Moonstone legends Rob Anderson and Todd Prescott finally got in contact with the Tavern two and a half years after it was launched. Here's some great gossip from two of the main men behind the whole Moonstone legend...

On Monday, 10th Jan 2005 I was blown away to find an email from Todd Prescott waiting in my inbox. Finally, the chance to chat to a member of the Moonstone crew! Here's Todd's first email in full...

Todd Prescott...

Rob:

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 - just look at the layout! Four regions with a tower at the centre. Featuring knights and dragons it's a near identical board version of our favourite game. If anyone is interested, you can actually play Dark Tower online via Flash at www.hotflashgames.com/darktower.htm

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 consol 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 Robs 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.

Todd Prescott

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I quickly fired off a response to Todd and his reply came in a day or so later. (I'm the one in green, obviously)

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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, backs, 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. Check this out:

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JSF/is_24/ai_30234425

    

Dennis Turner co-drew Moonstone's art and helped with the SFX on Congo (which starred the immortal Bruce Campbell) What a guy!

Q: Could we have a list of the movies where sounds has been 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: Can Todd please scan or send his autograph/ a piccie of himself to Rob (that's me) to put up on the site?

A: I will send you a photo and a scanned signature in the next week or two.

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 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?

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? (We 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. 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.

    

Sir Edward is the main man as far as Todd Prescott is concerned...


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: Do you still have one of those massive signed Moonstone posters that you could donate to the site?

A: I have one Moonstone signed poster and I would like to hang onto it. However I could send you one of the folded ones that came in the game box if you like.

Q: Is there any other exclusive Moonstone paraphernalia / US magazine reviews/previews of the game that you could scan for / donate to the site? Pretty please?

A: I don't have any but Rob might have some.

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. Thatís 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


 

Todd's a big fan of Bioware's amazing KOTOR series. Me too!


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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.

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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? Who cares - it's cool to know Rob has a top sense of humour.


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!

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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... I'm the one in green, Rob is in grey.

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Hi Rob. Sorry for the delayed replay but here are my thoughts on your questions.

Q: Itís a real pity that Moonstone didnít ever hit the US market because in retrospect I think it would have been massively popular. Iím really pleased you liked Rich Josephís score as well Ė it could not have been any more perfect IMO. Iíve 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 Iíd love to put to you. I also asked Todd a few of these, but itíd be great to hear the answers from the horseís mouth, so to speakÖ 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 Ė 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.

Q: Why on earth was no port to Megadrive ever considered by Mindscape? I think it would have been a massive smash as Sega went ahead and released gory games when everyone else was still stirring up a fuss about them... It's a real shame.

A: When Mindscape presented the game to both Nintendo and Sega, they both loved the game but said they could not release a title with so much blood. I pointed out the "Gore switch", but no one wanted to take any risks. The Sega producers and upper management hadn't tackled a product like Moonstone and didn't want to take any risks.  Nintendo said they had a policy against blood of any type at the time.  Mortal Kombat changed the face of gaming with it's gore, but because it had a loyal following in the arcade it must have been safer for them. The time's sure have changed now when it comes to gore in games.

Q: What is your favourite part/enemy in the game? Who was your favourite knight?

A: If I was to pick one favourite knight, I would choose the "Blue knight". The knights used to be simply the red, blue, green, and gold knights, and I didn't name them until I got involved with writing the manual. In the end, each of the knights were named after a group of friends I met at Mindscape that helped me get through the final development stages.

    

Godber rules the roost according to creator Rob Anderson!

Q: Do you have one of those massive signed A3 Moonstone posters that you are able to donate to the site? (Todd seemed keen to hang onto his!)

A: I am sorry, but I cannot give up my Moonstone poster.

We waaaaant it!

Q: Is there any other exclusive Moonstone paraphernalia that you could donate to the site? For instance, perhaps if you still have them might we have just 1 or 2 of your 1000 preliminary artwork sketches? I would love to scan one for the Tavern and then frame it for my study wall as a memento! :)

A: I would be happy to donate some original artwork; how do you want me to send it to you?

Q: Todd has promised to scan or send his autograph/ a piccie of himself to put up on the site? Would you consider doing this also?

A: I attached a signature, but I have yet to find a photo I like.  I will send you something soon.

Right, I think Iíve 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) Iím sure the loyal fans will also have lots of questions, so expect to hear from us again very soon :)

Until then... 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...

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Stay tuned for more exciting chat with Todd Prescott and Rob Anderson!

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