Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Adam Smith has put together an interesting retrospective article dedicated to one of the titles that "made him a gamer", Ultima VII, which also happens to be one of the most fondly remembered titles in the Ultima franchise, Richard Garriott's judgment included. Here's a snip:
Ultima VII was the first game I played that made me feel I was part of a world that didn't revolve around me and I believe it remains one of the best examples of its type. It's an RPG that starts with a murder investigation rather than a dungeon crawl and that immediately marked it out. My first goal in Britannia was to talk to people, find out what made them tick and work out just what the heck was going on. While I was doing this, those people would work, eat and sleep. They were trying to get on with their lives and I was the irritating do-gooder poking my nose into their business.
It was only when I headed north to the capital that I really became convinced I was experiencing something completely new though. Travelling through marshes and farms, I was attacked by wild animals and monsters. But it wasn't a gambit designed to allow me to level up; these were hungry wolves out for the kill rather than piÃ±atas full of experience points and loot. Sometimes, if they were badly injured, they would try to flee, leaving a trail of blood. Their mark on the world.
Britannia wasn't very large compared to more recent game worlds or the ludicrousness of Daggerfall but it did have variety and it felt like a place full of life. In a way that made me more eager to protect it but it also made me far more willing to become part of that life. I had to force myself to deliver the promise I held as the Avatar because I'd rather have been one of the ordinary folks. Hunting and drinking, dining and dancing. Ultima is all about the Virtues and one of the greatest virtues of this most excellent entry in the series was its ability to make being a hero so hard. Not because of high-powered enemies and ridiculous grind, but because it offered a world full of distractions instead of arrows pointing to the bad guys.