At PAX Aus 2019, we were fortunate enough to be able to speak with Calliope from Starcolt about their upcoming game Best Friend Forever.
Alex: Hello everyone, I’m Alex from Switchaboo and I’m with Calliope talking about Best Friends Forever. How are you, Calliope?
Calliope: I’m great, thanks, how are you?
A: Yeah, good, thank you. Tell us about Best Friends Forever.
C: Best Friends Forever is basically our dream game. So, it’s a game where not only is it a pet management sim, but it’s also a dating sim. You upskill the stats of the dog rather than the love interest or yourself, and the dog that you adopt at the beginning of the game, feeds into how you experience the game, how your dates go, and just the whole world. It’s a hybrid game [laughs].
A: So it’s like a dating sim crossed with Nintendogs?
C: Pretty much, yeah.
A: [Laughs] And why is Cheeseball the mascot? That’s a very important question.
C: Honestly, Cheeseball was when we were first going through dogs and art styles, Brianna, our artist, was drawing Shibes [ed: Shiba Inu]. And because this is our demo, we decided we’d go with the Shibe. And actually, the funny thing is Cheeseball was just a placeholder name that’s now made it into our demo — that’s now the name of our mascot by accident. We just never changed it, and I think it works. Everyone seems to love Cheeseball.
A: [Laughs] He is very cute. And especially being a Shiba Inu, was that a specific choice?
C: Yes. Again, there are going to be many different types of breeds in the game, where they are the love interests’ dogs, or one of the dogs that you can adopt, and the Shibe was just the first one that we went with.
A: And so, do the humans and the dogs correlate in terms of their personalities and their appearances, such as how you would normally say that a dog looks like the owner?
C: Yeah, so that’s an interesting one. So we’ve got — it’s been quite funny, actually, asking people to match the love interests with the love interests dogs, because we’ve been posting photos separately. And I wouldn’t say that they look very similar, but they have correlations in their personality more, and I think that when you begin to date one of the love interests, you’ll begin to learn more about how they and their dog are alike. But yes, that’s definitely a thing that I’ve seen a lot of, it’s so weird.
A: [Laughs] Now, can you pet the humans?
C: You can pet the humans, AND you can pet the dogs.
A: Love it. And does that create some very awkward scenarios?
C: Oh, you can only pet humans consensually, so you know, you need to get into a state where it would not be an awkward scenario for you to be petting someone.
A: Right, of course. Might be a bit awkward.
C: Exactly. You’ve got to get to that point of intimacy where someone would be comfortable with that.
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A: Yeah, get’s a little … uneasy. So how long have you been working on the game for?
C: So we’ve been in pre and regular production for about nine months now. We just showed at PAX West, that was our super-Alpha demo; this is our somewhat-refined demo, and we’re gonna be coming out on Valentine’s Day next year, 2020.
A: Amazing. So, very specific, the release date there.
C: I know, yeah, very specific. Doesn’t allow us any room for error, orvpushing back in scope, because everyone’s like, ‘Valentine’s Day!’
A: Yeah. It’s gotta be out on that day.
C: I definitely can’t say, ‘Oh, no no no, it’s gonna be 14th of March, not February.’ Everyone knows it’s Valentine’s Day.
A: So tell us a bit about Rainbow Bay.
C: Rainbow Bay is a fictional world that is definitely not based on any of our favourite cities … which has been caught out. Some people have been making the real world connections to it’s based. But basically, Rainbow Bay is a place where there are more dogs than kids, and it’s very commonplace for everyone to have a dog, and so, the common dating app is Woofr, which is for people who love dogs who love people who love dogs.
C: So that’s the first bit I can tell you about Rainbow Bay without divulging too much.
A: And, for argument’s sake, what are your favourite cities?
C: For argument’s sake — so, completely not related. Well, I would have to say that I do love Wellington, New Zealand, where we are based. And I also do love Melbourne, Australia, where we are right now. And we also love Seattle.
A: Nice! Have you been?
C: We have, very recently.
A: Ah, nice. That’s for–?
C: PAX West.
A: PAX West, Gotcha. So, what inspired the humour of the game?
C: Actually so, we wanted to do something that was kind of like, fun and irreverent, right, like it’s an irreverent type of game, and we wanted it to be wholesome and loving, and just funny. Alex is our writer, and he is absolutely brilliant. His sense of humour is just shifcus. And honestly, once you kind of have that tone, and you can explain the mood and the feeling, he just runs with it, and he makes the most incredible dialogue, it’s just hilarious.
A: That’s fantastic! So, because it’s coming out on Steam and Switch — and as we cover Switch specifically — are there any Switch-specific features planned? HD Rumble, touchscreen…?
C: Yes, so the haptic feedback is a big thing for us on Switch, so — the touchscreen as well — there’s part of the game which is the time when you care and spend time with your dog, so you’ll be petting the dog, and brushing the dog, and doing activities with the dog, so with Switch we actually have an opportunity to use haptic feedback, and actually use touchscreen so you’re actually petting the dog, rather than, you know, on PC only with the mouse, so that’s definitely one thing the Switch has that makes it a bit more…
C: Yeah, interactive. So I’ll be playing it on Switch for sure.
A: That’s amazing! Can you please tell us a bit more about the game’s development, I guess, the challenges that it’s had, and the progress as it stands in late-2019, so only a few months before launch?
C: Yeah, we’re getting close to the deadline. Honestly, we’ve been really really blessed, we’ve got such a great team. I’d say our major problem is we’re small, and we are somewhat remote. Our main programmer, she’s based in Melbourne, and we are based in Wellington. Alex, our writer, is based in Auckland.
A: Oh wow!
C: So, you know, it’s a lot of remote stuff, but we’re really wholesome, we all come together and we get it all done. So it just means you get used to communicating with people on Hangouts instead of, [laughs] instead of face-to-face.
A: It’s all online now, isn’t it?
C: Exactly. But yeah, I’d say that the challenges that we face are basically down to team-size and time, and also, the amazing reception that we’ve had, which is a very positive problem to have, but we’ve been inundated with interviews, and press, and people wanting specific things. We’re a very small team, so we haven’t got too much bandwidth, but yeah. It’s a very good problem to have, [laughs].
A: Yeah, absolutely. And you’ve touched upon it a little bit with everyone in your team, but is there anyone else that you would like to mention?
C: Yes, so Lucy is our Creative Director and Studio Director, and she basically started Starcolt maybe over a year ago, and then in about the beginning of 2019, everyone else came on board, one by one. My role is Gamerunner, so I do everything from, you know, deciding on where the buttholes will be on socks to directing and designing the trailer, and planning or whatever, so it’s kind of a hybrid role — small team, hybrid role — and Lucy is basically the overall vision-holder, and this is all kind of like her creative drive that we’ve come and sort of given life to.
A: Yep, amazing.
C: Alex Woodward is our writer, Brianna Fromont is our artist, and Lexa Francis is our programmer. Jared Rosen also does foundation writing for us.
A: So, a good team of — was it four, was it?
C: Yes, it is five of us, and we’ve got a satellite crew, which extends to about, maybe ten people in total. And then we have all of our contractors, so our voice-actors, our composer, our sound designer, et cetera, et cetera. But the core team is about five.
A: Amazing. No, that’s fantastic. Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know or our listeners know in the lead-up to the game’s release?
C: We would love you to keep an eye on us on Twitter and Instagram. So, we are BFFgame on Twitter, and we are Starcolt_HQ on Instagram. Because we’re gonna be doing a lot of give-aways and things through there, so a lot of the merch that you won’t be able to buy online will be given away on those channels. So if you’re interested and you didn’t make it to PAX, that’s where the good shit’s at. Apart from that, just, like … yeah. If you like dogs, if you like dating, you’ll probably love this.
A: Well, thank you so much for that; I really appreciate you taking the time out to chat with us.
C: Yeah, cheers.
A: Thank you.
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- Belinda Cubitt