Before you even get into the meat of this, you might want to pack a lunch. I don’t do “short posts” as someone who was paid by the word as a profession for years. I will promise to stick to the topic, and at the very least I’ll try to be entertaining as you slog through this. I’m also a professional cynic, so if this comes across as mean take that into account. Also take into account that I’m angry about how this is going down, but instead of “rage quitting” I want to make it better. So disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin.
A little about me, as it’s important. (insert cheesy music here) Been cycling for a few years, did a x-country trip that I had to abandon due to a bad foot injury. I’m also a “Clydesdale” rider. That’s a male endurance athlete who weighs over 210 pounds (95.25 kilos) And my reaction to hearing that the first time was “Oh, how adorable, I haven’t weighed under that since high school!” I’m a diabetic who uses cycling as a way to control blood sugar levels. I’m also a gamer (dirty words, I know) so I know my way around an MMO and seasonal promotions. (record scratch, music over)
That in mind, I can’t wrap my head around Zwift’s “Ride with Reason” promo. The whole thing seems to be run with no playtesting, launched buggy and was timed to inconvenience a lot of people.
Climb For Costa was accrediting all four challenges simultaneously. At first I thought “Great, I can knock these out and get back to my normal workouts” but, no, patched. Understand that climbing in Zwift is especially brutal for larger, honest riders like me. If you don’t believe me, before you log in next up your weight to 280 (127 kg) and see what it’s like to be me in this virtual world. Takes me 2-3x as long to do a climb as most of the forum posters but hey, it’s just as easy as “lose the weight! LOL!”
(Spoiler alert, no it’s not.)
Solutions : Zwift made a mistake then rolled back all our progress to zero, and I think this was a mistake. It put a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of this promo because “Well, what else will happen?” It was also communicated VERY poorly to us down at the player level.
The “Ride for Qhubeka” challenge is where things really go off the rails as it required “2 group rides” to complete. Now for the hardcore riders (who use 3rd party websites to track everything and have 5-figure trainer setups) that means “go to the app and filter on the “Group Ride” option.” For the rest of us, some without access to the app, a group ride is “a ride with a group of people”. And with no real way to tell otherwise, we jump into events that look like they’d be fine and then get no credit.
So related, you ever wonder why you don’t see obese people in gyms? Come on, guess. It’s not laziness, most of the time it’s “I really don’t want to put up with the elitism and I’m tired of being made fun of for my slze”. Group cycling rides are the same way. After learning that we had to filter rides to “group rides” I jumped into one with a discord chat. And I was amused at the ride leaders complaining how awful the group was and how the fattys in the back were holding them up. I rode flat out for 35 minutes to keep up at the back of the pack before I blew up and was unceremoniously dropped while the ride leaders made comments about it. “LOSE THE WEIGHT AND GO FASTER!”
It’s not that simple when you’re a diabetic and your insides are broken, but whatever.
We did get credited for all group style rides by Zwift, but this was an unnecessary step. Especially when the game is so heavily biased against heavy riders (with low w/kg ratios based solely on “your’e tubby, lol.”) It makes the group ride a solo ride with different clothing, and I may as well not even start it in the first place.
Solutions : Get playtesters who are not hardcore and see what they do with the missions. We’re not all experts at all things Zwift. Barring that, placing a logo on rides that will give credit to the end goal would have solved this issue before it began. Also, group rides SUCK when you’re a low w/kg rider due to the game mechanics. If the goal is to build community, getting dropped won’t do that. Having Zwift “no drop” rides with discord servers would at least make a lot of us feel “welcome”. The best solution is to not make us ride in group events when we’re happiest to ride lone wolf.
The “Team Ramsay” challenge… well this was mostly uneventful except the format was puzzling. “Burn 1000 calories.” Well, sure, except that we have no way to know how many “Zwift calories” we burned while riding. I already put a feature request in to add it on the dashboard of the app, but it’s a little too late here. The only way to currently find your calories burned is to end the workout. And I’d rather have had an option to keep going and burn a couple MORE before calling it a day.
And this week stars “Ride On for World Bicycle Relief” I did a 14.5 mile ride in Zwift this morning, and it didn’t count. I got the official e-mail this evening and my calories burned skyrocketed, so I’m going to guess that it counted for the last event and not this one. I’m also blatantly cheating to get the miles in by weight doping, so we’ll see how that goes.
Ok, full stop, did I just admit to weight doping? Yes, yes I did. why? Because, frankly, I have to do it. In a group ride, I have to be a svelte 210 to even kinda keep up with a pack or I get dropped. It’s also the timing. As an American, November is a busy month of travel, working and so on. Most of week 3 was spent out of my house, and most of week 4 will be as well. So I have to rush to complete the goals before I’m out of the house and away from all things computer oriented. You may as well have run the event in December and made EVERYONE miss out on things due to various holidays.
I get it, Zwift is an international thing. It’s cool to see every flag represented on the course, but why make the event so long that an entire country has to resort to cheats to complete missions? I also get that MMO’s do everything in their power to keep you playing the game, even past the point of fun. That doesn’t work on Zwift as we’re gonna be here anyway.
Running month-long events where we have to log in weekly is not good for us. We have lives to run, last night was beautiful (for winter, anyway) weather for an outdoor ride but I did Zwift to complete a mission instead. Every other MMO that I’ve played runs 2 week long events where you can complete the missions “whenever you want” and it’s so much less stressful. Sure, some missions require getting on 7-10 times in a 2 week period for a daily, but it still gives flexibility to the end user.
Solution : Don’t run month long events with weekly challenges. The better solution, if you wanted to run a month long event, is let us opt into each event on our own time. If someone wants to knock out all four in a week and pedal their legs off 'cuz they can’t do it later,let them.
Look, Zwift, I like you. I like the aesthetic of the game. I like the idea of riding my bike at 2 AM 'cuz I’m working 'till Midnight and it’s when I can get on. I like that I can do a spin session without a gym trainer being fake-perky and yelling “Come on people! 1 more! YOU CAN DO IT!” (gag) And I also like that I can do my riding in a way that is fairly judgement proof and no elitists will yell at me for taco socks. (That’s another story) But promos like this make me loathe taking my bike off the wall and doing a session ride. I hate choosing a route to pound miles or hills. I hate having to lie so I can accomplish a goal in a reasonable time frame. I hate being forced into content that I have no interest in doing so I can get the shiny thing that everyone else gets with half the effort.
I temper this with the knowledge that I’m the outlier, however. I’m not the typical customer. Zwift seems to be aimed at the hardcore race rider looking for a winter outlet. At best I’m (to use a gamer term) a “filthy casual” who rides for endurance and tour rides. And there’s a gaming ethos of “not everyone gets to win the game”, and if that’s the case so be it, I couldn’t complete the “Tour of New York” due to time constraints per session (w//kg bias) and work schedules. But on a charity mission that I want to support, it sucks the fun out of it.
At the risk of being cynically dismissive, make of this what you will. But also keep in mind, I could just delete the game and not offer anything. I want to see Zwift get cooler and more fun. I can think of dozens more ways to do it, but we can start here with this promo event.