Travis Boudreaux is currently the Chief Technical Officer at Azra Games. Azra Games is dedicated to one thing and one thing only: RPGs. Their passion for RPGs runs deep, fueling a relentless dedication to the craft. They believe RPGs provide limitless potential for storytelling, where players become the heroes of their own extraordinary journeys. Their flagship title Project Legends is a reimagining of classic Sword & Sorcery, set in a dark and corrupt fantasy world filled with brutal barbarians, seductive sorceresses and forbidden magic.
Could you share the genesis story behind Azra Games?
Our CEO Mark Otero, is a veteran game designer, and creator of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, EA’s most successful mobile game of all time with $1.5B lifetime revenue. He stepped away from game design for a short time but was drawn back in by the development innovation he witnessed by playing games. The evolution of RPGs and the emergence of a new generation of game developers was especially exciting. That excitement led him to form Azra Games with a mission to entertain the world with unforgettable RPGs. Now, we are a studio of nearly 50 people, with over 250 years of experience developing RPGs from companies like EA, Activision, BioWare, King, Gree, Scopely, Riot, and more.
Azra Games specializes in RPGs, why do RPGs resonate with you?
Games give us an opportunity to model a world that doesn't exist so that we can motivate ourselves to go out and shape the world in that image. RPGs go one step further by taking the focus off of the world and placing it onto ourselves.
Play is hardwired into us. As children, we instinctively do it without being taught. Mr. Rogers knew this too. He once said that “play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
The seriousness of life takes priority over this childhood instinct as we age, but it doesn’t have to. A great RPG brings you to a new world and awakens your inner child. It helps you take up the work of “serious learning” again.
Mr. Rogers understood that progression and play are fundamental to our human nature. It’s the serious work we take on to become the person we are meant to be, whether we’re 8 years old or 80 years old.
What are some of the challenges behind building games with such extensive world building and storylines?
At a macro level, we’re essentially going from the birth of a new company (Q1 2022) to a AAA game in production (Q4 2025) in 3.5 years. Most AAA games are built within 5 – 8 year cycles within studios that already existed for years inside of companies that have existed for decades.
We’re working at the cutting edge of two nascent technologies (AI & Web3) that will transform the world over the next 30 years, and applying both of these technologies in ways that no one has done successfully before.
All of that must be balanced with the everyday work happening across multiple teams to balance the thousands of little decisions that are necessary to create an interesting world, compelling stories, and complex characters that players demand for a game to be worthy of the serious work of play that we talked about earlier.
Can you share more about the tech innovation that excites you the most in the industry and how are you leveraging it at Azra Games?
It’s a toss-up between mobile technologies and AI. Azra Games has built an AI interface that has enabled us to quickly test out ideas and build custom tools on top of generative AI models, increasing productivity and accelerating development time. On the mobile side of things, Project Legends is going to be a mobile-first game, so the advancement in technology enables us to push the boundaries of what’s possible on mobile devices. As mobile processors, such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon series and Apple's A-series, become pocket-sized powerhouses, they can handle 3D graphics and complex in-game physics. Project Legends doesn’t just mimic console gaming but matches it in terms of detail, interactivity, and immersive experiences. The game's development has been meticulous, paying attention to elements like ambient occlusion, realistic lighting, and dynamic weather. Ultimately, Azra Games envisions a future where players enjoy a continuous gaming experience, effortlessly shifting between screens without compromising quality.
How is Azra Games designing with Web3 and NFTs in mind?
Most Web3 games start as a financial product that then attempts to layer a game on top. At Azra Games, we take the opposite approach. From day one, we’ve focused on building the best game possible.
What most Web3 studios miss is that there is no demand for games that aren’t fun and provide great gameplay experiences.
Players who invest time into your product demand great gameplay.
What are some ways that Azra Games is integrating AI into gaming development?
We have a small R&D team focused primarily on applied AI that we call Azra Labs. Our labs team has run hundreds of experiments with generative AI for the creation of text, images, videos, and 3D assets.
One of our biggest wins has been our Concepting Art Agents. We’ve built some tooling on top of custom image generation models that enforce our art style and can generate thousands of character and world concepts in a fraction of the time that standard game development tools work.
Our concept artists then work hand in hand with these agents to curate our visual style. They are able to move faster with a smaller team when compared to traditional development timelines and teams.
We also use a blend of traditional procedural tools and generative AI to accelerate the team’s ability to create 3D assets for our worlds. Artists are then able to focus and invest their time in the characters and featured locations within the world.
We’re seeing modest savings from this approach, but it’s worthwhile. We’re building the muscle memory needed to work with applied AI tooling while the advancement of foundational models and generative algorithms for 3D continue to accelerate.
In your view, how long will it take until AI can build NPCs (Non-playable characters) with long-term memory and personalized chat?
I generally think of all Generative AI problems on a spectrum of fidelity. You can create believable AI-generated NPCs today if you are willing to do everything through text. If you want emotive, high-quality voices that interact with the player conversationally with extremely high-quality lip syncing then we’re probably a few more years away from that.
One of the broader concerns I have when it comes to embedding AI into the gameplay experiences has more to do with the costs associated with it. Today, most of the work would happen in the cloud. A PC with a really good graphics card could run local inference. You can also run inference on the highest end mobile devices, but it takes longer to do so.
Free-to-play models that can support rich conversations, and quests that are non-deterministically created by AI – in a way that truly allows infinitely unique replayability – are not at a point where inference can be powered locally without creating large cloud compute bills for developers.
I think we’re only a few years away from that being a reality on mobile. It happens at the intersection of one more generation of improvement in small parameter models, and 2 or 3 more generations of mobile GPUs.
What is your favorite game that you have designed and what is Azra Games currently working on?
Project Legends is by far the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on in my career.