Wellington has been transformed into what's believed to be the world's first virtual city you can explore and play as a game.
Celebrity cat Mittens is noticeably absent from the virtual reality version of the capital, WellTown, but Matariki the whale makes an appearance in the immersive game.
Made up of six short virtual experiences, players can shoot coffee at caffeine-deprived zombies as they finish their morning commute, take an underwater dive in the harbour as a curious whale swims by, listen to the dawn chorus of birdsong in the native bush that surrounds the city, busk with a local band on Cuba St, stand beneath a starlit sky during Matariki, and help people take a leap off a diving platform on the waterfront.
"Virtual Wellington is about giving people a sense of what Wellington is like as a place, showcasing its creativity and lifestyle through new technologies being developed right here in the city," said Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) general manager of marketing and communications, Anna Calver.
"The virtual reality application is a really fun way to explore a place that you might not know much about. It shows off how beautiful our city is, our creativity, and our quirky hipster vibe."
Kat Lintott, co-founder of Wrestler, the company that developed the game, said they initially had a large amount of Wellington experiences they wanted to include in the game, but had to whittle it down to six.
Calver said some of the ideas that didn't make the cut included using a spray paint can to create street art, picnicking at ecosanctuary Zealandia and having a takahē steal the player's sandwich, and manning a food truck.
Lintott said the opportunity to create a craft beer was also one of the experiences on the table.
"My favourite part of WellTown was creating the guide," she said.
"One of the key parts of this whole experience was making sure people felt they met someone from Wellington."
The eccentric guide is acted by Cohen Holloway, who has starred in Thor: Ragnarok and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The team used motion capture to create the guide.
For those wanting to take a closer look at what Wellington has to offer, Explore More provides the opportunity to immerse themselves in some of Wellington's most iconic experiences via 360 video – from an All Blacks test match at Westpac Stadium to a special glimpse of a Weta Studio Tour.
Calver said Wellington was New Zealand's capital of tech and creativity, and a game was the natural next step in how to encourage people to visit.
"What better way to explore a new city than by playing it?"
Mayor Justin Lester said Virtual Wellington was a "high-tech bottling of the city that allows it to be taken to the world".
"It will increase Wellington's international reputation as an innovative tech city with the world's best lifestyle," he said.
Lintott said they struck upon the gamification of Wellington as a novel way of telling the Wellington story.
"It allows people to experience the Wellington lifestyle from afar, showcases the creative tech talent in the city while also appealing to the legion of VR game fans globally.
"We used city-wide data supplied by Wellington City Council to create the virtual Wellington City and then added a layer of story and gamification though utilising motion capture, CG, 360 interactive video and photogrammetry."
At the time they were deciding how to best show the Matariki experience, a southern right whale was visiting the harbour. Fondly dubbed Matariki due to its timely arrival in the city, the whale delighted thousands of residents as it splashed around the harbour - delaying the Matariki fireworks display.
It made sense to the creators to include the whale in WellTown, so it can be seen in two experiences, including as the player stands on a pontoon in the middle of the harbour under a stunningly starlit sky.
"It doesn't have Mittens the cat but it does have Matariki," Lintott said.
Virtual Wellington has taken 18 months in total to create.
It is free to download from the Steam and Oculus VR stores and can be viewed on YouTube. An Android and iOS version are in the works.