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Recommended: What Could Have Been with Spielberg and EA’s “LMNO”

Recommended: What Could Have Been with Spielberg and EA’s “LMNO” (photo)

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Every mysterious death calls out for an autopsy, right? Questions need answering, motives need scrutinizing and lives need examining. All of that’s true, even if the deceased is a video game.

For everyone wondering why such a high-profile project like “LMNO” got canned, 1UP exhumes the corpse of the now-cancelled game and offers intriguing tidbits on its gestation. The title–which was being developed at EA’s Los Angeles studio as part of a much-ballyhooed partnership with Steven Spielberg–was shrouded in mystery for most of its development cycle.

1UP contributor Matt Leone’s write-up sheds light on Spielberg’s level of involvement, the game mechanics that the team was trying to create and elements of the title’s sci-fi thriller story:

On the surface, it was a first-person action/adventure PS3/360/PC game set in modern times. Players would split their time between light role-playing objectives like talking to characters to uncover information, and action sequences featuring a lot of what the team referred to as “escape gameplay” where the player would run from approaching helicopters and FBI-style agents too overwhelming to fight face-to-face. That meant hand-to-hand combat and leaping over objects with parkour-style movement to get around, but the key to everything was the relationship between the main character Lincoln and an alien-looking girl named Eve.

The player controlled Lincoln in first-person, and he didn’t speak much along the lines of Gordon Freeman in Half-Life. As the game began, he found himself drawn to an Area 51-styled military base to break Eve out without really knowing why. From then on, the two would be on the run, “escaping the government, discovering what’s going on,” according to one team member, with the idea being they would end up in San Francisco.

“The point of LMNO was to basically take all the AI that would go into a normal Sims title, and compress that down into one character that could learn and remember and change the way you play the game on the fly, and not be totally scripted,” says another former team member.

“One of the dynamics was kind of ‘Who’s in charge?,'” says someone close to the game. “It was like the domination dynamic, so if the player was kind of like, ‘I rush ahead, I open the doors, I choose what to do, when to go,’ then maybe she would shy back and act less on her own. Or if the player was hesitant, or if the player failed a bunch, she might be like, ‘Screw you, I’m gonna be in charge here. I’m going to take charge and run over and beat up these guys. And then I’m gonna be pissed at you for not being much help.'”

Apparently, “LMNO” was the source of internal tension as part of its free-running gameplay closely resembled what later became “Mirror’s Edge.” Controversy also arose from a proposed plan to make the game super-short but very replayable.

“To be honest, they were given a lot of time,” says someone close to the project. “So when people talk about this game at EA — people who don’t really know about it — they’re like, ‘What happened?’ They had two, two and a half years to dick around, and they really had nothing to show for it.”

What the team had focused on was a prototype scene that took place in a ’50s-style roadside diner.

“The way [EA works is] they have their X-slice, and that’s ostensibly supposed to be like two/three minutes of as fully realized gameplay as possible,” explains a former team member. “The problem is, with a game like this — and any open-ended game; either an open-world game like Godfather, or an open-ended mechanically game like ours, where our levels wouldn’t necessarily be like huge streaming cities but you could do a lot of different things with them — EA’s methodology always kind of breaks down. In Godfather’s case, it made them swell up to like 200 people. In our case, we had this level that was supposed to be two/three minutes, but you could actually play it for like 45. You could play it for quite awhile and do a bunch of different things. The difficulty we were having was we were trying to coalesce all those different systems into like, ‘Here’s five minutes of play that’s representative.’ When you can do so many things, it’s hard to say ‘that’s representative.'”

The piece also reveals that “LMNO” died two deaths, with the first one in 2008 coming after Neil Young–the game’s original shepherd left EA–for greener pastures. Even though every source quoted in the piece is anonymous, it’s for understandable reasons. It doesn’t really matter as all their stories have the ring of truth and paint a picture of ambition that perhaps reached too far.

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The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.

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Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Photo Credit: Erin Resnick, GIFs via Giphy

Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.