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Richard Garriott never designed his games for their stories. Usually, what came first were the the game concepts, the actions the player would be doing. There would probably be a basic idea of the plot, but the story would evolve during the game's creation; primacy would be placed on the engine and systems, and the story would largely be crafted around these. This approach, however, made for the most holistic and fun experience; the story and the game mechanics influenced each other along the way.
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Ultima VI Gates of Creation by OC ReMix