Masterpiece: Decentralized Artistry
The story behind the creation of Hashmasks.
Stage 0 — Pre-Hashmasks
Almost every person has an idea for a business at some point, and Hashmasks was not our first. We have been working together for over two years on various business ideas since we first met as colleagues. The transition from inception to working on it for 20 hours already shakes out over 90% of the population. In our experience, the jump from working 20 hours on an idea to then delivering a finished product to market is only made by less than 5% of people. Several of our previous projects have made it past the 20-hour mark, but Hashmasks is the first project we finalised.
Stage 1 — Idea conception
We came up with the idea of Hashmasks together in mid-2020. We wanted to build a product that did not merely focus on a financial application but instead used blockchain technology in a fun and artistic way. Since we were (and are still) both fans of Cryptopunks, we wanted to create our own set of collectibles which built on similar ideas. After a period of active research, we identified an essential gap in the collectibles market. All collectibles are based on a scarcity system and follow a strict value hierarchy determined by the creators. The community around them purchase the collectible but have very little input in forming the value hierarchy; this applies to physical and digital collectibles.
We wanted to be different. We wanted to create a collectible where the value hierarchy is not determined solely at the creators’ discretion. We wanted the community to be an active part of the decision-making process. Based on one of our previous (failed) projects, the initial idea was to let the community participate in the art itself. Since the entire collection had to be hashed on-chain, this proved not to be feasible in any obvious way, so this is where the NCT came into play. By allowing users to change one significant part of the collectible, we have successfully handed the community a robust tool to contribute to the value hierarchy formation. Everyone has a name, everyone has a username, and the concept of naming resonates with everyone regardless of your culture, age or background. It works.
To hand over even more power to the community, we decided only to provide general guidelines on each collectible’s rarity and omit many others. As a result, it provides users with other dimensions of scarcity to play with. Whereas most digital collectibles focus on individual collections, Hashmasks allow for group collections based on creative combinations of traits and names. We will explain this further later on.
Stage 2 — Token model design
Hashmasks has two primary uses for the Ethereum blockchain and tokenization:
#1: NFT token to represent the ownership.
Every single owner, transfer, sale, bid, and other interaction with the Hashmask artwork is transparently recorded on a permanent and immutable record. In an ever-more digital economy, NFTs allow easy verification of ownership.
#2: NameChangeToken (NCT)
One of our earliest ideas for the whole project was ‘naming’, and it has since formed the core of the project. It was natural that the ability to name the artwork on-chain would be one of the unique selling points of Hashmasks. However, instead of providing the ability to name arbitrarily, we envisioned making it a scarce resource.
Then came the ‘NCT’. The idea is simple but represents a powerful concept. We designed NCT to commoditize the ability to change names of Hashmasks. By designing it as an ERC20 token, it opens a wide range of possibilities thanks to composability offered by Ethereum. For instance, if you wanted to gift your friend the ability to name change their mask, you can simply transfer sufficient NCT tokens to them.
Stage 3 — Decentralized Artistry
Once the general idea was formed, we began the art generation phase. During this phase, we started ideating and developing a conceptual art framework. We used the help of our artist friends who specialized in traditional art forms.
Once we had an early concept ready, we gave the mandate of producing all individual components to the artists. We sourced the artists from our network, external platforms and via social media. Each artist was given a specific task. Some only drew masks, some drew backgrounds, and others drew items, for example. At this point, however, the final product was not yet fully fleshed out. For instance, it took more than eight different artists to finalize a male base character we were satisfied with — all of them, part of the concept development and ideation phase.
Once all the pieces were produced, collected and mapped out, the rigorous due diligence process began. Since only we had the whole picture, many works produced did not fit together and were not included in the final product. Many of the pieces made needed small adjustments to fit perfectly; for example, since we had different base characters, many masks had to be adjusted or excluded since they had been designed with a single base in mind.
Even finalized parts needed additional designers to generate variations which helps explain why the art generation phase took over half a year. This process, the multitude of artists, the different components of each artwork, the dynamism, the lack of singular input for the finalized pieces is why we believe Hashmasks represent a truly unique example of digital, decentralized art. Decentralized, nameless, and at the same time, unique and unattributed.
Stage 4 — The composition
Once all pieces were collected and sorted, we came back into play. Our task was to connect the hundreds of different individual parts into one large collectible of 16,384 Hashmasks.
Before this, we have studied existing digital collectibles (for example, in-game items and NFTs) and traditional collectibles (for example, Baseball cards or Pokemon cards). We found all of them to have clearly defined rarity hierarchy, making them rather systematic. We set out to do something different.
We built the meta-collectible on six pillars:
Pillar 1: Explicit traits
These are the general guidelines provided by us. We provide the different categories of masks, items, base characters, to name a few Most other collectibles stop here, we have five more pillars.
Pillar 2: Subcategories of explicit traits
To allow for more room for interpretation, we did and will not provide details on each explicit trait’s sub-categories to allow for more space for interpretation. In total, there are three levels for each explicit trait:
Level 1: Category (e.g. animal mask)
Level 2: Individual within category (e.g. wolf or dragon mask)
Level 3: Different variations of individuals (e.g. red wolf or ice dragon)
Pillar 3: Implicit traits
Implicit traits are also not displayed. These include backgrounds, hairstyles, and hair colours, for instance. The best example of an implicit trait is the albino punk within the Cryptopunk universe. Implicit traits provide the community with more room to assign their own value to the artwork.
Pillar 4: Hidden messages
We do not provide any information on the hidden messages; it would destroy the point of them. We hope you have fun finding them.
Pillar 5: The index
Similarly, to other digital collectibles, there is a natural sequence. The Hashmask sequence can be found on the provenance page. As humans historically value specific numbers more than others, the artwork’s index also follows a natural order. For example, the first and last Hashmask ever minted form the tail and head of the entire collection, and we expect this to be reflected in their relative value. The index can also be used in combination with the other pillars to create new dimensions of scarcity, e.g. Hashmask #100 is currently named “100”.
Pillar 6: The name
One of the critical characteristics of the collection that is solely in the hands of the users. We have no influence over it.
Based on these six pillars, the individual portraits were generated. Some of the pillars follow a deterministic distribution, some a random one. We dove deep into distribution theory as we deemed it unlikely that a fully random distribution will deliver a superior outcome.
Stage 5 — Completion
The individual images were generated using a proprietary software we produced ourselves. 100% of the images were made following this method, but a small percentage of the produced portraits were replaced manually. At this stage, we underwent another round of due diligence removing portraits we deemed sub-quality. The ones we replaced were generated again by hand. All 12 Mysticals were created by hand, for instance.
Once we were satisfied with the outcome, the images were stored on IPFS and hashed to create the masterhash. Once this was done, no changes could have been made anymore. Hashmasks were complete.
This was the 5-stage process following the 6-pillar system to create the Hashmask art collectible.
In a Venn diagram, Hashmasks is right at the intersection of art, collectible, and games. It allows the community to inject their own creativity into the overall artwork by creating custom collections based on various traits. NCTs will continue to be emitted for the next ten years, and we cannot wait to see how the project continues to progress. All activity is recorded on-chain in a transparent and immutable manner. Once deployed, we — the creators — have no control over the artwork anymore. Hashmasks belongs equally to you as to us.
As founders, our initial job is done and our focus now will be on building the community. We each own around 135 Hashies each, and we have listed the wallets below which are associated with us:
Wallet 1: 0x554783FE3B0D5A5ab9883E16e2F8FF73C6369847
Wallet 2: 0x2Ee23e58F33e1663863ce948E41778C6c68473f0
Wallet 3: 0x2ACC65596dcD1BEB1c484a4116f71a69F99094ed (not in control of founders)