I recently got an invitation to Google Wave. I wanted to write a short post looking at why I am very excited about this new medium for playing RPGs (I know it does loads of stuff, but this is what excites me about it, sue me). If you are unaware, I wrote a series of guest posts on gaming online for Musings of the Chatty DM (which you can find in the “About” page) where I laid down tips and talking about the different mediums, such as the styles of writing and play, etiquette, basic concerns, and so forth.
I play online exclusively. Playing on an actual tabletop is usually a snoozefest for me unless I’m playing with my kid sisters or something. I can’t stand it. I grew up on online tabletop gaming via chats, VTTs and play-by-post. I can’t stand the real-life option generally, it’s not the game as I want it, and if you read my series on MotCD you’ll probably understand why. That’s something you should know before approaching the rest of this article.
Google Wave excites me because it is everything the other two mediums are. In my series, I said that there were two types of online roleplaying mediums – real-time and correspondence. Real-Time (chat, VTT) requires a greater time commitment but it is immediate and requires no effort of patience. Correspondence mediums (forum, email) have practically zero time commitment, but are slower and require great patience, and are more alien to tabletop gamers than real-time online mediums are.
Google Wave is a hybrid medium. It is both real-time and correspondence, when you choose for it to be. Google Wave is like a chat room with email-style archival, document-style accessible, immediate editing, and even forum-style multiplicity of threads and folders for organizing your material, that every player can quickly access and organize. Play-By-Posters and Play-By-Chatters will find in Google Wave everything their mediums used to do, and everything the other one did as well.
So what is the literary style of a Wave RPG? Whatever you want. This is what’s quite brilliant about it. From the most verbose freeform RPG to the most dialog-starved combat-heavy story-less RPG, you can have it here on the Wave. No problem.
Important Features For RPG Gaming
•Archiving: Every Wave is saved, every message on the wave is saved, every file on the wave is saved to an email-style box. Changes to the Wave (edited by another) occur real-time even if you’re not looking at the Wave. But they will always be there when you return, and you may even return to editing in progress – no need to wait until your player hits “send” or “edit”, you can see it right now, all the time, whenever you have the time. This is a great feature of correspondence gaming brought to Wave.
•Real-Time: A Wave is part chat. Everyone sees everyone type, in real time. You can join with people at once and have a real-time conversation, in addition to the ability to edit while nobody else is there. So not only could you play-by-post on a Wave, if everyone is online at once, you can play-by-chat. You can choose which medium you’re playing in, depending on the situation.
•Multiple Threads: A game can be done across many waves. You can organize waves with Folders and Searches.
•File Props: Images can be easily uploaded to Google Wave directly from your drive and displayed either full size or as a thumbnail. Everyone can download it and access it. Everyone can see the battlemap, all the time. Everyone can download each other’s character sheets, and so forth.
•Text-Options: As much as you get in a typical email writer. Italics, colors, strike-through, etc. With the great exception that everyone can edit text, so the DM can clarify things and receiving fleeting messages from players which can then be erased when the discussion has been completed.
•Gadgets: Dice rolling, calculators, and so on.
•Above all else – versatility.
Concerns For RPG Gaming
•Everyone can edit everything, so you should only play with people you really trust. Honor system is important here.
•Moderation is currently non-existent to weak. If ever we get something like a Wave Administrator privilege where the creator of a Wave has more control over it than anyone else, this will cease being a concern. And we really, really need this.
•Missing forum features. Play-By-Posters madly in love with their Spoiler-Blacked Text and text-embedded dice rolls and Private Text boxes embedded in their posts will have to adapt to not having these anymore.
•Real-Time Typing can be overwhelming. Everyone typing at once can get busy and weird, as you all try to interpret and reply to each other’s posts as they are being typed, appearing letter-by-letter on the screen. Slow your roll everyone!
•Switching through Waves can be a bit slow. If you’ve got a Combat Wave, an OOC Wave and a Game Wave, going through them can be a touch annoying. Ctrl + Click opens multiple waves simply. Then minimize the inbox and they go side by side. For Mac users, I’ll note that on my Macbook, Ctrl + Click doesn’t work, but putting both fingers on the trackpad and then clicking works like a Ctrl + Click and does work. Cmd + Click should work too.
•Wave is in the preview stages. So it’s sometimes slow, and sometimes freaks out, and you might lose Waves. Check all your folders – sometimes you might accidentally send a Wave to the Spam folder, or you might accidentally Mute it – it’ll show up in your “All” box. Keep backups of the text of your Waves just in case. It’s as easy as select all, copy, and pasting it somewhere.
General Wave Game Tips
•If you want to find or start a Wave game, there is a public wave called “Roleplaying on the Wave: An Index of Wave-Borne RPGs.” Search for it using with:public. If you start your own game, go to that Wave and link it there so you can find players. From what I’ve seen, there are a lot of interested people and not a whole lot of DMs or games to go around. However, don’t be pushy about wanting to join a game, and follow the etiquette given to Observers (if any) by the GM of that game. Some GMs don’t want observers editing or replying haphazardly even if it’s with nice sentiments like “cool game!” That kind of thing is best left for the OOC or Discussion threads, if there are some.
•Have a separate wave with the current combat map in full size, if it would clutter your game wave. You can also put static combat stats in this wave, such as player’s initiatives, the effects of their powers, and things you’d like everyone to see and remember. You can even have mini-player-sheets on a different wave ready for perusal at any point.
•Have a separate OOC wave, just like forums have separate OOC threads. All in-character things happen in the game thread. Don’t tolerate idle chatter cluttering your game wave. Waves can get cluttered enough as it is!
•Ask people to use a color for in-character posts to distinguish them.
•As with play-by-posts, use an image-editor to draw coordinates (such as chessboards have) on your battlemaps. When fighting, players won’t edit the map and neither with you (unless you have loads of time for reuploads and edit), but you can track enemies and players using the chessboard coordinates. Dwarf to A7! (Make sure it doesn’t interrupt your roleplaying though.)
•You can reply to player’s in-character posts with your own in-character posts or OOC queries by editing their in-character post blips and having your NPCs reply. This ends up approximating the natural flow of a conversation better than “every PC talks and then every NPC talks” like tends to happen in certain Play-By-Posts.
•Try to play as much of your combat (whole rounds) in short, real-time bursts if possible. The rest of the game can happen as you have commitment to give, but 10 minutes a day together for a real-time combat round can really help with things like immediate actions and turn take-back requests, and class feature forgetfulness, that often plague Play-By-Posters.
•Have a schedule. Everyone should edit something significant to the game wave at least once a day, in addition to joining for ten or twenty minutes of real-time gaming a couple times a week.
•Make the Wave etiquette clear. Play only with people you trust. Set down the social contract – what style of writing and roleplaying you expect, what commitment, etc. Remind people the Wave is new, Wave is not widespread, and they will need to adapt and to endure bugs and procedural discussions. Tell all your players to do their part as Wave users – report bugs, request features. Help Google make Wave as good as possible a tool not just for you, but for everyone.
I’m currently on the Wave as wyattsalazar(at)googlewave(dot)com and joined a Wave RPG myself. I may host some Spirits of Eden Wave Games as well. I’m very excited about this new medium of online play, being an online-exclusive gamer, and I hope we can all have great fun with it.
December Edit: Favorite Wave Gadgets
Google Wave has really been advancing since I posted this article. Since it gets so much traffic I thought I should update it with my favorite extensions for Google Wave right now. I’ve not personally tried some like Fighty, but here’s ones I have real experience with. To use a Wave extension, open or edit a blip and use the green puzzle piece icon in the top bar and insert the URLs I’ll be linking below.
•This little fella creates a multi-option, editable poll that is really useful for quickly getting opinions and decisions through in a democratic fashion. Though it may have limited game function, for discussion, OOC and collaborations it can be a definitive way of getting a consensus.
•And this one creates an iFrame. The possibilities are endless with this one. An iframe is basically a little window into another web site. It allows you to browse that site within Wave. I’ve posted to my play-by-post games on Myth-Weavers from within Wave, mostly to show off. You can really exercise a lot of creativity with this one.