Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest movie directors was also involved in video games industry. Designer and head behind Medal of Honor series, as well as games like ‘Jurassic Park: Trespasser’ are likely his most important contributions. Spielberg back in 2005, interested in new ways for storytelling on next-generation platforms started an ambitious project codenamed “LMNO”.
LMNO (or The Escape Artist) was in development for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 from 2005 to 2010. It was being made at Electronic Arts Los Angeles now known as Danger Close Games, the developers of MoH 2010 and Warfighter. The partnership with Spielberg, first announced in 2005, was to produce an action game with an aim to evoke emotion, described as “a mix of first-person parkour movement with adventure/RPG objectives and escape-focused gameplay, all based around the player’s relationship with an alien-looking character named Eve”.
The game was never publicly announced or any information about the project shared, but after it was officially cancelled in 2010 1UP wrote an interesting article in which we can read some previously unknown facts:
- The deal committed him to create three franchises for EA, but initially, LMNO was the only one locked in, and there was no team in place to make it. Project two, “PQRS,” went on to become Boom Blox, while project three has not been mentioned publicly since the deal was announced.
- Some of LMNO’s level design was outsourced to Arkane Studio in France later in the project’s timeline.
- 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.
- The developers did a lot of prototyping with Eve to make for a strong connection between her and player. Part of that came visually — Eve’s design was deliberately exaggerated, with large eyes and lanky fingers, to help the animators express her emotions, and she was designed to be sympathetic and sensitive rather than a sex symbol.
- Eve had a lot of abilities — she could team up with Lincoln for cooperative attacks, or project things into his vision because she had the power to tap into his mind, so things like storm clouds would appear when she was in trouble.
After news about cancellation two concept videos have surfaced, focusing on the emotions which the game would convey and relation with Eve:
We don’t have any information about what happened during most of the development but in 2008 Electronic Arts laid off most of the project team and the game was supposed to be changed from initial design into something described by one former team member as “Uncharted set in a Spielberg universe”. Most likely original LMNO concept was too ambitious and even after the change in its design, EA decided that it was not worth the risk to continue with the development, after so many years of work and money already spent on it.
In EA’s statement admitting the game’s cancellation, the company confirmed that it “maintains its relationship with Steven Spielberg”, suggesting that future collaborations are possible. Spielberg is currently researching and looking at the trends in gaming industry, being excited over Kinect or amazed by Battlefield 3. I hope we will see Spielberg’s talent and ideas once again in a new video game project, hopefully not with EA this time around.