Comment: More standardization is needed for esports racing

On November 27-28, the Pan American Qualifying Race for the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships took place on Zwift, on the Watopia Figure 8 course. The top six places in each of the men’s and women’s races earned qualification automatic for the world championships at the end of February. Shayna Powless of Team Twenty-24 won the women’s race and BikeNews columnist Zach Nehr (NeXT pb Enshored) took the victory in the men’s category.

Those who didn’t make the top six have a few more opportunities to qualify for the world championships. For American riders, that means asking to be named to the American team, based on previous performance. Or, athletes can participate in another race-off, on December 11, on the RGT platform.

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You read that right: those wishing to race in Zwift worlds will first have to race – and win – on the RGT platform. This is important because virtual cycling platforms are significantly different from each other.

“RGT is so much more impactful, with braking, cornering, collision avoidance and drafting algorithms,” Nehr said. BikeNews. “I’ve ridden and raced on RGT and Zwift, and both platforms have their pros and cons.”

RGT is the platform of choice for the Echelon Racing League series and for the USA Cycling qualifier for “Zwift Worlds”. The gameplay experience is significantly different from Zwift, requiring game-specific knowledge.

Nehr’s NeXT pb Enshored teammate Brian Duffy, who finished second within fractions of a second behind Nehr in Pan American qualifying, also noted significant differences between the two virtual cycling environments.

“Although many people think of cycling as being purely driven by generated energy, gamecraft is incredibly important,” Duffy said. BikeNews. “It’s an area I practice every day – I even watch racing videos to better hone timing, momentum and physics. So it’s an important element to excel at in order to win races, especially races. bigger.

Stefanie Sydlik, who races for Canyon eSports, just missed out on qualifying for “Zwift Worlds” by fractions of a second in the Pan Am Qualifying Race. She’ll either have to apply for a spot on Team USA or compete in the qualifying race on RGT if she wants to race at Zwift Worlds. She has multiple racing seasons on both platforms and offers perspective gained through experience.

“The Zwift algorithm approximates aerodynamics with weight and size,” Sydlik said. BikeNews. “RGT takes into account corner penetration and positioning, but not scaled drag based on size or weight.

Fairness and the future of esports

During the 202o “Zwift worlds”, all competitors raced on identical hardware provided by Tacx/Garmin. This ensured fairness for all racers, as the game interacted in a predictable way with the unique smart trainer model used by all competitors. It was an important measure to ensure fairness and limit technological doping or other means of cheating.

And, Zwift has done a lot of work to improve the gaming experience, with updates to the drafting algorithm and adjustments to the behavior of virtual gear in-game. RGT has also made improvements to its product but still hasn’t seen mass adoption of Zwift, so many runners don’t have significant experience to know the nuanced differences in racing on the two platforms. This can be a disadvantage for some runners and could mean that strong, skilled runners could be left out, instead of representing the United States on the international stage.

“It would be similar to using a cyclocross race to select a world mountain bike team,” said Katheryn Curi of the I Race Like A Girl team. In the Pan American qualifiers, Curi barely managed to climb into the last qualifying spot just ahead of Sydlik, so he won’t have to race in the American qualifying race. She also observed that fairness is paramount if cycling esports is to succeed.

“Zwift has implemented the backend [controls] regarding passenger verification via Zwift Power and ZADA [Zwift Accuracy and Data Analysis Group, –ed]”, Curi said. “I’m not sure RGT has established that yet. -play.

Read also : Power analysis: how I won Americas qualification for the UCI cycling esports world championship

Sydlik, with several racing seasons in Zwift and RGT, agreed with Curi. She noted that the controls to discourage and catch cheating are not equal on all platforms. While Zwift and RGT both require video verification of height and weight, RGT does not require a secondary external power measurement like Zwift does.

“RGT is also quite flexible when it comes to verifications,” Sydlik said. “They don’t require double check-in, or at least I haven’t heard they do yet.”

The last UCI esports cycling world championships took place in December 2020, at Zwift.

race horses

Riders were also quick to point out that not only was standardization of the gaming platform needed, but the routes used for team selection needed to be standardized and meaningful. For example, if a championship event is to be held on a hilly course, the qualifying races preceding it must also be held on similar courses. The UCI cycling esports world championships will see a major climb, but the qualifying races for the Americans are on flat courses. In Zwift and RGT, this favors those who can produce higher raw power, measured by greater watts produced.

“In a perfect world, I would have loved to see Zwift World Qualifiers take place on Zwift – and on the Zwift World course which is the Knickerbocker route,” Nehr said. “But I also think it was strange that Zwift would use a completely different course for its qualifiers than the one it will use for the Zwift Esports World Championships.”

“The World Championship course will end on a three-minute climb with gradients in excess of 15%, so it’s safe to say there won’t be any critical runners or sprinters making it to the finish. . Why organizing a qualifying race on a course suitable for sprinters baffles me a little.

Sydlik accepted. “It’s a little weird that all the qualifying events are on flatter sprinter courses (both on Zwift and RGT) for the UCI World Event on a hilly course.”

BikeNews reached out to a former world number one ranked Zwift driver, Holden Comeau, for his thoughts on using different gaming platforms and different courses for qualifying than for championship races. Comeau declined to comment.

“Since game crafting is very different from platform to platform, I don’t follow the logic of hosting the qualifier on another platform – it reduces Zwift-specific game skills which will be useful for the championships,” said Duffy. And his teammate Nehr agreed.

“I think it’s weird to use an RGT race to award a spot in the Zwift World Championships,” Nehr said.

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