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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.