At PAX West this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet some of the members of Starcolt Games and take a look at their upcoming dating/pet ownership mishmash sim, Best Friend Forever. If you missed our look at that and want to see my thoughts on the demo, you can find those in our Best Friend Forever spotlight write-up! The short version is that, ready for new life adventures, you’ve moved to Rainbow Bay, where you’ll meet plenty of eligible singles and have the lovely opportunity to adopt a new dog companion. In a traditional dating sim, your characters stats will affect their outcome. This time, it’s actually your dog’s stats that will be affected and in turn affect your dating life.
It’s a fun, lovely little twist on a genre that – though I love it deeply – can sometimes get caught up in the same formulas over and over again. Aside from the gameplay shakeup, Best Friend Forever featured a few other details I particularly enjoyed – including the fact that character creation is incredibly customizable, with different body types and even an option for nonbinary. I fully expect it to join hits such as Dream Daddy and Monster Prom in adding refreshing new experiences to the dating sim catalog.
After the Starcolt team and I made it safely back from our respective travels, gamerunner Calliope Ryder was kind enough to chat with me via email so that we could get some more insight into this upcoming pupventure!
Q: While I love dating sims, it’s been no secret for a long time that the genre definitely can get stale easily… Games like Best Friend Forever really help switch things up and make these styles of games more appealing for a broader audience. What inspired BFF’s dog angle?
A: A love of dogs! Also, games like Nintendogs, Neopets, Pokemon — anything with tend-and-befriend mechanics. We’re from a generation that grew up with games focussed on animals and creatures, and we wanted to create a hybrid of pet management and dating sim. Dating sims are often stat based, but in BFF you level up your dog’s stats through training rather than levelling up stats of yourself or a love interest.
Q: What was the most challenging part of creating Best Friend Forever? Was there anything you were surprised by as you got further into development?
A: Integration! The dog really is the star of the show, and so a lot of time has gone into figuring out how to marry the two concepts effectively so that they are melded together, rather than feeling like two separate games in one. The other part that surprised us was the audience — we knew we’d have a niche, but we had no idea how big that niche would be. Lucy mentioned something about a powerful Venn diagram of dog lovers, stat management lovers, and dating sim lovers. Turns out there’s a lot more than we thought!
Q: Were there any dating sim tropes that you wanted to avoid as the game came together? Are there any you generally enjoy and wanted to use?
A: That everyone is young and single with lots of free time! Our love interests are pretty diverse, and are at different stages in their lives and all have various responsibilities — there’s a parent, a person who lives in a polyamorous situation, a high powered lawyer… you get the idea. Our characters also have different body shapes, ethnicities, disabilities and ages — ranging 21 to 39. There’s no one way to be attractive and sexy.
Q: Of course, our new little shiba is the cutest… but where does the name Cheeseball come from?
A: Ahh. Cheeseball was a placeholder name, after a certain good cheesy dog from a favourite show of ours. Somehow, the placeholder ended up in the demo, and people really seem to love her! In the actual game, you’ll be able to rename all of the adoptable dogs, but for the demo everyone gets Cheeseball.
Q: Any favourite characters? Who should we be looking most forward to getting to know?
A: There’s a love interest for everyone! My personal favourite is probably Anders, because he’s dark, handsome, and emotionally unavailable. Alex (writer) loves Felix, our young, super hot librarian/gym buff, Lexa (programmer) loves Robin, the sassy redhead nurse who is a nighttime streamer, and Lucy loves Astrid — a tiny blonde woman with Ariana Grande vibes who is a figure skater. Brianna, our artist, loves all of them — she spent a lot of time designing them and has her touch on all of the characters. So far, the reaction has been spread pretty evenly among all the characters, which is great!
Q: The most fun part of dating sims is usually the vast array of characters we can meet and love. Not only did you design a unique and lovely set of eligible singles, but they come with four-legged companions! How did you choose what dog to pair with which human?
A: We thought about the characters and their personalities, and what dogs would match their lifestyles. Sacha’s a really good example of this. He has an Italian Greyhound, Marshmallow, which are half zoomies machines and half couch potatoes. They don’t like being left alone, but they adapt well to apartment living. So Sacha lives in an apartment with lots of young people like himself, so that Marshmallow is always entertained and kept company.
Meanwhile, Astrid’s dog Laika is a reflection of her inner perfectionism but also her need for true companionship. She’s a very active lady, so a dog who can keep up with her and keep her company when she exercises is important to her. But Laika requires lots of brushing and grooming, which is something Astrid enjoys putting time into because of her perfectionist nature. Each of the characters has a very special connection with their dog, and the dogs also reveal the personality of their owners!
Q: Starcolt was established fairly recently. Is this your first game as a team? What are your plans and dreams moving forward?
A: This is our first game as a team! We have many plans for further upcoming games which we can’t disclose — but rest assured that they’ll be sims of some description that deal in feels.
Best Friend Forever is slated for a purrfectly (okay okay that’s a cat pun, I’m sorry) fitting release on Valentines Day this year, but you can wishlist it now to stay updated! It should be a fun, refreshing adventure for those of us who love new iterations of dating sims, and a welcoming one for those who are new to the genre. Even better, do yourself a favor and follow Starcolt! We’re definitely looking forward to seeing what new ideas they come up with in the future.
Order Up! is a weekly column featuring indie-focused reviews, news, or interviews! We like old games just as much as new ones and are always looking for something to check out. Have a game recommendation, a project, or a company you want to talk about? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @ArcanaChance