As many of you know, Google has released in a limited beta its new communication platform, Wave. This will not be a review of the Wave software; that you can find all over the net:  TechCrunch, Wikipedia, LifeHacker. What this article will be is a look at how Wave can be incorporated into your game.

Without getting all technical, Wave is a communication platform that can best be described, in gaming terms, as a multi-classed Wiki/IM.  What it does well is create an environment that tracks the flow of conversation allow collaboration of written ideas. At first that makes it sound a lot like a wiki or another shared word processor, like Google Documents, but Wave goes beyond, doing all of that and blending in group IM.

I was fortunate enough to get an invite to Wave from the guys over at Dice of Life (Thanks, Kristian). One of the other members of my gaming group also received an invite (his from Google), and between both of our invites, were able to bring the rest of our gaming groups over to Wave. With our gaming groups on Wave, we started to ponder some uses for our games, and what we could do with it that differed from the other electronic platforms we are already plugged into.

After some thought, we came up with a few initial ideas of how we could use Wave.  I have listed a few below, along with how we did these before Wave.

Shared Session Journal

My group tries to keep a running journal of our sessions. In our 4E game (in which I am a player), players can earn an additional action point at the start of each session by completing a journal, recapping the last session. Having players keep a session journal is a great way to keep players engaged in the game, and a mechanical reward for keeping the journal is a great way to motivate players.

Old Way: Our group has used Google Docs as a way to keep a shared journal. At the start of a story arc (for us, typically a module), the GM will create a Google document, and then share it with the players. During the game, one of the players fills out the document. After the game, the remaining players (including me), log in at their leisure and add their own sections. It was a nice way to interleave our notes together. However, it would require us to use different colors or different fonts, and that was kind of a hassle, so we just put each of our recaps after each other’s.

Wave: With Wave, I start a new wave and then add the other players and the GM to the wave. I start typing the notes, while we play. As I am typing the notes, other players can log in and start adding their own notes as replies to the body of my wave.

What really makes this different from the Google Docs, is that Wave is perfectly suited for this kind of interleaved discussion; plus it is geared for multiple people editing the same wave at the same time. Replies are contained in labeled boxes, and are perfectly threaded. Inline replies can be rolled up to keep the initial conversation clean.  Wave also supports simultaneous editing, showing you character by character as someone is typing. Honestly, it’s pretty wild to watch two other people typing into the same document at the same time while you are working on it.

Discussing Rules Issues

For the games I run, I like to avoid heavy rules discussions at the table, preferring to put the discussion off until after the game. In most cases, these discussion are conducted online, in the day(s) after the game session. These discussions are often detailed (and sometimes heated). Typically the entire group is in on the discussion, and not everyone can get online at the same time. Some of us have access at work, others do not.

Old Way: Email is the preferred way for us to discuss rule issues. Most of us have Gmail, which helps with the email threading, but still, with multiple people replying, there are a few issues that still occur: people get left off a message, sidebar topics arise in the email, and editing multiple replies in an email can be messy.

Wave: With Wave, you create a single wave, and then invite people to it. As mentioned above, Wave does an amazing job of handling comments and replies to a discussion. In addition, because the Wave is kept on a central server, and is not passed from email server to email server, there is no Reply All function. Once invited, everyone sees everything that goes on. But even if you are invited late, you can use the playback feature, and watch the wave unfold, one response at a time.

The Playback is one of the coolest features of Wave. Wave tracks every update to a wave in a way similar to a wiki. The Playback feature takes you to the first message in the wave, and then step-by-step adds each reply (called blips) one at a time to the wave. The effect allows someone who has come into the wave late to see how the wave unfolded. This is vastly superior to trying to decipher an email thread that has been replied to five times. Side discussions can be shunted to a new wave, by using the Copy To Another Wave feature, and starting the new discussion there.

House Rules Document

Most games have house rules which need to be documented for consistency. House rules need to accessible to the group in a way that everyone can easily reference them. Despite my best efforts, I am not always perfectly clear in the writing of my house rules, which means that I have to field questions about them, make corrections, and redistribute.

Old Way: Typically I create my house rules in either a Word document or a Google Document. Then I use email to distribute the house rules to my players and collect any feedback. After receiving emails with questions or comments, I then go back to the document, revise it, and then resend it to the group. Hopefully everyone downloads the latest version, now that multiple versions have been sent out.

Wave: Wave has all the basic editing features of a wiki or simple word processor, so creating a document is pretty easy. You will not be able to create a complex document, but you can easily create something with indentation, bullets, embedded images, and attached files.

As mentioned before, a Wave is located on a central server, and participants are invited to the wave, rather than sending it around. Wave’s excellent ability to handle comments, allows for an organized way for players to ask for rules clarifications or other questions. Wave also allows for the linking between waves, so a central wave can be created as a master document, with separate waves for individual rules (with their related discussions) to be created and linked together.

Waiting For The Perfect Wave

Wave represents a new and fresh way to look at documentation and communication.  Even in beta, the program is very functional and addicting to use. It’s strong points are communication and collaboration, which turn out to be cornerstones of our hobby. Wave looks to be a promising tool in the GM’s toolbox, that has a variety of uses, of which we have only scratched the surface in the this article.

It will be a little while before everyone can join Wave. While Wave is in closed beta, you cannot run out and sign up…yet. Like Gmail’s closed beta, Wave is invite only.  Eventually as the service matures, beta will open to anyone who wants to give it a try.  Until then you are going to have to hope to find someone who has some invitations to share.

Act Now For Your Own Wave

Now for the fun part. I have a Wave invite that I will give to one random commenter on this article. So, if you want a chance at an invite, just leave a comment on this article from now until 11:59pm on Friday (10/30). If you are commenting the article and already have a Wave account, please indicate it, so that I do not choose you. I will email the lucky person on Saturday morning, and send the invite afterwards.

So for those of you who have Wave accounts, how have you been using Wave for your gaming?  For those who are not yet part of the Wave, how do you think you will use it?