Nifty Newsletter #11: Boot Up My OKPC
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September 12th, 2022

A great big hello to all you folks, and thanks for tuning into this eleventh edition of the Nifty Newsletter, a community bulletin that highlights the happenings and projects adjacent to the Blitmap universe! This issue is a throwback to an oldie-but-goodie project that I know a lot of you love: OKPC. I got to visit with the founders to better understand the project’s origin story, find out how they were inspired by Blitmap, learn what an OKPC actually is and answer the key question “Do you need just one?”

But before we hop into the story, my oh my, there is a lot to discuss from the Superverse! First, we had this tease from the Sup team with no real explanation other than the photo. Who are these people on the boat? Where are they going? And what’s on that island?

We then had a series of rapid-fire tweets from @html that basically outlined the thesis of Sup as a company that “builds fictional worlds and the communities that nurture them. it’s also a fictional world itself, but that’s for another time. internally we call sup the ‘shared universe project.’” In the Twitter thread, user @html (an entity that represents the “behind-the-scenes markup language that forms the document object model (or dom)”) covers all the worlds that Sup is helping craft. The thread is worth a read, provided the tweet hasn’t been deleted! But one thing that stands out is a comment about Sugar. Not only will this forthcoming card game be available to play in the physical world, but it will also make an appearance throughout the broader universes that Sup creates, with @html noting that “people in the blitmap universe also *play* sugar.” Talk about meta.

Finally, we were left with some sneak peeks of the Logos drop. The artwork is nothing short of amazing, with the characters embodied by 3D models, high-fidelity 2D artwork and 2D pixel art. No launch date has been set as of publication, but remember: holding a Blitmap or Blitnaut will grant you a key to mint a Logo NFT!

PHEW! Now that is a flurry of updates! Remember: summer comes to an end in the Northern hemisphere on September 22, so “Sup Summer” isn’t over just yet! But I’m going to switch gears now and jump into my interview with the three founders of OKPC!

Boot Up My OKPC

A little over a year ago, Loot (for Adventurers) shook the web3 world. After the dust settled and the project was minted out, people began sorting through exactly what had just happened. It was in the fan-created Discord server that OKPC co-founders and developers Shahruz and Scotato first met. Both were working on separate Loot-inspired projects, both fascinated by the developer world that had exploded from this seemingly simple eight lines of white text on a black background. At the same time, Shahruz and cjpais were working on a project called Exquisite Land, a collaborative pixel-art experiment where users are assigned a 32x32 pixel plot of “land.” The owner of the land can choose to craft something entirely stand alone or complement the parcels adjacent to their own. But it wasn’t until the emergence of Corruption(*s), a mysterious project released by Blitmap creator Dom Hofmann, on the scene that all three began to work together.

Corruption(
Corruption(

“We were all really interested in the mystery behind Corruption(*s) and the fact that it was another innovative project coming from Dom,” Scotato recalls. “We all participated in the community together, with cjpais creating an app that shows a feed of all the on-chain messages that the game maker published to the blockchain. Shahruz crafted an Ethereum contract that allowed all the ‘active players,’ or holders of Corruption(*s) NFTs, to respond as a collective through the blockchain.”

The group later went on to work on a Reflection(*s) contract, a gift to the community that enabled Corruption(*s) holders to mint a reflection of their NFT. The money made from the mint was put in a community wallet to be used for purchasing Corruption(*s) NFTs to “deviate,” an action that would transform the evolving NFT into a static, ASCII art image. During this collaboration, Scotato began working on a 32 x 32 pixel art character for Corruption(*s), since the original NFT didn’t play well as a profile picture.

As Scotato was working on this design, Hofmann tweeted the following: “idea//tiny-83 graphing calculator friend.//plug in a formula to draw on screen.” Shortly after, an anonymous developer ran with this idea, launching the TINY-83 project. As people began minting the project and plugging in formulas to be graphed, one user realized that they could write a program that could turn specific pixels on and off. Instead of graphing equations, the TINY-83 began a vehicle for displaying pixel art.

“It was this magical feeling of having an NFT, but then all of a sudden you could change it,” Scotato says. “We weren’t used to seeing NFTs update on OpenSea—they were typically static JPEGs and remained that way forever. TINY-83 was such a novel concept, making it possible to draw on an NFT.”

Scotato immediately hacked together a pixel art project with a paint app interface that lets users draw on the screen freely rather than having to create a math equation. cjpais lent a hand in decoding the data so it could be formatted on-chain. When Scotato sent a preliminary pixel art console drawing to Shahruz, he knew that they were on to something, and that the trio should make their own NFT project. OKPC was born.

OKPC: An On-Chain Toy in the Public Domain

In a nutshell, OKPC consists of two components. First, there is the 24 x 16 pixel art that serves as the “screen” of the OKPC. Each NFT is shipped with a particular piece, from a selection of artists curated by the team, at the time of minting. These artworks then become interchangeable with others from the gallery (more on this in a moment).

The initial artists were a veritable who’s who of web3, including Gremplin (CrypToadz, Nouns), Dom Hofmann (Blitmap, Nouns, Loot (for Adventurers), Corruption(*s), Sup), Dylan Field/Zoink (Figma), Timshel (Loot Genesis Project/Open Quill), John Palmer (PartyDAO) and MannyNotFound (Manny’s Game). Additionally, many original Blitmap artists also participated, including Totally (formerly BigPapap), BRAINDRAIND, Worm, Numo, HipCityReg, Veenus and Zod.

The low-fidelity pixel art resulted directly from the constraints of the Blitmap project, according to Scotato. “I wasn’t an artist on the Blitmap project and missed the opportunity to craft a Blitmap during the minting process, but I kept coming back to how fun it must have been to create artwork under those constraints,” he says. “Applying those constraints of Blitmap yielded 100 interesting 32 x 32, four-color artworks that were a natural fit for the imagery of on-chain NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain.”

Beyond the visual aesthetic, cjpais says that OKPC has a direct line to the technical lineage of the Blitmap contract. “Exquisite Land, the project that Shahruz and I worked on, drew heavily on the Blitmap project,” he recalls. “The Blitmap renderer became the canonical renderer for on-chain pixel art at the time, and I learned how Dom constructed the data from that contract. We then built that into a more generic form for Exquisite Land, and I continued development on that path to create Exquisite Graphics, a renderer that can create 64 x 64 pixel on-chain artworks with up to 256 colors. This is the technology that powers OKPC.”

The second component of OKPC is a computer console or monitor featuring characteristics that were imprinted on the NFT at the time of minting, including the NFT color, the design of the speakers on the left and right of the screen, a headband design and a printed word on the bottom lefthand corner. These items are fixed on the OKPC and serve as a picture frame of sorts for the pixel artwork. Additionally, there is a clock speed mechanism that increases the longer a person holds the OKPC—if it is transferred, the clock speed value remains the same, but the rate at which it increases is reset. The team notes that the Corruption(*s) insight score was the catalyst for this clockspeed.

But OKPC is more than just pixel art on a screen—it is an open-ended technology that the team can expand and build upon. Case in point: in the first expansion, the team opened a gallery that initially featured all the artworks that originally came with the NFT, allowing OKPC owners to purchase the art and add it to their collection. The OKPC thus became an NFT that could contain NFTs, a mind-bending concept that had yet to be explored in the space. Each artwork had a limited run of pieces that an OKPC holder could purchase for 0.02 Ethereum—Gremplin’s “Swampy” became a fan favorite and was the first gallery piece to sell all 500+ copies!

The team then followed up by allowing owners to put their own art on-chain and to save it to the OKPC display screen. Currently, if an NFT holder decides to draw another image on their OKPC, the previous creation will be erased from the NFT, creating what cjpais calls an “Etch-a-Sketch surface that is pretty enjoyable in itself to play with.” He does note that even though that artwork may be erased—as it can on an Etch-a-Sketch—a breadcrumb remains on the blockchain where it can be reconstituted by on-chain sleuths.

This drawing by corin.eth was a favorite of some in the OKPC Discord channel.
This drawing by corin.eth was a favorite of some in the OKPC Discord channel.

Comparing the OKPC to a beloved child’s toy works for Shahruz; the developer likes viewing OKPC as a playful item. “It leaves a lot of open-endedness as to what we can do with the project,” Shahruz explains. “It’s a way for us to play with these novel ideas around art, collection and trading through a toy-like filter.”

Some of the OKPC Gold (OKGLD) that the author has accumulated to date.
Some of the OKPC Gold (OKGLD) that the author has accumulated to date.

We are already seeing different manifestations of such experimentation. Shahruz points to the OKPC Gold (OKGLD) airdrop, a play on the Adventure Gold airdrop in the Loot ecosystem, that has helped make light of some DeFi concepts. The team has already exchanged an OKPC to an individual in exchange for OKGLD and plans to use that token to facilitate upgrades, such as providing a palette of different paint colors in addition to the original paradigm of black/white pixels.

The potential evolution of an OKPC color upgrade powered by OKGLD.
The potential evolution of an OKPC color upgrade powered by OKGLD.

By refusing to put OKPC in a box with a concrete definition, the team hopes that they can continue to return to the project and develop it as the space matures. “The three of us are obviously builders,” says Scotato. “We have a lot of ideas about what we want to do, but we didn’t want to build it all in from the start. So we left open a lot of these escape hatches with the ability to upgrade over time.”

With so many CC0 projects influencing OKPC, it’s no wonder that the trio decided to put their project in the public domain as well. Scotato says that as engineers, the team relies on open-source software to do their day jobs, so it just makes sense to put OKPC in the public domain to help creatives make derivatives of their project with their own flavor.

Coincidentally, after interviewing the team for this newsletter, @0xnewtype launched OKGO, a project that incorporates many OKPC features in an on-chain card game. The release of OKGO seemed to affirm a point that Shahruz mentioned in the interview: “With CC0, we’re basically inviting others to have fun with us. This license is so interesting, and I’m hoping that we see people take advantage of it and find interesting applications that we haven’t considered.”

But what about the question on everyone’s mind: Do you really only need one OKPC?

“You only need one in the sense that you only need one character in World of Warcraft,” Scotato says with a laugh. “If you want to do more, if you want to express yourself in different ways, you can have multiple OKPCs. But to engage with the project, to be part of the community and to put your mark on the OKPC world, you only need one.”

Nifty’s Nook

One of the things that I love about OKPC is how open-ended the team is leaving the project. While it admittedly seems “toyish,” I don’t think we are fully aware yet of all the ways OKPC may evolve over time. I often see comments on Twitter or Discord comparing OKPC to Terraforms by Mathcastles, another project that seems hard to grasp. On the surface, OKPC seems like purely a vehicle to display art. But with three talented individuals at the helm who are in touch with the meta of the space and stay on top of the technology, it is also reasonable to see OKPC evolving into something that we can’t quite yet grasp.

Time will tell if history looks back at OKPC as something truly revolutionary in the way that we now consider earlier examples of generative, on-chain and AI-driven art. It’s also possible that the project will remain an on-chain toy allowing folks to push pixels akin to a 21st century Etch-a-Sketch. But with such a talented team, I’ll be tuning in to see what happens!

One final note: as you may know, Scotato recently joined the Sup team as an engineer! Sup is the organization Hofmann and Totally founded to help them cultivate fictional universes, and the Blitmap universe is their first. Scotato was in the middle of his first week at Sup when I interviewed him for this article, excitedly getting up to speed on all their projects.

“Sup has an environment that prioritizes creativity,” he says. “A lot of the early Sup hires are artists and builders, and the team is pushing each other to think differently. It’s not just about creativity in the visual and world building arenas; it’s also about searching for fun new ideas and experiences to share with the world.”

Super excited to see what Scotato and team have in store for us with the Logos release—in the meantime, enjoy the OKPC theme song by Fabians.eth!

NiftyPins is a member of the Blitmap community and a comms professional—you can find him frequently hanging out in the Blitmap Discord or on Twitter at @niftypins.

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