I actually didn't mean Thief with that example, I was more thinking of Oblivion actually. Still, my point is we often focus on the changes or simplified aspects while ignoring the positive changes.
I see, but I still think it boils down to personal preference/opinion. (unless you are just meaning essentially fanboism?)
IMHO, Morrowind had better itemization/gear. Oblivion most certainly simplified this.
Morrowind had better leveling (a level 10 cave was always a level 10 cave). I loathe the auto-leveled game world in Oblivion
Oblivion had better visual across the board.
Morrowind was infinite space in every direction. Oblivion had a more powerful toolset even though you had to make almost everything a portal off the existing space.
Oblivion was a cleaner, smoother, much more beautiful experience (and yes, I loved the combat in Oblivion). But there WERE tradeoffs for it. So I see the differences, but can't say that one is BETTER than the other... we all have different tastes.
With Thief, I think its harder to lay down the It's better card because the time period is old, grainy, worn down environments. Even the graphics in T1 don't bother me. They just seem to fit. So I see all these people talking about the horrible graphics and I'm thinking, you are crazy! But it all boils down to what we bring to the table. Its why I don't like the "best game" arguments. I don't mind discussing, but its never productive to try and convince someone of something so opinionated as this.