if we could erase out a few episodes of life, perhaps move the timeline around just a little, things would have turned out so different.

But we can’t. So we find ways to heal and we move on.

Back to On Your Wedding Day, thank you for making me feel like shit again and to reminisce on what I should have long forgotten.

 

On Leave Today But I’m EXHAUSTED!

It all started with a dryer.

Our new home comes with a brand new washer-dryer. 7kg washer and 5kg dryer. Obviously, that isn’t going to work for a multitude of reasons. And since our awesome interior designer has managed to relocate our washer-dryer into the service bathroom, my wife and I have bought a dedicated dryer and have it stacked onto our washer-dryer.

Buying our dryer turns out to be a bit of a drama. The one we are using in our current home is a Bosch vented dryer. It has been a fantastic purchase. The clothes come out cupboard dry, nicely ‘ironed’ except work shirts of course. We wanted to buy a Bosch condenser dryer for our new home. But we were persuaded by the salesman to buy an Electrolux condenser dryer instead. It is cheaper and just as good – so said the salesman. At first, we bought an Electrolux. Then I checked the online reviews and was horrified by how bad it was. We quickly returned and happily paying extra for a Bosch. I hope that is a wise purchase. In any case, if someone tries very hard to sell you something – ahem … like the Samsung dryer in our last visit) – something fishy must be going on.

As it turns out, the team who delivers the dryer is not the same team who stacks the dryer on top of the washer-dryer. And the appointment for stacking was today between 1pm to 4pm. Since I am going to take leave today, why not … have my car serviced … have my teeth looked into by my dentist … have my balcony door looked into (again) …

This morning, it rained. Naturally and because today was a Monday, my wife didn’t want to get out of bed. By the time I dropped her to the office, it was 9.15am. My appointment with the car servicing company was at 9.30am. My next appointment with my dentist was at 10.30am. Though I was 10 minutes late, I was able to conclude my business at around 10am. Consider the fact that there was a customer making a huge complaint because he had waited too long, I was lucky.

As I stepped out of the service center ready to fast walk to the nearest train station 10 minutes away, a man stopped me asking me if I was heading to the station. He was a shuttle driver taking customers from the service center to the station. As far as I remember, the bus schedule is only twice an hour. So today was my lucky day. Next to the shuttle stood a woman with a tattoo on her back. I recognized her as a customer. I was wondering why the driver did not offer her a ride. Maybe he had.

From Queenstown to Tanjong Pagar, it was a four-station ride. I dashed into the plaza and as always, I got lost. The dentist is located somewhere on the second floor. I passed by a Thai restaurant that I didn’t notice before. There was a Thai woman having a meal outside and she smiled at me. She may work there, may even be the owner. I wish the locals are as friendly.

My dentist limped towards me as I entered the clinic. And he seems to have aged quite a bit. The last time I saw him was 18 months ago. The last time we have met, he has moved to Penang, Malaysia. We have chatted. He has sold off his apartment in Malaysia just before the market crashed, made a bit of money, and bought an apartment in New Zealand instead. My dentist really doesn’t want to retire in Singapore. Perhaps in New Zealand, he seldom meets people. We had such a good chat, look long lost friends.

My appointment with the team who stacked my dryer on top of my washer-dryer had been brought forward. So, after my dentist appointment, I rushed to my new home, which fortunately was only 2 stations away. The perk of living near the city center eh?

And of course, I have left my umbrella at the dentist’s office. I seldom bring an umbrella as I often drive. And that was not the only time I have forgotten to bring it along with me today.

In my new home, the carpenter and I presume his apprentice was working hard. It was rather noisy and dusty. The technicians arrived and have installed the bracket to the dryer. It was much simpler than I thought.

Woohoo! I am done for the day!

I ventured out looking for food, far. Then I remembered I still have one more appointment with the condo team to fix my balcony doors.

Ugh.

So I ran back to my new home – literally – and was 10 minutes late. The balcony doors were fixed in some unorthodox ways (that involved banging the doors hard onto a wooden rod … a couple of times). I doubt it was a permanent fix. But there was it for today.

Because it was 2.10pm – what’s up with all the 10-minute blocks today?! – I have decided to have Korean food opposite my new home.

That was the starter. And I had a beer. The restaurant’s name was Bigmama. Not sure if it is worth a return!

I was still having my beer when the cashier politely approached me at 3.10pm (no kidding, it was really 3.10pm) informing me that the restaurant was now closed. I downed my beer in one gulp and left. I felt being kicked out from the restaurant. But I guess the staffs would not get paid the overtime caused by one single customer taking his time enjoying his beer. The reviews at HungryGoWhere are spot on though. Service is pretty bad and the soup dish is so-so. A lot of tofu and onions. Not enough soup.

I was exhausted, still am. But it was a productive day.

Toggle.sg FIFA World Cup 2018 streaming experience is really terrible

Here in Singapore, if you are a soccer fan like my wife, you have to pay to watch World Cup. That is sort of fine because here in Singapore, we are used to paying for things that in other countries would have been free or much cheaper. The real problem is that even as we pay, the experience is terrible. It is so terrible that we are considering making a formal complaint against Toggle.sg via CASE.

Since we have long cut the cable and do not have a TV box at home, the only option besides watching World Cup live in some public commercial establishments is to sign up for an S$112.35 (or US$83.17) package and stream it through Toggle.sg.

Screen freeze during steaming through PC

My wife has signed up for an early bird package. On the first day and for the first match, she attempted to stream from her computer. All we have got was a screen freeze, or rather a ‘slideshow’ with pictures changing every 45 seconds (yes, I have timed it).  You can’t watch a soccer game with still pictures, can you?

Could it be our network latency? I checked my Internet speed. It seems fine. And we were able to stream other videos in Toggle.sg. The only one we were unable to stream was the only video we wanted to watch – first match of World Cup 2018. The issue lies with Toggle.sg.

Immediately, I have downloaded and installed the Toggle app onto my Samsung Tab S3 tablet. My wife was able to watch the match live using my tablet and the same home network. But it was on a 9.7-inch screen. Our TV has a 42-inch screen connected to our PC via an HDMI cable.

During halftime, I managed to set up my Chromecast (that was still unopened) and have the live match cast onto my TV. The video quality is more like standard play. I don’t think my wife would mind at that point. What other options do we have?

Update: Support has contacted us. Basically, our Windows 10’s clock has to be synchronized with https://time.is/ to the exact second. For reasons beyond me, even though I set my Windows to set time automatically, it is not good enough. I have to set time manually!

Audio quality is terrible for video replay

One unique selling point of this Toggle.sg package is that we do not necessarily have to watch the matches live. We can watch the replay.

Again, video quality is more like a standard play. The sound quality is like a radio in the 50’s. Mono and muffled and full of white noise. It does give us a vintage feel though. Perhaps World Cup is timeless.

Update: Situation seems to have improved at the end of the group play. Still, we have put up with a lot of matches with very poor sound quality.

Error code 300001 while loading video replay

After work, my wife wanted to watch the Brazil versus Switzerland match replay. I fired up Toggle app on my Samsung Tab S3. The video was loaded but there was no option to cast to my TV (read: Chromecast icon was not enabled). So I restarted the Toggle app and the video could not be loaded!

I have tried my Sumsung Note 8 and it was the same error.

We then checked their FAQ and it was mentioned that we should minimize the number of registered devices – although the maximum is five (while we have registered four).

So I deregistered one of the devices and the video was loaded okay despite the usual re-cast issue!

You may think, so the FAQ works? Err … nope. How then can we explain why the video was able to load on my first attempt?

PS. I have restarted my mobile devices and force-stopped the Toggle app numerous time before even reading the FAQ (also one of the ways to get pass the issue). And nope, that didn’t work either.

Toggle app is not Chromecast friendly

On average, I need three attempts to cast Toggle onto my TV. And no, this is not a user issue. I had no problem with casting from YouTube videos on mobile devices to VLC videos on my PC.

Update: As it turns out, we need to Chromecast the app before watching the video (the opposite of YouTube). And the homepage of the Toggle.sg app does not have the Chromecast icon. We either have to re-login or head to another page for the Chromecast icon to appear. Very buggy and poorly designed app.

Toggle streaming can hang very often

We watched Portugal versus Morocco match live via the Toggle app cast to the TV. 20 minutes into the match, streaming started to hang. Each time it happened, I needed to disconnect the Chromecast and reconnect again (and yes, 3 attempts required to cast each time).

After a couple of minutes, it happened again, again, and again. Each time it hung, it took away at least one minute of the viewing experience.

Could it be my Chromecast issue?

The answer is no. We tried to watch the streaming on my Samsung Tab S3, the streaming quality was poor and was interrupted or hung every so often.

Toggle no longer works for Chromecast from knockout round onwards (replay)

After a long day at work, my wife and I would want to watch Belgium versus Japan in the comfort of our sofa.

Streaming played for half a minute before hanging for another half a minute. It was a very frustrating experience. We gave up in the end.

PS. Chromecast YouTube videos via my Samsung Tab S3 has no issue. My tablet is probably one of the highest end Android tablets in the market today.

The unavoidable spoiler for video replay

To be able to watch a replay – which by the way, the most likely reason for watching a replay is that you have yet to watch the match – in the Toggle app, you have to navigate to the World Cup page. The list of videos for the replay is at the bottom. On top is the featured story.

So you have guessed right. Unavoidable spoiler unless you have someone in the family who doesn’t really care about the match results.

In the case of my wife, she is lucky. Because I am the one who cast the video onto the TV for her.

Verdict

Toggle.sg is terrible. But here in Singapore, for those who have cut the cable, there isn’t any alternative if you wish to watch the matches in the comfort of your home.

Steam spring cleaning event 2018 is kind of meh

I was used to be a huge Steam fan. Mainly because I detest exclusive sites like EA’s Origin that sells games without letting people rate and review their games online. As though they have something to hide.

These days though, I am not that into Steam. Mainly because of the stupid censorship that they are imposing on games that have sexual content. In this time and ages, from Mass Effect franchise to The Witcher franchise, elements of sexual content are pretty common. Yet, Steam go after indie games that in my opinion, a good number in my game library produces some of the most tasteful artwork that has nudity. I wish there was a filter for children. And let grown-ups play what we want. I also wish there was an alternative platform like Steam for the grown-ups.

Anyways, I was sort of looking forward to Spring Cleaning Event. An event that on paper seems more fun than the daily voting in the past. There are projects to do and daily tasks to complete.

In reality, because there is a need to reinstall the games, I end up picking games with small installation footprint when I can.

I started with The Old Tree. It is a flash game and can be finished in less than 15 minutes. An adventure game that sets a baby alien free. I actually had fun with it.

To complete “Trusted Advisor”, I needed to follow a curator. I never have the desire to follow a curator. Now, I need to find out how to unfollow a curator!

The worst of it is that I have to play the first game I have added to my Steam account. It was Dirt 2. The game was so outdated that the installation has failed. On top of that, I have to manually uninstall a dated app that I had to install.

Ugh.

By the time I got to my daily tasks, I was bored. I actually got to play Bastion a bit. It seems like a decent game. If time permits, I may give this game another try.

Time, such a precious commodity.

Lastly, to make things worse, this event is not completable if you have missed the day 1 of the daily tasks – someone like me!