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Appreciation, Honest Review, and Feedback
#1
Disclaimer: I have hit 400k spins and I feel like I'm at a good point to provide an honest review. Don't worry, there are some minor criticisms and requests but overall this is a positive review.

Feel free to skip the backstory and personal details and move on to the next paragraph, otherwise read on: A few months ago a friend in Atlanta (I'm in CO) introduced me to VZFit. I had absolutely no idea what it was, but a few days later, we were matched up in Explorer and riding across the country together. Since then we've averaged, I'm guessing, around 3k spins a day. Sometimes we take a day or two off, but we consistently schedule workouts. With the quarantine and everything else going on in the world, it's a great outlet for both escape and exercise. That being said, I'd like to personally thank the team at VZFit for everything they've accomplished and providing this amazing experience. I had minor hypertension and I'm generally overweight, and now I can destroy 7k spins then pull weeds in the back yard without collapsing. At the risk of being dramatic, this might have even saved me a visit to the hospital; so thanks for that too.

Moving on, here is my very honest (for better or worse) review. While I will provide a lot of praise, there are certainly a few minor disappointments. I am going to skip Play entirely however, since it really doesn't appeal to me and I spend 99% of my time in Explorer.

Graphics
There isn't much to say here. It's effectively Google Street View. Explorer seems to get a little better with each update. I'm not in love with the UX/UI but it's clean enough that it isn't offensive and since you're not constantly switching things up navigating the menus is intuitive once you've used it a few times. Either way, the distortion/perspective issues are understandable if I understand your tech correctly (I'm a co founder of a digital shop here in CO).  Regardless, the experience is mostly immersive when things are smooth and the recent addition of the hi-res mode is phenomenal. I stopped several times on our last ride to take it all in. It's also really nice if you need a water break and gives you something pleasant to look at. Side note; getting off my bike in the middle of a highway still freaks me out in the best way.

Controls
While I've seen complaints re: battery life and such, I have yet to replace mine at 400k spins. I'm not even sure how that's possible, and now that I've mentioned it it'll probably die on my next ride. Still though, everything has been pretty solid on that end. The gear (cadence + controller) is accurate and stable for me. Nice work there. Leaning feels pretty natural, but sometimes winding paths can get very annoying. I wouldn't really put that on VZFit though, because steering with your body makes the most sense in a VR environment. Turning handlebars is a hell of a lot easier but again, I get it.

Rides/Routes
This is where things get dicey. Some of the suggested rides are fantastic, while others are very lackluster by comparison. It also seems like the tech is not "polished" enough for some of the coastal rides and towns/cities. In other words, why suggest a gorgeous ride where the tech is ill-equipped to do it justice? The interface for the rides needs a lot of love; not from a UI perspective, but primarily the UX. Maybe create a Finished category tab so I don't have to flip through a bunch of rides I don't want to do again, but know where to go if I want to relive an experience. As a solid example look at the way Netflix categorizes: New, Continue Watching, Watch Again. That UX would work really well in your game, imo. As of now it's kind of a disorganized mess. I spend a lot of time digging through the menus.

Contrary to the extensive critique, the ability to plan a whole ride via Google Maps then upload it is nothing short of groundbreaking. I've been to my elementary school, childhood home, vacation spots, and probably 1/5th the length of PCH -- I grew up in LA and surfed up and down the coast so the nostalgia was just awesome; I can't wait to revisit and use the hi-res mode to get a good luck at the Manhattan Beach Pier. My buddy in Atlanta has provided narrative as we rode through his neighborhood and at one point we even rode to the last place we had lunch before I left the state for good. It was a really cool way to relive that so thanks again.

It'd also be nice if you could have categories: ocean, tropical, mountain, forest, city, town, etc. Just a thought. 

Edit: Not to add insult to injury here, but that Chicago Charity ride suggested was pretty solid until we hit an invisible wall in the road. We tried everything to circumvent it but it's definitely a buggy route issue; unfinishable. Just a heads up.

Chat
This only pertains to those that ride with others so I'll keep it short. It's ok. It's literally ok. Initially we used the Quest party chat but VZFit did not appreciate that on a number of occasions and only one person could hear the other once we got into game. Maybe we can disable chat and try again, but either way that was a headache. We eventually conceded and used the in-game chat. Like I said, it's ok. About as barebones as you can get. We experience a frequent bug where the other person gets very, very quiet on the other end until the stop talking, then resume at normal volume. The quality is not terrible, but it's typically a bit lower volume than Quest chat and there's definitely a reduction in quality as well.

Events
I think these are very important. I don't mean a random multiplayer race as much as I do the UFO-type events. My friend and I were riding and suddenly the music cue kicked in, followed by the UFO abduction animation. Let me tell you, that scared the hell out of me. I didn't know there was an event, hadn't checked the forums, it just... happened. Loved it. I don't care that it was brief, or whatever. It was just really nice to be surprised like that and we talked about it for the rest of the ride, including our own event ideas. I'd love to see more of those. Maybe on Halloween you could introduce a gigantic spider and make people ride 10x faster in absolute horror. In retrospect, please never do that.

Gamification
I might be overstepping here, but it seems like gamifying Explorer would be a great tech investment (arguably over investing more time into Play, but I'm biased). As it stands, you have a clock, RPMs and spins. It's nice to know I did 6k on a run in around 60 minutes because I was going 100 RPM, but that's pretty vanilla. Here are a few ideas for making Explorer more engaging without rebuilding it:

1. Tokens per mile to unlock items like outfits, sounds, bike models, new trainers, etc.
2. Trainer becomes an opponent option. Race through New York, etc.
3. Achievements/trophies/badges.
4. Flight mode. Not sure how that would work with distortion but yeah.
5. Race your friend with checkpoints and such, like the Play version but in "reality."
6. Daily/Weekly challenges.

Those are just some ideas.

Conclusion/Suggestions
Overall, Explorer has been a mostly positive and valuable experience for myself and my friend. The game could use a little more UX love and I'd personally gamify Explorer as much as possible, but I've been highly recommending VZFit to anyone that will listen; hopefully that builds a bigger community, and a bigger budget as a result.

Final suggestions (disclaimer: I am not going to assume any of these are easy, possible, or even good. As a designer, when a client says "that should be pretty easy, right?" I lose my mind. I won't be a hypocrite here so take them as you like):

- Day / Night options
- Weather: snow, rain. Precipitation, basically.
- Ambient sound effects. Doubt you could detect environment, so just options for the user: city noises, birds/forest, mountain wind, etc
- Ramps. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I kept thinking it'd be awesome if there was a 3D ramp or something occasionally that you could hit and go flying for a few feet Wink

Also, pro tip for all you riders; turn a standing fan on in front of the bike. Sounds obvious but it won't just keep ya cool; it adds a lot of immersion with the wind.

On a final note, I'm not going to plug my website or work but to the devs; feel free to reach out with any questions or clarification. I've been an Art/Creative Director for 15+ years so I'm not the worst dude to throw ideas around with. Not a flex, just an honest offer because I love what you're doing and if I can help in any way beyond this, I'd be happy to. If not, all good!

Thanks,
Brew
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#2
Brew thanks for playing and taking the time to post such a thoughtful review. You won’t be surprised to learn we’re focused on the rooms for improvement you list.

On the ride quality front, we are now looking into an “optimization” that can be performed for all suggested rides and hopefully all user-shared rides, that will better align image transitions and guarantee smooth autosteering. It may have other benefits but we're not prepared to say yet.

Ride selection and creation can be improved in countless ways, and it’s what Explorer is all about! The problem is deciding what order to do them. The top two on our list now are better selection, via categories or tags such as geography and length and author, and crowd ratings to determine popular rides.

We agree gamification is another ripe area. We wanted to get the snapshot feature in before making and rewarding you with customizable avatars, which are being worked on now along with an unlock and achievement system. We’ve also long wanted to codify UFO-type events, and will give that more priority in our backlog.

We really appreciate our customers and the memberships that allow us to keep improving VZfit every month. The more folks talk (on here and Facebook and Discord) the more ideas we hear and know how to prioritize what keeps them riding!

And thanks for the offer of help, we’ll reach out to see what’s possible. We’re an experienced but small team, so mostly feel limited by hours in the day. Smile
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