Mischa Kolbe - Crafting a VR Proposal
Marriage proposals often come in all shapes and sizes. However, this one truly stands out as it ventures into uncharted territories – a proposal crafted within a VR game. Conceived and developed by a 3D artist who wished to surprise his fiancée, this remarkable tale redefines what's possible when love, creativity, and technology intertwine.
The creator of this unique game, Mischa Kolbe [MK], talks to our editor Arkadiusz Klej [AK] about the whole project.
#1: How did you come up with the idea of proposing through a VR game?
I had known for a while that I wanted to propose to my fiancée and wanted to make it special and fitting for us. I was inspired by a proposal where someone animated themselves and their partner into a Disney movie. Being a 3D artist and not skilled at drawing, I had to find another solution.
I wanted my fiancée to relive our story, ultimately leading to the proposal. VR was the best option for me, and it had some nice side effects: The VR headset obstructed her view and allowed for surprises, like bringing in friends and changing my outfit while she was playing the game. Additionally, I had always wanted to create a VR game.
#2: Is your fiancée a fan of video games, particularly VR games? Did that influence your choice?
My fiancée is not an avid gamer, but we occasionally play old point-and-click games together, like Monkey Island. She had never played VR games before and had only tried a VR paint tool once before. This made it all the more special and challenging since I had to ensure that she could learn the game controls quickly.
Despite not being a gamer, I knew she would be up for it because she is always open to new experiences. Given my background in the game industry, it was easy to convince her that she was playtesting a colleague's indie game.
#3: How long did it take to create the VR game, and what were the biggest challenges you faced during its production?
It took me about 1.5 months to create the VR game during my free time. The biggest challenge was keeping it a secret from my fiancée since we lived together in an apartment. While I've worked for years in the 3D industry, I had to learn how to create a VR game from scratch. Since we don't even own a VR headset, I had to develop the game at home and playtest it at work. Creatively, it was challenging to limit the scope; I intended to create two more levels, but fortunately, I knew from experience that it is better to focus my time and energy: Quality over quantity.
#4: Did you collaborate with other developers or graphic artists while creating the game, or did you create it all by yourself?
As a visual effects artist and developer, I created most of the game myself. I used a few online 3D assets for set-dressing and collaborated with two friends who did the voice acting for the robot and vacuum companions. A few friends playtested the game, whose feedback helped to make the game bug-free and easy to understand.
Overall, very few people were involved, and I made sure to credit them all in the video. Even the security guard had to pretend that he didn't know about my plans when my fiancée showed up.
#5: How did your fiancée react to the unconventional proposal?
I told her we were playtesting an early version of an indie game, and thankfully she didn't realize my involvement until the robot's voice changed to mine. The game has subtle references to our relationship right from the beginning, but they only become apparent upon a second playthrough.
During the initial levels of the game, she found it strange and disjointed. The narrative and locations seemed random for a video game. However, when the robot's voice switched to mine, she started contemplating whether it was a summary of our life in Vancouver, indeed a proposal, or simply that I helped the indie game developers out a bit.
When she reached the level resembling our apartment, she briefly thought she was dreaming, as virtual reality has a remarkable ability to blur the lines between reality and fiction. In the final level, she spent at least 10 minutes watching the hundreds of photos of our life floating past her. Despite the emotional impact, the headset didn't hinder her tears.
After removing the headset, she took some time to process everything. In my nervous excitement, I managed to express a few sentences and ask for her hand. Fortunately, everything worked out and she said yes, marking the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.
#6: Do you think your unique engagement idea might inspire other artists or creators to utilize VR technology in their life events?
Absolutely! Numerous comments on the video suggest that people got inspired to create unique experiences for their loved ones. For instance, I have been contacted by someone whose mother is currently battling cancer and who wants to use VR to lift her spirits and help her fight the illness.
When I made the video I was secretly hoping that it would inspire even just one person to create something impactful for their own life. The response I got made me incredibly happy, and I hope people create wonderful things for their friends & family!
#7: As for your artistic career, has created a VR engagement game influenced your future projects or inspirations?
Definitely. I enjoy creating and tinkering with various technologies; 3D printing, woodworking, electronics, etc. Creating this VR game has opened up new avenues of creative exploration for me, and has inspired me to continue experimenting with AR/VR technology. I'm particularly intrigued by VR experiences that connect with other senses beyond sight and sound, to tell stories and engage audiences in new and exciting ways.
#8: Do you think that such a proposal might become "normal" one day?
While VR technology is becoming increasingly accessible and widespread, I don't think that proposals using VR will become "normal" or common. At most, it would just be a phase, like flash mob proposals once were. I hope that VR remains just a tool for a unique and special experience and that people's lives are not completely taken over by the digital world. That is for example why I did not want to ask for my fiancée's hand in VR; I wanted us to share and experience that moment without any "filters".
#9: If you could propose one play/text/story to be adapted on the stage using VR technology, which one would be and why?
I would love to experience the screenplay "First Man" in VR. Watching a rocket launch is exciting, but I am sure that an immersive experience would be truly profound. From the nerve-wracking ascent to the serene moment of seeing the earth in its entirety. A masterful execution of visuals, sound, and storytelling could help people understand the fragility and preciousness of life, and challenge our perception of differences amongst ourselves.