By Marty Mulrooney
Bertram Fiddle – A Victorian Animated Adventure Game is a Kickstarter campaign that was recently launched by Seb Burnett and Rumpus Animation. Episode 1: A Dreadly Business was released last year for PC, Mac and iOS. Now, they need some help finishing off Episode 2 of this hilarious comedy point-and-click adventure game set in Victorian London. Therefore, AMO is delighted to present an exclusive online interview with Rumpus Animation’s Creative Director (and the creator of Bertram Fiddle) Seb Burnett!
Hi Seb, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
Hi Martin. Thank you for having me.
Can you tell AMO’s readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m Seb and I’m part of an animation and games studio in Bristol called Rumpus. Joe Wood and I set it up 4 years ago after we met working at Aardman Animations and found we had a similar dislike of modern life.
You’re the Creative Director at Rumpus Animation – what does this job entail?
Rumpus is a pretty small studio still. We have 5 full-time employees and then crew up or down with freelancers depending on the project. My role is to come up with daft ideas. And then help find a way of making them happen. On The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle I wrote the dialogue and story, designed scenes and illustrated the characters and backgrounds. We worked with other background artists, animators and game devs – I have to get them to understand my vision so we all make something amazing at the end!
Bertram Fiddle Episode 1: A Dreadly Business, released earlier this year, was the first game the studio ever made – congratulations! Where did the idea come from?
Bertram is a character I’ve had for a while. I made a film about him when I was studying an MA in Animation way back in 2008. He is always with me. Like my alter ego… The archetypal bumbling British Explorer who doesn’t like to try anything new. He’s inspired by a lot of Victorian stories and old films that I used to watch. I’ve got piles and piles of ideas and sketches for him but we weren’t sure how we could convey his world with just a film. It seemed too constraining. Then we started thinking about the old point-and-clicks we used to love and how vast their worlds seemed. It was a perfect fit! An Adventure Game for an Adventurer!
What challenges did you face?
It was quite hard making the comedy work when you can’t control the timing. We avoided cut-scenes as much as we could because I wanted the player to always be in the game. But this did mean some interactions between characters became harder to implement because a player may or may not choose to talk to a character at a certain point. It’s very different from animation where we control EVERYTHING! We learnt a lot from Episode 1 though and I can tell you Episode 2 is going to be even better!
How would you describe the game?
It’s the best comedy point-and-click murder mystery adventure game set in Victorian London you will play.
The humour is rather raunchy at times – but always gentle! How do you strike the right balance with the humour?
I spend a lot of time writing. If it makes me laugh I’ll show it to Joe. If he laughs it goes in the game. I don’t want to be rude, that’s unnecessary, but a bit cheeky is good. I run a lot of it past my 6-year-old daughter. She is brutally honest.
Have you always been a fan of the adventure genre?
Yes. I love story and humour and adventure games have that. I’m not interested in driving around and blowing things up. I want to relax when I play a game and give me old noggin a bit of mental stimulation.
How would you describe the character of Bertram Fiddle?
He’s the love of my life.
You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for Bertram Fiddle Episode 2 – what’s the end goal?
Firstly we want to finish off Episode 2. But I’ve got so many other adventure ideas for him. Journeys to the centre of the Earth, voyages to the moon, lost worlds. Being the World’s Leading Victorian Explorator he can go anywhere!
What made you decide to go down the crowdfunding route?
We launched Episode 1, A Dreadly Business in December last year on iOS and in March on Steam and were hoping to be able to start work on Episode 2 straight away. Unfortunately we didn’t sell enough to go into full production. We’ve been developing it in between jobs but we couldn’t afford to pay our animators to work full-time on it for the next 6 months. An adventure game requires a lot of content, you can’t just make another level and swap the background. Every character interaction is unique and requires bespoke animation!
What rewards can backers look forward to?
That’s the best bit about making a Kickstarter. We’re just making as many cool rewards as we can. My favourites are a Top Trumpington character card set, the art book and the Gavin figurine. But there is also a collector’s boxed set available, an adventuring tin, t-shirts and the chance to be IN the game!
I really enjoyed the voice acting in Episode 1 – how did you cast each part? Will the original voice actors be returning for Episode 2?
Our friend Louis is amazing. He runs his own animation studio but is able to do so many voices. He’s the voice of Timmy the Sheep in Timmy Time on CBBC – Ha ha! But he did about 6 different characters in the game. And then we used other friends. Tom Parkinson and Ben Mitchell, other animators we know, Count Skylarkin, a DJ I used to live with, Kate Davies and Sally Bailey, actresses who live in Bristol. It’s really great. And doing the VO recording is so much fun. It’s probably my favourite bit, to be honest. They literally have me in tears of laughter sometimes. So they will all be back. But we’ve also got some new and very exciting actors joining us we are going to announce soon!
What can players expect to find in the next episode – and how will it improve on the first instalment?
We want to make it a bit longer. We had to cut some scenes in Episode 1 because we were running out of money, so it’s a bit short. Episode 2 is much grander and much more mysterious! I’m introducing new characters and locations and there is a bigger dollop of intrigue. There is also more choice and we have made the puzzles a bit more complicated so that you get a greater sense of achievement when you solve them. But the story and humour is still at the heart of it all.
Would you like to see Bertram Fiddle turn into an ongoing series in the future?
That has always been my plan. In hindsight I think each episode should be fully contained though. So we are going to crack this case and then see what new adventure Bertram can get himself embroiled in next time. But, as Bertram himself says, “I have so many adventures inside of me!”
Thank you for your time – I can’t wait to play Episode 2 and I wish you all the best with your ongoing Kickstarter campaign!
Thank you very much, Martin! Huzzah!
For more information about Bertram Fiddle – A Victorian Animated Adventure Game – and to pledge your support – please visit: