Some Thoughts on Zwift PowerUps

Some Thoughts on Zwift PowerUps

Hey Zwifters! In a recent Outside the Draft episode, Anna Russell suggested changing the steamroller after witnessing how this PowerUp completely changed the nature/outcome of the Beach Island Loop ZRL race.

Thinking about this idea grew into what I believe is one of the easiest (and most interesting) enhancements Zwift can do right now. Because I know many of you also spend a lot of time thinking about how we can help make Zwift better, I wanted to outline this idea here to encourage it to continue growing, and to have people like yourself respond back with their thoughts.

The Idea

Imagine a world where Zwift has modified the distribution of, and access to, PowerUps, with the goal of making the game more dynamic. 

The Details: 2 Big Changes

First: Allow PowerUps to be selected before the race

The Issue: As we all know, PowerUps are randomly assigned as racers go through a banner. This creates a race dynamic where (sometimes) the winners are the people who get lucky, not necessarily the people working the hardest.

The Change: Before every race, the race organizer determines the number and types(s) of PowerUps available. Racers then select their PowerUps when heading into the pens and start the race with all selected PowerUps available to use when desired. This creates a few dynamics: 

  • Organizers can be more strategic with PowerUps. If a racer has 3 laps of the Innsbruckring and has only 3 PowerUps, it forces competitors to figure out a strategy balancing the climb and the finish.
  • Teams can deploy new strategic tactics. Imagine all team racers selecting 5 aero helmets and then each racer using them, in a row, to attempt a team breakaway!
  • Individuals would have a much wider range of tactics in the race. Maybe the racer uses all their PowerUps to fracture the field. Or maybe a racer saves all PowerUps until the end to try a 2k break to the finish (even though those almost never work now.)
  • Competitors will not know what PowerUps other racers have. Right now, all racers know, when passing through a banner, there is a good chance everyone receives a PowerUp. This change would result in racers not knowing what anyone around them has kept, even when entering the final minutes of a race. 

How would selection work? We’re veering into UI and programming details here, and I’m confident  Zwift, who has already built a great app, and this audience (who is filled with creative Zwift advocates) have some great ideas on the best way to make these enhancements a reality. In my dream world, the racer experience for selecting these would be any one (or a combination) of the following:

  1. Use PowerUp-specific hotkeys (hello bluetooth e-racing controller)  
  2. Navigate to a new screen option in the app, where the entire phone screen is PowerUps only and the racer selects the one they want
  3. Move the mouse to the desired PowerUp at the top of the screen
  4. Press spacebar to select the desired PowerUp as each moves from left to right across the screen. 

So how would this look in game? I know the Zwift UI people are WAY better at this than me, but I made a mock-up to illustrate what I am thinking:

Second: Make PowerUps roughly equivalent to one another

Credit to Anna, Jordan and YouTube commenter, Dean, for this idea. 

The Issue: Powerups have vastly different effects today. For instance, we rarely see people break away with a feather PowerUp, but can see massive differences with the steamroller on the dirt. 

The Change: Modify PowerUps so they each offer a different but comparable effect, enabling more strategic uses. 

Here is a list of PowerUp tweaks that may allow us to move towards this change:

  • Aero: Keep as is 
  • Draft Van: Extend to 1 minute to enable better rest 
  • Feather: Last for a whole climb or 2 minutes, whichever is less
  • Burrito: Increase the radius to 5 (or even 10) meters to create group chaos
  • Ghost: Make this at least 30 seconds (I would prefer 2 minutes) to allow people to attempt a move. Imagine if an entire team dropped ghosts at once! I think all racers should be visible the last 200 meters of a race.
  • Steamroller: Make this a little less powerful on dirt – it is too powerful now
  • Anvil: Remove this

New PowerUp type ideas:

  • The Fence: No one can pass you for 3-5 seconds (cannot be used within the last 3k of a race)
  • Crosswind: Everyone 10 meters behind you gets a 20% decrease in their W/kg
  • Anvil: Everyone within 5 meters of you gains an extra 5% of their weight for 20 seconds

Additionally, it’s interesting to imagine a Zwift world where racers can select if PowerUps affect other racers or not. How awesome would it be if you could drop a Burrito and it wouldn’t affect your teammates? Or if you could drop an anvil on the one person you knew was a big threat in the race?

I know some of this would make things more complicated, and some of what I am proposing would be terrible in practice! But the thing I keep coming back to in Zwift is we can do anything. Try some strange stuff out in different races, iterate through things quickly and dump whatever doesn’t work.

Your Thoughts

Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have any other cool ideas for making PowerUps an even more fun part of the game, share them as well!

About The Author

Rick Wenger

Rick runs the No Breakaways YouTube channel and is an avid proponent of sitting in the draft. IRL he lives with his wife and two kids in Northern Illinois. He promises that if he isn't doing a workout or race he will return your Ride On. Follow him on Strava or check him out on ZwiftPower.

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Ben Pitt
Ben Pitt (@benjamin_pitt)
1 month ago

The feather would be far to OP with that idea. And what’s the fascination with decreasing the steamroller, it’s been around for ages and no one cared. We had ONE race, and suddenly it’s OP? People over reacted because they didn’t realise it was so effective. Effective like having an aero in the sprint. Are we going to dumb down the aero now? No of course not.

Evan
Evan
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

I think people are just uneducated on how the steamroller works. In Crit City, all the time, I see people wasting their steamrollers on the road instead of the cobblestones, the only place they are effective.

Steve R
Steve R
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

The problem with the Steamroller is that it is too situational. On dirt it is ridiculously powerful, while everywhere else on course it either makes no difference or the gains are marginal. That means riders are only ever going to get to use it in a very specific spot and you get the situation where those who have that power up will fly off like gods, and those who were unlucky to get the Draft Truck will get left behind. At least with the other power ups like Aero or Feather, you can drop them at pretty much any time… Read more »

Dan
Dan
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve R

Pre selected PU’s is clever, but some sort of control on when they can be used is needed or you will get teams entering loads of riders who tactically use their PU’s for team mates and then DNF when they are done. Too much advantage to large teams potentially.

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Wenger

Maybe, instead of reducing rolling resistance to that of a smooth road no matter the surface, the steamroller could be changed to be a certain percent reduction in rolling resistance on anything other than smooth pavement kind of like the way they changed the feather to make it more helpful to us chubbier riders.

James Annan
James Annan
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Himes

Even a fixed percentage wouldn’t work well, it would still be pretty useless everywhere apart from dirt, or useless everywhere *including* dirt if set to a very small percentage! But it could certainly be more balanced.

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

They already did dumb down the aero…. 30s to 15s. This is exactly the same principle

Just because one races highlighted how OP the steamroller was, it doesn’t make it any less OP

Evan
Evan
1 month ago

Those last three powerups I would say are too powerful. Powerups shouldnt have an effect an anyone else but you – unless it is the burrito, which i tend to discard because it can have negative repercussions on me as well.

MarkE
MarkE
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Wenger

Give me a blue shell and we’ll really see chaos.

Mike
Mike
1 month ago

I like these ideas. It can help encourage break aways and reward riders for taking risks. Watching the blob is growing quite stale.

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
1 month ago

I definitely agree that the ghost should be longer. Right now, it seems pretty pointless. At least 30s if not a whole minute.

Eric Schlange
Top Member
Eric Schlange (@eschlange)
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Himes

Agreed, Paul.

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Himes

30s would be legit broken though as that’s easily enough time to make a solo break with 0 counterplay.

Dan Sheremeto
Dan Sheremeto
1 month ago

I like the idea of selecting power-ups in advance – a very creative thought, and could lead to some really interesting strategies like the ones you mentioned.

Mark Dundon
Mark Dundon
1 month ago

I’ll be slightly controversial and say I’m not in favour of any power ups at all to be honest. I’m very much a use Zwift as a real life training and racing platform, let the w/kg and sweat determine performance levels and that combined with tactics influence the outcome of a race.

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Wenger

they need a seperate event mode for that. sure make a mario kart version with loads of fun items for trolling around with. but in a serious event, having a random powerup decide the outcome of a race, instead of an athlete’s physical ability, is dumb as hell.

David Cooper
David Cooper
12 days ago
Reply to  ShakeNBakeUK

Just to play devlil’s advocate for a second. In real life, the outcome of a race can be decided by a “random” puncture, other mechanical or bidon flying across the road and under our wheels … none of which can happen in Zwift, and none of thich are dependent on the athlete’s physical ability.

Having an additional, uncontrollable factor actually makes things more interesting as far as I am concerned.

Henri Guay
Henri Guay
1 month ago

As someone who works in game development, I’d first like to say that proper game balancing, especially in a PvP environment is a monumental challenge never to be underestimated, generalized, or reduced to simple changes. Even the smallest tweaks can have profound impacts on player experience, as witnessed by the reaction to steamrollergate. 😉 That being said, on the lighter side of pitching out ideas into the ether, and somewhat aligned with your multiple PUs stacked within a team…: what if teammates could “hand-off” power ups to their teammates? Like a bidon passed from a domestique to a protected team… Read more »

rdcyclist (Mark Crane)
rdcyclist (Mark Crane) (@rdcyclist)
1 month ago

I have NEVER received a Steamroller, Ghost, Burrito or Anvil PowerUp during an event. Apparently, either the races I’ve done didn’t have them enabled by the organizer or I’m just unlucky. Going to the number of times I’ve gotten the XP PU or a Feather at the top of the climb after getting The Bus at the bottom, I’m going with unlucky…

Adrian Amos
Adrian Amos (@ahamos)
1 month ago

I definitely think the feather could stand to work a *little* longer, but I’d have no interest in racing with power-ups that directly impact others. Zwift should not be Mariokart. That said, I do think the idea of pre-selecting PU’s before a race sounds like a good idea. There’s little that’s more disheartening than blowing your draft van in the penultimate lap and getting a +10XP the last time through the banner. I’d be WAY more down with this than the silly boost mode. But I’d also be down for pre-selecting available PU’s in open-world riding. Just want XP today?… Read more »

Alex
Alex
1 month ago

lovely ideas

M4rk0
M4rk0
1 month ago

And can 10XP be completely eliminated from all races going forward?

Evan
Evan
1 month ago
Reply to  M4rk0

Watching that spinner land on 10xp while you see everyone else use aero powerups is soul crushing

Carlos Murillo
Carlos Murillo (@murillowilliams)
1 month ago

Powerups should be disable for the ZRL. Zwift demands many controls to enter the League but let everyone “cheat” for a moment. We all have the chance to use it during the race but, for a fair game and more “realistic” race, no powerups should be given. Adding to this, many people setup does not allow a quick activation or just to try to use it during a sprint makes you take the hand off the bars and, that eats a lot of the effort because you have to choose between going full send or start the effort, activate and… Read more »

Derek
Derek (@dpr4473)
1 month ago

I have a Love/Hate relationship with powerups. At the end of a race, having the aero available gives those of us with horrible sprint a chance to keep it close. But going through the last banner of the final lap and getting + points takes the wind right out of your sails. Personally, I could do without them. But I do see how they can play into race tactics. So the best option is would be to allow race organizers to decide which powerups will be in play for any given event.

Mike S.
Mike S.
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Wenger

Try racing on RGT.

Derek
Derek (@dpr4473)
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Wenger

I am a race organizer for Team Draft. I can’t find a way to pick and choose which powerups to use in races. Currently, I don’t allow any.

Rob Frechette
Rob Frechette
1 month ago

I have 2 ideas for a power-up. How about instead of getting something of a boost something more true to racing like a random flat tire. Forcing a rider to stop and change wheels. The flat tire power-up could also be countered with a motor pace power-up they can use to get back on to the group.

Evan
Evan
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Frechette

Oh, that flat tire would be brutal! (and a little too OP, I would say).

Rob Frechette
Rob Frechette
1 month ago
Reply to  Evan

Having a flat happen IRL racing more than once would make for some interesting racing. Forget winning, just heroic trying to get back in the race. I sometimes wish I could hand out flats to people up the road riding at 6w/kg.

Max Schemansky
Max Schemansky
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Frechette

The “Flat Tire”
seems to be in game already, it’s commonly known as a power drop!

M. D. S. Günther
M. D. S. Günther
1 month ago

Balancing aside, I like this a lot! Yesterday in the ZRL I wanted to contest the FAL and FTS points as a light rider, but out of my 8 power ups before the last 23rd street I got 4 vans and 4 helmets. Now I am not saying that the feather would have solved my race, but at least I wouldn’t be frustrated about my luck

Marco NL
Marco NL
1 month ago

Nice thought on the pre-selection, tho with a risk of further favouring the top-end riders because they wouldn’t need the PUs during the race and thus save them all for the finish punches, while others need to use the PUs just to hang until the end. The suggested PUs seem overpowered, even more so in team tactics. The Fence just requires a TTT effort with one member dropping back with 0W or even hitting the pairing screen, applying the fence after the gap is established and just before the pack catches back – even more so when timed just before… Read more »

Max Schemansky
Max Schemansky
1 month ago

I think there should be a new “Cookie” PowerUp, which would give a 15 second power boost (aka. sugar rush) to you and the closest two riders around you (within 3 meters) either in front or behind you. Could be used for lead outs, bridging gaps, sweeping riders off the back.

Mike S.
Mike S.
1 month ago

A burrito with longer lasting or further reaching effects would destroy packs in most races. I’ve seen this happen with the current 10 s, 2.5 m burrito. A break-away means you have to ride off the front. A 10 m burrito would separate the pack wherever the deploying rider is. If you’re unfortunate enough to be behind or within range, wave goodbye to the front of the peloton and any shot at victory. I prefer the original implementation where the burrito made only you undraftable. I’d even be in favor of making that effect last longer. I’m not a fan… Read more »

M4rk0
M4rk0
1 month ago

How about a powerup that forced every cruiser in your race to ride at threshold or above for the remainder of the race?

Evan
Evan
1 month ago
Reply to  M4rk0

Powerups shouldn’t be able to affect other rider’s output (or yours, for that matter).

M4rk0
M4rk0
1 month ago
Reply to  Evan

This was not a serious suggestion. More of a dig at cruisers, a.k.a. cheaters.

Mitchell
Mitchell (@rmpearce1964)
1 month ago

I would like a powerup to combat the Burrito….maybe a Mask

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
1 month ago

honestly, I wouldn’t shed a single tear if they just kept powerups for “free rides” but disabled them in all race events. to me it just seems stupid that the outcome of a serious competitive race could be decided by RNGsus (as is often the case on Zwift right now).

Rikke
Rikke
1 month ago

The easiest way to preselect power ups would probably be to do it in the Companion app as you sign up (changable until you entre the race). I like this idea of preselecting power ups, but would be happy with removing them too. However, I think there should only be power ups that increase a riders ability, not sabotage other riders. I discard the burrito and do not want more like that.

Ryu.S
Ryu.S
1 month ago

I want you to change the road surface resistance due to changes in the weather. I think the change that slows down when it rains is strategic.

Kev Fowler
Kev Fowler
1 month ago

I think there are some great ideas here. And it would definitely bring in a new level of strategic planning and implementation for individuals and teams.
Of course, some races could run random PUs, and others could use this.

More power less powerup
More power less powerup
1 month ago

Here’s one; no powerups

C Jay
C Jay
1 month ago

I was very happy that our APAC ZRL race on Tuesday was power up free. I would prefer all big races be power up free. As for power ups that negatively affect others, that is a terrible idea. A large team could target another team’s best rider(s) and basically knock them out of the race and there would be nothing the targeted rider could do about it.

Fraser D
Fraser D
1 month ago

Preselected power ups = genius idea
Reworking the originals = like the general changes
Power ups that affect others = big no imho

D Sondrucer
D Sondrucer
1 month ago

How about they just get rid of power ups. I’m more into riding bikes than playing games so I think the game aspect should go

David Cooper
David Cooper
12 days ago
Reply to  D Sondrucer

That seems unlikely, given that Zwift started life as a gamification of indoor training, and would probably alienate a lot more users than it satisfied … particularly where there are other options available for a more realistic experience.

Tim
Tim (@timothy-muehleisen)
1 month ago

I don’t think there will ever be a consensus agreement regarding power ups. What is certain is that there are no power ups when on the road or in the woods. So why are there power ups on zwift? I would suggest removing power ups completely.

Phillip Miles
Phillip Miles
1 month ago

Id rather the ability to upload a team jersey.

Joe C.
Joe C.
1 month ago

How about us riders that will never be fast enough to race, but like to laugh and have a good time? As I read this article I kept thinking about Mario Kart racing and how much fun my kids and I had playing it. Maybe these crazy PU could be used in a not-so-serious “race” format in which we can laugh if some hits us with a groundhog PU and causes us to spin out for 5 seconds. Who knows, maybe my kids would start Zwifting too.👍 Just a thought.

David Richardson
David Richardson
30 days ago

For me, being at the heavier end of the scale, the feather should be changed to a reduction in weight by percentage. Say 10%, that way it’s an even advantage for everyone. Rather thank a 60kg rider losing 16+% and a 90kg rider losing only 11%.

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