Meet: Humble Grove
Cel Davison and Hana Lee are Illustration graduates from Camberwell, and the founders of the Humble Grove collective. During their final year they decided to build a 3D model of their flat. This developed into a game called 29, which is now a chapter of ‘No Longer Home’. The game deals with the anxieties of graduating, and leaving the house you’ve lived in at university, as well broader issues of borders and gender identity. Although very much a collaborative effort, Cel is the leader writer, whilst Hana does most of the illustration for the game. Hana is also currently based in Tokyo, whilst Cel is in London. We spoke to them about the game and how they manage the time difference.
Why did you both choose UAL and Camberwell?
Cel: Camberwell was recommended to me for its Illustration course by one of my sixth form tutors. I ended up falling in love with the college during my foundation year and applied for BA Illustration at the end of the course. Quite foolishly I actually only applied for Camberwell, because I had decided I didn’t want to go anywhere else. Glad I actually got in.
Hana: I knew I always wanted to go to the UK to study and my art teacher recommended UAL to me. Going to a UK university fair and seeing all the art courses they offered let me make up my decision that UAL fit best for my needs. I’m really glad I choose Camberwell as I started feeling more and more that Illustration is best fit for me.
What were the highlights and the challenges of your time at Camberwell?
C: Meeting likeminded course mates and our incredible tutors were definitely the highlights for me. I did a lot of growing during the course and having such a huge variety of people to talk to changes the way I approach my work.
H: I started out being an extremely shy person in foundation, so having more confidence in my art and being more assertive were definitely both highlights and challenges. I’d never been surrounded by that many number of creative people before so I felt like I had to work a lot harder than I did in high school, especially as an international student. The tutors we had were amazing, and even if some of them didn’t quite understand my technical approach of things, they were all extremely supportive and the critiques they gave me helped immensely.
Have your degrees had an influence on the style of the game?
C: Camberwell really helped with pushing me out of my comfort zone and I feel like I attempted a lot of different areas of illustration. I think that’s the greatest thing about the course it doesn’t box you in and really lets you explore any area you want. By the end of the course we had Sculptors, Painters, Print Makers, Digital Artists, Animators and Game Developers. Having a course that would allowed me to go off and make a game was massive and I didn’t have the restrictions I would have had if I had applied for a Game Development course.
What was the initial inspiration for ‘29’, and how did that grow into ‘No Longer Home’?
C: During second year I had an idea for a game in which you would explore a flat, observing objects to get a feeling of the kind of person who live there. I created a pixel art concept for it, but had no game making skills at the time. It wasn’t until after I made my game Dérive for my final project in third year that I approached Hana about making something small together. At this point we were living together and had decided to 3D model our bedroom. I had the idea of creating these environments that almost seemed 2D, but you’d be able to rotate them between fix angles and discover more in a tactile toy-like way.
H: As we kept working we realised there were many stories we wanted to explore, like our gender identities. The game kept growing as we kept finding more issues we wanted to share with the world and hopefully get people to relate to it. We decided to turn it into a series, as keeping everything in a single game would be too heavy.
Hana, you’re based in Tokyo and Cel you’re in London, how do you manage working together across different time zones?
C: We primarily communicate through Slack, which is an instant messaging application for workplaces and we also have Skype meetings to touch base, although organising calls can be difficult with the 8-9 hour time difference. We also use Trello to keep track of all our tasks and that’s definitely a huge help with time management. The main thing is keeping as many lines of communication open as possible. Game development is such an enormous beast and ideas easily get lost, so even if you’re not the other sides of the world like we are, keeping communication open is so so important.
What is next for both of you, and for No Longer Home?
C: Right now we’re running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first chapter of No Longer Home (that being 29). The outcome of that will strongly impact whatever happens next. If it’s successful, we’ll be spending a bit of time sorting our living situations and finishing the first chapter. So fingers crossed for that. Past that we’re looking at possible console/mobile releases for No Longer Home. I think we’d also like to spend some time work on some smaller projects that have more traditional illustration roots.
One last thing:
We also have prequel vignette game out now called Friary Road. It takes place during the summer of the characters’ second year. The two find themselves stargazing after a barbecue discussing gender, adulthood and the universe beyond them. You can download that for free here: https://humblegrove.itch.io/friary-road
To help Humble Grove reach their target for No Longer Home you can head to their Kickstarter campaign: http://humblegrove.com/kickstarter
To keep up-to-date with Humble Grove, and their Kickstarter campaign follow them on Twitter.