If EA and the Steven Spielberg couldn't pull of a first-person hybrid built on "escape gameplay" and driven by an emotional co-op dynamic, featuring an AI-controlled partner -- spoiler alert -- from the future, whose character evolution was to be determined by non-verbal interaction with the player, then who could pull it off? Probably no one. "LMNO," as this project was code-named, was officially canned by EA last month -- and it's been dead for at least a year, according to 1UP's new in-depth investigation into the game.

The report -- and definitely read the whole thing -- is a compelling tale in and of itself: the inside scoop on a big-budget experiment (a "hyper-replayable" 2- to 3-hour game with no multiplayer) that would later morph into an Uncharted clone (complete with "an alien version of Megan Fox"), dubbed The Escape Artist, before being canceled altogether. But the LMNO story is also a striking reminder of just how inflexible AAA game development has become.

EA tried admirably to invest in new IP several years ago, but its actually released games didn't provide the returns the publisher had expected from consumers. Had it come together as original designers Doug Church and Randy Smith once envisioned, LMNO could have been EA's most ambitious original IP to date. Instead, it fell apart as the industry fell back on iteration (you know, "sequelitis") and made jaw-dropping investments in socially-networked casual gaming as the path to future profitability.

LMNO once carried the heavy burden of being the video game that would finally "make you cry." Assuming that the industry has yet to recognize this milestone as having been achieved, the mission now seems better suited for an indie developer with nothing to lose; one free from the concerns of the corporate goliath: namely, staying in business.

[Pictured: Pre-Megan Fox "Eve" character concept; source: 1UP]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.