What are course/world designers working on?

Zwift has full-time world designers, so they need to be cranking out world content 8 hours a day. But what have they been working on?

Since I started Zwifting in March, we got France and Paris, a crash project to host the virtual Tour de France, a huge success. These worlds took maybe two months of work, with solid results, especially with Paris which I find to be remarkable. But that was over by early July. Indeed, there’s plenty of dirt-road and even paved road stubs in France, so I’d certainly expect an extended France expansion at some point. Why else would they put in all of these road stubs?

Zwift had been committed to doing the Swiss World Championship course. That was finally canceled in August, I think, so work on that world was evidently scrapped. So there must have been some lost work there.

They were also committed to the Tokyo Olympic course. The Olympics were originally scheduled in August, but were delayed a year due to COVID. So that work must have been substantially complete. Of course it’s possible they decided to enrich that world with more roads and scenery. So work may be ongoing still.

On Watopia, Repack Ridge went from beta-test to mainstream. But nothing has changed there since last year. That was done. I’d have expected maybe a more extensive single-track network following beta-test, but we’ve seen nothing yet. This is likely the longest Zwift has gone without any Watopia expansions.

An obvious candidate for Watopia expansion, besides single-track, would be a climb connecting to the top of L’Alpe du Zwift. This would require flatter roads, for example a coastal road, to connect to the base of that climb.

They are committed to doing the Belgian world championship course for next year, but world championship courses have been released in August or early September. So that won’t be for 9 more months.

Another potential model for world expansion is the Bologna time trial course. I could easily imagine a time trial course based on the time trials in one of this year’s grand tours. But the Bologna course was particularly attractive by virtue of being so short. Longer time trial courses would require more assets and other resources. Of course the Bologna course could also be expanded. In real life the road continues, descending and looping around, so that point-to-point course could be turned into a circuit, which would be good for multi-lap races.

New York is also ripe for expansion, although since it’s less popular than other worlds (absolute, not per-unit-distance), perhaps that won’t happen.

The Innsbruck worlds course excluded a key climb used by the elite men on their final lap, connecting to the “short lap” near the leg-breaker climb (in central Innsbruck). I could see this being added, but would have expected it by now given how modest an addition it would be, since that course is two years old by now. Maybe a challenge would be the view of the city from the climb.

A lot of people say “fix the GUI!” when anyone suggests new roads. But the world designers design worlds, they don’t design GUIs. The resources are there. They’re working on something. It’s just a matter of what.

I know that Zwift won’t commit to what is being worked on, so probably no way to know the answer here. But, I too am curious, and really hope that time and energy is going into new worlds. I understand the huge concern with the GUI, and lots of concerns with racing, but for me personally, those really mean nothing to me. The GUI works fine for me, and racing is not my thing. I really really enjoy using Zwift, and that enjoyment is directly related to being able to ride indoors in “interesting” places. I always look forward to new places to ride, and so yeah, I hope more are coming!

Yeah – it’s really clunky that, for example, if I want to ride with a pacer I need to start an activity, go to garage, pick my equipment, end the ride, scrap the ride, re-log in, pick the pacers, and enter Watopia. But really – while this is annoying and indicates an underlying issue with the structure of the code, it’s not a game breaker. In any case I don’t want to digress since it’s a false choice, as I noted: resources exist for different tasks, so the allocation of effort among those tasks is relatively static in the medium term.

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@Daniel_Connelly_LKHC I loved reading your thoughts on this and agree that it would be great to know what is being worked on! Can we promote getting an answer to that by clicking the vote button above your question? I haven’t figured out how the voting works here yet and what it’s good for.

Yes – votes attract Zwift attention to posts. Thanks!

Stelvio, Tiede, Sa Calobra would be good

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OMG how is it I rode in Majorca for a week and never did that climb? Incredible.

With the e-racing World Championship coming up soon, I think Zwift should release the Swiss course and do the race on it, then open it to the masses.

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Speaking of, I’m afraid they might be just endlessly tweaking the broadcast-quality graphics for the Worlds, and not working on anything that might benefit us mere mortals.

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Well that’s likely been a lot of work, but are the world designers involved? Maybe if they want sweeping aerial shots they may need to flesh out the surrounding terrain on existing worlds other than Watopia, which is already fairly rich.

But for example connecting interesting stuff to the road stubs in France wouldn’t be that hard. Would just need to define courses which use them.

I was thinking about simply enhancing the core routes by adding detail which is only visible via the broadcast graphics engine. (But sure, more surrounding terrain as well.) If that is your number one priority, there’s no end to how much designer time you can spend on that.

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That’s a plausible answer, definitely. I’m amazed at how good the “drone” shots were in the virtual Tour: that clearly took a lot of work.

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With Tokyo and Belgium up for 2021, I wouldn’t expect too much else.
I would think that gravel and dirt trails will be added to France.
Trails similar to Repack Ridge could be late December and
would add life to a rather bleak year.
Zwift still prefers surprises. I knew about Paris weeks before
it was announced but was asked by Zwift not to post about it.

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The Nordschleife would be really cool. It’s been modelled many times by numerous gaming companies for driving simulations. It’s circa 13 miles long, undulating with great scenery and features. You’ll hear it referred to as the Nurburgring too.

Cheers !

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@Calum_Shand1 Hi Calum! I just looked that up and agree that that would be really cool! Why did I always imagine that it was a plain oval course? Is there also a Südschleife?

As I’m using Zwift more and more often, I would really like to remove the restriction on which worlds can be ridden on certain days. I know there are some hacks to get around this, but surely they could just make it possible for us to ride where we want, when we want.

What are thoughts re how they have split Paris & France? I don’t get why they didn’t use a magic tunnel or bridge to link them up. Paris is great, but once you’ve ridden it a few times it hasn’t got much to offer. However, it would be a great warm-up before heading off through the tunnel for a climb up Ventoux.

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On limited courses: I think the present approach accomplishes two things. One is it increases the density of riders on the roads. This gives riders more riders to chase, more chance for ride-ons. The second, it forces riders to try out more worlds. There’s a general myth that more choice is always better, but a lot of people like having their choices limited. This is why focused retailers can put the giant department stores out of business. I once read to a group ride where the leader said “I couldn’t decide on a route today – any preferences?” You could almost smell the anxiety in the group. There’s an optimal number of options in any choice, which differs from one person to the other, but they’ve made a particular choice here.

On Paris – it’s really a racing/workout route. Some people like this sort of thing, just like swimmers like swimming laps in a pool, and triathletes often like riding the same circuit over and over in training, and runners often like running the track even if they have flat roads they could use. For epic exploration, there’s better choices.

With the tunnel, they’d need to move the GPS coordinates for Ventoux to be close to Paris, similar to what they did with Surrey Hills in London, since Strava can’t handle teleports.

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