Got to thinking about my personal favorite early RPG series and how similar yet different they were. The three are of course, Jon van Canegham's Might & Magic series, Richard Garriot's Ultima series, and D. W. Bradley's continuation of the old Wizardry series. (For those of you who weren't into computer games in the earliest days, the Wizardry series began with extremely primitive games with extremely primitive graphics. I don't remember who designed them, but the first one had nothing but blobs and line drawings for graphics. It featured a black background, with rectangular white lines representing dungeons. No lines appeared until you had moved a space or two, when areas you had "explored" began to appear. I think there may have been some cyan and magenta lines, but I can't swear to it. Worse yet, you couldn't play the second game in the series unless you continued with the characters you created in game one. It died with the third game.) After a few years, D. W. Bradley revived the series in full color with "three dimensional" graphics.
Meanwhile, Richard Garriot was busy with Lord British and the Ultima series. Garriot probably qualifies as the first CRPG designer. His father was quite literally a rocket scientist in Austin, Texas, while his mother held a doctorate in something or other. Richard was in a rather progressive high school, which allowed him and some buddies to study computer programming and designing as a science project. He got an "A" for his project, a little RPG called Aklabeth. (Richard was a big fan of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and named the characters after himself and some friends who were also members, thus "Lord British," "Iolo", etc.) The game wasn't commercialized until many years later, when it was included in an Ultima album of games.
Of course, we all know about JVC's Might and Magic. It was actually based on the original King's Bounty, the prototype for Heroes of Might and Magic.
Funny thing, though: all three series had one thing in common: a medieval, Tolkien-esque land with fantasy characters and creatures wielding swords, bows, axes, and the like. Yet all three had been visited many years before by humans (or humanoids) in spacecraft. What triggered it? We'd long since flown to the moon, and people were no longer gaga about all things NASA.
So: who started it? Who was first to have aliens in spacecraft? Whatever, I loved all three series.
P. S. And who first had houses the hero could buy or build? I remember Being able to buy an abandoned castle in either MM1 or 2, but I don't remember the Elder Scrolls having them until Morrowind. I don't remember them in Arena, at all. Nor in Bane of the Cosmic Forge.