My last three hours with Morrowind more or less exemplified the game. In that time, I completed zero quests. Yet the process of accomplishing nothing has never been so engrossing.
So what was I doing, if not helping the various guilds of Vvardenfell complete minor tasks for unspecified rewards? Perhaps this picture will help clear things up:
I wound up circumnavigating the entire island. First, I went north, to retrieve that shield I missed (and it was a doozy - better defense than the Daedric at lower weight and enchanted to cast heal at 50-100 points), then I went south-east, to the Zainab camp, to deliver some flin for the fighter's guild, then I went south, to the Erabenimsun camp, to rescue a prisoner for the legion, then I went west, to Ebonheart, to sell my spare equipment, and finally, from Ebonheart, I went to Hla Oad, to rescue a different person for another legion commander.
I now have to go to three separate inland cities to turn in the quests and collect my rewards. I'll be able to shave off some time with fast-travel, but this game is not set up to make it easy to dash through the various quests.
I know some people regard that as a strength, but personally, I prefer to have the option to skip unnecessary walking. And don't get me started about Morrowind's inconsistent use of map markers and journal alerts. There have been times when I've completed a quest and not realized it, because the game gives you no indication when you succeed. Yes, it can be very immersive, but I actually prefer to have a "gamier" interface that I can consult when necessary and ignore when I feel like it.
I feel a little embarrassed to confess this, but Morrowind is not among my favorite games. Yes, it's an undisputed classic and deservedly so, but so much of my time playing the game is spent fighting against its various systems. It's almost impossible to resist the temptation to break the game with exploits, because if you don't, playing it can feel like a contest of wills. Even with it's ass-backwards level-scaling, I prefer Oblivion, because at least it's easier to actually play.
That said, I have now spent around 80 hours with the game, and, because I'll never have a better opportunity to explore Solstheim, I'll probably spend at least another 5-10, and on the whole, it has not felt like wasted time. The world of Vvardenfell is so rich and exotic, that it is a pleasure to explore, even if a more-than-trivial percentage of that exploration involves getting stuck behind mountains and wandering around helplessly following bad directions.