Moonstone legends Rob Anderson and Todd Prescott finally got in contact with the original Moonstone Tavern in 2005, two and a half years after it was launched.
Todd: First off I would like to say fabulous site! I am blown away with all the Moonstone info you have crammed in there. My name is Todd Prescott and myself and Rob Anderson created most of Moonstone between the two of us. I came up with the original concept on paper and with input from Rob and Mindscape it was further refined. The inspiration for the basic game design was a combination of D&D and the board games Talisman (which I guess was also inspired by D&D) and The Dark Tower (both of which I still have in my basement).
Dark Tower is near identical to Moonstone
The combat was heavily influenced by Barbarian. Rob and I loved the way combat worked in Barbarian. Rob did most of the artwork and was largely responsible for the ‘look and feel’ of the game and the game controls, as well as all those little intangible things about how a game plays. We had allot of fun coming up with all the various death animation concepts. If memory serves correctly Rob got most of the combat sound effects sampled from movies he rented on VHS.
Moonstone would have been even better if Maria Whittaker had been in it
Rob brought Kevin in to help him out with the programming on the Amiga version and Mindscape hired Richard Joseph to do the music. I was working on a Biology degree full time at the time so I could only contribute to the development of the Amiga version of the software part time. I did play testing and a small amount of coding plus I wrote most of the manual. Once the Amiga version was completed Mindscape hired a different development team to port it to the PC as there is a big difference between doing assembler on the Amiga and the Intel. The only versions released were for the Amiga and PC. I did not know that it was banned in Germany! Rob was in discussions with Mindscape about Moonstone 2 but because it was not release in the US, they decided not to go forward with it. What happened there was that Toys R Us took a look at it and decided it was too violent for them to carry. At the time Toys R Us sold %25 of all computer games in the US, so Mindscape decided they would not release in the US. The irony there is that one year later Toys R Us made gonzo money selling the console versions of Mortal Kombat. Since the game was only released in Europe we never made good coin off it, but at the end of the day if I could go back in time I would still do it all over again.
How different things could have been if Toys R Us had decided to stock Moonstone a year earlier than Mortal Kombat
I have not heard from Rob in almost 10 years. The last I heard he was living in Vancouver working as a tester for EA (I currently live in Calgary doing Enterprise Java web applications). I will try to find out Rob’s email from his mother in Toronto so I can send him the link to your website. Thanks for doing such a fabulous fan site! If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email.
I quickly fired off a response to Todd and his reply came in a day or so later.
Hi again Rob, I’ve recently written an article on Moonstone for PC Gamer here in the UK that should be published in the next month or so, so the renaissance could well continue! Do you know if the UK edition is the same edition sold in Canada? I have a buddy who subscribes to PC Gamer and I wonder if he will get the article.
Q: How did Rob draw all the monsters and the player knights? (sketch first maybe?….) What program did he use to draw them?
A: I believe they started off as sketches and were then transferred to the computer. We mainly used Deluxe Paint on the Amiga. I did some of the magic item, sword and armour graphics. Basically if it looks like a two year old drew it, it was probably done by me.
Q: Where did he learn how to draw the graphics like that? (buildings, backgrounds, monsters etc.)
A: Rob studied animation at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto that we both grew up in). Sheridan is the same place Steve “Spaz” Williams graduated from. Dennis Turner (who helped our Rob with the art in Moonstone) now works in the movie industry doing CGI animation.
Dennis Turner co-drew Moonstone’s art and helped with the SFX on Congo
Q: Could I have a list of the movies where the SFX were recorded from?
A: According to Rob they were mostly from Red Sonya. So the only man that can have you is one who has tried to kill you? C’mon bitch – let’s go!
Q: How long did it take to create Moonstone? When did you start and finish it?
A: We started in 89 and finished in 91. It was supposed to be a one year project and ended up being two. We would of liked to have more time but they wanted it to ship in time for Christmas. Christmas makes up roughly half of the years video game sales.
Q: Is Moonstone now abandonware? That is, are you guys okay with fan remakes that will not be sold for profit? What if somebody wanted to release a commercial game loosely based on Moonstone?
A: I think loosely based is fair (inspired by?) but to reuse any of the art, sound, etc for a commercial product would probably not be a good idea. However you will need to get Rob and Mindscapes opinion on that.
Q: Was the final Moonstone your ultimate vision of the game or was there anything you wanted to add to the game (i.e. more monsters, expanded RPG elements) that had to be left out owing to Mindscape complaining/time constraints?
A: Personally I would of liked to of had more monsters, more RPG elements, improved how the dragon worked on the world map, and to have had more time to tweak many of the aspects of the game. Looking back a save game would of been a good idea and would of really helped me play test it.
Q: Were you disappointed there was no Moonstone 2? Can you let me know what were your tentative ideas for the game – i.e. did it ever get to the ideas/design stage?
A: I was personally not involved in any of the discussions about Moonstone 2. I think we could of taken allot of the best elements of the game and expanded on it so I was disappointed there was no Moonstone 2.
Q: Were you pleased with Richard Joseph’s score? (I think it’s perfect.) Did you guys have any direct impact?
A: I was blown away by how good his sound and music was. I love the Peter Gabriel feel to it. I don’t think we had any direct input into his work.
Definitely the best musician on the Amiga – the late Rich Joseph is a true Moonstone legend. Listen to his best tunes on YouTube above. RIP!
Q: Was a port to Megadrive ever considered (this would have sold by the bucketload!)
A: I was not aware of any port consideration beyond the PC.
Q: What is your favourite part/enemy in the game?
A: My favourite part of the game is fighting with the other players. I really wanted to emphasize the multiplayer aspects of the game. My idea was that you could sit down with your buddies for a afternoon or evening and play a game together from start to finish.
Q: Who was your favourite knight?
A: My favourite is Sir Edward because I always want to get the trolls out of the way early in the game.
Q: Why was the game so buggy?! You *were* the playtester Todd!
A: Unfortunately I dramatically underestimated how much free time I would have to playtest the game (I was doing a Biology degree full time at the time). As such, the majority of the blame for the buggy code can be laid at my feet.
Q: How come you left the games industry and opted to become a Java programmer?
A: The games industry can be a very sweat shop type of environment. That’s fine when you are 20 and single, not so cool when you are 30 and married. Doing Enterprise Java web apps is not as sexy as doing C++ games, but the 40 hour weeks are pretty sweet when you want to go golfing or skiing in the Rockies, or when you just want to play Half Life 2, UT2004 or Never Winter Nights after work! When I retire I might start making shareware games as a hobby. Of course never say never…
Nowadays Todd likes nothing better than to spend his spare time with a certain Mr Freeman
Q: Regarding Rob Anderson, it would be awesome if you could alert him to the existence of the site. I’m sure if he knew about it he was have been in contact by now. Btw, are there any other members of the team you’re still in contact with?
A: I just got ahold of Rob today! He is currently living near San Francisco and no longer works for EA (speaking of sweatshops…) I sent him the link to your website and he sounds very excited so you should be hearing from him soon. I have not been in contact with any other team members, but I think Rob has. And, finally a comment from one of the fans that I believe sums Moonstone up in my eyes: “Moonstone is THE best Action RPG game ever. All the PC games of course have better graphics in their RPGs, but not the feeling. Ah, the good old days.” I really appreciate the compliment. Money can’t buy the kind of feeling you get knowing that other people really like something you made. And I believe that games were designed to be more fun in the “good old day”. Currently most games focus on the fancy 3D graphics and sound instead of the fact that a game should be fun first and foremost. One company that is an exception to that rule in my mind is Bioware in Edmonton (about a 3 hour drive north of Calgary). Knights of the Old Republic still blows me away. I cant wait for the PC version of the sequel to be release next month. Feel free to send me more questions as you get them.
Todd Prescott, holding his signed A3 Moonstone poster aloft.
A few days after that, on Thursday 20th January 2005, Rob Anderson himself finally got in touch. Below is the full text of the first email he sent me.
Hi Rob, My name is Rob Anderson and I created Moonstone and I am happy to see such a fantastic tribute to it through your website. The amount of content from the game here is amazing and brings back great memories. My old friend Todd found me, and mentioned that there are some people curious about the development of the game and I would be happy to answer any questions. I started developing Moonstone back in 1988 when I was finishing Fiendish Freddy and was wanting to do more than just artwork. Todd and I go way back and we played a lot of RPG and board games and we developed the idea for Moonstone. I created some animations in Deluxe Paint demonstrating some combat and proposed it with a design document to Mindscape. A publishing deal was set up and then the development started. The game’s inspiration mainly comes from a game called Talisman, D&D, and Barbarian/Death Sword. Talisman is a 1983 D&D-esque game from Games Workshop. Its art is very evocative of Moonstone. I contracted a brilliant engineer, Kevin Hoare who I had worked with previously on other games, to supply the underlying hardware programming for the Amiga and I engineered the rest. All of the programming was done in assembly language. Kevin also created a custom remote debugger (through the parallel port) for the Amiga which I used throughout the development. All of the artwork and animation was done on paper first, and then it was ported over to the Amiga by way of the Easyl tablet into Deluxe Paint III/IV. There are over a 1000 drawings that were done for Moonstone on paper, and between myself and the brilliant animator/illustrator Denis Turner we rendered each and every one of them. I wrote an animation tool that combined the underlying bitmap cel format in order to create the animations as seen in the game. Generally my work flow was to spend a couple of weeks doing artwork and animation, import them into the background editor or animation editor and spend the next couple of weeks programming that artwork into the game. My general philosophy in the game was to make it as entertaining to lose as it was win, but most importantly was to make sure when you do win you were presented something special. So I would generate lots of interesting ways to die that would make you laugh (eaten by the dragon), or it was over the top (the troll flattening you with his tree trunk, which is the biggest blood splat in the game) My inspirations for the artwork came from many places, such as Looney Tunes, Monty Python, Terry Gilliam films, Conan the Barbarian comics, John Buscema (Marvel comic artist), Lord of the Rings painter, Alan Lee to just name a few.
Is this *really* Gandlaf, or Math perchance?
Could The Castle of Aaaauuuggghhhh have been the inspiration for the Valley of the Gods?
Richard Joseph did a great soundtrack to the game which captured the essence of the scenes. Amazingly, he came onto the project near end and did a phenomenal job considering the timeline that he was given. I have only just started reading through the forum, so it will take a little time for me to respond to any questions. Again, thanks for a terrific response from everyone. You can direct any questions to *censored* and I will try and respond a soon as I can. Best Regards, Rob Anderson
We’re sure R. E. Howard and John Buscema would have loved Moonstone
On Wednesday, 16th February 2005, Rob got back in touch and finally put to bed some of the burning questions we’ve all wanted to know about Moonstone…
Hi Rob. Sorry for the delayed replay but here are my thoughts on your questions.
Q: It’s a real pity that Moonstone didn’t ever hit the US market because in retrospect I think it would have been massively popular. I’m really pleased you liked Rich Joseph’s score as well – it could not have been any more perfect IMO. I’ve put your email on the Tavern forum (sans your actual email address) so fans can ask questions through me rather than flooding your account with their hysterical babbling 🙂 In the meantime, there are a few initial questions I’d love to put to you. I also asked Todd a few of these, but it’d be great to hear the answers from the horse’s mouth, so to speak… Was the final Moonstone your ultimate vision of the game or was there anything you wanted to add to the game (i.e more monsters, scrolling map, save feature, longer quest, expanded RPG elements) that had to be left out owing to Mindscape complaining / time constraints?
A: Moonstone was pretty close to the final vision that I had because I wanted to make sure the combat was fun, and there was a good beginning and end sequence. I feel that I managed to get those aspects into the game. I did want more visual differences on the knight as he got new armour, and swords. I also wanted different types of knights (i.e. taller, larger constitutions) that had different fighting styles or attacks. It wasn’t done due to several reasons, but the most pressing was memory, and loading times. The Moonstone 2 design was going to include these factors.
Q: Were you guys super disappointed there was no Moonstone 2? Can you let us know what were your tentative ideas for the game – i.e. did it ever get to the ideas/design stage? Did the original Moonstone sell well in Europe or was it more of a cult hit?
A: I was disappointed that Moonstone 2 never got made, I had written a pretty solid design and I think it would have made a great sequel. I spent about a month writing and doing some concept art, but when “Moonstone 1” never made the splash in sales, Mindscape decided the name didn’t carry enough market power to warrant a sequel. North America sales never happened because the US was too squeamish to carry it, and that hurt sales and a chance of a sequel as well. It succeeded more as a cult hit and I am proud that after a decade, it has a fan base that still enjoys it. I still ponder the thought of making the sequel, so who knows, maybe one day. I certainly have enough source material to get the concept started.
We waaaaant it
Right, I think I’ve taken up enough of your time for the moment Rob. Once again, thank so much to yourself and Todd for finally getting in touch and making this young guy as happy as he was when he first played Moonstone all those years ago! (I think I was about 12) Kindest Regards, Rob
Thank you for the kind compliments and I am glad you enjoyed the game. BTW, I would really like to read the article you wrote once it comes out. Cheers, Rob Anderson
Todd (left) and Rob in California, July 2007
I framed this beautiful piece of Moonstone art kindly given to me by Rob