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LucasArts’ Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix design docs revealed 23 years later

It belongs in a museum

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Game designer Aric Wilmunder recently released his original design documents for the canceled LucasArts game Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix. Lost for more than 20 years, we now know for the first time what that game would have been like.

Wilmunder had a hand in many classic LucasArts games including Loom, The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle. He says on his personal website that back in the mid-90s he was called in to help take the reins of Iron Phoenix, which would have been the sequel to Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.

"When it ran into difficulties, I was asked to take over," Wilmunder writes. "When my new design was complete, there were no resources, so we were asked to try to develop this game with a team outside the U.S. After working with them a few months I felt that the work would not meet our high standards."

The scanned documents date back to 1993 and include the complete, 63-page design document as well as three sets of storyboards and character art. It’s an amazing artifact for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a look inside how the later SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine games were built from the ground up.

Iron Phoenix told the story of Indy’s quest for the Philosopher’s Stone, and how it was eventually used to bring Adolf Hitler back to life.

"I did end up with a nice 4-part comic book and a story credit," Wilmunder muses. Iron Phoenix went on to become a four-part comic from Dark Horse, and you can still find copies on eBay.

Wilmunder’s site is worth a visit, as it also includes documentation on Star Raiders, Shadows of the Empire and the original concept document for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

"This was a crucial point for LucasFilm Games since this was the first time we were tasked with designing a game to release with one of George’s movies," Wilmunder writes. "The game had to be great, the schedule could not slip, and the original concept was not a SCUMM game."

While Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix won't ever see the light of day, Indy's adventures will continue. A fifth Indiana Jones movie is in the works starring Harrison Ford.

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