I'm definitely not what you would term a hardcore player. I've been playing for a whole year and have just reached level 54/45 on my main. My gear is OK -- not great -- and that's only because an old guild mate loaned the pieces to me months before he quit playing. I haven't been able to run through any dungeon since Mystic Altar and I don't even try to pick fights with other players my level. So, how can I sit here and tell you that I love Runes of Magic enough to forfeit the majority of my young adult life to it? Two words: role and horizontal.

Roleplaying is something that is understandably not for everyone, but I'm not talking about a strict actor or actress role. I'm talking about just crossing the line between viewing an MMO as a video game that owes you everything and accepting a little responsibility to use some imagination to increase how much fun you have. Horizontal gameplay is a term that's been thrown around a lot lately, referring to ever expanding content that doesn't rely entirely on leveling.

Jump past the break to see why this is such a sweet combination in RoM.
Playing the 'R' in RPG can be seriously fun and if you haven't tried it, you're missing out. It's not weird, antisocial or reserved for the geek version of Fight Club. Roleplaying is imagination that extends fun beyond any mechanic or rule set by the game. Take it as far as you want to go. I constantly dig deeper into my imagination while fighting an elite mob then crawl back out to shuffle my inventory around or buy and sell on the auction house. It's something that any player can inject into a game, to potentially make it a lot more fun.

Way back in the long long ago, I used to play pen-and-paper RPGs for the fun of acting out fantastical adventures with my friends. Sure, we had growth and experience gain, but it was always secondary to our time spent on the fun adventures. We always knew we could skip levels, add spells and give ourselves any items we wanted by scribbling them onto our character sheets. Squeezing the games into microchips took a lot of freedom and choice away from us by hard coding large sets of unchangeable rules. At least that's the way I see it.

When I started playing MMORPGs, they seemed to have more focus on the experience gain and item collection because it's something players can no longer predetermine before they go adventuring. That's the reason I really love seeing new games and systems that offer choices and options. It's also a reason I get a little suspicious whenever someone answers my in-game chats about new features with "The rewards aren't worth it".

I've tried to never have a problem with how others choose to play their game, but I still scratch my head at certain things. I can understand wanting to get good loot during raid runs, but at the expense of playing part of the game altogether? If someone is focusing so much on wanting a reward that they forego a dungeon or feature over another based solely on the loot, can they say they are enjoying the route to the loot? And if a player is not enjoying the journey to get that loot, why are they playing?

Let me try to step off my soap box without tripping for this next part. Apart from anyone being able to don an invisible wizard hat, march out and save an imaginary princess in peril in just about any MMO, RoM offers a slew of horizontal content that I find very complimentary to role playing. Recurring world events, mini-games, player housing and the new guild sieges offer incredible fun without the need to keep track of that experience bar. These are features that offer rewards, but a large reason they exist are simply to be fun.

At some time during my year long journey in RoM, I had almost stopped caring about leveling. If I wasn't just gathering and crafting, I was decorating my house, competing in horse races, fighting in various battlegrounds and playing mini-games that were just fun to play. If it weren't for Chapter 3 looming so close on the horizon, I wouldn't even be back at questing right now. My experience gain -- and to a certain extent the loot -- had become secondary to my in-game adventures.

But RoM doesn't discount the old school or standards of the genre. There's always been traditional questing, raiding and RoM has an item upgrading system that could turn the most efficient of min/maxers into an insomniac with OCD. I know raiding can be a bit difficult to get into, but Chapter 3 is already working on spreading the raiding love to more players through new dungeon settings.

I've become a firm believer in horizontal and non-leveling game play. It's putting the fun back into the journey without taking options away from players. In fact, many of these newer systems are adding options that play off each other. The aggregator that lets you transfer stats in RoM sets the stage for uncountable hours that could be spent hunting down a favorite looking sword or staff. If it's something that adds options, how could it ever be a bad thing?

I get really excited thinking about the future of MMOs. Games like RoM are feeding me shovelfuls of delicious horizontal content that's primed and ready for me to role play in. The MMO climate is shifting from level-grinding for better loot to focusing on features that are fun to play. Every inch of RoM is incorporating these ideals and peppering them with choices and options to give players a really fun experience that can last as long as you want it to. If that isn't enough to get you to try RoM or return, then stay tuned because there's going to be plenty more reasons coming later this month.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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