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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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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