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The archives of Laurent Cluzel and the memoirs of Kâar Online: an ambitious MMO that will never be released

Laurent Cluzel began working in the video game industry at Titus in 1989. In a career spanning 30 years he has performed the roles of a graphic designer, game designer, level designer, art director, author and creative director. From video games to animated films and teaching, his career path could be the subject of several books. He remembers it all like it was yesterday, and his diary reminiscing over his career on his Facebook page is a fascinating read. I'm told he has one of the latest Zodiac Mega Drive Roms, an unreleased  game that some SEGA fans are waiting to play.

It was during his time at Psygnosis, in 1996, that the idea of a role-playing game was born in Laurent Cluzel's mind (quote in italics from this article). An avid gamer who had been a game master of AD&D (short for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, a tabletop role-playing game) in the mid-80s, he had probably always wanted to turn it into a video game. The English development studio had launched an internal competition for a game concept, which he won after writing a twenty-page dossier featuring as many drawings as possible to explain his vision of the game. The game was called Holm, an attempt at a revival of his aborted Lightquest project begun in 1990 with Ubisoft, and based on gameplay close to that of Final Fantasy VII. Subsequently, a few animation tests were carried out to add video to the pitch and finally forward it to the parent company in Liverpool. Unfortunately, at the time, the English company Psygnosis was in the midst of restructuring. The Holm project went no further and was soon abandoned. Laurent would, however, continue to work on it privately, in the form of a short story.

« Lightquest et Holm are the same story revisited, with no connection to Inertia/Kâar Online..... The only thing they have in common is a detail: the name of a boss in Holm, General Kâar. I took this character name as a nod to my authorship of both universes. Kâar became the name of the planet where Inertia/Kâar Online takes place (Kâar = earth in the very, very distant future). »

Holm (animation test)

In 1997, Éric Metens, a talented programmer, asked Laurent to make a game using the Inertia 3D engine which he had been programming at home for several months. Laurent's first dungeon test turned out to be too geometric. This was followed by a model of a desert world with thorny plants and no visible geometry, allowed by the opacity mapping management of the 3D engine. Motivation went up a notch, and the rendering was truly impressive.

The start of Holm with the Temple of the Goblins, just after its destruction by Kâar's Goblins

Holm the start of the game.jpg

Followers of the Tenebrante (Kâar Online)

book faucheur.jpg

« Éric was really very talented. He ended up as Technical Director at Electronic Arts in San Francisco before leaving to work for Google and then Apple. »

Various races and clans


A little technical background: Kâar Online was being developed on a 3D engine called Inertia. Inertia uses a top-view 3D grid that allows you to drag and drop *Vertexes by depth, with some latitude on X and Y coordinates. The engine manages gravity with real-time inertia and has light control. A big deal, as in those days, everything was pretty much managed by code, given that 3D maps were almost non-existent. The engine interface is straight out of a real flight simulator, with control buttons everywhere. You'll understand when you try it out!

*A Vertex is a point in a 3D model; more than one Vertex = Vertices. We can therefore imagine that each point constitutes a “face”. Vertices form the edges and edges form the faces of a model (see photo).


« Inertia is a pioneering real-time 3D engine on which I've started a new story with a new universe that will be the premise of Kâar and then Kâar Online. Kâar uses the same engine, except that I tricked Éric into adding opacity mapping to avoid having only geometric shapes. We had a 3D bitmap game that was amazing for its time (1996). »

Inertia video (the scrolling speed is too fast, normally the current in the water is much slower, the video was made much later and not during its development).

Inertia Kaar Online

The Inertia engine was designed first and foremost for technical discovery, with little regard for commercial considerations. At the time, Éric Metens was very interested in Intel processors, and wanted to see how far he could push them with a 3D engine. No commercially released game exploited Inertia. Other engines programmed by Éric were those for “City of Lost Children PC” (his first)“ and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King PS2’ (his last)".

Challenged by the need to aim for a coherent, highly advanced universe where every design element had meaning and logic, Laurent set about designing a dark, mature baroque fantasy universe. As the project grew, Éric and Laurent contacted Nicolas Gaume (founder of Artreïd Concept, now Mindscape Bordeaux) and Kalisto (see Kalisto's Dreamcast Unreleased here) to publish and finance Inertia (Kâar Online didn't yet exist). They met him at the Montparnasse Tower. Nicolas showed interest, but gave no immediate answer, waiting for the two to make progress on the prototype's content. It was at this point that the project came to a brief halt.

They then designed a small promotional game for Volkswagen's New Beetle car, due to be marketed in France the following year (game archive presented below). Still using the same 3D engine they came up with a small top-view rally game in the style of Power Drive on the Super Nintendo which was based on checkpoints to be found and reached in a limited time. A playable version was produced in just a few weekends and was shown to one of the managers at Volkswagen Germany headquarters, who did not follow up.

Easy long, easy right, maybe


A human refusing to live under the thumb of the Tenebrante


« We went to see the VW CEO in Germany by car. I think they were expecting something like Ridge Racer... But we were working on a little game seen from above, like a multi-directional shooter map. »

Overview of the Kâar Online lexicon in French, including drawings and lore

Kaar ok.jpg

A few days later Denis Friedman, with whom Laurent had worked in the past, contacted them to ask if they would want to to join him in working for a new company, Chaman Production, which he had just set up in Paris. Still without any news from Nicolas Gaume, his invitation came just at the right time. They accepted his offer under certain conditions: that they would both be technical director and artistic director, and that they could set up a development studio in the south of France attached to the parent company. It would be called Chaman Sud.

In June 1997, they both resigned from Psygnosis. Kâar (Online), the new name of their Inertia project, would have to wait. They were given other, more important, commissions such as Fortress Online (game archive presented below); an MMO published by France Télécom still using the same 3D engine, which was completed by another team from Chaman Paris. It, too, never saw the light of day, falling into the Unreleased cemetery. Laurent, for his part, continued his graphic research for Kâar and wrote the relationships between the various characters.

Probably a Fortress Online test map loaded from Inertia's level editor


« The cancellation of Fortress was caused by the withdrawal of Wanadoo or Goa (in any case France Telecom) following the bursting of the Internet bubble...they withdrew their marbles. »

Fortress Online (Milia 1999 build)


From Fortress Online website creation to its actual rendering


By the end of 1997, having successfully delivered a working Fortress Online prototype (another team would take over to complete it), they were finally able to pick up where they left off last time. Development of Kâar (a nod to the abandoned Holm project, in which Kâar was the general of a Goblin army) could get underway again. An interactive lexicon of Kâar's universe is produced in the form of a local website to organize and archive everything drawn and written. Following the experience gained with Fortress Online, the Kâar project took a new direction. It would be geared towards being played on the Internet, and will be transformed into an MMO.

Éric Metens: « When Forteresse was being developed (in the early days), I remember we were working in a cellar with a very small window - on Neuilly in the Chaman offices - and we were right next to the boiler. One day, the owner decided to sweep the flues and the cellar filled with soot - keyboards, screens etc.... It was terrible. »

In April 1998, as agreed at the time of their engagement, they finally took charge of Chaman (Sud) studio near Biarritz in France. They moved there in July of the same year. A detached 40 m² veranda in the villa that Laurent rented on site became the first of the premises of their new development studio, until they could find something better.

We want to play


« We had really started Kâar in 1998 after making the Fortress Online proto in 1997 with the Inertia engine. »

In September 98 they turned their full attention to Kâar which was renamed Kâar Online. The concept was revised and adapted to a massively multiplayer role-playing game. The rules of the game and the economic, social, political and religious aspects of the world of Kâar were written down across 300 pages in total. They decided to continue with the Inertia engine, which imposed an Ultima Online-style top-down view. Having completed the conceptual phase (pre-production, no doubt), they now had to start programming it and producing its graphical assets.

« Kâar Online was ambitious, very ambitious...probably too ambitious. »

Two coders, Christian Gossard and Jean-Michel Vourgère, joined the development team, not forgetting Alexandre So, who had already worked on the Crime of the Gods and Holm animations, and Jean-Marc Beuf and Nicolas Irrmann as graphic designers. The veranda at Laurent's house was getting too small and would never be able to accommodate the new arrivals. They had no choice but to find premises large enough, on the premises of the local CCI (Chamber of Commerce and Industry), and get down to work in earnest, designing a first playable prototype to be unveiled at Milia 2000. In September 1999, they had to move for a second time to a new facility in Bidar's Izarbel technopole. And so, for almost a year, they devoted themselves to producing a build to present the game at the French trade show in Cannes.

The “Milia” was a trade show dedicated to electronic entertainment and interactive content, held in Cannes, France. Its seventh edition took place from February 14th to the 18th, 2000 and consisted of over 7,000 exhibitors, including video game publishers, developers, network specialists and interactive TV companies. At the start of the second millennium the trend was for convergence between the Internet and the rest of electronic applications: television, mobile telephony, video games...

« I wasn't present in Milia, Denis told us there was a good reception but the Online was bubbly. »

In 2002, Chaman Sud tried to sell Kâar Online as it had been set aside to work on other projects such as the PlayStation 2 adaptation of the film AXIS (Kaena: la prophétie) published by Namco. Kalisto was finally interested in pursuing its development, as Nicolas Gaume was looking to expand its Online department. Following the bursting of the Internet bubble, Kalisto was caught in the turmoil and closed shortly after Chaman's attempt to sign with the Bordeaux-based company. No further work was carried out on Laurent Cluzel's MMO. Chaman Production, Denis Friedman's company, was finally closed at the end of March 2002.

Kâar Online dossier in English to find a publisher


« In France, the Internet bubble came to a halt in early 2000... Then the French phoenix rose from the ashes, like Asobo Studio and so many others. »

What remains of Kâar Online today? An unfortunately non-functional playable prototype developed in one year for a demonstration at Milia 2000, 300 pages of rules, sketches, the Inertia engine level editor and much more to discover below.

A brief overview of KÂar Online's lore

Kâar is the third planet in the Sâaka star system, also known as “the planet of life”. Sâaka is the name given to the solar system in which Kâar orbits. Three other planets revolve around the star Sâaka: Akala (a planet of fire), Nakas (a planet of light) and Ars (the bloodthirsty)..

Homemad cover of the game by Benedikt Scheffer

Kâar Online MMO Chaman Sud.jpg

Kâar rotates along an axis that passes through its two poles and the center of Sâaka, giving it a terrible geographical peculiarity: one of its hemispheres, called the Reg (an immense desert of burning sand), is constantly illuminated, while the other, nicknamed the Glacial (this part of the world is covered by ice as black as it is eternal), is plunged into darkness. At the equator of these two hemispheres lie the regions grouped under the name “the Sponge” - an immense marshy zone of planetary proportions, extending the entire length of Kâar's circumference, and over a width of several dozen kilometers.

The three races, U'ergue, Nomarègue and Humans, live side by side on the banks of the Sponge. An unofficial but increasingly important trade has evolved. Based on barter, this Black Market enables the circulation of products as rare as they are diverse between these three very different civilizations. One of the Kâarias engeances trades with the U'ergs of the Ruc'he Eau, the Nomaregs of the Spâagis clan trade with some of the Landaquas Egarés, while most of the Purificants trade with emissaries of the Ar'ok red horde. But all this trade doesn't stop the various forces involved from fiercely battling it out for supremacy. In the shadows, an Âam slyly fuels the internal struggles that destabilize the various camps, with the aim of weakening them and preparing the return of his own...

Information in the interactive lexicon of the Kâar universe, giving a brief overview of the game's lore.

The game's races and clans with their sketch equivalents

Kâar Online is an online role-playing-strategy game set in a fantasy world, where players control a main character from one of three races: Nomaregs, Uergs and Humans. Players must not only manage the characteristics of their main character as they evolve in the world of Kâar, but also take external events into account by interacting directly with them (commanding secondary characters, buying land, building various structures, managing villages, etc.).

The sketches, drawn by Laurent Cluzel, corresponding to the game's races and clans are listed in two parts:


Inertia, the game's first name, at the start of the project

Kâar, when development of the MMO really began

The Nomaregs

The Nomaregs are intelligent humanoid creatures, peaceful but wary by nature. Nomaregs have no body hair and limbs ending in four fingers. They have a characteristic long crest that starts at the top of their skull. The skin of Nomaregs is very supple, blue-gray in color, with purplish highlights in females. This tribe is divided into 3 clans:

Râagas-Sentinelle (Kâar)


Râagas-Invocatrice (Kâar)


Râagas-tente (Inertia)

Râagas-fourmanta (Inertia)

  • The Râagas clan are the Nomaregs who remained nomadic after the expansion cycles. They live in the middle of the desert in Reg's equatorial zone, moving regularly from watering hole to watering hole. They have become breeders, particularly of Pussartos, which provide them with the basic material for making clothes and cloth. Their villages are crude but perfectly adapted to the Reg sand. For reasons of superstition, linked to the trauma of the terrible destruction of Alran (a legendary city destroyed after a great conflict), the Râagas avoid settling in rocky areas.

  • The Spâagis clan are the Nomaregs who explore the outskirts of the Sponge. Like all Nomaregs, the Spâagis have a visceral fear of fog and darkness. This phobia has limited their exploration of the Sponge, a territory largely covered by thick, tenacious fog.





Kâarias-trafiquant (Kâar)


Kaarias-gardevarma (Kâar)


Kaarias-minoef (Kâar)


Kâarias-permiap (Inertia)

  • The Kâarias are Nomaregs who, in the course of the expansion cycles, settled in the hospitable region of the small circular Copar range (a mountainous complex located in a desolate region of the middle Reg). Unlike the other Nomaregs, they became sedentary once again and built a new city, named Varma (the only city in today's Nomareg civilization). This city became the new sanctuary of Nomaregs civilization. Bolstered by the memory of the terrible U'ergs invasion that led to the fall of ancient Alran, the Kâarias protected access to their city by building fortified bastions at the entrances to the mountain cirque.

The U'ergs

The U'ergs are humanoid creatures with a distinctive pair of temporal horns. They are a warlike, slave-owning, semi-sedentary people. They are smaller than humans and have only four fingers on their hands and feet. Their rough skin is ochre-colored, dotted with small clusters of dark spots. The belly and inside of the limbs are smooth and of a more orange hue. Over time, the uniqueness of the U'ergs civilization was eroded. The horde, divided by the struggle for influence between the queen mothers, is now divided into four hordes (clans):

  • that of the Impérâtre: living in the Ruc'he Mère

  • that of Water: living in Ruc'he Water

  • that of the Claw : living in the Ruc'he Claw

  • that of the Root: living in the Ruc'he Root

Uerg-virnales (Kâar)


Uerg-wironae (Kâar)


Uerg-barive (Inertia)


Uerg-pillard (Kâar)



Uerg-trooper (Inertia)


Uerg-virnale (Kâar)


The humans

The humans of Kâar, whose various communities have developed on the shores of the great cold lakes, are the descendants of the survivors of an expedition of Earth origin. Some 10,000 years ago, a disbelieving humanity suffered a gigantic terrestrial cataclysm. Faced with the threat of definitive extinction, a handful of individuals, holders of the technological knowledge of the time, set up a safeguard program.  This last-chance program involved building an orbital station. This station would then travel to the star Alpha Centauri to colonize one of the four planets in its system. Kâar, the planet of extremes, was the end of this human exodus. The station, damaged during its long journey through space, suffered enormous technical problems which led to its fall onto the surface of Kâar. The impact, terrible and deadly, took place in the heart of the Glacial on the planet's dark hemisphere, dislocating the station and killing most of its occupants. Instead of a promised land, the last representatives of a dying humanity had to survive in frozen darkness. Humans are divided into three communities:

  • The Egarés are the humans who live on small islands in the heart of the Sponge, between the Reg and the Glaciales. They built the astonishing Landaquas, fortified villages with the distinctive feature of being three-quarters submerged in the cold waters flowing from the great lakes. Refusing the rigors of the Great Dark One's religion, they live apart from the community of sanctuaries. The Wandering Ones are very good hunters, and some of them serve as trackers in purifying brigades. Living in a temperate aquatic environment, and excellent swimmers to boot, they loathe the cold and heat, which are too much for them. As a result, very few of them have ever ventured to the edge of the Reg, preferring to keep to themselves.

Egare-braconnier (Kâar)


Croyant-predicateur (Kâar)

  • The Believers are all the humans who make up (of) the community of sanctuaries, spread along the shores of the great cold lakes of the Glacials. They come from the group of survivors who left the “Survivor” aboard one of the shuttles before the terrible crash. The first sanctuary of the community, which now numbers half a dozen, is the Shrine of the Void, named after the messiah of the Tenebrante (Kâar's only human religion is the cruel, dark and cold Tenebrante). This deeply religious population lives under the dictatorial rule of the College of Priests (the all-powerful religious Caste that runs the population). Their lives are governed by quasi-monastic rules, with the Priests providing for both their material and spiritual needs. All in all, the situation is quite acceptable for most of them, compared to the rigors of the region in which they were born.

  • The Neoterrians are the humans living on the site of the Survivor crash (Survivor is the name of the last-chance orbital station), now cloistered in the subterranean Neobrucel. They have founded a highly organized society in which each individual has a well-defined place, each role being defined according to the physical and, above all, intellectual aptitudes of the city's inhabitants. The Neoterrians are striving to reach the industrial and scientific level of their Survivor ancestors, while trying to avoid the latter's mistakes: science is no longer an end in itself for them, but a tool in the service of their individual well-being.

Information in the interactive lexicon of the Kâar universe, giving a brief overview of the game's races and clans.

The archives of Laurent Cluzel

Laurent Cluzel has worked on numerous video games, board games and feature films. As is often the case in these industries, some of the projects he worked on were abandoned at an early stage, or any time before completion. As a conscientious person, he archived and preserved over 30 years of his work. With his permission, some of his archives can now be shared publicly below (thanks to him), while others still remain private.

His curriculum vitae, so to speak, the cancelled projects are in red.


« Line 45 is green now because the Goldorak game is finally out. »

The archive of Kâar Online PC

For many months talented people like Lemonhaze, Sifting, Don Williamson and Jollyroger At Times have been trying their utmost to make the prototypes in the Kâar Online archive work. Attempts to make it playable have been unsuccessful. The source code for the Inertia engine is missing and considered lost and Éric Metens and Laurent Cluzel have not kept it. Without the source code for the 3D engine, the possibility of ever playing Kâar Online is compromised. Reverse Engineering to make it work without the Inertia source code, with no guarantee of success, is not feasible.

Rare in-game photo of Kâar

Don Williamson: « You could analyze the engine's DLL export tables and produce your own header files with functions, but you'd still be missing a lot of constants and types. There's no chance of building the game unless you're prepared to spend weeks reverse-engineering the DLLs. It would be 100 times easier with Inertia's source code. »

You can download an archive of several Kâar Online PC prototypes below

Kâar Online Prototype Package


The Inertia 3D engine's level editor has been launched on a virtual machine. It lets you load pre-built maps, most likely test levels.

You can download an archive of the Inertia level editor used for Kâar Online PC below

Level editor for the Inertia 3D engine Package

Kâar Online's source code will enable the most daring to make the community dream by getting the game up and running. As explained above, the workload involved in getting the game up and running is massive!

You can browse the source code for Kâar Online PC below

Source code for Kâar Online PC (Github)

The archive also included 300 pages, from which the information in the chapters “Brief overview of Kâar Online's lore” and “The game's races and clans with their sketch equivalents” is drawn, explaining in detail the history, lore, races and much more surrounding this massively multiplayer game project. The interactive lexicon cannot be shared publicly. Perhaps Laurent Cluzel is thinking of adapting his game into a book one day. That would be an excellent idea.

You can browse the 300 pages written about the world of Kâar Online PC below

The 300 pages written about the world of Kâar Online (unavailable)

Who will make us dream by making the prototype functional?

The archive for Beetle Rally (VW) PC

The Beetle Rally archive, which unfortunately cannot be released into the public domain, includes a demo version of the game (DEMO.EXE) and the level editor for the Inertia engine (BEETLE.EXE or EDIT.EXE). Compared with the Kâar Online archive, in which the Inertia level editor needed a virtual machine to be launched, Beetle Rally starts with the DosBox program. In fact, the level editor is duplicated. One of the .EXEs can be used with DosBox, while the other is intended for a virtual machine, a question of executable configuration no doubt...

Beetle Rally

The demo is limited, allowing you to move around the environments of a tiny map. It begins in a kind of Hub, a medieval city typical of the Middle East. Apparently, Laurent and Éric had planned to be able to converse with NPCs, since an icon with the face of a non-player character is humorously displayed as the car approaches them, presumably merchants or a means of taking part in a race. Unfortunately, the action key to interact with them has not been found...

Video of Beetle Rally

Laurent Cluzel:« I'm not sure it's the most advanced prototype...and above all I have no idea how to launch this or that element. »

Operating instructions (development option):

  • F3: Trigger rain or cloudburst

  • F4: Stop rain or snow

  • F5: Trigger snow or snowstorm

  • F9: Change car view, zoom out

  • F10: Change car view, zoom in

You can download the Beetle Rally PC archive and prototype below

Archive de Beetle Rally avec prototype (unavailable)

The archive of Fortress Online PC

As with Beetle Rally, this archive cannot be shared on the Internet. It contains:

  • Everything you need to build the Fortress Online website

  • Numerous in-game photos of the France Telecom MMO

Fortress Online

Some photos:


You can download the Fortress Online archive below

Archive Fortress Online (unavailable)

I'd like to thank Laurent Cluzel and Éric Metens: for their availability, their kindness, for taking the time to answer my questions and more. Their testimonials take us back in time to the development of Kâar Online, Fortress Online and Beetle Rally!

We can only thank the entire Chaman Sud team for their involvement in their various productions and for the work they put into their games. We can only feel sorry for them for not having been able to follow through on their desires and creations, especially for Kâar. We look forward to the book of adventures on the planet Kâar!

Special thanks to:

More than 200 prototypes, documents, presskits have been dumped or scanned, you will find them in free download in the "Release of prototypes and documents"

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