Moonstone Island is an upcoming indie game that can be summed up with one word: “cozy.” But, if you stopped there, you’d be doing the game and yourself a disservice — Moonstone Island has vibrant islands to explore, lively towns to visit and people to take out on dates, a myriad of Spirits to fight, collect, and train, and so much more.
After thoroughly enjoying the Moonstone Island demo, I had the pleasure to interview Sandy Spink, the creator and director of Studio Supersoft, the studio making Moonstone Island. In our exclusive interview, I asked Spink lots of questions because Moonstone Island is truly an enigma to me!
I’m not a fan of Pokemon games and I’ve tried Stardew Valley and so many games like it to no avail and yet I loved playing Moonstone Island; I needed to know the secret sauce that makes Moonstone Island work. But before we dive in, a trailer to familiarize yourself with Moonstone Island.
Moonstone Island combines Studio Ghibli, Harvest Moon, Pokemon, and Slay the Spire
Visually, Moonstone Island has everything that I love: a bright color palette, chibi characters that I want to get to know, and floating islands, sort of like Studio Ghibli’s Castle in the Sky. Of course, there’s more there than mere coincidence.
Anyone who has played the demo can see just how similar the first 10 minutes of Moonstone Island is narratively to Kiki’s Delivery Service (which we joked about in our interview), how the look of the glider is heavily inspired by Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and, yes, the islands are reminiscent of Castle in the Sky, my personal favorite Studio Ghibli movie.
Moonstone Island to Studio Ghibli in visuals and concepts
Q: “What video games, movies, books, and tv shows inspired Moonstone Island?”
A: “It’s a really common touchstone, but Studio Ghibli had a huge impact on me as a kid, and it still does. Things like Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky have stuck with me wherever I go creatively. That, sort of, informed the way we generated the world. I wanted there to be these islands in the sky, I wanted you to be able to fly between them, and I knew that it would work for the way that we procedurally generate the world.
A: “…Stylistically, as well as Studio Ghibli, we really love EarthBound and its unbridled creativity, like how it’s willing to have a piece of abstract art as an enemy. …When it comes to our collectible Spirits, there aren’t any rules. We kind of just go with what we think is fun or cute or dumb in a nice way.”
Moonstone Island to Pokemon and Slay the Spire in the battle system
Beyond the Studio Ghibli feel and visuals, Sandy (as I’ll call him in this article since the positive interview we had leads me to think we’re friends on a first-name basis) and the team at Studio Supersoft took combat inspiration from Pokemon and Slay the Spire. The obvious parallel you’ll immediately see in Moonstone Island is the Spirits look and play like Pokemon, but the combat itself is a lot less Pokemon and a lot more Slay the Spire.
Q: “Deck-building games are some of my favorites; Slay the Spire and Monster Train being a few personal highlights. What intrigued you about making Moonstone Island a deck-builder?”
A: “I’ve said this before and gotten in trouble for it, but I don’t love the battling system in Pokemon. I think it’s no secret that it’s like pick your best move and do it over and over. Obviously, there are people who get to a whole other level, but for the majority of players, including myself, that’s kind of what I’m doing.”
A: “During the pandemic, I got really into deck-builders like Slay the Spire and Dominion and a little bit of Magic: The Gathering. There’s something magical about deck-building because you’re pretty much not gonna draw the same deck twice. I like that every time the cards come out, it’s a little puzzle for you. That, to me, is interesting. It’s more engaging, and works well with the systems in the game.”
A: “The thing that really blew my mind was that in Slay the Spire, you have to pay to remove cards, and it was the first time I’ve experienced that in a game and I thought it was super interesting. I immediately started to think about how that’s a cool motivator to explore the world. We take a lot of those deck-building mechanics and scatter them throughout the world to give players another reason to explore.”
Moonstone Island has Spirits to catch, islands to explore, and dates to go on
Something that I find striking about Moonstone Island is that there are tons of Spirits to collect, diverse islands to explore, and even dates to go on. I had to ask Sandy all about the Spirits, islands, and romance in Moonstone Island.
Moonstone Island Spirits
Q: “How many Spirits are in Moonstone Island and can you catch them all?”
A: “You can catch them all. We have upwards of 60 Spirits that you can find, battle, and catch, and we are adding more as we prepare for the full release.”
Note: Now would be a good time to learn what the best starter Spirit is in Moonstone Island.
Moonstone Island to Harvest Moon in relationships
Q: “Something I think a lot of players will enjoy in Moonstone Island is the romance. Can you talk a little bit about how that works and how you were inspired?”
A: “I grew up playing Harvest Moon and I love Harvest Moon. To me, that’s the core of those games instead of farming; farming is a means to an end, but the relationships you make are so intrinsically motivating. Often, there’s little reward for doing it, it just makes you feel connected to the world in a way that is interesting.”
A: “What I knew I wanted the player to do in Moonstone Island is make these big loops where they start their day near the center, go out, and have enough time to come back. I was trying to give the players reasons to come back and by adding the relationships, it gives you a reason to come home. It’s a nice, comforting thing to have.”
A: “Kate Gray, our writer, has done an amazing job with the dialogue options. She’s really created a lot of interesting characters. We have a system that serves up different lines based on lots of different attributes. So if it’s raining, and it’s Sunday, and it’s between six and 10, they’ll say something different. The goal was to not have many repeat lines, and there’s still gonna be some, but for the most part, it makes them feel alive.”
A: “I also wanted to get away from the Stardew Valley/Harvest Moon random cutscene aspect because I ended up looking up those cutscenes to know that I needed to be somewhere at a certain time to get a certain cutscene. Instead, I like the idea that you choose when you schedule a date, you choose the location of the date. It just feels more tangible and character-driven.”
Moonstone Island islands
Q: “If I’m not mistaken, each island in Moonstone Island is procedurally generated?”
A: “Sort of. We experimented in the beginning with full procedural generation and it doesn’t super work in the way that I wanted it to in that you’ll get some islands that are interesting and others that are just not. So, I’ve actually designed all 100 islands by hand, and it took over two years of making a few a week.”
A: “But what we do procedurally is, basically, the world is made up of these concentric rings and Moonstone Island is always in the middle, so that never changes. But each island is like a card in a deck and the system lays them out and fills in the surrounding rings one by one and assigns a biome based on its position. Islands that are further away have a more dangerous biome while islands that are closer could be a water or an earth biome, something less aggressive.”
Q: “Interesting. So, you said that there are 100 different island possibilities. Does every player get to experience all 100 islands just in different orders?”
A: “Sort of, yeah. We designed a few more islands than we need, so there are a handful that you will have that I don’t have in my game. All islands will be in totally different locations and will likely be skinned with a different biome. Also, we have things that we call points of interest which are things like healing pools, warp stones, shrines, dungeons, and temples, and once the system has assigned the biomes, it assigned locations for all of those.”
Sandy Spink’s favorite parts of Moonstone Island
In closing, I wanted to know what Sandy’s favorite part of Moonstone Island is right now and what he’s most excited for players to experience.
Q: “What do you like most about Moonstone Island?”
A: “Honestly, I really love the creature designs. They’re just always very strange and iconic I think. There are rarities to them so some of them only show up every now and then, and it’s exciting when you’re like ‘wait, I haven’t seen that one.’ Even for me, I sometimes haven’t seen them out in the wild so you go and try to catch them. So for me, it’s a creature collector. It always kind of has been at its core and that’s what I like most.”
Q: “What are you most excited for players to discover?”
A: “Something that wasn’t in the demo was these temples. Each one of these temples has a key item inside of it kind of like a Zelda-style thing that actually changes the way you can traverse the world. And I’m excited to see people’s reactions to those because nobody’s tried them other than the team, so that’ll be really cool to see.”
Moonstone Island release date and platforms
I am impressed with Moonstone Island and the team at Studio Supersoft’s dedication to making a hand-crafted experience unlike anything else. While there are bits and pieces that are inspired by other things we all love, Moonstone Island is distinctly and uniquely a cozy piece of art that I think will be enjoyed by many different types of gamers (including me!) and inspire many future games to come.
Unfortunately, Sandy couldn’t reveal the release date for Moonstone Island just yet, but Moonstone Island is planned to release in Q3 2023, that mysterious Q3. With that said, you can hopefully look forward to playing Moonstone Island anytime in August, September, or the later months of this year. We’re halfway through Q3 right now, so leave a pinch of salt just in case Moonstone Island‘s release date gets pushed to late 2023 or 2024.
Moonstone Island is set to release on PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch. If you want to learn more about what platforms Moonstone Island is coming to, visit the Attack of the Fanboy guide.