Moonstone is a stone-cold classic. Best on the Amiga in our opinion and you’ll hear more on our upcoming podcast out the 15th March. Every game has its superfans but not many are bigger than Rob Taylor – the landlord of the Moonstone Tavern. Adrian caught him for a few tankards of mead to chew the fat about this excellent game.
Do you remember the first time you played Moonstone?
Yes, quite clearly. My old best pal Dan Wright brought a copied version (naughty naughty… – Ed) over to my house one weekend. We could never afford to buy them from shops in those days; the computers themselves cost a bomb on their own! It must have been around the autumn of 1991 and I’d never seen anything like it. The early 90s were a wonderful time for gaming. I couldn’t get enough of magazines like C&VG, Mean Machines, The One and Amiga Power. It seemed like something new and exciting was coming out on the Amiga, SNES, Mega Drive or in the arcades almost every other week. But Moonstone was special. Incidentally, my Moonstone Tavern website is dedicated to Dan, who died tragically in 2005.
**For more Moonstone thoughts, check out our mid-March podcast**
We’re sorry for your loss Rob, Dan would have loved the site! What makes the game so special to you?
Where to start? The animated intro blew my mind, the gore was crazy, the lore and setting wonderfully Arthurian yet also Python-esque, the music and SFX – though sparingly used – was incredibly atmospheric (Richard Joseph, the composer, was a genius). And that dragon! I swear we thought it was truly invincible. The day we finally took him down was one of the greatest of my young life ha ha! Even the infamous bugs that caused the game to crash infuriatingly often seemed to add to Moonstone’s mystique. It felt almost out of time, like no other game, and honestly, I still feel like that about it today. As a former games journo, I have played a lot of games. I think it’s also a clever genre mash-up, to an extent the fusion of gameplay styles has yet to be replicated by any other title.
Do you feel it is shame many gamers still know little about the game?
It’s a crying shame, and still pretty baffling in my opinion. Interestingly, given its limited success Moonstone genuinely has, as you say, become a cult classic over the years. I think it’s a lot to do with the over-the-top gore but I hope some of the other remarkable facets of the game remained ingrained in gamers’ memories also. As I said, it’s pretty unique in terms of its gameplay, a real curate’s (dragon’s!) egg (hee hee – Ed).
Do you feel the game would have been successful if it was released on the Mega Drive and SNES consoles?
Well, I think it would have done well enough to have at least ensured a sequel, which Rob Anderson revealed to me was in development (well, the design doc stages anyways; it sounded a bit weird though and was a apparently set in the future?!). I think even if the game had been released without the gore, Moonstone was still strong enough to make a lasting impression. Maybe Rob and the team didn’t do enough to sell the game sans its unique selling point, and that’s a real shame. It was strong enough to stand tall without the blood and guts. Ironic that Moonstone’s unique selling point ending up arguably killing it (pun intended? – Ed).
The game was never released in Germany and the US, can you explain to our readers why this was the case?
The reason it never made Germany was the gore. This could have been the reason in North America as well, though it’s also worth mentioning that the Amiga was definitely more of a Euro-centric computer and Commodore weren’t having much success in the US. Again though, as the game actually featured a ‘gore-switch’ in the options, I fail to understand why a German/US version of the game wasn’t released that simply contained no gore at all? Limiting their potential markets did Mindscape (Moonstone’s publishers) no favours at all.
You mentioned a little bit previously but what was your inspiration for creating The Moonstone Tavern?
Honestly, I was still a journalism student looking to make my way into the games industry after graduation. The internet was still finding its feet back in the early noughties and I thought creating a site dedicated to my all-time favourite game was a great way to develop web programming skills while practicing my writing. It worked! I also had many unanswered questions about Moonstone (what were the different Moonstones for? Was there an Atari ST version? Were the developers British – as I (wrongly) suspected – or from another country?) that I figured the denizens of the internet would, in time, be able to answer for me.
You have managed to speak to the two main people who worked on Moonstone (Todd Prescott and Rob Anderson). What was it like to speak to these two gaming legends?
Ha, I’m not quite sure even they’d say they were ‘legends’! I think they were very flattered that Moonstone had gained such a cult following over the years and I’d taken the time to make a fanpage. Both are lovely guys, and Rob in particular is still part of the games industry – I believe he recently joined Sony over in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Do you think Moonstone will ever be remade for today’s consoles? I would pay top dollar to play it!
Rob in particular still harbours ambitions of bringing Moonstone back for one last quest, but I’m not sure if the plans will ever get off the ground. There was some talk of a Kickstarter-funded project a couple of years ago between Rob and myself. We mulled things over via some epic webcam chats, but other stuff (life) just keeps getting in the way. That said, if Rob Anderson emailed me tomorrow and said he was committed to the project, I would jump at the opportunity to help him reboot Moonstone for a new generation. And don’t worry, we’d keep it suitably retro and 2D!!!
Apart from Moonstone, what other classic retro games have left a similar lasting impression?
Ooh, good question. I spent many happy days as a youngster hanging around the coin-ops at Barry Island Pleasure Park in South Wales. Some early faves include R-Type, Double Dragon and Golden Axe. At home, I was obsessed with Pirates! on the Atari ST for quite a few years and have pretty much played every point ‘n click ever made, the Gabriel Knight series beating out even the LucasArts classics in my eyes.
If you were transported into the Moonstone universe which knight would you trust the most to fight along your side?
Ha! I always had a soft spot for Godber. Great name.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
Gabe Knight is super laconic and badass. Guybrush Threepwood would make me weep with laughter. But the winner? Geralt of Rivia. That trilogy is a modern classic and he’s THE greatest gaming protagonist of them all.
Thanks for stopping by Rob! Maybe someone can make the original game online and we can all get that blasted dragon together… Readers, please swing by the tavern to say hello to Rob and check out his website here.