Hello, all you lovely readers! Can you believe it? Blitmap is celebrating its first anniversary of being on-chain! This issue of the Nifty Newsletter, a community-run missive, is very special, as it features my interview with Dom Hofmann and Totally about the past, present and future of Blitmap! This was an incredibly exciting conversation in which I learned about the comic and found out that the Blitnauts are █████ ████ ██ ████████, that Sugar is ████ ██ ██ ███ ████ ████████ ████ ████ and that Sup plans to ████ █ ████ ██ ███ ██████ ██ ████████. Oops, I may have said too much! But read on anyway, my friends, to hear straight from the founders of Sup!
While Genesis (#0) was deployed on May 15, 2021, the minting opened up on May 31, 2021 with Genesis Edition (#100) being the first sibling created. And how times have changed—instead of selling out in mere minutes, Blitmap took over a full month with the final Blitmap, Chessbirdy Jess (#1699), minting on July 2, 2021!
Over the next month, there are sure to be tons of celebrations of this first anniversary as we enter what is colloquially being referred to as Sup Summer. I’m excited to not only see what is coming, but also to reminiscence a little about where we’ve been!
Enough dillydallying—let’s get to the interview with Hofmann and Totally!
While Hofmann has cemented himself as one of the most prolific artists and technologists in web3, it’s hard to believe that his first Solidity contract was Blitmap and that it was deployed just over a year ago. Hofmann said that he had been involved with crypto since 2013—he purchased some Bitcoin then and later, in 2017, some Ethereum. But the space didn’t grip him as a creator, saying that he mostly “just watched the price go up and down.”
While he is largely known as one of the creators of Vine, which was acquired by Twitter, Hofmann founded another company called Byte after he left Twitter. This company achieved a certain degree of success when there was a scare about the data sovereignty of TikTok in the summer of 2020. And while it was one of the most downloaded social networking apps in Apple’s App Store, it just couldn’t compete with the wide proliferation of TikTok.
Hofmann sold Byte to Discord and went to work for the company to help them drive creator revenue by empowering individuals to monetize Discord servers and communities. But it was at that time that he noticed that the NFT space was beginning to break out as a platform that could enable digital creators to derive value from their work.
“I took the oldest Vine that still exists and listed it on Foundation just to see what that process was like,” Hofmann says. “That piece sold for almost nine Ethereum and it gave me a start on noncustodial ETH.”
With the proceeds from the sale, Hofmann began going down the rabbit hole. He purchased a Cryptopunk and became interested in the technology and programming side of the web3 world. Hofmann dug into what it meant to write a Solidity contract and found this web3 work incredibly interesting. It ultimately led him to leave Discord even though he had not completed the vesting period from his sale of Byte.
While he continued to produce 1/1 works with the off-the-shelf contracts for which Foundation, Rarible and a host of other services are known, Hofmann became fascinated with on-chain art. Hofmann was intrigued by the possibility of having the work itself housed in the Ethereum blockchain rather than hosted on a centralized server or a decentralized service such as IFPS. He began working on his own on-chain contracts.
“I realized that there wasn’t much that was happening on-chain,” recalls Hofmann. “There was Autoglyphs [by Larva Labs], which was a big inspiration, and Avastars, an early PFP project. At the time, there wasn’t anything specifically around pixel art that was on-chain, so I started working on the Blitmap contract and learning Solidity at the same time.”
During the time Hofmann began this experimentation on the Ethereum blockchain, he was an active member in a Discord server that Totally spun up for game developers and folks adjacent to the industry to connect and create during the pandemic.
With the popular press talking about NFTs, web3 was soon a topic of discussion in the Discord community as well. Hofmann raised the concept of Blitmap to the folks in the server and began formulating how originals and siblings would work. He began asking if anyone would be interested in contributing art within the constraints of a 32 by 32 pixel grid and using only four colors.
“I was part of a group that started a Discord server for people in the gaming industry during the pandemic to keep our minds off stuff,” Totally, the co-founder of Sup and a Blitmap original artist explains. “We were just working at night and having fun without any constraints on our creativity. The only rule was ‘Don’t build an MMO.’ People were working on mobile games and digital art in a very free-flowing way. But then Dom came to us with this idea for Blitmap and it had constraints on size and colors for each piece. It really reminded me how much creativity comes from constraints.”
While many of the artists came from the server, Hofmann also put out an open call for pixel artists on Twitter and opened other spots to people he had met in web3. The first artist (after Hofmann) to create a composition was BRAINDRAIND, who made Caffeinate (#74). And the first test run for making a sibling was the combination of Genesis and Caffeinate. Hofmann says that the collection was originally supposed to include 128 compositions (something that BRAINDRAIND noted in a recent tweet about Blitmap’s anniversary), but after the first 100 compositions were completed, he was eager to launch the project to the world.
At the time, the prototype for most NFT collections was to release a collection of 10,000 animated profile pictures through a blind reveal, with traits having varying degrees of rarity. By the spring of 2021, bonding curves (in which a mint gets progressively more expensive) had fallen out of favor, replaced by a flat fee across the entire collection. This new kind of minting process, chosen by The Bored Ape Yacht Club, became the de facto standard in the space.
But Hofmann decided to deviate from this norm in two major ways:
This was a paradigm shift in the space. The inherent lack of rarity (there are 16 siblings for each composition), coupled with friction where the individual had to craft their NFT instead of blindly smashing a mint button, was just not the way that these projects were supposed to work. This shift was one of the main reasons that Blitmap took over one month to mint out.
“My main goal was for the collection to be completed,” Hofmann says. “I thought about it all the time during the slow minting process. But to me it made a lot of sense that Blitmap wouldn’t be picked up in the same way as other projects, and that was good. People coming in were willing to appreciate what the friction in the minting process gave them and appreciate something that was novel.”
Throughout the mint, the project began to gain steam. Curious individuals came to Blitmap because it was so different than the normal projects. Rather than picking an NFT blindly, people were given the ability to create the Blitmap that they wanted to have. These mints were celebrated in the Discord channel as they slowly trickled in, with observers excited to see what composition and palette combinations would be created next.
The Discord community was very welcoming, with Hofmann and the artists making a point to always greet newcomers and comment on the latest mints. And as people came on board, another quality of Blitmap came to unify the community: the understanding of what being “on-chain” meant. This was a quality that differentiated Blitmap drastically from other projects launched at that time.
In short, on-chain means that the data and information required to recreate the piece is stored immutably on the Ethereum blockchain. This lends a certain degree of permanence to a piece that has yet to be seen over the course of human history. On-chain artworks are (in large part) immune to environmental decay or armed conflicts—as long as the Ethereum blockchain is in existence, so too will be all 1700 Blitmaps. Because Blitmap was one of the earlier on-chain projects, many in the community became interested in how the blockchain was itself being used as an artistic medium.
The intrigue of an on-chain project, small number of holders, community crafting mechanics and long minting process have led to one of the most cohesive Discord channels in the space.
“The friction of the minting process worked in our favor,” says Hofmann. “It not only took active effort to choose a composition and color palette, but also sort of a passive effort to understand what the project was in the first place. Many had a creative background or a technical background themselves, along with a good amount of curiosity. Those are all good traits for a community when you mix people together and give them a common thread of a storyline…. There is an active interest in what we are trying to achieve together and how we are going to do it—that makes the community very durable.”
While most people enter the NFT space with the goal of collecting a particular digital piece, that community crafted element has led many individuals to have a fair degree of affinity for the pieces that they minted. Even those who pick them up on the secondary understand that the Blit they have purchased was created by someone rather than algorithmically generated.
“With Blitmap, there is more than just the secondary market to align around. There’s more than just the collectability,” Hofmann says. “If you’re wanting to build for the long term, that’s community-driven at its core. It’s OK to start smaller, to be deliberate and to do things with purpose. It doesn’t get you mega-scale and a pop right away, but I think over time it does work out.”
Even though Blitmap was highly successful in a financial sense, the two things that most surprised the Sup, Inc. founders had nothing to do with the bottom line. In fact, what most surprised Totally was the widespread proliferation, acceptance and adoption of CC0, because the act of putting assets and intellectual property in the public domain runs counter to the traditional IP rights that most companies cling to. While Nouns was the first major project to announce that their assets would be placed in the public domain, Hofmann (one of the ten original “Nounders”) and the 16 Blitmap artists voted shortly after to allow their originals to be in placed in the public domain as well.
“CC0 is finding its cultural identity,” Totally says. “The entire culture is shifting in how it approaches creativity, and CC0 and web3 are a major part of it. You can see how on Discord people are sharing and collaborating in a very different way than we did three years ago—it is so inherent to web3 and the internet culture in general. And while there may be instances where CC0 is not a great fit, when it does work, on a long-term scale it is going to be incredible.”
The CC0 conversation has been front of mind for Totally and Hofmann as they have begun to staff the Sup offices in Manhattan. Totally says that many of the artists and creative directors are not familiar with web3 and NFTs, or often have a more jaded view of the space. But he notes that when he talks about CC0, their faces light up—it removes all the complexity around IP and just lets people create.
Hofmann agrees that the proliferation of CC0—and the different Blitmap compositions across other projects—was one of the most surprising things from this past year.
“It’s interesting to see the Blitmap logo on the Chain Runners hat,” Hofmann says. “It’s interesting to see imprint on polys.art. It’s interesting to see the Rose in all sorts of contexts. The Blitwear stuff has been amazing, and all the merch that NiftyPins has created has been incredible. And even some of the concept work. I’m not surprised that all these things are happening, because you can zoom out and see how the public domain is so conducive to this creativity. But I am surprised at the quality of these things and how they are impacting the space.”
Another thing that has surprised both Hofmann and Totally is the number of holders who have “attuned” their Blitmap by turning it into a Blitnaut. The duo hatched the idea for the Nauts while hanging out at a pool over a weekend getaway with their partners. After they became aware of the staying power of NFT PFPs, they decided they wanted to try this with the Blitmap collection.
Thus, the Blitnauts were born. As opposed to with most project expansion mechanics, an individual can create a Blitnaut from an “unattuned” Blitmap in perpetuity. While there have been some incentives to do so (such as the forthcoming Logos drop), there was no explicit time frame. Despite that, 1,505 Blitnauts (almost 89%!) of the totally supply has been minted at the time of publication, a fact that surprised Hofmann given how involved the process to create a Blitnaut can be.
As we enter the second year of Blitmap, many Holders and people in the NFT community want to know what’s next. The duo have been teasing “Sup Summer” on Discord and Twitter with a number of sneak peeks and teasers. “We have a bunch of things that will be celebrated over the coming months,” Totally says, a little guarded about what’s about to unfold. “We’ve announced the Logos and the comic series and are still working on a few other things.”
In tandem with these announcements, Sup has been actively building a team that is headquartered in Manhattan. Something that is exciting for Totally as he hopes to continue to round out the team over the next couple of months.
“With every new person we hire, we get extra energy,” Totally offers. “It’s more momentum, more focus. Every new person is coming in and working on something cool and it is just exciting. No matter what the market is doing, Sup is staying true to ourselves and continuing to innovate in web3.”
While Logos have been in sight for a while, the other major project that has been announced so far is the comic. Holders got a glimpse of the cover, and many people have begun teasing out Easter eggs: the hidden 6, the rabbit, the mention of the Fragments of the Old Machine, which was hinted at in one of Hofmann’s Sugar (Genesis) cards, Pluto’s Quill. While he wouldn’t reveal many details, Hofmann said that (i) the writing and art was insane, (ii) a major publisher was backing the comic, (iii) it would be available in English and Japanese and (iv) it should significantly expand the awareness of the Blitmap universe, as it would be available in comic stores around the country!
In tribute to the origins of Blitmap, the comic will have a community-crafted element. Does this mean that Holders can vote on the storyline or the characters inside it? Maybe they can choose the covers? Or even decide who is good and bad? Time will tell, but Hofmann did write in Discord that these decisions will “shape future issues as well as the universe and canon.”
But Hofmann was quick to point out that this comic announcement is just the first of a string of announcements for Sup Summer.
“Sup is announcing and releasing a lot of things starting this summer and through the fall,” he says. “After the comic announcement, Corruption(*s) chapter two begins, which I think will be pretty interesting. We follow that with the Logos release and will then begin work on our first formal release as Sup [i.e. not Blitmap]. After that, the comics will be shipping to stores, and then…”
According to the founders, a key driver of these releases is that they want Sup and the Blitmap universe to break through to the mainstream and onboard new people to the space rather than just appealing to those already here. One way to do that is through physical collectibles, such as the comics; the other way is to provide more acceptable price points for newcomers while maintaining the scarcity of the original collection for the current holders.
Sugar (Genesis), the card game that Hofmann has been talking about and releasing in small batches this past year, looks to enter into the spotlight as the Superverse expands. Hofmann called this collection “extremely ambitious from a technological execution standpoint as well as in terms of artistic merit,” and noted that it has the potential to set some world records. “We’re taking big artistic swings,” he says.
Hofmann feels that Blitmap will be a cornerstone of whatever Sup builds.
“From a theme perspective, Blitmap is closer to Nintendo’s Metroid. It’s more like science fiction or science fantasy,” Hofmann says. “However, in terms of proliferating the things we want to do with Sup, and just the meaning of all of it, Blitmap is closer to Mario. It’s just going to keep showing up and expanding. It’s a through line through everything.”
Holy moly! Are y’all as hyped as I am?!?! Getting to talk with Dom and Totally was one of the most energizing conversations I’ve ever had in my life. The hour phone call ended up going well over two hours, and some of the things that they talked about were incredible!
I tried to balance things that I could talk about and things that I was asked to keep in confidence. But my conviction in what Sup is doing to nurture open, fictional universes in web3 has only increased. There are several reasons for this:
If anyone can achieve this sort of audacious vision in this web3/NFT space, it is Sup. They have the vision, talent and integrity. I will be cheering them on as much as I can, and I am ready for Sup Summer!
One final note: I am so happy to be part of this Blitmap journey and to have met so many of you in the Holders channel. After reading one of Zeneca’s newsletters, I joined in midway through the mint and created City Looney (#821). From there, I minted a handful more and began picking up pieces on the secondary that I felt were important to the collection and wish I had minted.
I got to experience BlitDay (July 29) during the Summer of JPEGs, while on an epic road trip, when we were all going crazy about hitting 100 ETH in total secondary sales. I pulled over on the side of the road during a road trip to be part of the Blitsquad PartyBid for the Foundation piece. I’ve made a number of trades and sold a number of things to pick up pieces I’ve loved. From the mint price of 0.1 ETH, I saw the rise of Blitmap to 30ETH (!) and the subsequent fall back to Earth at 5ETH (!). And I enjoyed minting my Nauts.
However, the best part is that I’ve seen a glimpse of what web3 could become by interacting with people in Holders. I’ve always believed that technology can be a great enabler and equalizer. I remember the lofty ideals of the first iteration of the web, which later gave way to SEO trickery and advertisements. I remember the joy in true connection to friends, family and people who shared like interests in the second iteration, which later devolved into algorithmic feeds that are optimized to divide us and keep us in echo chambers.
I never thought that I’d see a third iteration of the web, and I certainly didn’t expect it to look like this. And we have a chance, albeit a very slim one, to get it right. While it’s likely that it will be ruined like the other iterations, seeing this incredible amount of creativity and collaboration gives me an inkling of hope that this iteration might be better.
Here’s to the second year of Blitmap!