Game performance on Makuri Islands

Waited a bit before posting this but I think it’s so significant it’s worth mentioning, since it’s massively out of step with the rest of the game. May serve as a heads up for people considering building or buying a PC for Zwift, supposedly to experience the best it has to offer.

Makuri Islands requires staggeringly high end components to maintain 60fps; not by modern gaming standards but when compared to all the other worlds. You need a highly clocked CPU (Intel 9th gen at 5GHz+ or Ryzen 5000 series) and an RTX tier GPU, because the world design seems to have no consideration for the performance impact of adding more and more assets and effects in a small space/view. For those who may believe this was always the case (there are many misconceptions about what’s needed in a ‘gaming PC’ to max out Zwift), an i3-4130 and GTX 1060 is enough to run the game at 4K and Ultra detail at 60fps+ in every other world on a solo ride, with very few exceptions. Makuri Islands therefore represents an absolutely HUGE step up in system requirements to maintain that same level of performance.

There are two different but related issues, both easily observed using nothing more than Task Manager and the frame rate counter config file hack.

  1. CPU bottleneck scenarios - Much of the time on this world the GPU isn’t able to try its best because it’s being held back by the CPU. This has always happened in Zwift in group events but on Makuri Islands it happens even when there’s nobody else around. You can disconnect from the internet and be at 52fps with the GPU utilisation under 70%. It’s like being in a big group ride all the time, when this is not the case on any other world. Something is going on all the time which is causing way too much CPU load, and so the GPU has to wait. Changing resolution setting or upgrading graphics card makes NO DIFFERENCE in these scenarios; I’ve seen it happen on an RTX 2070 Super, a GPU leagues above the aforementioned GTX 1060. Example: Streamable Video

  2. GPU bottleneck scenarios - In places where the GPU is able to do its best (i.e. where the CPU isn’t the limiting factor) you can be riding along with the frame rate fluctuating by 20-30fps* in a very short timeframe, purely based on the view and what’s on show. Surely it shouldn’t be this inconsistent? The game is on rails, it’s not like we’re able to ride wherever we want. The user can’t interact with the game in such a way that suddenly increases the number of assets/events on screen, like could happen in an online shooter, for example. That quantum of change is astonishing, if a GPU is capable of holding 60fps it shouldn’t be possible to turn a corner and suddenly be at 28fps with the GPU going flat out. Example: Streamable Video

*PS: this isn’t due to vsync.

Monitoring the utilisation of the GPU and the frame rate, it’s easy to see that a typical ride around Makuri Islands sees the bottleneck constantly switching back and forth, as the limiting factor swings wildly from one component to the other. It feels like performance testing wasn’t carried out to ensure the experience is consistent, firstly across this world and secondly in line with the rest of the game. Whacking in more and more eye candy looks great but performance for the end user is all over the place.

I completely accept this will fall on deaf ears. It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the masses of subscribers Zwifting on a phone, tablet, Apple TV or integrated graphics, where low end visuals and 30fps max is just fine.

I just wanted to vent, really. IMO it’s a real shame that a fantastic new world in Zwift runs so poorly compared to the rest of it, on the same hardware. Increasing the demands over time is fine, but this is a major step up. And no offence but it’s hardly Cyberpunk 2077 to look at.

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I rode Makuri just once (because summer is for outdoors) but I did not notice any issues with performance. I have an older Alienware Alpha PC with an I3 and a 2G video card.

@Dave_ZPCMR when you get chance try riding Surrey Hills in London and see if you get the same issue when you hit the more asset densely populated hills like Keith/Leith hill.

Riding Makuri last night going through the more asset dense areas I was experiencing really bad stuttering which I also noticed for the first time a few days earlier on Surrey Hills.

So I’m not measuring statistically but visually, but wondering if you would get similar stat records on Surrey, meaning it may be a wider game change?

For info I’m on a 1660 6GB Super and Ryzen 7 16GB.

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Since Richmond was refreshed, London is the least detailed world by some distance. I’d have to check Surrey Hills to see if it’s changed but there are indeed many places in the game (usually directly related to foliage density) where the frame rate drops off hugely due to increased GPU load, and it can be below 60fps even on a card like yours. Off the top of my head there’s Titans Grove, bits of Fuego Flats, various sections of New York, many parts in France and so on. Probably the worst is the Watopia jungle - particularly when the dust kicks up. In all of these spots and more, the GPU has to really work. More stuff, more load. A stronger graphics card (or lower resolution) would help, in a simple case of overcoming it with brute force. By far the best and most cost effective solution though is adaptive sync.

Makuri Islands takes all this to a whole new level, but to make matters worse adds in CPU bottlenecks all over the place. So even if you upgraded graphics card, you wouldn’t see a benefit in many spots such as in the first example video above. I could stick an RTX 3090 in my PC and it’d still be at 52-54fps there, just with the GPU utilisation at something stupidly low like 20%.

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I find box/fox hill are fine but Leith/keith hill are an absolute mess, almost to the point of making it unrideable.

The rest of London is fine but those 2 hills are a disaster so don’t think it is my set up that is the problem.

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Disregarding the whole CPU bottleneck problem, which is a Zwift problem generally, I just find it really poor how inconsistent the performance is. It would cost very little in the grand scheme of things to set up four dedicated testing rigs covering the most obvious graphics configs and combinations. I’ve built with all of these GPUs and combined with a 4th gen i3 and 8GB of RAM, all are well capable of holding 60fps in a solo ride on most of the game:

  1. GT 1030 (1080p, Medium profile)
  2. GTX 950 (1080p, High profile)
  3. GTX 1050 Ti (1440p, Ultra profile)
  4. GTX 1060 (4K, Ultra profile)

Set an offline bot running all the routes in the default 3rd person camera view and check the frame rate never dips below 60fps on each rig/config. If it does, for any reason, something needs addressing.

To sum it up, the ‘Best’ GPU identified on the [very bad] Zwift specs page is a GTX 970. That GPU drops below 30fps on some areas of Makuri Islands on max settings. Seconds later it’s at 50fps+ and other times it can hold 60fps (as it can on much of Watopia). It’s fine a lot of the time, but patently not even close to strong enough considering this is meant to be the ‘best’ experience. That or the definition of ‘best’ is very different to mine.

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I tried the new world using my iPad and was sent into a bizarre fail that showed me riding in a perfect circle in the middle of roadless green space on the map. Even more strange was the game’s rendering of me riding through alternate dimensions where at one point I was flying through the atmosphere. I’ll post pics if I can figure out how.



That’s a known and totally different issue: Flying off course in Yumezi [1.13.0, 1.13.1] [May 2021]

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