Since sometime in December, astute Zwifters have noticed a “New AI” tag appearing on a small number of events. Then a few days ago, ZwiftHQ confirmed (via this FutureWorks forum post) they have been testing new pack dynamics in certain events indicated with this tag.
What’s different about the new pack dynamics, and how you can test it for yourself? Here’s what we know…
Why “New AI”?
The “new AI” tag is interesting in itself. Have you ever pondered that, without users doing the steering, Zwift has to use artificial intelligence to steer for us?
Even without the “new AI” tag, your avatar will veer around riders, and veer into their draft. Sometimes the AI isn’t very smart – it famously takes terrible lines in corners, for example! But overall, it generally puts riders in a sensible place.
Digging Into the New Pack Dynamics
Here are excerpts from Zwift’s forum posts on the new pack dynamics, explaining how they’re different from what we’re used to:
Experienced Zwifters may have noticed changes in the way your avatar moves around other avatars.
In Bike group events with new pack dynamics enabled – it affects the shape of the blob, and avatars don’t pass straight through each other like ghosts. They move around each other a little more realistically most of the time. You’ll see it happen still – it’s not perfect yet.
Game physics more accurate, including the positioning of the bikes on the road.
The movement and shape of the pack smoother and more human-like.
We didn’t change the math behind drafting, but the draft effect should be more realistic because avatar positionings are more accurate now.
That accurately describes the new pack dynamics, as I’ve observed them. I’ve noticed it causes groups of riders to be more spread out, and your avatar rides through other riders much less.
With riders more spread out, the draft effect seems to be reduced somewhat, which causes the packs to stretch out more, front to back.
Comparing the Old and New
Here are three short recordings made today, showing the new and old pack dynamics.
New pack dynamics, video 1:
New pack dynamics, video 2:
Standard pack dynamics:
How would you describe the differences between the first two clips and the last one? I would say riders seem more “jumpy” in the first two, as well as more spaced out. And there’s definitely less riding through other avatars in the first two clips.
Is It An Improvement?
Are the new pack dynamics better than the old? My take on it is: yes and no.
Not riding through other riders is a good thing, obviously. It makes the visuals feel more realistic. And having riders spaced out a bit more left to right feels better as well.
Although I haven’t been able to test/confirm this, I have a theory that the new dynamics may reduce the “churn” at the front of the blobs somewhat, because riders will veer around the front rider and into the wind earlier than they did previously. So instead of slingshotting off the front and continually bumping up the pack speed, the new pack dynamics may result in more realistic group speeds. Maybe.
Rider movements can be a bit erratic with the new pack dynamics, though. Riders will (seemingly) randomly veer left or right in the pack, like some sort of Cat 5 racer with a flat. It’s possible these are Zwifters running an outdated version of the game, but it’s also quite possible this is just the new pack dynamics needing a bit of fine-tuning.
While the “new AI” may not be perfect, I’m excited to see Zwift attempting to improve the pack dynamics. If this eventually makes our avatars’ movements more realistic and reduces the blob-accelerating “churn” at the front, that’s a major upgrade.
Experience It For Yourself
Have you tried out the “New AI” events yet? Share your thoughts below!
And, more importantly, share those thoughts on the Zwift FutureWorks forum thread so Zwift sees your feedback.