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For the past few years, Madden Franchise gamers have been reporting a glitch in which the game will softlock and hang on the loading screen after exiting a Franchise match. If this happens, the only way to resume the game is to force quit the Madden app, re-launch, and attempt to resume the Franchise. If this happens after the score goes final, then all progress will be lost, and the user will have to re-play that match from the beginning. For some users, this softlock occurs every time they finish a Franchise match, which renders Franchise Mode completely un-playable. This softlock glitch goes back to at least Madden 21, and might go back further, and it seems to happen to both online and off-line Franchise players.

I am going to explain the glitch itself, so that everybody knows what, specific softlock I'm talking about. Then I'll go over my proposed work-around. Then I'll discuss why I think the softlock happens, how it can potentially be fixed, and the specific game conditions that lead to me experiencing this softlock.

UPDATE 18 January, 2022:

Apparently, EA thinks they've finally fixed this bug in the most recent update. It only took 2 releases for them to finally do it. Oddly, I didn't see this patch announcement until after publishing this work-around, even though I had searched for it. Yet, oddly enough, I encountered the bug this past weekend, after the patch was supposedly released. So it's possible this bug is still in the game, and EA didn't catch all the causes. So if you encounter this bug in your games, try the work-around described below. Hopefully it works.

What happens, and how to work-around it

Usually, Franchise matches autosave after every play. If the game freezes, or the connection to the server is lost during an online Franchise match, Franchise games can usually be resumed from the last play that finished before exiting the Franchise match. If you get booted, or the game freezes, it usually only requires replaying one play, maybe.

But if the softlock happens while loading the Franchise Hub after finishing the match, you're screwed. This is because the in-game autosave is apparently deleted after the score goes final, but the Franchise file is not saved until the user returns to the Franchise Hub. So if a crash or freeze happens between these points, the whole match's progress is lost. This is bad programming from EA Sports and Tiburon -- no "ifs", "ands", or "buts" about it.

There is usually an auto-save after each play in Franchise matches.

I've been experiencing this problem on both PS4 and PS5 versions of Madden 22, and after a bit of experimentation, I think I may have found a work-around -- at least for online Franchise players. This work-around is based on my suspicion of why the softlock is happening, and takes advantage of teh in-game auto-save to try to prevent the softlock from happening.

The work-around is to try to exit the match prior to the score going final, and then resume from the autosave. For example, just before the last play of the game, pause and exit to the menu. Even if the game softlocks on the loading screen, you can force-quit, re-launch Madden, and resume the Franchise match from the auto-save. If you do this, you should hopefully be able to execute the final play, finish the game, and hopefully Madden will properly load the Franchise Hub. Just do not let the score go final before closing and re-loading!

If you are playing offline, you must force-close the game. Do not simply pause and quit, as doing so will delete in-match auto-save and return you to the Franchise Hub. If you force-close, then you'll be able to resume from the auto-save next time to try to load your offline Franchise.

Quitting and re-loading the autosave before the last play of the game may
preserve progress and bypass the softlock.

Why the work-around works

Now comes the part where I do EA and Tiburon's job for them (paycheck, please!).

I believe that the reason that this loading screen softlock is happening is because Madden is a horribly-optimized game full of bloated assets and textures. There is probably a memory leak or corruption in an assets, or a logic module, or animations, or U.I. element. This memory leak fills up memory or graphics memory, and prevents additional assets or scenes from being loaded.

It's possible that whatever asset is causing the memory leak or corruption is not being un-loaded after finishing the match, and it's preventing Franchise Hub assets from being loaded. This would potentially lead to the loading screen looping indefinitely.

The reason that I believe a memory leak is involved is that while playing the PS5 version, I noticed some buggy behavior as 15-minute quarter Franchise matches progressed. By halftime, I would notice that post-play cutscenes would stop playing. After a play, the camera would just focus on a patch of empty turf until I press the X button to skip to the play-call screen. This is possibly happening because some asset(s) required for the cutscenes is failing to load. It might be post-play idle animations, or sideline characters, or overlay graphics, or something else entirely. If a penalty occurred during the play, the game will hang for several seconds while it apparently fails to load the referee model. Thankfully, these failures to play post-play cutscenes don't cause the game to crash completely (at least not on PS5).

If the camera starts lingering on a patch of turf instead of playing a post-play cutscene,
then the softlock is potentially going to happen when exiting the match.

Whenever I would notice this start to happen, I would exit to the menu, and Madden would softlock on the loading screen. But as long as I did this before the end of the match, I could reload the auto-save. Re-loading from an auto-save has its own share of bugs associated with it (which I won't go into here). Nevertheless, finishing the match with some buggy stats and faulty pre-season substitution logic is better than losing all progress entirely, or not being able to progress the Franchise at all. I have at least confirmed that most player stats and experience is retained if the auto-save is re-loaded. A great performance from newly-drafted rookie won't be lost if you use this method to bypass the softlock in a preseason game.

Upon re-loading the auto-save, the memory leak (or whatever is causing the softlock) is apparently cleared from memory. Post-play cutscenes will start happening again, and loading back out to the Franchise Hub will become possible.

How to fix it?

Unfortunately, I don't think there's anything we gamers can do to "fix" this problem, unless we can find the specific asset(s) or scenarios that cause the softlock. If it is a custom coach model, or custom character model (either from Face of the Franchise or a rookie character model), then it's possible that not using that particular character model may resolve the problem.

If Tiburon can't fix the underlying problem, they can still implement a band-aid fix that doesn't delete progress.

But it's pretty much up to EA Sports and Tiburon to fix this issue. Ideally, they will find the cause of the softlock and fix it.

But even if they can't fix it, there are still easy ways for them to prevent it from being a game-breaking problem. Either:

  • Save the game result to the Franchise file as soon as the score goes final, or
  • Don't wipe the in-match auto-save until after returning to the Franchise Hub and auto-saving the Franchise file.

If the first method is employed, then gamers should be able to resume their Franchise with the game results having been saved, even if Madden crashes, freezes, softlocks, or boots us out because of a server disconnect. This is the preferred solution. However, if it's not technically feasible to save the Franchise file at this point, then falling back on the second method would allow the user to be able to re-load the auto-save, finish the game, and hopefully make it through the loading screen without a softlock.

My Franchise setup

In the off chance that someone at EA Sports or Tiburon comes across this post, here is some info about my Franchise set-up so that you can hopefully reproduce the problem and maybe find the source of the softlock.

I'm playing the disc version of Madden NFL 22 on a PS5. I started an online Franchise with the starting point at the start of the 2021 playoffs. I play as the Bears head coach and used a custom coach. I simmed through the playoffs, went through the offseason and started the 2022 preseason. I play my Franchise games with 15-minute quarters, and the accelerated clock at 12 seconds, using custom gameplay sliders. Under these condition, the first preseason game (a Monday Night home game against the Raiders) would result in the game softlocking.

Perhaps my custom coach or a drafted rookie is causing the softlock?

Perhaps the assets for the custom coach are the culprit? Or maybe one of the character models of a an auto-generated rookie that I drafted?

This bug has been in the game for 2 years now, so I'm not optimistic that EA or Tiburon will bother to fix it. The best I could do is explain to them what the problem is, and hope that someone will care enough to make the game playable. But I'm not holding my breath for it.

Comments (1) -

08/19/2022 22:37:11 #

Part of me is glad that someone else has posted about this obvious and gamebreaking issue.
The other part of me says, "How has this moronic  company not fixed the issue after this much time?!"
Side note: Whenever I try the hard quit out method, the game decides that only one player on my team gets about 1 XP for the entire game, so I'm screwed even with this player-side "fix".

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