Despite how often cranky oldsters like me crow about "The Golden Age of LucasArts," their era of amazing adventure games persisted for a fairly brief span of time—a little over ten years. So, if you're a fan of LucasArts' house style, it's always fun to imagine what other projects of theirs could have potentially filled this decade of greatness.
Thanks to some recent digging from former LucasArts developer Aric Wilmunder, adventure game fans don't have to think too hard about what could have been. On his personal website, the industry veteran recently released a substantial amount of design documents for Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix, the planned follow-up to 1992's Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
Thanks at an extremely in-depth feature on the cancelled project from The International House of Mojo, we now have a good deal of info on this Indy game that never was. Set to take place in 1947, Iron Phoenix would have focused on the remnants of the Nazi party seeking out the Philosopher's Stone for the sake of resurrecting their late fuhrer—and years before J.K. Rowling would put this famous (fictional) rock back into the public consciousness with the Harry Potter series.
Ultimately, the potential alienation of Lucasarts' large German audience felled Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix. According to a 2007 interview with Adventure Gamers, Lucasarts developer Hal Barwood explained, "[W]hen the company's German partners discovered that the Iron Phoenix story dealt with Nazis that persisted after World War II, they warned us that it couldn't be marketed in their country. After some serious number-crunching, the powers at LucasArts felt that, without German support, revenues could not be recouped, and it was cancelled. Had we thought harder about the story beforehand, I think we would have realized it was insensitive, so its loss has given me no regrets."
While plenty of games get cancelled or simply fizzle out in the planning stages, it's incredibly rare for outsiders to actually access resources like the comprehensive set of documents Wilmunder put online. In fact, so much of Iron Phoenix's guts are currently available in .pdf form, a savvy developer could conceivably whip up their own version in Adventure Game Studio—if they didn't mind getting sued. Very, very sued.