Monday Tip-Off: The Decline of MyCAREER Offline

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a look at the decline of MyCAREER offline, and its effect on the career experience in NBA 2K.

MyCAREER has been my main mode of choice since I was drawn to it back in NBA 2K13. As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I’ve felt a desire to return to my roots as a franchise gamer – especially given the depth currently on offer in MyLEAGUE – and have also spent time with MyTEAM, as well as Ultimate Team in NBA Live over the past generation. However, MyCAREER has been difficult to quit, particularly as I’ve grown to appreciate the online scene through 2K Pro-Am. The connected experience offers several benefits, but it’s also contributed to the decline of MyCAREER offline.

I was originally going to cover this in a Friday Five article which would’ve been titled “5 Ways Offline MyCAREER Is Worse”, but I decided that the list format wouldn’t do the issue justice. One of the major reasons for my change of heart and mind is that I stumbled across this Reddit post from about five months back, outlining the way that MyCAREER offline has been downgraded over the years. It was well-researched, and I must credit it here as a source of information for the specific changes I’ve noted. Its title was apt, too. It’s a matter that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention, and I’d like to rectify that by covering it today, while also considering some possible solutions.

Although MyCAREER encompasses the traditional NBA career experience and the connected online modes of The Playground (aka Park), 2K Pro-Am, and The Rec, when most gamers say “MyCAREER”, they’re referring to the NBA-oriented single player mode that’s comprised of offline gameplay against the CPU. These days however, although it’s considered offline play, the NBA side of MyCAREER is still connected. We still load into the game world of The Neighborhood, it utilises VC, and our MyPLAYER’s progress and inventory is synced with data on the server. As such, even when you aren’t playing online, MyCAREER still requires online connectivity.

MyCAREER Offline Options in NBA 2K16

This has presented a number of problems over the course of this past generation. As that Reddit post notes in great detail, with more and more functionality being tied to online data, MyCAREER offline has been losing features as the servers are inevitably shut down. With each passing year, more and more features have been lost. In NBA 2K10 through NBA 2K14 on the seventh generation, My Player and MyCAREER remained fully functional offline. On the current generation, NBA 2K14’s new take on MyCAREER lost the ability to assign shoes, accessories, and tattoos once the server was shut down. Endorsements, cutscenes, and Badge upgrades remained accessible.

The ability to customise your MyCOURT was lost when NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17 went offline, as was the Badge upgrade system. The latter also dropped the ability to purchase and equip any animations, though the story cutscenes and endorsements – now using Skill Points instead of VC – were still present. These features would finally disappear in NBA 2K18 and NBA 2K19 as MyCAREER offline became a bare bones mode, and the ability to convert connected saves to offline ones was removed. NBA 2K19’s version did at least offer a few animations, and the new Badge system still allowed full upgrades offline in both of those games, but the writing was on the wall.

That brings us to NBA 2K20, where MyCAREER offline is no longer available in any capacity. When the NBA 2K20 servers are shut down, that will render MyCAREER completely unavailable, the same as MyTEAM. There won’t be any way to revisit old saves, or even play a stripped down version of the mode. Furthermore, if you reinstall an older game with discontinued online support, such as NBA 2K17, you may find that you can no longer convert your old connected saves if they’re missing data which can only be retrieved from servers that are no longer available. In short, MyCAREER offline has been in decline for years, and is no longer even an option anymore.

MyCAREER Offline in NBA 2K18

At this point, you might be asking what the big deal is. Surely, the appeal is in the online connectivity, and the features that are built around online content. A lot of people move on every year, and the Skill Points grind has ironically always been worse than the VC grind anyway. Who cares, because who even wants to play MyCAREER offline? Well, while it may not be the majority of gamers, there are definitely people who want to revisit old saves, or stick with an older game longer than the planned server shutdowns allow. As such, there’s understandable frustration with the decline, and now complete removal of the MyCAREER offline experience.

It represents regression, or at best progression in a direction that is unappealing to a number of gamers, not to mention incompatible with the nostalgia that comes with our favourite basketball video games. We’ve seen some great ideas come to fruition with the connected approach to MyCAREER, but they’re gone after 27 months. Not only that, but as NBA 2K has landed on the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console-handheld that may not always be online, it’s made MyCAREER less accessible and versatile. The need to always be online isn’t conducive to the Switch’s concept of being able to play at home and on the go using the same gaming device, limiting the mode’s appeal.

With that in mind, it’s not just about older games. If you’re experiencing any kind of Internet connectivity issues, you won’t be able to play your connected save, and the only alternative – up until NBA 2K20 – is an incredibly stripped down version of the mode. If you’re in the middle of a game, and there’s a server hiccup – which is not uncommon, because NBA 2K’s servers are still frustratingly unreliable – you’ll lose your progress, even in an offline, single player game. I mean, it’s frustrating enough to experience a disconnection in The Playground or Pro-Am, but it’s a real pain to get kicked from a game against the CPU because of a connection issue or server problem!

Idle Out in The Neighborhood (NBA 2K20)

Incidentally, the introduction of The Neighborhood means that we can no longer leave the game idling in MyCAREER, unless we’re in MyCOURT (which of course, we have to run halfway around the block to reach, and then load into). At this point, you may be questioning why the single player portion of MyCAREER needs to be online, and as was pointed out in the aforementioned Reddit thread, the implementation of VC is a major factor here. It drives the recurrent revenue mechanics that the suits love so much. Having MyCAREER offline be bare bones and unappealing – or indeed, completely absent – also helps push gamers towards buying the latest NBA 2K title.

However, there is merit in the connected experience. Obviously, it allows 2K to push through new content, though MyCAREER offline could feasibly just include launch assets (especially when it comes to animations). The main appeal, of course, is the way it streamlines player progression. There’s no need to grind up a separate player for offline and online play, which saves time (and potentially money). Progress earned offline applies to your MyPLAYER when you take them online, and vice versa. It’s a good idea in that respect, though the online experience’s influence on offline play – from cosmetic content to mechanics such as player builds – isn’t always positive.

This makes it difficult to suggest a feasible solution that NBA 2K is likely to utilise, as there’s a reason for the connectivity, to say nothing of the benefits of recurrent user spending. The approach works a majority of the time on the platforms that house most of the userbase, and a lack of incentive for 2K makes pushing for change an uphill battle. From a technical standpoint, however, I imagine it’s feasible. Previous games have allowed online saves to be converted for offline use, so we know it’s possible. The amount of Skill Points in an offline save could be raised, and access granted to an array of basic cosmetic items and animations that were in the game at launch.

Buying Animations Offline (NBA 2K16 MyCAREER)

We’ve seen it in previous games, and that’s the most frustrating part. There’s no reason to remove these features, except to render games obsolete. On top of that, surely there would be ways to complete NBA games offline, and then later sync the data with the server. I suppose cheating and exploits are a concern there, especially on PC where hacking is viable, but there must be security measures that could be implemented. A separate offline career mode – similar to what’s been done with MyLEAGUE and MyGM – is another option. And no, the makeshift solution of playing MyLEAGUE using player lock is no excuse for 2K not to cater to the needs of offline gamers.

The drawback of being able to play a deep career experience without connectivity is that you’d need to start a new, connected save in order to take a player online, but that’s a sacrifice that strictly offline MyCAREER gamers are probably inclined to make. I don’t think it’s viable to separate MyCAREER from The Playground and Pro-Am completely, because for gamers who want to go back and forth between online and offline play, it makes too much sense to only have to grind up one player. What we need is the option to play one or the other. I’d suggest that gamers who only play online could benefit here too, since they wouldn’t have to touch an offline mode at all.

For a mode that was created as a single player experience, MyCAREER has become less and less welcoming to offline gamers over the years, as well as those who like to go back and dust off old saves. The approach is fundamentally incompatible with one of the biggest selling points of the Nintendo Switch, and feels cynical in its push for recurrent revenue and sales of the latest title. Although there’s merit in their being connected, the offline and online experience are sometimes at odds, and some kind of separation could benefit both contingents of gamers. If nothing else, core features of a single player offline mode shouldn’t have an expiration date, and they currently do.

The Neighborhood at Sunset (NBA 2K20)

Will anything change? I have to admit, I have my doubts. Like the implementation of The Neighborhood, it’s likely that 2K sees this as progress, and any return to the old ways would be looked upon as a backwards step. At the same time, other features have been removed only to find their way back into the game as “brand new” selling points years down the road, so perhaps if there’s enough of an outcry, MyCAREER offline may return and in better shape. It is an issue that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention, so it wouldn’t hurt to try. I fear that it’s a relic of bygone days sacrificed in the name of progress, but the decline has still been sad to see. It’s worth speaking up.

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August 5, 2020 10:24 pm

Do you imagine an offline MyCareer Mode with the same customization of MyLeague? That is the dream