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Q&A: RGT Cycling’s James Vickers on the virtual cycling experience

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Racing and indoor riding are booming. Zwift users are in the seven-figure range, source says BikeNews, and unique events on this platform can exceed 20,000 during the Northern Hemisphere winter peak. But while the majority of cyclists who ride indoors are on Zwift, there are other options for indoor racing and training, including RGT Cycling.

RGT Cycling chose to head in a different direction than a large number of concurrent users. The platform, which has hosted national esports cycling championships for several countries including the United States, wants athletes to have an experience that approximates real-life racing. Sure, that’s aspirational, but the company’s four core values ​​- accessibility, empowerment, realism, and fun – drive decisions made about user experience, and it’s quite an experience. different from that of Zwift.

Read also : Zwift closes cheat hole that allowed in-game height and weight adjustment

BikeNews discussed these values ​​and how they shape the virtual cycling environment, user experiences and more with RGT Cycling Marketing Director James Vickers.

VeloNews: For starters, is the physics different from Zwift in the way drag and friction are modeled? What does RGT do differently?

James Vickers: While the whole concept of racing on RGT is different for two reasons. One, because we do physics and positioning on our servers and we give everyone the same view but also because our physics are different. Because of what this server-side rendering allows, so it’s significant that redaction and collision avoidance is actually meaningful.

Our approach to CdA, the drag coefficient, is very similar to Zwift’s approach. We have made the decision not to include rider height. We are not ready. It couldn’t just be the size, it had to be the shape and body composition. And then it gets too complicated.

We worked with leading physicists in the sports of e-cycling to determine how our physique should be modeled. And that gave us this coefficient. We have our own research and development in our physique. We spent so much time trying to get that drag factor and trying to reduce the drag when you’re seated on the wheel by the same amount as it happens in the real world at the same speeds.

VN: Let’s talk about fairness. It’s a big problem in esports, and Zwift has taken cheating – and “gaming exploits” – seriously. What does RGT Cycling do to prevent cheating and catch cheaters?

JV: Although we don’t have a ZADA, we have systems in place. And we also make some decisions based on the feedback we receive directly from the community. We don’t like to do it, but when it’s obvious something is going on, it’s not fair. We will take action. [eBiopassport is a third-party performance data verification service used frequently by RGT event organizers. -Ed]

We provide the organizer with the tools they need to create that transparency, to create that assurance, and to create that proof of performance. It becomes a peer-driven peer review transparency system, so there’s no cheating.

RGT Cycling hosts the virtual Redlands Classic.

VN: So RGT moved away from verifying performance data as a core part of the game, and left that to the event organizers?

JV: We decided very early on that RGT was not an event organiser. RGT did not have the experience required to create a virtual anti-doping product or platform, and that would be a distraction for us. We wouldn’t give him the attention he needed.

This allows event organizers to choose the level of data verification to use for their events.

So, although we don’t have a ZADA, we have systems in place. And we also make some decisions based on the feedback we receive directly from the community. We don’t like to do it, but when it’s obvious something is going on, it’s not fair. We will take action.

We wanted it to be as open as possible. It’s easy for us to say that. I recognize this because we are not the incumbent or the gorilla in the room. But I still think we would feel the same if we had a different approach to our content quality. We don’t own anything.

VN: Looking at RGT Cycling side-by-side with Zwift, there are noticeable differences in the gameplay experience when it comes to drafting, tactics, group dynamics.

JV: We can only have 200 people in a row at a time because we made this decision. Large-scale participatory events are therefore not possible. But on which planet are you going to ride with 20,000 people on the same 20 kilometers at the same time?

This is obviously a decision we made and we continue to optimize around it. Obviously, technology is changing very quickly.

VN: Are there any plans to allow more competitors in the same event?

JV: We have never positioned ourselves as a platform for mass participation. We did not seek to reach this audience that I know. We focus on the enormous depth of the community.

All of our physics are put aside on the game servers and then pushed out to individual clients. And we all see the same thing. And that was very important.

The physics had to be rendered – decided and organized on the server – and then the physics would be passed down to each individual athlete, which would mean everyone saw the same thing. So if we ride together, and we do a team time trial and I’m first, you’re second, Sam is third. This is what it looks like: we all see the same thing if I cross the line first in a race. I know I crossed the finish line first in a race.

This is fundamental: we believe that we have to show everyone the same thing for esports to be true and fair, as from the point of view of the fans. If you don’t say the same thing, how can you respond to an attack?

Zwift Riderless Bikes
Zwift users participating in very large, high-attendance events have occasionally encountered unusual in-game issues. (Illustration: Anne Renshaw/Twitter)

VN: What about managing hundreds or thousands of runners interacting at an event?

JV: Our software product that we’re integrating will have evolved to allow us to have that number and that’s the case, so I think we’ll probably be at 500 people by June. So we will have doubled our race event capacity by June.

We talked about our sociality and there are two things we talked about in the events. One was what is possible and the possibility of discussing; and the other was event formats.

We have a scratch race, a team time trial, a time trial and an elimination. But the way we produce the platform was to give people the options, so we’ve always been about empowerment. So on RGT you can choose what the screen looks like. We don’t tell you what to have on the screen, you can toggle all of that on and off and change it. You can create your own magic routes, you can create your own events. So we’ve been talking about empowerment for a long time. [“Magic roads” are routes crated from user-uploaded GPS files. -Ed]

No one has a social or event format yet. I think there’s so much to do with social, especially the concept of having a voice in the game, you know? Built-in voice on one platform with the ability to create a voice channel on the fly for the breakaway you’re in, which you can tune in and out of and you can listen to your DS give you advice from the pack. I think it’s the community. It’s social. It’s engaging. It’s communication. This is where we are heading. This is what we are working on now. That’s what we’re going to have.

VN: Will events evolve while maintaining a similar user experience? What about customization for event hosts or brands?

JV: If you can give me a valid new logo and come back in about an hour, I’ll have the road covered and it’ll be live in the app for people to see. It’s how fast we can develop that — it’s very fast. For us to change and it was part of our decision early on to build that flexibility into the product. And therefore accessibility not only for users, but for brands of all levels.

Training is always about looking at a number and pedaling and whatever is going on around you. Let’s go a little further. Let’s create scenarios where your protocols or intervals are affected while chasing a group. Let’s do this because it’s exciting and it goes so much faster.

We consider your training result for this day as a high intensity session. So we pick something that works, we create a storyline around that on the fly.

VN: So, like Wahoo System?

JV: The Race radio comes on and says you’re in the band for the first five minutes. We don’t know what will happen in today’s stage. You are therefore in the group and this is your warm-up. And then it comes on the race radio, right? Now is the time to put the team on the attack. Two minutes of full effort. So you go for gas for two minutes. And you get the gap or you have the gap actually, now just at the threshold for 10 minutes.

Spencer Seggebruch’s take on a GTA race.

VN: Are there any other features or facets of RGT that set it apart from other virtual cycling platforms?

JV: I’m a huge advocate for cycling and virtual cycling, the sports products they create, individual health, mental health and well-being, the tournaments they create. But it’s just not in the interest of the sport for it to be a commercial thing. It just won’t work and it will also shut down the competition. And that’s not our point.

We strongly believe that esports shouldn’t be owned – it shouldn’t be a business proposition. And as such, these must be that these jerseys are recognized across multiple platforms with these. There is a huge hole there.

We firmly believe that these jerseys should be worn by everyone. So it’s a long and hard job to do something like this, and it should be recognized on all platforms.