What difference, a year
First off, I finally bit the bullet and forked over most of the platinum on my character to a vendor for a medium collectables bag. Failing to pick up collectables puts a huge dent in your income potential, but my character currently has over two dozen different non-stacking items across the two bags. This move single-handedly solves most of my inventory woes, and has been a huge impact on my quality of life.
Next up are a variety of mechanics changes. Though my ranger was built assuming I would wear robes to take advantage of monk stats, I found myself in a middle ground where it wasn't quite worth ditching light armor. Through a variety of mechanics changes designed to make the game's hit and defense calculations scale better, I'm now able to run around in monk robes with better defense than I had before the patch.
That all aside, the big change from my time away from the game was a matter of perspective. A huge part of the fun for me is in designing and building characters, but I had initially found that the learning curve was too steep and opted for a cookie cutter forum build. The results were effective but relatively boring - a character who basically autoattacks to victory with some off-healing skills and buffs, preferrably complemented with a healing companion. Reviewing the new character options beyond level 20 prompted me to examine whether I could make my current build more interesting, and I think I've found a way to revise the character into a sword-wielding monk that almost looks intentionally designed that way.
Focus on one or many?
Looking ahead, I have a choice to make in terms of future advancement. Focusing on one character offers significant perks over time, but it's also a risk in a game where it is all too easy to render a character unplayable through poor design choices. Then again, the problem with diversifying - e.g. through the new upgrade to veteran status allowing players to roll up level 7 characters at will - is that you can get bogged down in a single stretch of content and get tired of it, which is arguably what happened during my last stint in DDO.
On the plus side, I have some resources I can spend - both on my current character (who will either become my main or become permanently abandoned) and on my account. The one big perk to free to play models is that all the stuff I paid for back in 2010 is still around waiting for me if I decide to stick around this time. We'll see where that takes me.