Air Guitar Academy Origin Story

This is the story of how we started building Air Guitar Academy — an NFT community, collection and free-to-play rhythm game that brings together holders of NFTs and musicians in an inclusive way and lets them battle each other to amazing beats 🎶.

Watching NFTs take off got me like 🤔

It’s obvious to most people that have been in crypto that NFTs are going to completely disrupt the gaming space. With NFT sci-fi card game Parallel raising at $500M valuation from Paradigm it is no longer obvious — it’s inevitable. The question is: how do you get an edge in a space that is expensive to enter and extremely competitive? That’s the question and problem I’ve been obsessed with since I launched Augmentors in 2014 — before non-fungible tokens were even known as “NFTs”.

With this in mind I came across Degen Ape Academy and saw it take off. What puzzled me was a lack of utility for the actual NFTs. I knew there was an edge for a game-based concept to provide utility for these holders. Another thing that bugged me was that these were becoming extremely exclusive communities costing $10k’s or even $100k’s to enter — something that felt counter to the virtues of getting into cryptocurrency which has almost zero barrier to entry.

SMB, Degen Ape and Pesky Penguin rocking some Air Guitars — created with Brave Army Creator

Getting initial traction 🛴

One morning while staring at the sales history of an invisible rock I was struck with an idea. What if I could make invisible guitars for the Degen Ape Academy members that could be equipped to their DAA NFT and used in a PVP rhythm based music game. Would they respond well to it? I quickly made a mock up concept video called Ape Hero and posted it on Twitter and in the DAA Discord. I also put together a website that spelled out the basic premise of the game.

The premise is to equip a PFP NFT like Degen Apes, CryptoPunks or SMB with an Air Guitar NFT and you can play the game against an opponent who has done the same. You both have to use your keyboard to “strum along” to a song. You can use your Guitar NFT’s special abilities to disable your opponent with Zaps, Heat, Ice or Luck.

Please note that the below is not the exact game we intend to build, this is a concept I put together in a day. After minting our NFT, we will work with our community to build our game for release in 2022.

Concept video Michael put together in a day to test with the community

Immediately after sharing it I got a lot of positive feedback from members of the DAA community as well as the broader NFT community. This was just meant to be a concept but it seemed people thought I had actually built a demo and they were super excited about it — it made me think of how DropBox Started with a concept video. The feeling was electric but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I had no team and no funding.

Community members loving the concept video

Assembling a team 🎳

I reached out to my friend Jared Wesner who is the CTO of The Delta and showed him what happened. He was impressed with the response from the community. Together we discussed how critical it would be to build a strong community around a product like this and use their feedback to build a game that is actually cool. That got Jared thinking about Ben “BB” Blaine, who had recently stepped down as the Dev Relations lead at OfferZen. He put us in a Telegram and we started sharing ideas.

Thought sharing became experimentation — one of the early experiments was asking people on Twitter who they would battle against and what song they would play. People responded by tagging someone else in the NFT community and that was validation that there was a viral element to the game that could explode.

Community members challenging each other over Twitter

From there we reached out to a few people who were in the NFT space to test our idea and we immediately got responses asking if we were taking funding to build the game — it seems people thought we were doing this. It’s somewhere around that time that we switched into “ok we’re doing this” mode. We put together pitch decks to raise capital to build the game — although at the same time we realised we could potentially skip having investors on board and simply crowd-fund the game through an NFT sale of Air Guitars.

Partnership with Invictus Capital 🤝

This got us into a meeting with the Invictus Capital team. We explored various topics such as how we would mint the NFTs, how we would build the game, how we would enable players to earn and so on. This was really valuable to us as they have many years of experience in the crypto space and had recently launched a project called Solstreet on the Solana blockchain, backed by one of the biggest brains in the space — S◎L Big Brain himself.

Mind melting art 🎨

Next thing we need to do was find an artist that could understand the vision for the game and design art work that we could use to programmatically create a set of 8888 Air Guitar NFTs. We managed to find a highly experienced game dev and musician (who wishes to remain un-doxxed) who was super excited to take up the challenge.

They sussed us out over a video call and agreed to develop some concept art. They went away for a few days and came back with a small thesis on art development and how it would support the principles of the game we wanted to develop. We were blown away by the level of detail they went into and right away we knew we had to convince them to come on board. We gave everyone a few days to think it over and then we met up to decide if we were indeed doing this: the answer was yes.

Some of the concept art

Ideally we wanted this to be a community driven game, and with NFT collections like MekaVerse doing $60m in sales in its first day, we thought this would be the best route to raising funds to pursue our dream and build the best game possible. We decided to mint 8888 Air Guitars in early November 2021 and sell them to the public through the Solana blockchain.

Air Guitar Academy was born 🎸❤️‍🔥

Our logo :)

This is currently our thinking, but we’re constantly evolving. You can see our roadmap on our website.

  • Our NFT Air Guitars will be playable in the game. We will also provide free-to-use Air Guitars with limited abilities so anyone can play.
  • Money raised will go towards hiring devs and designers to build the game and covering initial costs to do the mint.
  • 3.8% of secondary sales will go to Air Guitar Academy and will be used to fund further game development, drop rewards to the community, Smash events and a small portion (~15% of the 3.8%) will go to the creative team.
  • Smash, mentioned above, will be events where royalties from secondary sales will be used to buy the cheapest Air Guitars from secondary markets and destroy them. This will make the remaining guitars more rare.
  • We aim to mint the 8888 guitars in early November 2021.
  • We hope to release the first version of the game to the public in 2022 (game dev is hard!)

We’ve created a Twitter account and Discord channel for fans to follow us. Members can invite others to Discord to earn whitelist privileges — there are 500 spots.

It’s been a wild ride and the crypto and NFT community is incredible. Thank you!

Our latest art is literally bananas.

Appendix: Email from our artist to the gang about our Air Guitar concept art

Hi gang,

Stoked to be checking in with progress from today!

I think it’s gone very well. Managed to exceed my illustration goals, and covered a good amount of planning and concept development. Took a little while to get going this morning, experimenting with different colours and line-widths, but things started flowing very well once I had figured things out.

To start, I looked at the the initial idea for an air guitar that’s invisible. Taking on the challenge of making an air guitar still look very striking and clear, my solution was to go with a nice bold, glowing outline for the whole guitar. I drew some extra air bubbles bursting out and popping, which adds some nice visual interest without over complicating things.

You’ll notice I flipped the orientation of the guitar from the original artworks. While guitars are obviously very distinctive shapes, I think this more familiar layout should ensure that the NFTs read clearly, even at small sizes.

I feel like this outlined air guitar does work nicely, but I think things get even better with our second approach!

With the fully visualised guitar I could switch over to dark, bold outlines, creating something that feels very striking, illustrative and comic-book-esque. I personally love how this thing feels:

After thinking about the project over the past few days, seeing how cool the more detailed guitar looks, and considering how many more customization options this approach gives us, I strongly feel this is the direction we should follow. We can still do full on air guitars, but make them a mythic material:

Next up I got going with our power ups. As planned I covered versions for Heat and Zap. As a huge selling point for the project, my goal here was to make these powers feel really awesome. Moving away from the icon-based approach I wanted to create something that felt like the powers were really impactful, and surging out of the guitars. Here’s how the result:

I am SUPER stoked with how this came out!

I also wanted to ensure that all 4 powers would sit together well in any configuration, so created assets for Luck and Ice too. Here’s how those two look:

All very straight forward I hope, only thing to note is that I’ve set up a pair of traits for both guitar shape, and guitar material. Having different materials is tricky because of the different guitar shapes, so I suggest that “shape” is a trait without any visual, but dictates which guitar bodies we’ll see once “material” is generated. Between the 14 possible shapes and 16 materials we’ll have a bunch of potential air guitars!

On top body & material, I’ve set traits for necks, pickups and strings. We could add an additional trait for accessories — which could give a rare chance of generating a whammy bar, capo, stickers or some other cool accessories that sit over the guitar.

I bashed out assets for some of the different traits, here’s a quick preview!

I had a great time getting going with this stuff, and couldn’t be more stoked with the results. Very excited to hear what you all think!

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