What Is Art Blocks? An Exploration into Generative Art

Art Blocks is an Ethereum-based platform that offers distinctive, programmable, and on-demand generative non-fungible tokens (NFT) art to collectors globally. It’s also the first blockchain-based platform to provide on-demand generative art output. It accomplishes this through NFT drops, a process in which a user mints an NFT but has no idea what they’ll get as an end product.

Generative art isn’t an entirely novel concept, but the Art Blocks team largely pioneers its blockchain-based adaptation. Generative art’s influence on the non-fungible token (NFT) industry has been swift, generating substantial interest among creators and collectors alike. 

The project’s series of colorful “Squiggles” generated over $850 million in sales in 2021, making it the world’s fourth-best-selling non-fungible tokens (NFT) project up to date.

The following Art Blocks guide goes over the project, how it works, and what sets it apart from other popular generative art blocks. If you’re new to the NFT space, don’t get thrown off by some of the terms throughout– you’re picking a very exciting place to start! 

What Are Art Blocks and How Does It Work?

Before diving into what Art Blocks is, you should have a good understanding of the power of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

An NFT is a blockchain-verified deed of ownership to a single digital asset, such as a video file, picture, artwork, or something entirely different. These tokens representing one-of-a-kind digital collectibles are created and stored on blockchains such as Ethereum. In contrast, the actual image or video file formats are hosted elsewhere to not pack the blockchain with too much data. 

So, what exactly is Art Blocks and where does this project fit into the NFT movement? 

Art Blocks is a platform for curating programmable artworks, which are  saved and traded as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. It’s a generative art system that enables collectors to create tokens without knowing exactly what they’ll get beforehand. The artist creates a piece of code that is inserted into the platform and generates random combinations of the variables. The script is kept on the blockchain, and most works are created with p5.js,  a JavaScript framework that supports creative coding.

The Art Blocks platform enables artists to submit an algorithm that creates one-of-a-kind art pieces in a given style. Artists can also establish a mint price and a limit (cap) on the number of pieces in every single collection. If a user likes a certain piece of artwork, they can mint one for themself. 

First, a seed, or random hexadecimal string is created. 

Then, while remaining consistent with the aesthetic of the artwork collection, each element in the seed defines an attribute of the artwork. For example, based on the color property of their randomly generated hexadecimal string, one person could get a red rendition of the artwork, while someone else would get more blue tones. 

The final product might also be a static photograph, a 3D model, or an interactive experience in many formats.

This element of surprise adds to the NFT minting process and ensures that every single collector has a fair chance of minting a unique piece.

To mint a piece generated by Art blocks, users will need to install MetaMask and connect both together. 

The artwork is stored on the Ethereum (ETH) network via standard ERC-721 compliant non-fungible tokens after being generated. This standard enables users to instantaneously access NFTs on marketplace sites like OpenSea, where they may resell their art pieces to other NFT collectors.

Art Blocks receives 10 percent of the mint price as a fee, and the artist keeps the remainder for the original sale. Art Blocks also deducts a 2.5 percent charge from secondary purchases on NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, while artists receive a 5 percent royalty. Artists tend to love this feature since it allows them to receive ongoing royalties from their work, which is unusual in the traditional art world.

The Types of Art Blocks Projects

Art block projects may be divided into three categories: Curated, Playground, and Factory.

Curated:

Art Blocks Curated is the highest level for generative art NFTs and also the Art Blocks product suite’s most meticulously curated offering. 

Collaborators or individual artists submit work, which is then reviewed and approved by the Art Block curation board before going online. These inventive releases by reputable artists tend to demonstrate artistic and technical range interwoven with the artist’s individual creativity. 

Playground: 

The Playground collection is essential for artists who have already had a curated release or drop and wish to showcase their talents even further. Art Blocks doesn’t really vet individual projects, but the artists are well-vetted, so you know they’re of great quality. The term ‘Playground’ refers to the area where artists can explore and express their ideas.

Factory:

Curated projects take about two years to finish due to the huge increase in the number of applicants. As a result, the Art Blocks development team created the Factory area, allowing novice designers to participate in drops. The team still selects and distributes artworks on a regular basis, but they are usually only inspected to verify that they are working and not blatant duplicates of other artworks. 

Artists maintain the responsibility and final say on marketing their own pieces since Art Blocks doesn’t strongly promote these releases as much asides from the platform general brand promotion. So, it is up to the artists to personally promote their works.

A Brief History on Art Blocks

Art Blocks was launched in November 2020 by Erick Calderon, nicknamed Snowfro. 

Snowfro claims to have got the notion for an Art Blocks sort of project after a personal encounter in 2017 when claiming Cryptopunks. Snowfro managed to manipulate the system and carefully acquire the rarest accessible assets at the moment, which were the zombies, due to his technical expertise and understanding of how smart contracts functioned. 

He sought to use generative art to build a system that allowed no one to foresee or alter the precise type of asset they would get. At the same time, Snowfro also wished to encrypt the asset’s properties within the code, believing that this would give each iteration more legitimacy. 

He was intrigued by this idea of provenance combined with the variety of generative output.

The uniqueness of his ideas appears to appeal to the general public. In 2021, its first calendar year, Art Blocks has already exceeded $100 million sales volume from over 9,000 traders around the world.

Its popularity skyrocketed in March 2021. Several things may have led to this exponential expansion, including the publication of the Fidenza collection by famous developer Tyler Hobb, as well as community growth and market interest around other NFT projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club.

Final Thought: What Sets Art Blocks Apart from Other NFT Collectible Projects?

Art Blocks is unique among other NFTs because of its surprise element, and it has attracted some substantial price tags. It has a distinct advantage over other NFTs due to its use of algorithms for generative art. It integrates collectors into the creation process, allowing them to mint a one-of-a-kind interpretation of their preferred artist’s concept.

Art Blocks has become a valuable target for NFT investors, especially as the system gains momentum and the curated collections gather more interest. The platform has a ton of potential for collectors, traders, and artists alike. 

Axie Infinity: Pokémon Inspired Blockchain Game Explained

Axie Infinity is a community-driven blockchain-based digital pet game that enables players to earn money while playing the game. Think of Axie as a hybrid between Pokemon, Tamagotchi, and CryptoKitties.

It is one of the most popular NFT token-based games, with over 19,000 monthly active on-chain users. One of the most notable characteristics of Axie Infinity and other NFT-based games is that users are able to bridge the in-game economy with real-world currency.

Over 25,000 ETH (over $45M) has been traded in the in-house marketplace, with the most expensive Axie being sold for 300 ETH ($540,000.)

About Axie Infinity:

Axie Infinity is a product of Sky Mavis, a game study based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The Sky Mavis and Axie Infinity team includes:

Trung Nguyen, Founder of Sky Mavis and Axie Infinity. He is a serial entrepreneur behind an E-commerce delivery startup called Loship.

Alexander L. Larsen is the Co-Founder of Sky Mavis and Axie Infinity game and is the current Chief Operating Officer of the venture.  He is the business head behind the venture and handles the day-to-day operation of the company.  He comes with a background in e-sport development and is a gamer, gaming competition organizer, and video journalist.

Viet Anh Ho is the Chief Technology Officer at Sky Mavis.  He was previously a full-stack developer and an intern at both Google and Paypal.

  • Tu Doan, art director and game director of Axie Infinity. He is a competitive Pokemon player and created the entire suite of Axie game characters. He also worked on Loship with Trung.
  • Duy Trinh, Lead Animator Axie Infinity. He’s a graduate of a professional Hollywood Animation Studio and works as a freelancer.
  • Quy Dau, Primary Software Engineer. He won the 2016 React Hackathon. He started his first company at the age of 21.
  • Nam Nguyen, Chief Graphic Artist and Designer. 

Launched in 2018, Axie Infinity has quickly grown alongside the rising popularity of NFTs and blockchain-based gaming. 

The Cast of Axie Characters:

Axie Infinity is a decentralized game ecosystem built on the Ethereum blockchain, featuring a cast of digital characters. Per the game’s narrative, Axies are creatures that “love to battle, build, and hunt for treasure.” 

Dubbed a “digital nation,” Axie Infinity presents a landscape in which users can collect, battle, or breed their characters. 

The Axie secondary marketplace

Users can also build a collection of Axies and use them in a wide variety of games within the Axie Infinity world, called the “Terrarium.” 

Axies gain experience points and level up by completing daily activities or through battle with other Axies. They come with specific traits that help determine battle outcomes; some characteristics make them more competitive than others. 

There are over 500 body parts that can be acquired and traded, and each body part enables Axies to perform specific battle moves or receive an overall combat advantage. 

There are four stats that determine a battle outcome: Health (HP), Skill, Speed, and Morale.

  1. Health (HP): How much of a beating your Axie can withstand before it’s knocked down.
  2. Skill: A skill stat determines the amount of damage you do; you can do more damage if you use multiple cards on your opponent during battle.
  3. Speed: Speed is critical because it determines the attack order in a battle. The faster the Axie, the quicker the attack. Speed also comes in handy in defense; faster speeds mean your Axie has a greater chance of avoiding a critical or lethal strike. 
    1. If two battling Axies have the same speed, attack order is determined by the following stat priority: High speed > Low HP > High Skill > High Morale > Low Fighter ID.
  4. Morale: The morale score of Axie decides whether an Axie gets to make a critical strike on an opposing Axie.  It also determines when an Axies is losing whether the losing Axie gets to make a last stand.

The above stats are influenced by an Axies’ class and body parts

Axie Classes:

Axie classes are reminiscent of Pokemon types– each class has certain advantages and disadvantages in combat. Think Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are six common classes in Axies and three secret classes. 

Common Classes: Aquatic, Beast, Bird, Bug, Plant, Reptile.

Secret classes:

  • A “Mech” is a hybrid offspring of a purebred Beast with a purebred Bug Axie.
  • A “Dawn” is a hybrid offspring of a purebred Plant with a purebred Bird.
  • A “Dusk” which is a hybrid offspring of a purebred Reptile with a purebred Aquatic

Axie Advantage and Disadvantage Breakdown: 

Each class has an advantage over two other classes. Similarly, it has a disadvantage against two classes. 

Aquatic class:

  • Advantage: Bugs and Beast Axies. 
  • Disadvantage: Plant and the Reptile Axies.

Beast class: 

  • Advantage: Plant and Reptile Axies
  • Disadvantage: Aquatic and the Bird Axies.

Bird class 

  • Advantage: Bug and Beast Axies
  • Disadvantage: Plant and the Reptile Axies.

Bug class: 

  • Advantage: Plant and Reptile Axies
  • Disadvantage: Aquatic and the Bird Axies.

Plant class: 

  • Advantage: Aquatic and the Bird Axies
  • Disadvantage: Beast and the Bug Axies.

Reptile class: 

  • Advantage: Aquatic and Bird Axies
  • Disadvantage: Beast and Bug Axies.

Axie Body Parts:

Each Axie has six body parts: horns, back, tail, eyes, ears, and mouth. Each body part has the ability to play a role during battle.  Each ability is represented by a card. Only horns, mouths, backs, and tails determine what kinds of cards an Axie can use in battle.

A body part’s “class” also improves the four stats listed above: Health, Skill, Speed, and Morale. 

Axies have around 500 different body parts options, each of which look different and provide relatively unique advantages. 

The Battle is the Game Plan:

There are two ways an Axie can battle: PvE (E stands for environment) in an adventure or in 3v3 (3-on-3) battle against other Axies in an arena.

The goal for each sort of battle is to learn experience (EXP.) 

PvE adventures: For example, one PvE battle takes place in the Lunacia Ruins in the Axie Terrarium. During the PvE, an Axie will face 36 levels of monsters. Successfully navigating each level gives the Axie some experience, allowing it to perform better in the next. The Axie will have to defeat three waves of monsters (on average) in each level to advance to the next stage.

Axies can earn anywhere between 50 EXP points to over 1200 EXP points per level. The EXP varies per level and doesn’t necessarily increase or decrease: for example, Level 30 pays 1209 in EXP points, and Level 36 pays 820 points to clear.

Here is a breakdown of how many EXP points are gained for winning each level:

3v3 (3-on-3) Battles: two teams of 3 Axies each face each other in a 3×3 battlefield. 

The battle strategy generally determines the victor. An excellent plan considers the specific suitable Axies in each team, placement on the battlefield, what moves are utilized, and the order of those moves. 

The Axie with the fastest speed gets to attack first, followed by the opposing side. Each team then takes turns until all three members of one team are defeated.

The victorious party’s members each earn 60 EXPs and the defeated get 20 EXPs each. If all three opposing Axies have been defeated, their rewarded EXPs go to the winning team.

Axie Infinity & the Blockchain: How Does Axie Infinity Work?

Axie Infinity leverages the blockchain to reward and incentivize players for engagement, as well as to provide access to a secondary market in which users can sell their Axies and other in-game objects. Axis and their body parts NFTs, specifically ERC9721 tokens. The Small Love Potion (SLP) is an item used to feed Axies is an ERC-20 token. 

A token introduced at the end of 2020, the Axie Infinity Shard (AXS) is an ERC-20 token that acts as both a governance token, as well as an in-game currency that can be bought, traded, or earned by playing the game. 

Final Thoughts

 One of the most significant driving forces of Axie Infinity’s growth is its community, as dozens of reviews attest.

The community is mostly on Discord, which serves as a chat interface uniting the thousands of monthly users. As one of the most popular blockchain-based games to date, Axie Infinity has earned a first-mover advantage and dozens of long-time users.  If you’re interested in playing Axie Infinity or researching it further, check it out at https://axieinfinity.com/.

NFT Overview: How Cool is the Cool Cats NFT?

Cool Cats NFT is an Ethereum-based collection of 9,999 Cool Cats, each randomly generated and stylistically curated.

Members of the Cool Cat community, a membership that is as simple as holding a Cool Cat NFT, can participate in exclusive events such as raffles, community giveaways, and NFT claims. 

Outside of a super rare 66 cats, Gen 1 Cool Cats are all blue with a variety of attributes, running the gamut from pirate hats, monocles, mohawks, epaulettes, knight helmets, and so on. The first generation of Cool Cats (the only generation, currently) has over 300,000 potential options– and cats with completed outfits tend to be considered the coolest.

Holders of Cool Cats also have the freedom to do anything with their Cool Cats they please under a non-exclusive license.

About Cool Cats, the Community

The Cool Cats project was launched in July 2021. It claims and aims to be very community-driven, giving back 20% of all ETH raised back to the community through raffles and contests. 

Holders of Cool Cats can claim custom limited edition Cool Cat NFTs every month. 

The September 2021 airdrop to some Cool Cat Holders
The September 2021 airdrop to some Cool Cat Holders

Cool Cat holders also have a say in future features, such as breeding, next generations of Cool Cats, apps, and more. 

The Cool Cats project is run by a “team of 4 nerds” with passions in cryptocurrency and art; it is partially pseudonymous and consists of:

  1. Clon (The Catoonist (https://www.instagram.com/thecatoonist/) as the illustrator, credited as the originator. 
  2. Tom, who is responsible for smart contracts and other technical interfaces
  3. Lynq, who built and maintains the website
  4. ELU, who leads the creative direction and helps with marketing, project management, and leads who is on creative direction.
thecatoonist’s Instagram

The tokenomics of the project are straightforward: of the 9,999 cats, 100 cats were reserved to give away in competitions and holder airdrops. Each of the four staff members was also given a Cool Cat, not from the reserve stack. The site claims the bulk of the reserved cats will be distributed after the launch, and don’t occupy early token ids. All other cats were listed for sale. 

Cool Cats have been traded over 21,100 times in secondary markets. The vast majority of holders have 1 Cool Cat, and about 37 wallets have 11-15. 

Source: Dune Analytics

The Cool Cat team’s primary means of communication is via Town Halls on Discord, as well as its Twitter (@coolcatsnft).

What’s Cooler Than Being Cool?

The Cool Cat team created a point-based system for how cool a cat is. Points are determined by the items each Cool Cat NFT has. For example, a green bucket hat is worth fewer points than a rare item like a gold crown, and the market tends to price the cats accordingly: as of writing, the green bucket hat floor is 6.4 ETH and the gold crown is 29 ETH.

The majority of cats are worth between 3 to 6 points. The coolness breakdown is as follows:

  1. 4,599 cats are between 3 to 4 points and considered Cool.
  2. 3,000 cats are between 5 to 6 points and considered Wild.
  3. 1,750 cats are between 7 to 8 points and considered Classy.
  4. 650 cats are between 9 to 10 points and considered Exotic.

The majority of Cool Cats fats fall into the Cool and Wild Range, and the price floor contains many common attributes you’d find throughout: green shirts, beanies, berets, beards, and so on. 

The rarest cats of the bunch are 1/1000; the exotics feature a completely different style without any repeated attributes.

Cool Cats Collabs

On August 13th, 2021, Cool Cats announced a collaboration with TIME magazine.

The collaboration was catalyzed when TIME President Keith Grossman expressed his admiration for the project on Twitter. 

There were 400 total pieces minted:

  • 100 x Elu’s cat
  • 100 x Clons’ cat
  • 100 x Xtremetom’s cat
  • 100 x Lynoid’s cat

8 collaboration Cool Cats were awarded to the 8 best meme creators, whereas the remaining 392 cats were raffled off to Cool Cat holders. 

The Future of Cool Cats

One of the most anticipated features by the Cool Cat community is the introduction of breeding, which the Cool Cat team plans to introduce in Generation 2. 

Although there is limited information on how this breeding will take form, it’s not a stretch to assume that holders of at least two Cool Cats will have the option to “breed” them on the Cool Cat site or third-party platform by connecting their MetaMask. 

Final Thoughts: We Like the Cats

Cool Cat NFTs have experienced a rapid rise in adoption, the number of wallets holding cats, floor prices, mid-range prices, and ceiling prices since its launch in July 2021. 

The Cool Cats OpenSea description urges us to consider, “remember, all cats are cool, but some are cooler than others.”

Rare Cats

The Cool Cat NFTs are designed in a way to foster a community of Cool Cat holders, and the rarer the attribute, the more admirable the Cat. However, the Discord conversation doesn’t seem to be elitist or preferential of rare Cool Cat Holders. Check out Cool Cats on its website and OpenSea.

What is Crypto Art? A Simple Explanation 

Crypto art is (usually) digital art on the blockchain, gaining the “crypto” moniker from the cryptographic elements related to blockchain technology. 

If that sentence sounded like a bunch of jargony mumbo-jumbo and threw you for a whirl, don’t fret– we’ll break down crypto art and tie everything back together in this simple guide. 

Enter the Blockchain:

The blockchain is a permanent, immutable, transparent, and decentralized ledger that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Think of it like a gigantic spreadsheet where anyone can request to add information. This information, however, will only be added if specific criteria are met. =

The database is updated by people around the world, who use specialized computers (referred to as miners) to verify the pending information to be added. It’s nearly impossible to add false information. 

What the Blockchain Means for Crypto Art: 

Since you can’t add false information on the blockchain, you can’t add unauthorized reproductions of crypto art.

You can verify who owns what immediately. 

Think of it this way. In the “real” world, if you wanted to buy a Picasso, you would need a fine art expert with a deep understanding of Picasso’s work, the history of the piece, and, if available, the collector’s relationship to it. 

In the cryptocurrency world, the blockchain does this automatically. It doesn’t even need to open up the digital file to “see” what the piece of crypto art is. 

The blockchain stores the art piece’s history, ownership, and other relevant information described as soon as it’s added. The art is represented by a token, called an NFT.

Enter the “Token”

A token is the name given to digital assets that don’t use their own blockchain, but rather use the blockchain of someone else. 

There are a few platforms, such as Ethereum, that were created to allow other projects to use its blockchain. In doing so, Ethereum has fostered the development of a community of innovators building a wide variety of blockchain-based projects and applications– all of which simply needed to build “on top” of Ethereum’s blockchain rather than their own. 

You can think of Ethereum as an iPhone and the various projects using Ethereum’s blockchain as apps on that iPhone. 

Now, to use Ethereum’s blockchain as a third-party token, you must meet specific token standards which standardize certain aspects of your project.

Crypto art on the Ethereum blockchain must meet the ERC-721 token standard, popularized in people-speak as “non-fungible tokens.” 

Enter the Non-Fungible Token

A Non-Fungible Token, or NFT, is a token that represents a unique asset on the blockchain. The “fungibility” of an asset refers to whether that asset is equally interchangeable with other similar assets. 

For example, a $5 bill has the same amount of value as another $5 bill. However, a sketch by Picasso is valued way more than a doodle by this writer. 

If Picasso’s sketch was on the blockchain, it would need to be represented by Non-Fungible Tokens ($5 worth of any token on the Ethereum blockchain would use a different token standard, the ERC-20.)

NFTs can be used to identify all sorts of unique items, like collectibles, lottery tickets, numbered seats for sports matches, access keys, and even houses. Crypto art is just one of the many NFT use cases.

Each NFT comes with a unique ID that describes various characteristics about the piece of crypto art– for example, the specific edition if there are multiple editions produced. 

What NFT tokens mean for crypto art:

Seeing as NFTs can be attached to anything, such as JPEGs, GIFs, and MP4s, artists can create their digital art as they normally would, save it in whatever file format, and create an NFT with it.

There are multiple NFT creation platforms that have simplified the Crypto Art tokenization. OpenSea, for example, bills itself as the eBay of the NFT world, allowing users to create and list their own NFTs, and browse a marketplace full of NFTs by other artists. 

By creating NFTs, artists are able to release and monetize their creations on an open marketplace like never before. The NFTs verify the true owner of the piece, and can’t be replicated or changed, creating an element of scarcity that accompanies the digital assets.  

Final Thoughts: Why Does Crypto Art Matter? 

Digital art and graphic design have been around for decades, but the ability to truly “own” and monetize it has been significantly limited. 

For example, you can copy as many JPEGs as you want of Nyan Cat, and in a way, you’d own a copy of that image of Nyan Cat. However, with NFTs, someone actually owns a 1/1 NFT of Nyan Cat, created by the original artist and sold for nearly $600,000.

Crypto art is just a tech-enabled evolution of art. Comparing NFTs with tangible art is like comparing apples to oranges– they’re both categorically the same, but so fundamentally different. 

Crypto art also has its risks.

 “Bit rot” or the gradual deterioration of image quality or corruption of media files is a thing. The risk of many of the blockchain platforms around today not existing in the future is unlikely, but it isn’t a negligible consideration. 

However, physical art is also frustratingly fragile– most Renaissance-era paintings that have survived the battle of time still have to be meticulously “touched up” with new paint; ancient vases are one unfortunate tip away from losing a fight with the ground. 

Physical art is also extraordinarily cumbersome to ship and move; museums and art galleries spend millions of dollars per year to simply take their art from Point A to Point B.

Crypto art provides a new form for creativity to flourish and survive beyond the physical real world with some distinct advantages over traditional art. 

Its propriety can be proven instantaneously, it can be sent to anyone anywhere in the world without degradation, and it can be properly assessed in a more dynamic, real-time marketplace that could potentially consist of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in the near future.