Can we all not agree that MOST MMO games are becoming more and more watered down. The environment isn't harsh.
Call me crazy, but I think the unforgiving environment and decent learning curve are what make FFXI so compelling. Going places and seeing things means you've earned it. Even at top levels, you can't just run where you want to, you have to know how to handle the world around you.
There's a fine line between grindy bore fest and easy playground... I think SE has done the best job at making Vana'diel still feel big, challenging, and adventurous... most other games have a few months of excitment, then it's just about running through stuff and getting gear you're bound to replace. A few months later.
I, for one, don't want to lose the sense of wonder and achievement.