As someone who stuck with FFXI all this time post Abyssea, I just don't understand all the hate. Yeah, they yanked up the level cap to 99. Yeah, they made the exp grind less dreadful. Yeah, they obsoleted a lot of gear and shortened a lot of epeens as a result.
I think all the stuff they added in exchange more than made up for what was lost. I still have fun every day I log into XI.