Cart Life No Longer On Steam, Now Open Source

Loveley game, lovely developer. All just lovely.

Before Papers, Please came along and dominated our hearts and our awards ceremonies with its grim tale of bureaucracy and poverty in a totalitarian state, we were reliant on Cart Life to make us feel empathy for our fellow men and women. The simulation of a life spent running a food cart won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at IGF 2013 and caused Adam’s heart to grow two sizes.

But creator Richard Hofmeier has pulled the game from Steam. Why? Because he’s now offering it completely free along with its source code, so you can start to tinker with its innards.

At the time of writing, Hofmeier’s website is down due to the sudden spike in traffic that follows open sourcing your game. But when asked by fellow developers why going open source meant he was no longer selling the game, Hofmeier replied that he was “done supporting it / fixing bugs. Time to stop charging & open it up (despite fears of code nakedness).” Which is awfully generous.

If you already bought Cart Life on Steam, the game will remain a part of your Steam accounts. If you’ve never played it, now you’ve no excuse. Here are two out of context paragraphs from Adam’s WIT:

When I realised I could just take a bus to the store I felt like an idiot but I didn’t feel like the game had misled me. It seemed acceptable that Andrus didn’t quite know how to widen his own horizons yet, or wasn’t comfortable doing so. He’d relied on the proximity of the pub because it was safe. But then it became a habit. I’d stop for that morning beer every morning and make sure to have a couple more every evening.

Why was that? Because it broke up the monotony of work and because, sad and true, I was hoping that someone would spark up a conversation in that dark little room. A few words of kindness. The only ones I heard for the first couple of days were from the guy serving me and he was being paid to be friendly. It’s lonely out there and lonely people make strange decisions, even when debt and doom are heading toward the door.


I really hope going open source leads to a whole world of Cart Life-inspired derivative works, expanding the boundaries of the original’s available characters and carts with new people, new roles, but perhaps also carrying the theme towards entirely new experiences.

Thanks, PC Gamer.


  1. trjp says:

    There are free games on Steam – Steam’s packaging system would allow delivering (and updating) source-code and there’s the Workshop too – so – erm…

    I’m not sure why you’d remove a game from Steam other than to get a bit of PR???

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Because he doesn’t want to maintain it any more.

      • Baines says:

        Most of the games on Steam aren’t maintained anymore. I’d guess maybe 5% of my own Steam library consists of games that see at least some form of ongoing maintenance, or at least even acknowledge the existence of the potential of maintenance if found necessary.

        I’ve games in my Steam library that were abandoned by their publishers years ago, some with bugs that make them difficult to even run on a PC that is less than 5 years old. Valve doesn’t care, nor do the publishers. In some cases, the original publishers and/or developers don’t even exist anymore.

    • BisonHero says:

      I’m guessing that Steam would still ask for some sort of hosting fees, and maybe Hofmeier’s hosting fees on his own website are cheaper than constantly paying Steam to host his now free game.

      • Shuck says:

        I can’t imagine that Steam is charging people to host free games, given that they benefit Steam. I think the decision is more about not having to do maintenance or provide support. He may be rethinking the decision, however, given that it appears his site has been completely slammed by the traffic.

      • Dominic White says:

        Steam doesn’t charge any hosting fees. In fact, they just put up another freeware title the other day.

        link to

        There was really no reason to pull it from Steam. Just put the most recent build up on there, set the price to free and leave it as-is. Doubt that would have taken more than a day, too.

        • malkav11 says:

          Yeah. I wish he hadn’t taken it off Steam. I already bought the game so it really makes no particular difference to me if he offers a free download from his website (other than generally being grateful that he’s being so generous), but I tend to forget about games that are just sitting around on my hard drive, and I like Steam’s game time tracking and similar features so I would have liked to have a Steam copy. (He was providing Steam codes for prior purchasers on request, I believe, but I for whatever reason never got around to asking, nor did I buy it again.)

    • Jambe says:

      Surely Cart Life would reach even more people if left up on Steam (and presumably other digidistro services). And I actually think Cart Life is one of those games that really deserves to reach more people.

      Seems weird.

    • Bassen_Hjertelos says:

      Why should it be on Steam? And how does not being on Steam turn it into PR? The author took it off Steam to make it Open Source. I do not see a problem as there is none. It seems every bleeding thing has to be speculated on these days.

      • SmiggieBalls says:

        But he didn’t have to take it off to make it open source, that’s why people are speculating about the reason for it.

      • Jackablade says:

        Well we’d still be able to access it now that his site has been completely overloaded by the onslaught of people looking to grab the game for a start.

    • tigerfort says:

      Well, it might depend on what his contract with Valve said. I’d have thought that if a developer had a contract with them saying “This game will be available at price X, which will never change”, it should be possible to change that by mutual agreement, but maybe there was some more complex problem that made it easier to simply say “this contract is now terminated”.

      (Yes, this is wild speculation, but so is everything else in this thread:)

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      Looking at the Steam forums for the game, it’s full of hate and bile and demands for refunds. Maybe he just doesn’t want to deal with all that negativity anymore.

  2. SuddenSight says:

    Hurrah! What a fabulously nice thing to do! The cycle from new and for sale to open source and free was rather quick for this one. So quick that I have that icky feeling one gets when it seems someone is being TOO nice. But if Hofmeier can afford it, then this is an awfully nice thing to do. Hurrah!

    Also, I can’t stand the phrase “and in the game.” It just isn’t grammatically correct. It should be “and in the game TOO,” or “and in the game AS WELL.” But “and in the game […]” is merely the beginning of the clause. It leaves me feeling confused and anxious, like unmatched parentheses. I thought I would be able to ignore it, but RPS keeps using that joke and it just annoys me more each time I see it. Ah well. Hurrah for free stuff and all.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Ugg. No. When you make a shopping list do you always stick a random adverb after the last item: ‘and bananas too’?

      • AndiK says:

        I just had to think of this:
        link to

        Now image going to the supermarket and every three items or someone throws in an “and a pinch of sugar tooooooo!” (or something — I know the german version better)

      • SuddenSight says:

        It’s a parenthetical statement. The previous statement was complete, so the phrase “and in the game […]” must be able to stand on it’s own as a complete phrase.

        And yes, I would say “and bananas too” if it was a parenthetical follow-up to a previous grocery list. But simply saying “and bananas” without the “too” doesn’t bother me as much, perhaps because there was a list already. In the case of the “and in the game […]” joke there is no implication that the speaker is making a list until the joke is made.

        Maybe I’m just crazy.

      • horsemedic says:

        Who puts conjunctions in a shopping list? Where am I??

    • draglikepull says:

      The “and” at the beginning implies “as well”.

      • SuddenSight says:

        But it doesn’t, to me. I suppose this is where a wise person would see that the intelligent commenters at RPS found no issue with the phrase and accept it as a reasonable expression. But it still bothers me, so I will flog this dead equine a little while longer.

        “And …” *can* mean “… also”, but it can also be a (lazy) introduction to a sentence. Consider:

        “It’s lonely out there and lonely people make strange decisions, even when debt and doom are heading toward the door.

        And in the game, the debt and doom is ever-present, constraining your choices.”

        This is the kind of sentence structure my brain is expecting. But instead, I see the sentence fragment “and in the game […]”.

        Perhaps this is just a stupid mental tick that is specific to me. But it is a tick that is very easy to work around. Simply adding the word “too” to the end of the expression clears it up for me. In fact, if you are sending your articles by telegram and must pay by the word, you could use the phrase “in the game too,” which is the same number of words and cannot be misinterpreted. Even if you are a lexically limited telegraph correspondent who cannot conceive of writing without appearing british through every textual tick, you can use “in the game also.”

        So I suppose it bothers me because there are so many ways to make the same joke, but every reviewer on RPS has somehow found the one phrase that bothers me. Woe is me.

        • The Random One says:

          But if nothing follows that beginning, it’s implied that the sentence’s meaning is “And in the game [the same thing is happening].” It could be a bit ambiguous, but I have to say that if you can’t complete that sentence when you see it by itself then it really is a mental tick of yours. (Of course, I often complete that sentence before I read the ‘and in the game’ bit…)

        • Deano2099 says:

          Grammatically of course, you are correct.

          But here’s the thing:

          “And in the game” is funnier than “And in the game too” or “In the game too” or “In the game also” or any of the grammatically correct ways of saying it.

          I don’t know why, there’s no technical reason or proof for it, it’s likely the rhythm of the words. Adding ‘too’ definitely makes it too long a punchline.

          I’m not a fan of bad grammar, but in the pursuit of good comedy…

          • SuddenSight says:

            Maybe? But there is already a long history of making the same joke with the word “too” or “also,” at least in American movies and television. Something along the lines of:

            “I always make time to be with the love of my life.”
            “So you really like your wife?”
            “Oh, yeah. Her too.”

            So I don’t really buy the “and in the game” as funnier. I think it is simply used because it feels wrong, and it’s cool to speak wrong on the internet these days.

          • Chris D says:


            But your example requires the presence of a straight-man to set up the punchline. That format can work in a sketch or a sit-com but you can’t just throw it into a conversation on the fly or throw it into an article from a single prespective.

            Edit: And I think the reason why “… and in the game” is funnier than “and in the game too” is that the joke is already complete on “game”. Anything after that and you’re diluting the impact by hanging around in the sentence unnescessarily.

          • SuddenSight says:

            But that’s where I disagree. “And in the game” just doesn’t read as a complete phrase to me. It doesn’t slow down your joke – one syllable isn’t going to kill your humor. But the awkwardness of the phrasing completely destroys the humor for me (though I am apparently unique in that response).

          • HauntedQuiche says:

            @ SuddenSight

            You don’t tell many jokes, do you?

    • horsemedic says:

      Because language.

  3. Diziet Sma says:

    Are the two mutually exclusive? Can the game not be free on steam and free open source? This is kinda of a licensing question, is there anything about putting a game on steam that stops you OSing it?

    • LogicalDash says:

      Nope–Tales of Maj’Eyal is open source, with a sort of premium version on Steam. “Premium” mostly means workshop support though.

      • Baines says:

        Premium there means Steam achievements, Steam cloud save, and Steam workshop support. And you can buy the paid DLC directly, instead of donating to the game developers to get their virtual money credits or whatever.

  4. Optimaximal says:

    Does seem like a strange move – I’m pretty sure all the engines of the pre-Rage ID stuff have been open-sourced now, yet still rolled out on Steam for people who want the game content.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Yeah, this has been on my Steam wish list for a good while. And I’m all for things being free and open source. But, dumb though it seems, this effectively makes it much less likely that I’ll ever actually get round to playing it. Simply because the usual way I decide what to play next is by looking down the huge list of stuff I’ve not played in my Steam library. Same reason I’ve still never finished Grim Fandango.

      What with all the community translations, crowdsourcing, and their love of getting other people to work for free; you’d think Valve could work out some way of, with the dev’s permission, working community bug fixes into the main download of older games.

  5. wererogue says:

    ‘when asked by fellow developers why going open source meant he was no longer selling the game, Hofmeier replied that he was “done supporting it / fixing bugs.’

    I reckon it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t want to be responsible for maintenance – fixing the game for new OSs, any future changes that steam might require, questions from people playing the game etc. etc. Taking the game off steam will not only remove those obligations, but also reduce traffic and interest that might go his way.

    If there was anything to learn from the Flappy Bird and Fez 2 debacles, it’s that being in the limelight is exhausting.

    • Convolvulus says:

      Hofmeier had a minor meltdown on the Steam forum and then abandoned the forum on his own site because customers kept complaining about patches that never materialized. (Before disappearing he left a note calling everyone haters, as I recall.) It wouldn’t surprise me if this were a tactic to save face after Valve pulled his game. Otherwise he could have just left it on Steam for free, and there would’ve been no charge to him or expectations of support. Of course, I always think the worst of everyone because Richard Hofmeier once beat me with a sock full of oranges after I expressed my undying hatred for him, tube socks, and vitamin C.

      • Mo says:

        “Otherwise he could have just left it on Steam for free, and there would’ve been no charge to him or expectations of support.”

        Except it doesn’t work that way in practice. In fact, the opposite is true: when something is free, way more people download it and that significantly increases the volume of support e-mails. I’ve had a free app up on the AppStore for more than three years now, and I *still* get e-mails requesting feature requests, and subsequent complaints over the lack of support.

  6. Frosty840 says:

    Huh… Maybe now someone will re-code the mouse handler so it actually works and I can play it. Wasn’t impressed with the guy’s handling of post-release patching/support for Cart Life at all.

  7. Synesthesia says:

    His website seems down. Boo.

  8. kikito says:

    Yippie! Zombie mod!

  9. Acorino says:

    Maybe the community will re-implement the fourth character that got cut? Would be swell…

  10. Talahar says:

    There already was a free version with two of the three characters available on his website,
    so there really wasn’t much of an excuse to not have played at least some of it….. ;)

  11. MrNash says:

    I guess it’s time for me to get off my butt and try this game. Saw it many times while browsing through stuff on Steam but never took the plunge. Now that it’s free, there really isn’t an excuse not to try it. =)

  12. Danda says:

    Everybody is struggling to get their games through the Steam Greenlight gauntlet for the exposure, and this guy actually pulls the game from Steam. Weird.

    I’m sure *nobody* here understands his reasoning, unless it’s another case of “Oh no, I can’t take the pressure, the HATE”, like the Flappy Bird guy (even if there’s no real hate in this case).

  13. tormos says:

    This game is fantastic. Everyone should play it. First time a game made me experience loneliness.

  14. Detocroix says:

    Steam community comments were almost all about how overpriced it was, how features were missing and how bugs were never fixed (even the critical ones that made it unplayable to some people). Apparently these started since the release and ended when it was removed.

    I’m not judging his choice of removing the game and going “open source” with it, but it seems like it’s not fully about not wanting to support it any more and more about not even starting with supporting it. Easier to give up?

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      He supported it for years through numerous versions. The Steam version was 1.6, I believe, and was supposed to fix all previous bugs – but without access to any beta testing services, it introduced some while fixing others. And every time the game is patched, it wipes all save games due to the way AGS handles code changes.

      So yes, it was that he was just exhausted.

  15. racccoon says:

    What a fantastic gift and a brilliant minded game. nice one Richard Hofmeier.
    I’m sure you’ll see so many variations of your game it’ll blow your mind. :)

  16. statistx says:

    Man, I stilll can’t access the homepage. I hope he didn’t abandon that too.
    Anyone know of other places where someone put it up? (Since it’s open source, I guess that wouldn’t be illegal?)

    On the note of mods: I hope someone works on an endless mode. I always liked the game, but hated that it’s over in 4 days or something

  17. ghling says:

    I’m not sure which version you got on his website lately, but here is at least the Download for version 1.0: link to

    • statistx says:

      Thanks, but this one talks about free version and third paid character. Homepage is still not up for me :(

  18. Sharongamer978 says:

    Such a fun and intense game