To start with a pedantic point I refuse to call any computer game an RPG. Milton-Bradley has produced more RPG-like games than any computer claimant. Thesr are adventure and dungeon crawl games.
That aside, someone mentioned in a thread mentioned that early Elder Scrolls game bore a resemblance to RuneQuest rules, which honestly never occurred to me. It led to a question I am not the first NeoGrog to wonder: what happened to computer crawlers?
Compare: Fallout to Fallout 3, Baldur's Gate to Dragon Age, Daggerfall to Skyrim, Goldbox to Neverwinter Nights.
In every case these properties and developers went from hardcore (no 'world levels with you' nonsense) as o what are basically a linear, impossible to lose version of God of War with more dialogue. I'm not even saying the latter games are bad, but they have basically nothing in common with their predecessors except spells and swords.
There are still independent companies producing these hardcore sandbox games - Avernum comes to mind - but they're comically niche. It looks like not only thr broader world of gaming but the originators of hexcrawl/tabletop rulesets have utterly abandoned all pretence of making anything like the classics. Is it just me or did the exact same thing happen to Wizards of the Coast?
To speculate why I might say: 1. early computer crawlers were run on machines generally owned by nerds, who were also in the height of the classic Glorantha and D&D tabletop craze; 2 fantasy fiction was a lot less stereotyped and a lot more brutal at the time; 3 old computers couldn't handle more graphics. An expansion meant more mechanical and object content that didn't have to be loaded unless a player had it or was near it (towns, monsters, npc dialogue). This meant that a new rpg or expansion would be almost entirely real content, I.e. not skins for your character or shinier mountains; 4 back then gamers didn't have a lot of options, people who didn't like high lethality games requiring a ton of thought and even mapping skills simply whined and got ignored.
You fast forward and the industry is catering to masses who have access to computers, who don't care about tabletop RPGs and would rather have dynamic lighting for the trol ls ballsack than options like climbing and door busting (and it is the 3d environments that are the biggest constraint on replicating and the huge scale and interactivty of old games).
Though not exactly parallel, I do feel like the same thing happened to the RPG market. I have talked to both tabletop and PC gamers who can not imagine anyone would want high lethality, interpretative rules and 'unbalanced' character races. On the tabletop front, the castration of GM authority by rules mongering and concessions to players who want to play unique superheroes have also altered the expectations of many gamers, in part because they are drawing on video game and softcore fantasy tropes.
Of course there's nothing to stop us from playing old games, tabletop or computer, (aside from an inability to find and run them) but I think that the days of me caring about new, mass marketed products are over.
And Chaosium does seem like an exception, tabletop wise, as does GURPS, but though I know there are players I've never met a single one at the local hobby stores. Its almost ALL Pathfinder and World od Darkness.