The Couple That Plays Together Stays Together

Posted: Aug 7, 2015 at 06:37 PM

A very nerdy Borderlands game proposal

The Couple That Plays Together Stays Together

I wanted to be able to do something truly unique and special that represented something only her and I could fully appreciate. Tia’s like me, she loves an adventure, to travel, and to do fun and interactive things together. So I knew that whatever I came up as a proposal needed to be an interactive and fun event for us both.

I had seen a lot of proposals online where couples did a sort of geocaching scavenger hunt. And I thought that would be kind of fun, but I didn’t want it to be like anything done before. For a while I was struggling to come up with a solid plan that felt worthy of execution. Then finally inspiration hit.

Tia and I are avid enthusiasts of a video game called Borderlands. We both love playing it so much that it’s become an integral part of our relationship. When we both are home from work, one of the first things we ask each other is “Wanna kill things?”. Then we’d jump in bed, boot up Borderlands and team-up against bandits and aliens on another planet. We love the architectural and character design, the dark humor and funny voiceovers, and the story and character development. Playing this game together has been one of those things that’s brought us even closer… it’s just become “our thing”.

Thats when I started brainstorming random ideas together that started to form a plan. I was just jotting down things that came to mind until I was able to tie it all together into a story. The plan was to create a “live” version of borderlands to play, a sort of role playing adventure. And I needed to make sure that the elaborate proposal was built upon the sort of skills I already have at my disposal to make it unique.

The mini-game had several elements that needed to be finished in order for it to all come together. As part of some of the missions, there needed to be some very specific objects created in order to complete them. For example; I wanted the engagement ring to be encased in a “loot chest” from the game. And a couple of other missions refer to devices used in the game; like “shield generators” and “echo recorders”. These aren’t things you can just lookup on Amazon and order them. So I had to get creative:

Echo Device: This is what your character uses in order to accomplish and turn in missions. So I designed an iPhone case that looked like the Echo Device from the game using reference images straight out of the game. After testing the size and scale relentlessly, I was able to order it online using

Echo Device - Borderlands iPhone Case Echo Device - Borderlands iPhone Case Front & Back

Loot Chest: In the game, these crates house the really special weapons and gear. When we play together, she’s always racing ahead of me to loot them and not tell me about it so she can get them all to herself. So it was obvious I needed to make a Loot Chest to hold the engagement ring. I then rebuilt it from the game in 3D, using Cinema 4D. And then sourced out a local guy who could 3D print them on short notice.

Loot Chest - 3D Print

Shield Generator: Each character and most enemies have whats called a Shield Generator. It’s a device that is attached to your person that gives you extra protection from damage. In one of the missions, I wanted to give her a Shield Generator, but with a personal twist to it. Each Shield has a brand with specific details as to how it works. So I 3D modeled a Shield Generator and had it 3D printed as well. I hooked up LED lights and switches to it, and painted it according to her favorite types of shields in the game. And in the mission, added details to it: “N.O.A.H. Shield: Never leave home without it! For all the trials you’ll face, you’ll be glad you had a N.O.A.H. Shield. It will always protect you from harm, and shield you from all that nasty pain you don’t want. Best part is you can take the N.O.A.H. Shield with you ANYWHERE!”

Shield Generator 3D Print Prototype Shield Generator 3D Print Primer Shield Generator 3D Print Paint

With the “easy” stuff out of the way, I needed to make the iOS mini-game for her iPhone. This app was for managing the 8 missions and collecting your rewards for finishing one. In the game, you typically discover/accept/turn-in missions at a Bounty Board. So the name of the app was obviously “Bounty Board”. There is also a robot character named Clap-Trap, who typically informs you of new missions and communicates with you regarding details of current missions. So naturally the icon for the app was a close-up of Clap-Trap’s face.

Designing the Bounty Board app was a lot of fun. As an experienced Photoshop designer, I was able to redesign the borderlands Echo Device interface using their correct hexadecimal color codes and styling. I created template shapes, paths, and gradients for the interface and buttons. I sourced the official fonts used in the game and was able to get my hands on all of the sound fx and voiceovers as well. When working the mini-app, you first “Accept” a new mission and review it’s details and rewards. Then after completing it, you’d click on “Done” to level up, and finally “Turn-In” to receive your reward before moving on to the next one.

Echo Device Interface Echo Device Interface Echo Device Interface Echo Device Interface

The Bounty Board had the following features included:


On Saturday June 27th, we were walking around the Des Moines Arts Festival. We had been there a little while, and I was keeping a close eye on the time to make sure I time all the events accordingly so that we don’t miss our flights coming. We were starting to get hungry so we got in line for some tacos, and while there were still a few people in line ahead of us I decided to kick things off. I turned to her and I said “Tinky (a nickname of hers lol), there are new missions available on your iPhone’s Bounty Board”. She looked at me like she had just seen a ghost, and in shock. Because she knew I was up to something, but was still slightly confused. She responded with “Buuuuuut… I don’t have anything like that installed on it”. Earlier that morning, while she was in the shower, I had installed the app on the 3rd home screen. And I told her that there is indeed a bounty board installed on it and that she should find it in order to start her new missions.

it’s at this point she knows what I’m up to. She knew I’d be proposing to her at some point in the near future as it was something we had been talking a lot about lately. And she knows me well; neither of us like to do things small, we like to go epic. And she knew I had a bunch of stuff in store for her. So finally found the mini-game app, and opened it up. The first mission appears immediately, waiting for her to accept it. She does and Clap-Trap yells “Ha-haaaa! I AM ALIIIIIIIIVE!” and the first mission begins:

Earth To Echo: First things first, she was going to need an Echo Device to accomplish her missions. She looked at me, hands shaking and eyes watery, with confusion as to what to do next. Thats when I pulled out the Echo Device iPhone case I had created from my back pocket and told her “Here ya go, you’re going to need this to complete all the missions in your journey”. After we got the tacos, she could barely manage eating them! She was so nervous and anxious about what she knew was eventually coming.

After soaking in the whole thing, she decided she was no longer interested in hanging around the Arts Festival and wanted to get on to the next mission…

Missions A Go!: Tia believed she had some side work she had to do with her Dad the next day, and it was going to be a big all-day kind of job. Without her knowing, I talked to him about hiring the work out so she would have the whole weekend free in order to pull all of this off. This mission was about the Echo Device “clearing her schedule” for her so that she’ll have the time to complete them.

Tinks McGinks: The characters in the game always have unique and funny names. And something Tia is particularly good at is creating really odd nicknames for me. There isn’t enough time in the world to explain how she comes up with some of them, but one of them is Tinks McGinks. So this mission was about finding my “Loot Stash”. She asked where to go, and I said we had to head home to find it. So she immediately snatched up an Uber ride. When we got home, she found my Minaal travel backpack, which was packed with 3-days worth of clothes for both of us. Her response: “Where are we goiiiiiiiiiing????”. I told her “you gotta wait. You’ll find out in your missions :)”. She got sick of hearing me say that quickly…

U & Me, We Going Places: Scooter is another funny character in the game that created travel shops where you can create vehicles or Fast-Travel. In most of the Borderlands games, you usually have to repair the travel stations for him in order to use them. So in this mission, we’re simply going to the airport where she had to figure out where we were going. The reward was a 3 day weekend trip to Chicago.

New Haven: After we arrived in Chicago, Tia needed to find New Haven (our hotel in Chicago). New Haven is a safe place in the first Borderlands game where you can stay and kick back (or basically sell all your gear).

N.O.A.H. Shield: As mentioned above, I 3D printed a Shield Generator for her.

Shield Generator 3D Print Prototype Shield Generator 3D Print Primer

Tina Tina’s Loot Chest: Tiny Tina is one of Tia’s favorite characters in the game. She’s a little quirky kid with an odd sense of humor and her lines are hilarious. I made sure to include her voiceovers in this mission a lot. This mission was about “finding” the Loot Chest, which has the ring inside of it. We ended up wondering around Navy Pier until finally stopping at the very end of it to reveal the Loot Crate to her (still closed) that I had hidden in her bag. After turning in the mission, she was to select the next one…

Loot Chest - 3D Print

Seal The Deal: This was the final step; She listened to the voiceover from the game that aligned perfectly with this mission (Clap-Trap singing “Did you know my head is at your crotch level? I’m trying not to think about it…”) while reading the description of the mission (“Will you marry me? You can always count on me. Through thick and thin, I will always be there. Everything from taking care of you to sharing special memories like this one.”). Thats when I got down on one knee and opened up the Loot Crate to reveal the ring. After I asked her to marry me, she had to choose either the “Yes” or “No button on the mission to turn it in which completed the game. And it showed the completion of leveling up and the reward obviously being the ring.

Leave a comment:


By Jim Rice on 27 08 2015

Hey!  You did a hell of a job!  I’ll admit it, selfishly I clicked through the link on the Borderlands bookFace post to see more about the absolutely inspired use of a 3D-printed loot chest.

Then I saw all the screens of your iPhone app.  I admire your industriousness and resolve.

My wife and I have played video games together since forever, and it’s awesome to see an amazing cooperative game like Borderlands enrich relationships.  It’s definitely one of our favorite ways to hang out.

Wish you two the best, and congrats on an obviously brilliant engagement.

By Wendy on 26 08 2015

Awww, what an adorable proposal! And SO epic… you weren’t kidding when you said you don’t do things simply. Good on you, and may your life be filled with love, laughter, and as much nerdiness as two people can handle <3

By right then on 25 08 2015

Congratulations, hope you two have many happy years together. -Random guy on teh internet.

By Eimaj Sllew on 25 08 2015

soooooo awesome!!! Congratss!!!!!

By Brianna on 25 08 2015

AWE!!! I cried. This was too freakin’ cute :D Congrats guys!!

By Amanda on 25 08 2015

i LOVE this so so so so much I’m gonna joypuke. My husband and I incorporated some Borderlands stuff into our wedding. You are amazing!! Congrats!