Former EA Executive Mark Otero Launches Blockchain Games Company – The Hollywood Reporter
Blockchain gaming company Azra Games, co-founded by former Electronic Arts executive Mark Otero and dedicated to building immersive universes with a game economy and virtual collectibles powered by Web3 technology, has raised $15 million dollars in funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz, to accelerate development of its first title: a mass combat strategy role-playing game codenamed Project Arcana.
Otero is known for developing, building and managing RPG titles including free mobile RPG game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and Dragon Age Heroes while serving as general manager of EA’s Capital Games studio.
“I’ve always been a lifelong nerd and role-playing gamer, since second grade,” Otero said. The Hollywood Reporter of its background. “I was a dungeon master for over ten years, I got addicted to storytelling.”
But there was always something Otero wanted to “break,” he says, explaining his vision for reaching the ultimate fantasy level. “When we were kids, we didn’t have any rules, so we mixed everything together; the box of mismatched toys and broken robot parts. But as a kid, those were some of the best times, where I spent hours tinkering and creating these tricky situations. Most of the time they went to battle [and] destroyed each other. This idea of having everything, all at once, is part of the element he craves.
He explains that playing a traditional collectible game on mobile or desktop can be so limited. “You have humanoid vs. humanoid or pet vs. pet.” Otero notes that Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes belonged to this somewhat restricted category. “He came close to the ultimate fantasy but didn’t quite reach it.” With Project Arcana, Otero’s vision is for the game to go beyond the standard competitive 5 vs 5 format of player vs player games. He says that in this mass combat RPG, there will be giant creatures mingling with heroes, villains, and soldiers. “We’re going to mutilate them and it’s going to be an interesting party.”
About the web3 element, Otero says he thinks of the game in two layers: the top layer being the visual element in which the player interfaces and experiences the sci-fi world, while the underneath is the economics that sustains the game. “We really see NFTs going through both layers, where there’s an NFT component on the visual layer, and then there’s an NFT component when it comes to the point of view economic layer. view of the user’s property.” He sees NFTs as a “key breakthrough” for gaming because blockchain, at a fundamental level, allows the player to own things.
Otero highlights Michael Noriega, Game Director of Azra Games, who was the Technical Art Director on Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and directs the combat experience on Project Arcana. “Perhaps surprisingly, I’m actually not a big fan of the kind of games I’ve built in the past,” Noriega said. THR. “The games that inspire me are more those that are very cinematic with good music and visuals, like Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption. First person games in general. He notes that there are aspects of these types of games that are “absolutely possible” in RPG games. “And we just haven’t really seen games that effectively use those kinds of cinematic systems.”
Then there’s Neel Upadhye, who is vice president of creative development at Azra and, as Otero describes it, will create the universe and lore of the characters, monsters, and creatures that players will collect. For Upadhye, the Lord of the Rings is “by far” the franchise that made him fall in love with storytelling. After first going to film school, he found himself in the video game industry and worked at Electronic Arts as a creative director for fourteen years: “This epic world that is being built is really what wakes me up in the morning,” Upadhye says. THR. After working on star wars on several games on the marketing side at EA, Upadhye says the opportunity with Project Arcana “starting from scratch, aiming for the moon, and creating our own space opera in a new galaxy no one has ever seen, in a world of science fiction and fantasy where technology and magic coexist” was truly captivating.
Otero says that shared love of role-playing is what brought them all together – and not just now, but years ago. “We thought this was a really good opportunity to raise a big fundraiser to give us the innovation budget we needed to really challenge and elevate what’s possible in realizing that fantasy.”
There is an element of the unknown, Otero also underlines this. “I haven’t personally, and I don’t think any of us here, have seen a game that we’re happy with where its long-term economy is going to support the game.” He goes so far as to say that there may not be any and it may just be the collection of NFTs. “We just don’t know, but what we do know is that NFTs are going to play a very big role in our game,” he says. One of these ways is that players will be able to collect NFTs, but the other is that they will be able to create their own content to share and trade with other players. “There’s an interesting ecosystem that we’re building in the game, where people are going to be able to share and have different roles together. That’s a big part of our aspiration to build that.
Other founders include entrepreneurs Sonny Mayugba, who serves as COO; and Travis Boudreaux, who works at the CTO, while backers include Twitch co-founder Justin Kan and Dapper Labs co-founder Roham Gharegozlou.
Azra Games is based in Sacramento, with a team of twenty-four.