I pretty much agree with the OP, with the caveat that I first quit AO long before any expansions were released.
I first started playing AO in 2001, with a cadre of players from my EQ guild. We played for awhile, then went back to EQ. Lots of issues then that don’t exist now, like the Freedom Arms nerf that made me decide that a Nova Flow was a better choice for my advent. Don’t laugh, there wasn’t a lot of good alternatives back then for low level toons.
AO missions stratified us in ways EQ did not. EQ had long term camps, where all in the guild were welcome if they could get there, or we could spare someone to bring them. AO missions didn’t work that way. You were there when it started, or were SOL (I’m guessing EQ camps were kind of like the heckler camps, but having never joined one in AO, I dunno. If so, they were good for EQ guilds cohesiveness by allowing any to join in, when they could).
The camping of insurance terminals in PvP zones caused endless death loops, which of course is easily avoided by not doing that, but being among the first to ever encounter it, who knew?
BTW, I decided to play one of my characters from back then a couple of years ago, and found that I could not use any insurance terminal, since gear needed to be retrieved from it, but the mechanism for retrieving it no longer exists (so I doubt if you’re having to do that now? And if not, the retro server is pretty bogus?). I will forever appreciate the work a dev did to make it possible for that toon to use an insurance terminal. She was born in Aug. 2001, and I didn’t want to delete her.
So I don’t necessarily view the old days as being all that fun, compared to what we were used to.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I return alone, without my EQ guild.
SL was fun at first, until I get to the part where in order to progress further requires me to acquire pieces to summon a creature, and after much work to gather the pieces, it instantly reduces my HP to 1.
Obviously intended to make you get help with it, but at this time, most of the population was way beyond this. Since I can only tolerate AO in small chunks, i.e., a month or two at a time, it isn’t responsible for me to use a guild that way.
So while I immediately joined EQ2’s first TLE server - similar to the retro server in AO, except they didn’t promise to wipe my characters, my original experience in EQ2 was great fun, and while SL might have been great with a guild, it pretty sucks if you have to solo beyond Scheol (I can assure you, no heckler camping required before then), which raises the question why don’t they fix that instead?