I played EQ from about 99-04, in a lot of ways I really liked the toughness of the game since I came in from MUDs that were even more brutal so it seemed like an easier game lol, though when I started playing again recently just to reminisce I realized just how difficult it is compared to modern mmos. I also liked that if you really screwed up you could potentially screw yourself out of a whole day just due to like you said, corpse retrieval or whatever. It was part of the charm imo.
EQ did fix some things though such as the corpse retrieval (gear doesn't drop in corpse anymore, just exp) and they put in mercenaries to let you solo most places. It's far more casual now than it used to be.