Interview with Dom Hofmann on how and why he created Loot, the communities, creativity, and NFT speculation it spawned, and the future of the project (Casey Newton/Platformer)

interview dom hofmann nftnewtonplatformer

Let’s discuss the most recent venture from a Vine co-founder and what it can teach us about the direction of the IT sector today. This is a unique tech story where pretty much every detail astonished me in some way. Although some of the concepts presented here are quite radical—to the point that I can see a lot of you slamming your laptops down to stop listening—the distant frontier they signify seems to be moving closer to the centre of society every day.

The first step is loot

I attempted to amaze you when I wrote about non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, here in March by using some of the period’s most stunning sales figures: $300 million in lifetime sales for NBA Top Shot, $5.8 million for Grimes’ artwork, and $600,000 for the Nyan Cat meme.

Considering what has transpired since then, some of those figures appear insignificant in contrast. An NFT connected to the first doge meme, which had been bought for $4 million in June, saw its owners sell a portion of their stake in the object through tokens on Thursday. This process is very well explained on Coindesk. The cryptocurrency was quickly purchased by investors, and today one NFT is worth $225 million.

The number of persons developing, purchasing, and trading NFTs grew even as they faded from the mainstream media’s attention.

We now come to Dom Hofmann. Hofmann is most known for being a co-creator of Vine, a platform that greatly influenced the development of meme culture while also establishing the short-form video format on mobile devices. Later, he developed Peach, a pop-up social network that was adored by its members long after its fleeting peak was forgotten. He most recently worked on the Byte app, which was an attempt to resurrect Vine and which sold early this year.

Like many software engineers, Hofmann had followed the development of cryptocurrencies over the previous ten years, occasionally purchasing coins to gain a deeper understanding of how they functioned. The initial initiative, Bitcoin, received the majority of attention in the previous ten years regarding the blockchain. However, more lately, developers have developed a fondness for an alternative blockchain called Ethereum, which was created to allow them to build decentralised apps using more complex smart contracts than Bitcoin does.

Nothing particularly interesting for the general public appeared during the first several years after Ethereum was welcomed. Then, during a few months that became known as “DeFi summer,” a number of businesses started expanding very fast by creating decentralised financial apps on its blockchain. (Writing about blockchain technology is difficult because of all the names.)

Following that, Ethereum started to draw developers in droves, just like any other platform that had unexpectedly demonstrated its ability to produce significant sums of money.

Of them was Hofmann. He started learning Solidity, the coding language used to build smart contracts for Ethereum, in December. He also profited from the sale of an artwork he had produced as an NFT. As he worked, his enthusiasm in leveraging NFTs to motivate decentralised creative endeavours grew.

He developed Blitmap in March, which he dubbed a “community-created fantasy environment.” It ultimately served as a type of guide for what Loot would develop into.

Hofmann collaborated with 16 other artists to produce 100 32 by 32 pixel pictures that combined science fiction and fantasy themes. These images were then “remixed” into 1,600 “siblings.” The plan was to create a blockchain-based Marvel Cinematic Universe based on the Blitmaps, with characters being turned into goods and video games. The project was a small success; currently, the least expensive Blitmap costs roughly $98,000.

More significantly, it prepared the ground for what was to follow.

II. Drops of loot

A text-based adventure similar to the kind that served as the inspiration for some of the first video games was one of Hofmann’s recent side projects. He created a random item generator, a piece of software that would provide names for various armour, weapons, and accessories, as part of the development process.

Since the introduction of Blitmap, Hofmann has been considering various cutting-edge strategies to encourage the production of blockchain-based art and the communities that support it. He thought it would be interesting to watch what would happen if anyone could freely produce (or “mint,” in blockchain lingo) NFTs based on his random-item generator. He refused to provide them any artwork or guidelines on how to use it. In addition, he would distribute these “bags” of goods gratis, barring any transaction costs imposed by the Ethereum network.

He informed me that a lot of people have been asking for games that are set in science-fictional or fantastical worlds. They desire interoperability with other worlds. They want to have the option of adding to that. They want to be certain that their possessions will always be with them. I was simply elaborating in that direction. It was an investigation.

He said that the only thing he really wanted was for everyone to select to take one of the bags he provided.