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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 Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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