(See bottom of the article for an update on the situation)
Jake McPake is dead.
Or rather, his illustrious career is. Right before he was ready to cement his name in NBA basketball history.
Allow me to explain. First, some background info: I absolutely adore the NBA 2K series. That isn’t bluff and bluster either, you only have to check back to literally the last article I posted, where I wrote:
“The best presentation you’ll see in a sports game these days is 2K Sports’ NBA 2K15. This isn’t a new phenomenon, though. The NBA 2K series has been consistently fantastic ever since… well, the year 2K.”
See? I bloody love me some NBA 2K. Even though 2K Sports has been slowly introducing some new features that I’ve been wary of, for now I’ve given it the benefit of the doubt.
That ends now. And it ends because 2K Sports has shut off the NBA 2K14 servers.
Now, I appreciate that may not sound like a massive deal at first. Publishers turn off the servers for inactive games all the time: running them costs money, and if only fifteen people in the world are still playing the game online that’s pretty small beans to pay when it comes to disappointing the fans.
So why is NBA 2K14’s server shutdown such a shite thing to do (other than the fact it’s happened a lot sooner than with most games, even annual sports ones)? I’ll tell you.
Two of the most popular modes in the NBA 2K series are MyGM – where you take control of an NBA team and run every major aspect of it as you try to take them to the NBA Championship – and MyCareer, which was my particular addiction.
As you’d expect, MyCareer lets you create a player from scratch and take him from the bottom to the top. I decided the man I would guide to basketball stardom was my original creation Jake McPake, a 7-foot man mountain with bright red hair.
What makes MyCareer mode so special is that it isn’t just a bunch of matches one after the other: it really makes you feel like you’re experiencing the player’s life. Starting with a tryout in front of scouts, you’re then interviewed by a number of team representatives who ask you various multiple choice questions about how you’d feel joining their team.
Then you go to the NBA Draft ceremony (even choosing which suit to wear before you go) and sit there, genuinely tense as you wait to see which team you’ll start your career with.
Jake McPake was chosen to play for the Milwaukee Bucks. I couldn’t give a seventeenth of a fuck about that team, but I knew this was only the start of a long road.
It took nearly half a full season before Jake was finally made a starting player. That’s 40 or so games of basketball before you even get to start a match. All the while you’re building your stats and taking part in press conferences where you’re given more multiple choice questions, your answers to which affect how your teammates, your fans and the other NBA fans nationwide see you.
There are even other little plotlines that play through each season. Early on I was wooed by another agent and I turned him down to stick with my friend. Here’s how that plays out (this video was taken by someone else, mind, this isn’t Jake McPake):
Impressive stuff, eh? That’s commitment to detail.
Long story short, I played through numerous 82-game seasons with Jake McPake, eventually getting him a trade to the Toronto Raptors and then a move to the Boston Celtics. All this took me 73 hours of gameplay in total, which is a lot when you consider my job is to play a load of different games and it’s difficult to commit to one.
Now, here’s the thing. To upgrade your stats in MyCareer you spend VC (Virtual Currency), which you earn by playing games. You can also get VC quicker by buying it with real money through microtransactions (one of the aforementioned new features I’m wary of).
In order to prevent skullduggery, 2K Sports ties your VC to an online account, so every time you spend VC on new stats – even if it’s just VC you’ve earned in-game – it connects online and changes your balance accordingly.
What does this mean? Essentially, any time the 2K Sports servers are down for maintenance, you can’t play MyCareer mode. Do you see where this is going?
I’ve got NBA 2K15 sitting here, but my plan has been to leave it aside until I finish Jake’s journey in NBA 2K14.
In 2K14, Jake McPake is about to take part in the NBA Playoffs with the Boston Celtics. I’ve slowly built his stats up (without spending another penny of real cash, I should add), and am confident he’ll finally take the Celtics to the NBA Finals and get his first ever Championship ring. And considering it’ll have taken around 80 hours or so by the time I do it, it’ll feel rewarding as fuck.
At least, it would have. Now when I start MyCareer mode I’m told I can’t continue. Because the servers are dead. And they aren’t coming back.
Just like that, 2K Sports has ended my 73-hour single player career (and I stress ‘single player’), by killing its online servers. What in the realm of fuck.
Their solution? Don’t worry, you can start all over again with an offline career!
Here’s the thing. Firstly, fuck you. Secondly, at no point when starting MyCareer mode in NBA 2K14 are you asked to choose between an offline or online career. Trust me, because if I was, I would have chosen an offline one without hesitation.
After all, I’m not comfortable with the idea of my planned gaming sessions being cancelled because of server issues I can’t control, and I think this new development proves I’m right to think that.
Instead, as soon as you start a MyCareer game, if your console is online (and whose isn’t these days?) it’s locked to an online career that can’t be played offline at any point.
So what now? Obviously I’ll need to grudgingly start NBA 2K15 now and hopefully get through the 80-odd hours quicker this time so Jake McPake can finally stare lovingly at his NBA Championship ring as he eats his cereal every morning.
I’m pissed off, and so are a lot of other gamers. It would be one thing if this was FIFA, or another game where seasons are relatively short and can be pretty much rinsed clean by the time next year’s instalment comes along. Naturally, it’d still be bullshit but whatever.
But NBA 2K14’s MyCareer mode is a bloody long mode, and your player develops his stats so slowly (as long as you don’t succumb to the microtransaction devil) that if you want to play it properly with full 82-game seasons you’re talking a few seasons – that’s over 240 games without taking Playoff games into account – to win the NBA Finals.
In fact, in order to make it to the Hall Of Fame at the end of the game, you need to have achieved 10 major milestones, which include the likes of “get selected to 5 All-Star teams”. With Playoff games included then, that means you’re talking over 450 games – assuming you’re instantly amazing in your rookie year, which is unlikely – to ‘finish’ MyCareer mode alone.
Ah well, never mind, I’m sure 2K Sports has a fairly grovelling message of apology for its dedicated fans, one that will at least show some sort of remorse.
After all, last month a spokesperson claimed that “online files will not disappear, but rather they will turn to offline saves and earn skill points as opposed to VC”. Which would have been fine. So what gives?
Turns out that promise was about as genuine as the Banksy I just drew of Mickey Mouse doing a shite in a bin. “If you had created a MyCareer or a MyGM online save file that was once connected to our servers it too sadly has retired and is no longer available for use,” a new statement reads, “and it would be necessary to re-create these files as offline saves”.
So you not only shut down the server, you lied about MyCareer mode being able to continue offline. Many people (myself included) read the statement last month and thought “ah well, fair enough”. If we’d instead known we only had a month left to finish our careers I’d have temporarily put Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Forza Horizon 2 and WWE 2K15 to the side and dedicated March to ensuring Jake got his Championship ring.
The only way 2K Sports could make me angrier was if their statement had ended with some sort of condescending, smug statement about how shut up, you had to have finished the game by now because we said so. Ahem:
“Sadly this may come as an inconvenience to some of you and if so we truly do understand and can feel for how upsetting this may seem as there always is a special bond that occurs between a player and their MyCareer save but all good things must come to an end and rest assured your MyCareer or MyGM went out while on top!”
Ha. Ah ha ha. Ah HA HA HA HA!
“Went out while on top?” Dear reader, now that you are aware of the story of Jake McPake, kindly tell me if you think he “went out while on top”, and didn’t have unfinished business.
Hey, 2K Sports. You owe Jake McPake a fucking NBA Championship ring.
UPDATE: According to Game Informer, 2K Sports has reversed its decision and will now keep the NBA 2K14 servers online for another nine months. This is great news and will allow Jake McPake to finally win the championship, but it’s also just delaying something that is still inherently bullshit. It’s clear that these servers are killed to ‘encourage’ (i.e. force) gamers to buy the next annual instalment of the game, and the idea that entire game modes (like MyTeam and online multiplayer) are essentially removed permanently from a game after only two years is still grim stuff.
Regardless, at least now the dream can come true: Jake McPake will finally get his championship ring.