Early this week I joined other Club Jarvis members to test yet another Zwift FutureWorks feature. Called the “Sights and Sounds Tour”, and the basic idea is that all on-screen HUD elements are removed, so you can enjoy a screen full of Watopian visuals. It was a fun experience, and I want to share some thoughts about it! But first…
But let’s take a step back and review where we’re at with Zwift’s FutureWorks features. If you recall, Club Jarvis was spun up in late March 2020 as a way for veteran Zwifters to test Zwift’s new FutureWorks features. (It may sound strange, but the first FutureWorks feature Club Jarvis members tested was Club Jarvis itself!) Although the Clubs feature set is fairly basic, it seems to be functional and stable. A month and a half later, it’s still the only club in Zwift – but hopefully other clubs will get onboarded soon.
A few weeks after Clubs launched, I hopped into the first-ever “members-only” event, where a slew of long-time Zwifters went for an social spin around Sand and Sequoias while cracking jokes on Discord and chatting about new game features. This test of a “club-only” event seemed to go quite nicely.
Then early this month, I took part in yet another Club Jarvis members-only event: a Crit City race testing the new FutureWorks “boost mode” feature. That was a blast!
So we already had three FutureWorks “modules” released to Club Jarvis: Clubs, Members-Only Events, and Boost Mode. Now we have a fourth!
Sights and Sounds
The event description said:
Experience the sights and sounds of Watopia in this experimental, bare bones Zwift ride. No timers, no watts, no text at all… just pure Zwift.
This ride will be automatically led by Jarvis the Bear who will be rolling at a solid 2.5w/kg. You can choose to hang around with Jarvis or do your own thing.
So there were actually two interesting things happening on this ride. First, we have the bare bones “experimental” mode. While we were in the start pens, the standard message box was on the right. But once the ride began, all HUD elements disappeared, and the only text we ever saw on the screen was rider names above avatars.
Here’s a video of my first Sand and Sequoias lap on this ride, so you can experience it for yourself:
Get Your Own Tour
You may not realize it, but if you’re on a Mac or PC, it’s quite easy to set your Zwift game to function without any HUD elements. It’s a hack we covered over three years ago, in fact! You can also use the ZwiftHacks ZwiftPreferenes tool to enable the minimal UI feature – MacOS users can use the ZwiftPref tool.
I’m not sure if Zwift is doing anything beyond just enabling the “Minimal UI” preference setting for these events. One thing I did notice is that it seemed like the visual quality was a bit better on this Club Jarvis ride – the graphics on the backs of riders’ jerseys were sharp even when I was close up, where typically they start to look a little low-res on my normal Zwifting setup.
What Was It Like?
Riding in “Sights and Sounds” mode was more engaging in some ways – more like a real club ride, where I felt I had to pay attention to the riders around me, and I could see more of the scenery. (Did you know there are ruins on top of the desert start/finish rock arch?) We were all in the same Zwift Beta kit, which made it hard to pick out riders from the bunch. I think a race in this mode would be really interesting, as long as riders could wear their own kit!
I found myself getting picky about the sounds I was hearing – it seemed like the rolling road noise and dings from the UI were overpowering. I wanted to be surrounded by nature sounds, and maybe some sounds of other riders. So while the visuals were quite nice, I think I would opt to listen to music in my earbuds until Zwift upgrades their soundscape.
Messaging was interesting – I could hit “M” and type a message on screen, but it only showed up if people were looking at messages on Companion – which many riders were doing. I found myself wanting to make a quick comment here or there, but not doing it because it felt like nobody would see it.
Overall, I’d say Sight and Sounds mode is a nice option for event organizers, and could make for some really interesting “stripped down” racing. Other Club Jarvis riders who participated in this event had very positive things to say as well, so my guess is we’ll see this as an optional event mode in the future.
Jarvis the Robo-Bear
The second feature of this ride was Jarvis the Bear. He had actually made an appearance in our first Club Jarvis event but in this ride he was the official leader, complete with some auto-scripted messaging before the ride began.
As promised, he held 2.5 w/kg steady for the whole ride. That meant he hung with our main pack until we hit the redwoods, at which point many riders (including myself) bumped up our wattage on the climbs, and Jarvis quickly got dropped.
Is this a useful feature for Zwift events? I could see how a constant wattage beacon would be handy for flat rides. I’m not sure if would work on hilly routes, unless Zwift builds a feature to algorithmically scale Jarvis’ efforts on climbs.
For example: ride leaders could enter the wattage range for the ride (say, 2.5-3 w/kg). Jarvis would hold the lower end on flats, then on climbs his effort would scale up in proportion to the incline. So he might only bump it up to 2.6 w/kg on a 2% rise, but 3.0 w/kg on a 10%+ rise. It could make for a really challenging pacer-bot session if done right!
Zwifters have been asking for pacerbots for years – more specifically, they’ve been wanting a pacerbot of their own best efforts, so they could race themselves. Jarvis may just be the beginning of such a bot.
What do you think of these FutureWorks features? Have you been able to try them yourself? Comment below!