1up has the scoop on Spielberg’s cancelled project with EA, the game best known as Project LMNO, as well as an early “visual target” video which I’ve embedded after the jump. It’s all pretty fascinating stuff, but I’ll summarise.
Project LMNO was to be a contemporary game where your character first breaks an alien-looking girl called Eve out of a military base, and then you spend the the game fleeing the FBI, with the girl fighting alongside you and evolving depending on how you treat her. She wouldn’t have been able to speak, but in times of need would be able to project images into your mind. The team use the example that “storm clouds would appear when she was in trouble.”
The article goes on to describe the kind of hot/cold response training we saw in Black & White. The player would have had to reward or discourage Eve for her actions with gestures. There’s also stuff like this:
Eve also had an extra joint in each leg, allowing her to move around more nimbly than people like Lincoln, and the idea was players would only spot this briefly early on in the game, when she jumped five meters into the air or crawled through a duct. The spoiler was, as the game went on, players would discover that Eve wasn’t actually an alien but an evolved human from thousands of years in the future who had traveled back through time. “Part of the commentary there is that humans from 10,000 years from now would be like aliens to us, and we might be like aliens to people in the past,” says a former team member. “And what does that mean for the future of the species?”
“I know some of the possible endings they talked about were like her betraying you and turning you in to the government, saving herself, or you actually at a critical juncture deciding to give her back to the government,” says someone close to the game. “So there were some bad endings that would have been interesting to try out.”
As for why the game was cancelled, it’s all immensely depressing. First of all, a planned feature of LMNO was to have highly tactile running, jumping and climbing, with the player very aware of their own body. Meaning, the same thing DICE was doing with Mirror’s Edge, which was being developed at the same time under EA.
Come October 2008, EA laid off most of the LMNO team. On the subject of the layoffs, the article says this:
Everyone we spoke to has a different list of reasons why, but they all include some form of “the game tried to do too much.” It wanted to define a new type of combat, a new type of movement, new types of character interactions, emotionally-charged characters, an experimental length, new replayablity options, and various other ideas, all within a grand story. Some involved estimate it would have taken another two years to finish what the team started (which would put it in stores right about now). Others say it would never have gotten there without streamlining the ambition.
Gurgh. I am suffused with pale, 9 a.m. rage. Anyway, here’s that “visual target” footage.