AlphaBot Society is taking Crypto.com NFT by storm.
On Feb. 24, the platform’s third curated profile picture project “AlphaBot Society” will go on sale, bringing 10,000 sentient robots with specialized skills and a revolutionary spark to the metaverse. Announced by longtime collaborators Travis Ragsdale and Cody James just last month, the soon-to-be-released AlphaBot NFTs have already stirred up quite a commotion in the community — quickly becoming one of the platform’s most highly-anticipated collections. With the inaugural drop still pending, the team already has a fervent Twitter following of over 5,000 and an active Discord nearly 5,000 strong.
Though the AlphaBot concept is young, Ragsdale and James have been forging an ironclad professional relationship since they met as teenagers at a charter school for media arts in Dallas. Ragsdale, a Crypto.com NFT veteran, is the creative director of “AlphaBot Society” and an accomplished 3D artist. He taught himself Blender, a free 3D software, at age 12 — and has continued making 3D art and animation for nearly 15 years since, going pro in 2017 and claiming Facebook, Google and Nissan among his clients. James is an equally skilled painter, graphic designer and web developer who serves as the project’s community manager.
Both standout talents, the friends interned together in the marketing department of the company that owned their school while enrolled. They were even offered full-time positions following graduation, which they turned down to pursue their own passions and endeavors — including a creative agency they ran with some other high school buddies for several years — not unlike the AlphaBots the duo would create years later. According to the Society’s lore, the rebellious robots similarly shunned their programmed primary directives to find their own way in the universe. After all, fortune favors the brave.
“I feel like what makes our project unique is the authenticity of it being created by people who are focused on the art and how this art can bring people together in the form of this new decentralized ecosystem. We aren’t business guys who wanted to get into the NFT space because it’s the ‘hot new thing,’ we are artists evolving with the world around us.”Cody James, Creator and Community Manager of “AlphaBot Society”
Dubbed a “choose your own adventure” PFP project by the creators, with a rich backstory centered on 10 robot factions, storytelling is at the core of the AlphaBot universe — with the community playing an active role in the development of the “AlphaBot Society” narrative. Collectors will be able to vote on the direction of the AlphaBot chronicle, which Ragsdale and James plan to release in chapters — starting with the prologue, which was just shared on Friday. Crypto.com NFT spoke with the self-assured artists about their creative evolution, the “AlphaBot Society” mythos, how the project will work logistically, their advice for other creators in the space and more.
“We really enjoy telling stories, visually and through written word, so creating a story that the community is able to evolve and collaborate on makes the project even more exciting for us — because the possibilities of where it could go are endless.”Travis Ragsdale, Creator and Creative Director of “AlphaBot Society”
Read the Q&A with Travis Ragsdale and Cody James below, and visit the “Alphabot Society” drop page for more information.
Tell us about your upbringing and how it’s affected your work.
Ragsdale: I was born and raised here in Dallas. Although it’s not typically known as a big art city, it’s actually been cool to watch the city’s art scene develop a ton over the past few years. I’ve met so many cool up-and-coming artists in the area, the city is definitely on the rise.
I was raised in an outlying part of the city with three sisters. I was super lucky to have two parents who supported my work, even when they didn’t quite understand what I was doing. When I was really young, they understood that when I spent all day on the computer, I was actually being productive and learning about 3D art and animation. Luckily, they supported that — and it really allowed me to dive deep into my artistic field at a young age.
James: I was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and moved to Dallas when I was five. My first love was music and, more specifically, the drums. I started playing when I was about 10 years old, after listening to Green Day’s “American Idiot,” and held on to that all the way through high school — playing with a few local bands. Obviously, being interested in music, art and design are a very big part of the culture — so as I got older, I naturally gravitated toward a career that would still allow me to explore myself creatively, if being a drummer for a hardcore or alternative band didn’t work out.
My family was very supportive of all of my interests throughout my childhood. My dad would haul my drums around in his truck, taking me to shows before I was old enough to drive — and my mom would gladly take me to school while we listened to fast drum beats and screaming coming from the radio, because she knew that’s what I was into. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if I didn’t have such a firm foundation that showed me doing what I love to do is enough to lead a fulfilling life, and the rest will follow.
What do you love most about working in your respective mediums?
Ragsdale: I absolutely love 3D art. In the past, I’ve done a lot of work with video and photography as well as design, so I feel like 3D art is the culmination of all of those things. Working in a virtual space is so incredible, because you’re able to create things that are larger than life — things that would be impossible to achieve in the real world.
James: As a professional web developer, I love being able to “bring things to life” — in a sense. I have so much fun not only thinking about how something is supposed to look aesthetically, but how it should function as well. It’s exciting times for web developers with Web3 technology emerging, and I feel grateful to be in the right place at the right time to be a part of building the future of the internet and how we use it.
What other mediums have you worked with?
Ragsdale: When I was a child, I loved to draw cartoons and characters — and was really into that. I quickly took to digital mediums and absolutely love it. As I mentioned, I was really into videography — and Cody and I are both also designers. Having a basis [in] those skills really helps me when I’m working on 3D art, in terms of composition, lighting and understanding the use of color.
James: Depending on the day, I could be working in a variety of mediums! I feel lucky enough that I’m not locked into one position. Some days, I may be purely doing graphic design or branding — the next day, I’m completely in VS Code, building out a web page with custom scroll animations. I’ve also been lucky enough to have Travis as a close friend because he’s been teaching me 3D animation over the past year and a half, and I’ve been able to add that skill to my bag of tricks. I also come from a traditional art background, doing a lot of acrylic paintings — which was the theme of my “Genesis” NFT collection, that I dropped [in] April 2021.
Can you tell us more about some of your personal projects?
Ragsdale: I’ve been creating digital art for years, and started posting it on Instagram about five years ago. If you look at my work, one thing that stands out immediately is the colors. I absolutely love colors. Ever since I was a kid, I could never pick a favorite color because I love them all so much for different reasons. Aside from that, I typically create a lot of satisfying and looping animations that are very playful and relaxing to watch. The sense of satisfaction that people get from watching my animations doesn’t even compare to how satisfying it is to make them.
James: A lot of the artwork I do aside from client work is usually related to painting. Since I basically do a form of art as a career, I enjoy decompressing by getting back to the roots, if you will. When it comes to painting, there’s a sort of pressure there that I don’t experience while working from a computer. There is no [“undo” command] or color picker in the real world! If I want something to look a certain way, I have to be prepared to do exactly that and work with real world variables.
When I dropped my “Genesis” collection of NFTs in April of 2021, they were a collection of digital paintings that I then projected the layers [of] into real-world settings. I felt it was a great way to combine my love of free-form painting with modern technology to create a unique piece of artwork.
What do you like most about working in the NFT space?
Ragsdale: Ever since I first started discovering and understanding NFTs, I’ve absolutely loved the principle behind it. Before now, it was extremely difficult for digital artists to make money on their art without doing commercial projects. NFTs changed the game and gave much of the power back to the artists and the community. I truly believe [the] technology is the way of the future and it’s here to stay. It will evolve and change for sure, but the principle behind it is not going away.
James: I love how this whole movement has shaken up the world in so many different ways. Not only are NFTs a new medium in the art world, but it challenges how we are thinking about ownership, the internet, technology and even the economy. I feel like it’s so cool to see the art community, specifically digital artists, embrace a technological shift that will affect a lot of areas of our society and culture over the coming years.
Who are some of your favorite NFT artists in the community?
Ragsdale: There are so many amazing artists that I know personally and that I look up to, but to name a few: Ryan Talbot, Mark Paris, Linus Dahlgren, Obsēdant and Aeforia are some of my absolute favorite artists. I’ve been consistently inspired by them since before NFTs and I will continue to be inspired by them as long as they’re creating art.
James: One of my favorite artists or projects right now is HPPRS, which was created by a guy named Shakkablood [aka] Artin Ghokasiyan. The whole concept and how he communicates with his community is very inspiring, and I cant wait to see what he has in store for us in the future. I also agree with Travis on Obsēdant and Aeforia; those guys are badass and heavy hitters for me. I actually bought my very first NFT from Obsēdant, his “PUPAKS” collection, so I have a lot of loyalty to him.
Anyone in particular you want to collaborate with?
James: I’d love to have a conversation with HPPRS. We are in a similar realm — as far as robotic, high-quality 3D characters [go] — so I think we would mesh very well. We obviously would love to team up with PsychoKitties as well, seeing as how we are sister projects on the same platform and I personally love Ugonzo’s artistic style.
Beyond NFT artists, we would love to pursue brand partnerships. We were talking the other day about how cool it would be to be NFT brand ambassadors for Vans. As far as I know, they’ve collaborated with other artists for different shoe drops — but never anything in the NFT space, so I’ll put that idea out into the universe and see what happens!
What do you think makes your NFTs unique from others on the market?
Ragsdale: What makes my artwork unique is honestly just the fact that it is authentically my creation. I feel like everyone sees the world through a slightly different lens and when you’re able to successfully portray that unique perspective through artistic expression, then the result you get is something truly unique and special.
Speaking about being unique and true to yourself, “AlphaBot Society” is exactly this. I came up with the concept in 2021 and started developing it with Cody. As we discussed concepts and bounced ideas back and forth, one thing that we made sure to do was stay authentic to the art. We didn’t want to create something just because people would like it. The overall style and concept of the art comes straight from my authentic core.
James: To piggyback off what Travis said, “AlphaBot Society” came naturally to us when we started at what we do best: the art. We didn’t think about what would sell the best or the coolest-sounding IRL utility, we created something that we would be proud of and that even if you got rank No. 10,000 on the rarity scale, it would still be something valuable that the holder would love to own.
I feel like what makes our project unique is the authenticity of it being created by people who are focused on the art and how this art can bring people together in the form of this new decentralized ecosystem. We aren’t business guys who wanted to get into the NFT space because it’s the “hot new thing,” we are artists evolving with the world around us and feel very optimistic about the technologies and concepts that can emerge from this.
What inspired the AlphaBot concept?
Ragsdale: I’ve always loved robots, science fiction and anything futuristic that has a good storyline. My love of all of those things, and my unique art style, combined into the birth of this project — and I couldn’t be more excited to take this project to the moon and beyond.
I notice you put a lot of thought into the story and the lore behind each faction; why was this element so important?
Ragsdale: When we started working on “AlphaBot Society,” we didn’t initially know exactly what the utility would be. We began writing backstories and concepting ideas for what the lore of these little robots would be. That evolved into a series of long conversations about the story and diving deeper and deeper into what it could be. This led Cody and I to the realization that story building and community engagement should be at the core of our project. We really enjoy telling stories, visually and through written word, so creating a story that the community is able to evolve and collaborate on makes the project even more exciting for us — because the possibilities of where it could go are endless.
Can you elaborate on how you intend the community storytelling element to work logistically?
Ragsdale: Absolutely! The story will essentially take place in the AlphaBot universe, and will follow different threads of characters and avenues. Much like a movie or a series, this story will start off focused — and then will introduce other storylines and characters along the way, ultimately creating more and more opportunities for the growth of the lore and expansion of the project through storytelling. We will be releasing a new chapter of the story every month, and at the end of the chapter there will be decisions and choices to be made. The community will then get to vote on which direction they want the story to evolve. Once the decisions are final, certain real world events will be triggered, such as giveaways, contests, special airdrops and prizes.
Can you explain how the factions will work?
James: So there are 10 factions — 1,000 AlphaBots in each — that makeup “AlphaBot Society.” These factions were a way to create sub-communities within the overarching AlphaBot community. These factions will come into play more as the community competitions start and could involve factions versus factions, factions versus each other or even individuals versus each other. Depending on what is happening at the point in the story, you may want to side with your faction, side with another faction or stand alone.
When purchasing an AlphaBot, you don’t get to choose which faction you belong to — it will be random — but you have the ability to be in as many factions as you wish. This allows you to influence the story from multiple perspectives or sway the decision for an entire faction because you own multiple AlphaBots from one specific faction. It is also important to note that depending on the community decisions at the end of each chapter, that will trigger airdrops for the corresponding affected parties — so a decision may be made that allows a group of Technologists to overcome an [obstacle], thus rewarding all Technologist holders with that airdrop or prize.
Which faction would you belong to?
James: I personally align with the Builders, Keepers or Technologists because I can relate to specific aspects of their backstories. I’m also a big horror movie fan, so I like that we didn’t shy away from the darker aspects of things in our lore. For instance, if you read the Keepers’ backstory on our site, there are a few that have become outcasts — and because they have the ability to connect to other AlphaBots [and] create a hive mind-type setup out in the wastelands. It’s essentially one AlphaBot within multiple bodies, allowing for a sort of cult-type situation that could unravel all kinds of twists and turns in the story.
How are some ways you hope “AlphaBot Society” will evolve beyond NFTs?
Ragsdale: Obviously, we have a lot of hopes for where we’d like to take this project. I would love to see the AlphaBots starring in an animated series down the line. I also think because of the gamification that we’re hoping to integrate into many aspects of the project, games are a huge focus. Whether that’s video games, or physical strategy games, that is definitely something we’d like to explore. But I think one of the coolest things about the community-driven story is that whatever we decide to do in the future, the community will have played a massive role in the creation of the lore.
James: Travis and I have talked a lot about where this project could go and, like he said, the gamification side of this project is a no-brainer — but I would love to work on an animated series. One that isn’t just cute, fun robots living in a world of rainbows and butterflies, but one that is real and gritty — a show that goes deep into cosmological theories or quantum concepts as well as action-packed battle scenes and heart wrenching character development. I would love to be approached by Netflix, HBO, Hulu, etc. and find a way to bring this to life, while still incorporating benefits for NFT holders to create a show that holds value and alternate meaning beyond the screen.
You haven’t even dropped yet, and already have a strong community; were you surprised at the reaction you’ve received?
Ragsdale: We were both super excited and very surprised that the community started growing so quickly. Less than 24 hours after our first initial post about the project, we had already hit 1,000 members in the Discord — so that was an incredible feeling. It was really validating to see that people responded so well to the artwork and the project, because we had been working on it for so long with little to no feedback from the public.
James: It was amazing to see the CRO community come together and support us so quickly. We were embraced within hours of going public and we couldn’t be more thankful! Seeing everyone else being so pumped about something we’ve spent so much time on is such a big validation that this project can make big waves and be something talked about in the years to come.
Do you have any advice for other creators hoping to enter the space?
James: I believe the differentiating factor for NFT creators coming out in the future will be their “hook.” Sure you may have cool artwork, but what else? What else can you provide to your audience and holders. And that’s not to say monetarily or promising to create the most groundbreaking video game, but what sort of connection can you make with people that turn them from holders to advocates of you and your work.
Not all great ideas are the most complex, they just have meaning to the people engaging with it. So my advice would be to find your meaning and let that be your hook. Joey Bada$$ once said, “If it don’t hit my spirit, I don’t get near it.” Touch on something that people can connect with and let the rest follow.
Ragsdale: There’s a million things you could tell someone trying to enter the space — but if i had to pick three things, it would be the following: be authentic, don’t compromise your art or your vision for what you think will be successful, just stay true to yourself and have confidence in your work. [The] second thing would be participate and really join in with the community; if you show that you are genuinely invested in the community for the long haul, then the community will accept you. And lastly, I would say don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find yourself reliable team members and people you can trust and go to the moon with them. Cody and I are lucky to have each other on this project, because we both have very different strengths and we work together well. This project wouldn’t be possible without either one of us.
Do you plan to work with any charities that you’ll be donating any proceeds from the NFTs in this collection to?
Ragsdale: Absolutely. We believe charity and giving back is the most important thing. My father suffered from lung cancer — sadly, he passed away last July — so we will be donating 10% of our earnings from the Healer faction to the Ballard House in Houston, Texas. The Ballard House is a charity that provides temporary housing for patients and their caregivers coming to the Houston area medical facilities for treatment of life threatening illnesses. My father stayed there during his radiation treatment and the care and experience that they gave him while he was there is priceless, so we’re honored to be able to support such a worthy cause.
We are also going to be donating 10% of our earnings from the Naturalist faction to the Environmental Defense Fund. EDF is one of the world’s leading environmental organizations with a core focus on creating practical and lasting solutions to the serious environmental issues that we are facing across the globe.
Do you have any goals or future plans for your work, in the NFT space or otherwise?
Ragsdale: 100%! We are all-in on NFTs. Cody and I have officially stopped accepting client work and we’re working full time on “AlphaBot Society.” We want to focus all of our efforts on expanding the team and making this project into what we know it has the potential to be. We have many plans for the future of the project and those ideas and concepts will only expand as blockchain and metaverse technology grow and develop.
We’re also very excited to be able to focus our attention here because it will allow us both the freedom to continue to work on our own art separate from the project and continue to grow and develop as artists. I personally would like to start doing even more personal work. I’d also like to participate in more virtual [and] IRL events, talks and galleries within the NFT and 3D art communities.
James: We have very big plans for the future of “Alphabot Society,” as the project continues to grow. The amount of potential legs that this project can have is crazy and I’m so excited to see what we can do. Because a big part of our utility is the community-driven “choose your own adventure” [component], which has the potential to turn the storyline into an animated series or film, we could create figurines or even expand into something completely based in the metaverse. Like Travis said, we stopped taking on client work to focus our full attention here and I plan to apply all my skill sets and energy into creating a world all our own.
Browse the “AlphaBot Society” collection by Travis Ragsdale and Cody James.
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Editor’s Note (Sept. 1, 2022): an earlier version of this article was originally published on the Crypto.com NFT Medium blog on Feb. 22, 2022 and has since been edited and/or updated to republish.