Emily Xie Enters “COMBAT MODE” With Open Edition for Base’s Onchain Summer

BY nft now Staff

June 05, 2024

Emily Xie is ready for combat.

The generative artist debuted her new “COMBAT MODE” open edition with Highlight for Base’s second annual Onchain Summer today (June 5).

Known for her celebrated Art Blocks Curated project “Memories of Qilin,” Xie is an NFT100 honoree who explores Eastern aesthetics through unique algorithmic outputs.

For “COMBAT MODE,” she unveiled her first collectible open edition, which is mintable for 92 days for 0.0013 ETH and features 10 different color palettes with varying rarities.

“From an aesthetic standpoint, it’s inspired by retro game posters,” explains Xie. “As a lifelong gamer, I’ve been wanting to more directly explore this passion of mine in my work, and this seemed like a fitting project.”

Highlight founder Nat Emodi recently caught up with Xie for an exclusive interview with nft now.

Nat Emodi: You’re releasing a big project called “COMBAT MODE” as part of Base’s second annual Onchain Summer. What’s it about?

Emily Xie: “COMBAT MODE is an open edition collectible series which I’m releasing on Highlight. From an aesthetic standpoint, it’s inspired by retro game posters. As a lifelong gamer, I’ve been wanting to more directly explore this passion of mine in my work, and this seemed like a fitting project. 

As you can see, it’s an image that depicts an epic battle between a dragon and a gnarly reptilian creature; almost like the lovechild of a lizard and a Venus flytrap, loosely inspired by the Super Mario piranha plants. Behind the two creatures is a grid receding into the distance––a direct nod to that ubiquitous glowing grid that characterized a lot of early games.

“To me, [“based”] means being bold, confident, and self-assured.”


Visually, I wanted to get at what it means to be “based,” which is written onto the image several times in large font. To me, it means being bold, confident, and self-assured. So this meant using a lot of bright, attention-grabbing neons. There are ten different palettes in the series. The same underlying image comes in a bunch of different bright, colorful palettes. And the colors speak to the boldness and fearlessness of these two creatures going at it in battle––and to the general “based” audacity that so many of my favorite game characters embodied.

I’d say the visuals infuse my signature style with a strong retro game-poster twist. As usual, I’m interested in different patterns and textures, and I channel influences from my own culture and heritage. But this time, I’ve done it in a way that is so much more graphical and approachable. Overall, I saw this project as a fun way for me to bring my artistic style to a much broader audience.

Credit: Courtesy of Emily Xie

I didn’t realize you were a gamer. What are some of your favorite games both now and when you were growing up?

I’m into RPGs. Specifically, I’m a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series—I’ve played VII, VIII, IX, X, X-2, XII, XV, and Tactics. I’ve also played the FFVII Remake Part 1 and am hoping to find some free time to indulge in the next installment of that. I’m looking forward to Final Fantasy XVI as well––it has a medieval-fantasy theme, which is easily one of my favorite subgenres. But my hot take is that FFIX is the best of the entire series.

I also used to play Age of Empires II a lot growing up. I would come home after school almost every day and play online matches. The Castle Rush was my speciality. My mom would get so mad at me for all the time I spent on that game. If any of my collectors out there are reading this and also happen to also love AOE2, hit me up for a match! I haven’t gotten the chance to play in forever, and I think it’d be so fun to set up a game with a bunch of folks in the community!

Some other favorites growing up were RollerCoaster Tycoon and The Sims. The earliest games I remember playing were Metal Slug and Donkey Kong on Nintendo. 

Most recently, I really enjoyed Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was so beautiful. The colors and atmosphere from that game definitely brought some inspiration to some of the palettes. 

Credit: Emily Xie

How did you make “COMBAT MODE?” 

This project follows a new process I’ve been developing that incorporates AI into my workflow. 

I start by generating a bunch of AI images and putting them into a folder to inspect each one individually. I then take an Apple Pencil and cut out interesting bits and pieces from each image, cutting and assembling, and re-arranging in Procreate until I get one final collage. The resulting collage is admittedly pretty sloppy. At this stage, the colors are horrible and everything is disjointed, but you can make out a general idea of the composition and scene I’m going for.

So, the next step is to pass this initial collage through an algorithm that I’ve been slowly developing for the past couple years. The code smooths everything out, and also creates textures, and patterns, and assigns them to selected portions of the image. And then, I spend quite a lot of time tweaking the visual from there using various image processing techniques like edge detection, noise addition, hue transformations, embossing, etc. 

Credit: Emily Xie

Based on its aesthetic, this is a bit of a departure from your main art practice; collections like “Memories of Qilin” (released with Art Blocks) or “Interwoven” (released with LACMA’s Art and Technology Lab) helped establish you as one of the leading generative artists working today. How is “COMBAT MODE” different? 

Both “Memories of Qilin” and “Interwoven” were 1/1/N generative fine art series. They were fully algorithmic (made entirely with code), fully on-chain, unique, and limited edition collections released on Ethereum mainnet.

However, with “COMBAT MODE,” my intent was to create more of a collectible. I wanted to lean into the wide spirit of Base and Coinbase. My goal was to get my art aesthetic out into the world in a way that could resonate with a lot of folks. That’s why I designed it as a retro-futuristic gaming poster.

The color palettes are a lot brighter than my previous work. I used a ton of neons in “COMBAT MODE,” which I hadn’t really touched previously. I had a ton of fun with that. And it’s a super graphical vibe, with a pretty strong pop-culture feel to it.

“My goal was to get my art aesthetic out into the world in a way that could resonate with a lot of folks.”


My other works have been more abstract, whereas “COMBAT MODE” is directly representational. With fine art, you want the viewer to sit with the work and think. For “COMBAT MODE,” I wanted something that was immediately legible, with recognizable characters and text that tells you what the piece means. 

It’s an open edition of the same base image, but there are ten different, carefully chosen color palettes that one may randomly mint. It isn’t entirely code-based, so it’s not a true generative series. But there’s a subtle generative component to it: each mint is stamped with the transaction hash, which brings a sense of provenance and a touch of uniqueness despite it being an open edition. And there’s a pretty fun distribution of palettes, ranging from highly common to ultra, ultra rare. I wanted people to have fun collecting, exploring, and trading with each other to get the palettes they want.

And as a collectible, there will be both digital and physical merchandise involved, like tote bags, t-shirts, and downloadable phone wallpapers.

Credit: Emily Xie

You mentioned this is your first project on an L2. What’s interesting to you about these new chains? What’s notable about Base?

What’s interesting about L2s is the lower cost. A lot of people can feel frustrated or priced out of minting on L1s, which L2s completely solve.

What I like about Base is it really does try to include everybody and is striving to be accessible. They’re putting a lot of good energy into building an artist and creator-friendly ecosystem––they are working hands-on with artists which is awesome.

“[Base] is putting a lot of good energy into building an artist and creator-friendly ecosystem––they are working hands-on with artists which is awesome.”


There’s something powerful about it being incubated by Coinbase too; this means that you have a pretty strong team behind it that really understands blockchains and how to bring this new technology to a wider audience.

They’re also chipping away at all the technical hurdles. With Base, you can easily onboard to use a self-custodial wallet using Coinbase Wallet. This helps the art and experience come more into focus, with less technical friction than what existed even a year ago. This all was part of the appeal for me. I want as many people to experience “COMBAT MODE” as possible.

Dive Deep

Features & Guides