Interview with Shaz Yousaf: BFF or DIE

BFF or DIE

Video gaming was built on the back of multiplayer. Even in the prehistoric days of “Pong,” two players were essential. In recent years, this has evolved into whole genres based around competitive and cooperative gameplay. However, the “couch” in couch co-op has been abandoned for online play. Split-screen gaming is going the way of the life, the password, and the cheat code; extinct. Honeytribe Studios is one of the few developers fighting against this trend, and they’re doing so through their latest game.

BFF or DIE

“We evolve from primitive tribal instincts, but those instincts are still there. It’s very apparent, you give people a task to do together, where they have to help each other, and instinctively they get into it and they love it. There’s no real reason why we can’t have more of that.” Explained Shaz Yousaf, one of the three members of Honeytribe Studios.

Shaz and his team are working on a co-operative game entitled “BFF or Die.” What makes this indie title different from others is its commitment to forcing players to work together, something lacking in most multiplayer games.

“It’s a game that makes you feel good about the people you play with. That’s the reason for it’s existence.” Shaz pitched to me. “It’s a very social experience; you play with someone and you end up feeling good about playing as a team and winning as a team. So half the experience is the stuff you do on the screen, and the other half is the interaction you have in-between the players.”

BFF or DIE

Gameplay in “BFF or Die” boils down to up to four players working together to solve a series of puzzles. The catch is players share a controller. The controls throw a monkey wrench into what could be an otherwise standard puzzle experience. Like a phalange based version of twister, players must communicate well, otherwise, they’re doomed.

The idea for the game was born out of Shaz’s desire to play cooperatively instead of competitively with his pals.

“Years ago I used to meet up with a group of friends and we’d play Gamecube games, pretty much every weekend. “Monkeyball,” “Mario Kart,” “Bomberman,” all the best multiplayer games on the Gamecube. However we never really had a proper co-op game. It was pretty much a default that if you wanted to play multiplayer, it was player vs players. Maybe sometimes there’d be teams, but the group was never all working together. I wanted to make something that was that game I never had.”

Inspiration for the game can be traced back to various retro gems. “Micro Machines” was an obvious inspiration for the controls Shaz explained. However, it’s clear to see the bits of “Pac-Man” and “Bomberman” that have made their way into the game. The one thing that’s certainly all its own is the name.

“It’s actually quite nice that people like the name a lot whenever I tell it to them. They get the joke a bit. It came quite early on, but not right at the beginning. I wanted to have a way to describe what the game was all about in the title, that’s not too serious. That just seemed to fit.”

BFF or DIE

The game is nearing completion, but there is still much of it that Honeytribe needs to complete.

“We’ve come to the end of the demo stage. We’ve got a public demo out, there are like 35 levels and it’s got all the core mechanics. It’s pretty much the first world of the game. It’s an ancient Egypt scene. But it doesn’t have all the polish. We don’t have all the other time zones, it’s going to be a time travel theme. We just launched a Kickstarter, it’s still running at the moment. Hopefully if that goes okay, we will use that money and move forward into the next stage which would be the online multiplayer mode as well as the local and one player modes. This will be going onto Steam early access when it’s ready.” Explained Shaz.

BFF or DIE

From the way Shaz talks about the game, it sounds like it plays like nothing else on the market.

“This game feels different from other games. People have said this to us, quite a lot of times. This is from going to big public gaming events in the UK.”

The team at Honeytribe is midway through their Kickstarter campaign and what they produced so far is different than anything else in the puzzle game genre. The motto for “BFF or Die” was best summed up by Shaz himself.

“There’s no reason, I don’t think, why we have to keep with the current trend we have, which is if you’re making a multiplayer game that it has to be player versus player, or team versus team. It doesn’t have to be that, and actually an alternative, although it might be sometimes harder to design for, could end up being a lot more satisfying for the player.”

You can find out more about BFF or DIE by visiting their twitter page. The game will be available on PC and MAC. You can download the alpha demo on Itch, Gamejolt or Indie DB. Don’t forget the Steam Greenlight!

Will Barboza is a professional writer from Kansas. He's also a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, with a major in film and screenwriting. When he's not writing or playing video games, he can most likely be found drinking a beer at Wrigley Field. Some of his favorite games include, Max Payne 3, NHL 16, Tie Fighter, Super Smash Bros Melee, and Uncharted 2.

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