Brief bug summary: After the v.213 - 15th Anniversary: Pixel Party Patch there were numerous crashes that were the result of, "Illegal program or malicious code detected. The game will force quit." Not sure this is the result of an overall memory leak, or just the game client being unstable after the patch.
Thank you for such a detailed and informative response. It's encouraging to hear that people are still enjoying the current iteration of the game. Obviously it's just my opinion and I don't expect everything to be changed according to that, but judging by the lack of players I assumed that a lot of people aren't happy with these changes. I admit that they're more in live with most current games and there probably isn't much room for players like me who enjoy a more traditional, slow-paced style of gaming in this day and age. I hadn't even imagined that Big Bang wasn't fast enough.
MapleStory has always been goal-oriented to me, even back during the endless slog before Big Bang. Having the job advancement over your head felt like a worthy goal. Even when I reached the 4th job I was excited to do so on my other characters. Now I struggle with motivating myself to keep playing even for the few hours or days it would take to get up to the +100 content, because there's no sense of immersion in the game or ownership of the character that comes from struggling through the low levels. I was actually looking forward to starting again from scratch and going through the leveling process at a relaxed pace, but as the game is now it's simply isn't for me anymore. Maybe if I hadn't lost all my 100+ characters in the move from EMS I'd give the higher level content a shot.
Not everyone is up for the mindless grind to 5th job and I can completely understand where you're coming from. I've played this game since 3rd Job came out and there was a lot of slow paced gameplay where you can enjoy the content outside of the grind finding quests, hidden streets, and enjoying the overall atmosphere of each map. If there was one thing I can bring back from Pre-Big Bang is all the original maps from Victoria Island and re-introduce that into an real Old Maple Event, not the other one where it was partial splices of maps that can be warped to here and there.
The lack of players is not just because MapleStory has moved away from it's original design, but because MMOs are on the decline. There are many newer titles that people can enjoy with near instant gratification with little effort, many others boasting matchmaking with PvP, and the occasional zombie modes. There are a few here and there that missed the traditional MapleStory, but I haven't seen a huge front for a movement to bring it back. But if there was it wouldn't be here in terms of legacy servers because of certain individuals who flooded the forums who failed to provide sufficient evidence for their claims, but decided to push forward with little to no backing that said controversial topic that is now indefinitely banned.
There is one misconception that I can point out. The great balance was not eliminated but it was shifted towards past Level 200. The highest level that is possible as of now is level 275 and by no means is it an easy climb. But there is content there too along the way from Level 200, 210, 220, 225, 230, 235, 245, 250, and 255. There is also Maple Accomplishments with many goals that one could never possibly finish altogether. There is Legion where people are rewarded for their hard efforts the more high level characters they have. There are events to enjoy for both the dialogue, atmosphere and rewards. So much content continues to be pushed out it may be endless to explain without this comment to start becoming a great wall of text.
I think the your vision seems to both blurred yet sharp. You can still enjoy the game at your own pace. There's no need to rush out of content into the next unless you're willing to reach whatever is next. There are several Theme Dungeons, Blockbusters and thousands of quests that can be done that Aggraphine and PirateIzzy has mentioned. People may not do party quests anymore but you can still make new friends and join a community such as a guild or Discord.
A lot of things can happen in 15 years and the game has shifted gears with many Quality of Life updates that were needed, job class overhauls which most if not all of them benefit from, and more content that can be experienced like never before. Sure the traditional views may be blurred with all the EXP bonuses, EXP curving for faster leveling and Burning Projects but there is still room to enjoy the game. I've been through many of the quests which are things most people don't do because it may not be their end goal.
As an old player I like to welcome you back to MapleStory, but please don't confuse the game for being more easier. The great balance of burdens has shifted to many other contents and yes it is indeed a grind. However people can still enjoy the game and I'm proof as one of those players along with many other players that still play to this day.
Sometimes it's nice to see the overall content because games are meant to be enjoyed. If it's not fun, why bother? There's a lot of games out there with assortments of genres because one game can't cater everyone and I understand that from trying out many other online games in the dozens within the years. I decided at the end to stick with MapleStory.