There's a great interview with Richard Garriott over on Crispy Gamer, in which the Origin Studios founder talks at length about the decisions he made while developing Ultima VII: The Black Gate.
Crispy Gamer: Ultima VII is one of my favorites in the series because it's so immersive, interactive and easy on the eyes, but it is also very dark. To me it felt like you were tearing down what you created in the first six games. Would that be a fair statement?He even addresses an EA acquisition question:
Garriott: Ah, yes. Here's how I would frame it. The first three Ultimas were really when I was, frankly, learning how to create a game. Ultima I was written in basic, Ultima II was the first assembly language program I ever wrote, and Ultima III was really the first time I felt that I had succeeded at creating a game, despite its level of sophistication. Ultima VI, V and VI were created at a time when I was learning the process of being a storyteller. They introduced things like the Virtues, etc. I began to pay much more attention to the craft of storytelling.
Frankly, Ultima I, II and III weren't related to each other at all, in the sense that their stories weren't connected. Ultima IV, V and VI were only related to each other in that I kind of realized that the series was going to go on for awhile, so I tried to pick up where I left off with each game.
Ultima VII (for me, the most important moment for the series since Ultima IV) was the first time I really sat down and said, (OK, what am I really trying to accomplish with this game?) I was trying to do things like set up stories and characters that would survive for more than one product. I had seen how people were reading into the philosophy I had put together with Ultima IV, V and VI, and so I was trying to what you describe as (tearing down) open it up, and say there are lots of other forms of thought that are either just as good or positive, or that might also seem good or positive but are actually quite dark. So I was trying to drive what I call alternatives.
Ultima IV, Ultima VII and Ultima Online are my favorites. And for me, the reason why VII that was true for was because it was a game where I most completely realized the virtual world I was trying to create. In other words, the depth of interaction and responsiveness of the world it played in.
Crispy Gamer: Looking back on it now, do you regret selling Origin to EA?
Garriott: Not at all, in the sense of, even though there were some downsides which people will riff on the fact of the matter is that as our industry matured, there was really no way I could continue making games independently. And EA, for all of its trials and tribulations, was absolutely the right thing to do for Origin and my games and my staff in that period of time. Do I think there are things I would have changed about the relationship if could go back? Of course, but I still think EA was the correct move for me as an individual and for the team and the products at that time.