New Pack Dynamics [February 2021]

Isn’t that how Zwift works though? Zwift developer says it works for me, it must work for everyone else too. Release the update! Poop hits the fan.

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True but 300+ riders were asked for feedback each week and it was all positive.

I’ve asked the same on other rides, only a few reported riders disappearing for a second or two. And yes, they could see my texts even though I was more than 200 riders away from them, so that hasn’t been a problem either.

So, to say “it’s broken / not working / worse than ever / insert overdramatic soliloquy” is not the case. It may not be working for them; in which case, they can raise a ticket. It seems to be working very well for the vast majority of users.

Or it could be that riders need to learn how to ride better…

My impression thus far is that it works just fine in some contexts and frustratingly badly in others. More data points needed to figure out what kind of events to avoid. If steering actually now secretly works in all events, that would certainly also be one more thing to try…

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I think it’s a vast improvement, and I’m just happy that they are working on it. I did the ZHR masters race this evening. Sticky draft is definitely more obvious - it means when you accelerate up to someone (or a group up to another group) rather than rolling through the middle you slow in to their draft. I’m not against this though - it’s very similar to RGT’s collision braking. It does mean if a gap forms you can get distanced very quickly.

Whilst some amount of collision braking is a good thing to stop the ever accelerating pack, sticky draft is now even more frustrating when you are trying to maintain or increase your speed, and the person whose draft you are locked in to is slowing. You can be gapped through no fault of your own.

On the flip side, if the pack speed is consistent, you can now reduce your power A LOT and stay in the draft. At ‘A’ pack speed on the flat (around 48km/h) i could hold position at about 200w instead of around 240w, but upping power to 240w made next to no difference. As soon as pack speed started to accelerate, you then had to watch carefully to not start moving backwards quickly.

Having a button to break the draft may be a solution, but ideally the game would get smarter at knowing that if a rider is slowing, or the held rider is accelerating, the draft lock should be released. Or better still, no draft lock at all, just ‘drafting’ where your speed is more significantly penalised when you hit the the wind.

In terms of rider movements, when the pack was quite large and moving quickly in the first 20 minutes, there was a lot of sudden jerky sideways movements, that did seem very unnatural and would have me fearing for my life IRL! As the pack thinned out it seemed more natural.

I really hope we keep seeing this tweaked with each release, as if they get it right it will make the biggest difference to the overall Zwift racing experience (aside from a rankings based matchmaking system, cough).

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When catching a group, you seem to get locked to the very last rider in that group (often riding one abreast), even if there is a wider blob right in front of them. This was the case already before the new physics, though.

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The new dynamics are making social group rides excessively difficult. It’s easy to get dropped, and it’s hard to get back, and I think especially sticky draft is to blame here.

I don’t particularly like the feel in races either, but racing is partly cracking the mechanics (at the moment), so I can take it or leave it.

But the group rides are a real problem.

I don’t know where your feedback is from, but the feedback I’m hearing from others in the same position — leading or sweeping in the large community organizer social group rides — is that it’s just harder with no clear upside. (All the other problems like the chat changes are just compounding the problems, and frankly I’m getting pretty worried about the social and community aspect of Zwift.)

Are the changes making the pack dynamics more realistic? YE— actually, no. We lack nearly every possible mechanism of feedback and control that we have riding IRL. There are no ‘realistic’ changes in isolation, and that label absolutely should not be used as a target.

I’m not sure what sticky draft is supposed to emulate, for example, but what I do know is that IRL I can usually go around people instead of being stuck behind them.

Racing and other events should be considered separately until sufficient feedback/control is in place, because some subset of those ‘realistic’ changes works better in one than another, and unlike IRL, we can consider them separately — and the ability to also apply them separately is clearly there, as evidenced by specific targeted test events.

The point of group rides is to ride together. Therefore, unless opted out by the organizer the ruleset in use should minimize difficulty staying with the group.

The point of races is to get away from others. Therefore, unless opted out by the organizer the ruleset should favor creating gaps.

This is a bigger discussion, and since this is no longer FutureWorks, can we get this thread moved to General, or should we start a new one?

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It’s harder to keep a group because riders are not adapting, they’re riding in the same way they’ve been doing for years. Easier to overtake riders at the front, easier to lose concentration at the back, group stretches until it breaks.

If riders adapt (and behave!) there’s no reason a group can’t stick together.

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I think part of the problem can be that the rider in front of you is suddenly moving to the side, and you are suddenly left to take the wind. This can happen IRL but in a much slower way, so you have time to adjust. This can make it hard to stick together.

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’ve offered an (incomplete) explanation as to how it’s harder (and it is, not just different).

You have offered no explanation as to why it should be.

If you want your riders to have to stare at a mess of pixels and latency to try to guess how to manage to stay with the group, I guess opt-out would be for you. I’d prefer for social riding to focus on the social, and any and all changes to be evaluated from that perspective.

If you read my reply, you’d understand. I’m done trying to explain further, especially to people who insult me before wanting me to explain at length.

Let’s keep this thread civil.

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FWIW, Apple TV 4K gets medium profile, not basic.

I’ve used this quite extensively; a few times before the update as I enabled it for several KISS races. It was so bad I had it disabled. Every intersection would see most of the group, apart from me surge forward to such an extent I thought I was losing the group. I would be forced to put a dig in to not lose touch only for the group to surge back and for me to shoot forward. There was also an excessive amount of lateral movement which could be attributed to some users not having an up to date game client.

However, post-update the dynamics are vastly improved. I do not see the surging forward/back and I do not think lateral movement is excessive. It may take a few rides for users to get used to it visually though as it is a significant change. I do not see any change to the sticky draft/draft lock at all. I do see groups becoming a little more fragmented though so that should make for more animated racing. I’ve really not had to adapt my riding style either other than to be more aware that splits may form and to ride accordingly.

Windows 10 with half decent graphics card

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Incorrect. :wink: It gets a custom profile marginally above Basic. Nowhere near Medium.

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Perhaps someone could weigh in on how we can more successfully navigate NPD? I am truly interested in hearing how I and thousands of my closest friends are doing this wrong. From what I’ve read during the limited chat function (there’s that too) many Zwifters are confused about how this is better.

I think it is a step in the right direction - as I understand it, they haven’t really changed the pack dynamics. They haven’t altered draft, or pack speed, or the impact of hitting the wind. What they have done is made the positions more accurate which has exposed some of the other flaws.

As long as they keep improving on it and iterating each month it’s a good thing. If they leave it as it is for another 18 months, it’s a bad thing.

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This is not quite right. By reducing the times the rider has to ride through others, they have changed the pack dynamics. Now, we get more lateral movement and that affects the dynamics. As I have said previously, riders are now suddenly moved to the side to not collide with the rider in front. Riders just behind suddenly have a gap to bridge. It makes for more dynamics for better or worse.

Yes fair point, there is slightly more to it, due to not being able to ride through other riders. The sideways movement is a bit odd. I’m confident steering would massively improve it, but we’re a long way from mass adoption when Zwift are forcing exclusivity arrangements.

Point still stands though, at least its being worked on, and if they keep working on it rather than dropping it like they’ve dropped many other major initiatives it is a good thing.

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This is why I am trying to make a distinction :wink: I’m not a fan of it in races — because as others indirectly point out above, it’s an incomplete, unbalanced feature — but it’s ok.

The social rides are a problem. So, let’s consider them separately. (They may still end up using the same ruleset, but should do so based on individual consideration.)

It’s possible the March updates didn’t change the sticky draft magnitude further directly, and the effect is from the other flow — which just underlines the importance of considering the whole rather than individual variables. The first distinctly noticeable change in the effect of getting stuck behind riders (whether they’re going back or you going up) was in February, I think?