Oh my god I've never been able to quite put it into words like you have sir. A lot of us from CoH have aged into this category.Students have lots of time but not so much money. Workers have more money but not so much time. Maybe that is why almost every surviving MMORPG is pay to win in one form or another. (I count the "must buy expansion packs to advance" approach of World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online as pay to win as well. Your usage of the phrase may vary.)
I'll have a new appreciation of this when SoH launches. As a student in the days of CoH, I had plenty of time to play but my subscription lapsed a couple of times each year. Now, as an "adult" with a house, wife, and kid, my playing time will be a lot more casual. I'm hoping the sidekick system deployed in SoH will have some real utility for casual players and some advantages for the hardcore players that are mentoring us, to encourage use of the system.
It was grueling at the time, but I honestly can appreciate how slow progression was back then, some of my best memories of the game were of the long climb to max (at the time) level of 40. As others have mentioned, the end-game was a bit thin. Rather than the incarnate grind, why not more raids?
Something I hated the most was that the custom mission creator giving out XP. Because this lead to folks just running huge farm missions packed with mobs. (I was big into the task force scene when leveling or when I was on a max level character, and the custom mission farms was a huge blow to the population) -- I think it's been brought up before but if we ever get custom missions, they probably shouldn't give out XP (or here's a suggestion for WAAAAY down the road - let missions be submitted to be run/reviewed by the community and implement the good ones into the game as official missions)
Consultant also mentioned certain zones just being EMPTY - I wonder if it wasn't a case of zone bloat - there were simply a bunch of redundant zones with very little content. Was this a case of "Lets make lots of cool zones and flesh them out later" or was it "Well we made this, now what?" (I'M LOOKING AT YOU SHADOW SHARD, FAULTLINE AND A COUPLE OTHERS) -- heck I think the only time I ever went to Eden was to speed-clear the trial while prepping for the early Hamidon raids.
PS - I was one of those players always standing around a task force NPC, a lot of the time I was just AFKing in a place I knew there'd be other warm bodies - Atlas was, often, a little too crowded for me.