Monday Tip-Off: What I Learned From Uninstalling Games

Monday Tip-Off: What I Learned From Uninstalling Games

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 some thoughts on the hard lessons I learned after uninstalling NBA 2K games on PlayStation 4.

I’m a collector of basketball games, both for my own enjoyment and to create content for the NLSC. To that end, there are some games that I own on multiple platforms, which allows for interesting comparisons; especially when it comes to older titles. With the current generation of NBA 2K games, I’ve made a point of buying them on both PC and PlayStation 4. The PC version has been there for single player gaming, as well as dabbling with mods if and when I so choose. The PS4 version has been for online gaming, as that’s where my friends (and a larger portion of the userbase) are.

Aside from differences such as the online scene and modding capabilities, the PC and PS4 versions – and the Xbox One release for that matter – are identical. Of course, my PC offers another advantage over my PS4: more storage space. It wasn’t until I picked up an external drive for my PS4 that I was able to maintain a much bigger library of installed games. Before that, I’d been uninstalling games as they went on the shelf, in order to play titles that were currently in my rotation. Once I added that extra storage, I was able to reinstall every NBA 2K title that I own for PS4. Unfortunately, I found out that uninstalling those games had a few drawbacks.

I knew that there could be problems when reinstalling games after uninstalling them to clear up storage space, having removed and re-added NBA 2K17 a few times. After reinstalling the game, I was greeted by a series of error messages informing me that data files had been corrupted. At the time, the servers were still up and running, and so I was able to retrieve the necessary data. Even though my MyCAREER save was missing its name, once it synced with the server, it worked fine. The second time I reinstalled it, I accidentally overwrote my MyCAREER save with an older version from the cloud. The third time the servers were gone, and so was my save file.

MyCAREER Save Files in NBA 2K17

That is to say, I still have the file, but it needs to sync data with the server and that’s clearly no longer possible. It therefore can’t be converted to an offline save, so while the file is present, it’s essentially gone. I haven’t been able to bring myself to delete it yet, just in case LD2K’s efforts to have servers for old games switched back on do someday succeed. It’s highly unlikely of course, but it’s tough to let go. Uninstalling NBA 2K needn’t be a disaster if the servers are still online and you’re careful not to overwrite local data as I did the second time, but if you leave it too late and the online services are discontinued, you stand to lose data that you could otherwise preserve.

It’s a similar story with my NBA 2K16 MyCAREER save. I’m not really interested in playing it again – at least not on a regular basis – but I wouldn’t mind being able to replay all of the story cutscenes on the TV in MyCOURT. That was a nice feature, and it would be handy to have now in order to get footage and screenshots of those cutscenes without having to play through the story again offline. It’s a moot point though as once again, I can’t sync the data to open that save file. I’ve also lost access to my NBA 2K14 and NBA 2K15 save files, but as I never made much progress in them, it’s not a big loss. I don’t mind starting over if I want to revisit those games.

There’s arguably a much bigger problem when it comes to uninstalling games after online support has concluded: losing in-game updates. Yes, it’s a pain to lose access to those old saves, but it’s also not unexpected in the age of always online and connected experiences. Although their wording was characteristically passive-aggressive, 2K’s statement amidst the controversy of the NBA 2K14 server shutdown was quite clear. Modes that feature online content will be limited, or indeed completely unavailable, once the servers are shut down. It’s disappointing but understandable, and if the mode is still playable, you can start over if you so choose. Updates are another story.

Original Basketball in NBA 2K14 (PS4)

As it turns out, uninstalling NBA 2K is a really bad idea if you want to keep all of the updated rosters and art assets that came through while a game was current. Although I hadn’t manually deleted that data, it’s either been wiped or corrupted when I removed those games. The title updates – the ones that are downloaded through the dashboard – still come through, even when the servers are offline. This at least ensures that any reinstalled games are patched with technical fixes and other updates, but any rosters and new art assets must be downloaded in-game, after connecting to 2K’s servers. Without them, those updates can no longer be retrieved when a game is reinstalled.

That’s how I came to see the original basketball with the late David Stern’s signature when I fired up the PS4 version of NBA 2K14. I was doing research for an article on outdated features that have been left in basketball games, and wanted to check to see if the ball had been updated in NBA 2K14 (as I knew it had been in NBA Live 14). When I saw that my copy still featured the David Stern ball, I had to double-check old news posts with NBA 2K14 patch notes, which confirmed I no longer had the updated files I’d originally downloaded. A glance at the rosters in both NBA 2K14 and NBA 2K15 confirmed that updates had been lost upon uninstalling them some time back.

Obviously this is a situation that we encounter when we pick up a game long after online support has been discontinued. However, it’s even more frustrating when we’ve owned a game when it was new and current, downloaded those updates when they originally came through, and subsequently lost them. To have that data completely wiped or corrupted when a game is uninstalled puts us in the same position as having never owned it in the first place. It’s a tremendous blow on top of losing access to any save files, and again, arguably much worse. As I said, you can start over offline if you’re willing to do so, but those updates will never be readily on hand ever again.

NBA 2K15 Rosters After Uninstalling

Incidentally, the same thing can happen with the PC version. While researching the aforementioned article, I installed a fresh copy of NBA 2K14 through Steam on my laptop. Once again, I noticed that the original basketball with David Stern’s signature was present instead of the updated Adam Silver version. The difference is that with the PC version, we’ve been able to archive and preserve those updates quite easily. I believe it’s feasible on console too, but it’s not quite as straightforward since we don’t have the same ease of access to the file system. On top of that, it’s also on us to think to do it in the first place. It doesn’t seem like many people ever bothered to do so.

Needless to say, there are some lessons to learn here. The obvious one is that when it comes to uninstalling NBA 2K games, don’t, if you can avoid it. If you must, be sure to reinstall the game before the servers are shut down, so that data can be synced as necessary. In any game that allows you to convert an online MyCAREER save to an offline one, make sure that you have a working file before the shutdown. Whether you’re on console or PC, back up everything that you can; it’s obviously going to be somewhat easier on the latter. You may need that storage space now, but there could be a time when you want to reinstall and revisit the games that you’re uninstalling.

Now, you may not need those updates to enjoy a game. If you’re just dusting a title off for some quick fun, it may not matter that you’re back to Day 1 rosters and content. Without the servers, various features and certain modes are going to be inaccessible, anyway. All the same, I wish that I’d had the foresight to keep those games or reinstall them sooner, or set myself up with an external HDD for my PS4 long before I did. It’s annoying not to have those games as intact or as finalised as they could be, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it now. Unfortunately it’s something I had to learn the hard way, but if nothing else, I can at least give others a heads up for the future.

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