Expect something very different
The first thing you have to understand about FFXIV is that at its core, it's the product of a design team that seemed to have only a passing familiarity with MMO conventions. Movement, action bar layouts, crafting, gathering, even just trading items between players -- all of these systems are familiar, but none of them is quite akin to what you're used to. Compare that to most MMOs on the market, where you can assume a lot of common points that make jumping in easy.
In other words, expect to stumble a few times. After a bit of play, most of the quirks of the game will seem pretty natural, but it's still a bit like learning to read untranslated Chaucer in that a lot of the structure is similar but it makes no sense on a quick glance. Just take it slow and clear your mind.
Start as a gatherer
Nothing bad will happen to you if you don't start off as a gatherer, certainly. But my recommendation is to think of what you want to play in combat, think of what crafts will support that class, and then kick things off as the appropriate gathering class. You want to play an Archer, start off with Botanist.
The reason for this is fairly simple: While you don't share much between the classes, starting with good equipment that you crafted yourself is a great way of getting ahead in the current economy. By making that equipment from your own materials, you save even more money. Gatherers can start out, gather a lot of stuff, turn to crafting, and wind up kitting out a decent starter Disciple of War or Magic for minimal expense. It's a bit harder the other way around.
Save your leves
You get four leve allowances every 12 hours, and since leves are your primary method of leveling in the game at present, logic would dictate that you should fill up and go to town right away. This works out well if you're playing in short snippets, but it's also going to mean that when you have space for a longer play session, you're out of allowances.
I'd recommend stocking up. Levels 1 to 10 are miserably easy to get through just by repeatedly gathering, crafting basic items, or smacking marmots and beetles outside the city walls. There are also plenty of low-level quests that are easy to do alone, leaving you with an easy path through your early levels that will let you save up leves. Spend just five days stocking up, and you'll wind up with 40 allowances stockpiled, giving you plenty of leves for a long run on the weekend or just some dedicated leveling one weeknight.
Head to Limsa Lominsa
Every region gives you rewards for leves based upon that region's culture. Limsa Lominsa is no exception. That means a lot of metal armor and tools for Marauders, which are both nice, but the real prize is Limsa's other guild. The Culinarian's Guild over in the Bismarck ensures that many of your leves give you sweet, sweet food. Or nutritious food. Or any kind of food, really.
Food is hardly mandatory in the game, but it gives you a noteworthy experience boost, and it certainly does make leveling easier. There's food for every sort of class, so you can get a nice start by focusing your efforts in the city on the bay. Not to mention that the lowest-level dungeon in the game is right by Limsa Lominsa, so if you're hoping to get into Shposhae, your location will matter a bit.
Cross-level as much as possible
It's more important for combat classes than for crafters, but every class benefits from having a little extra punch. That's not to say you can't get along just fine with leveling only as an Archer, but you make a much better Archer with Second Wind and Bloodthirst, just as an example.
Last week's column was all about useful cross-class skills, which is certainly a good place to start figuring out which other classes to level alongside your main. Some classes do get a lot of good stuff early, especially Pugilist and Conjurer. For crafters, most additional progress is useful, especially since crafts are often closely interrelated with one another. Gatherers benefit the least from having another gathering class leveled, but that isn't the same as not benefiting at all.
Everything you'll learn now is going to be changed in the very near future, more or less as soon as 2.0 finally goes live. I'm predicting that the servers will be going down and changing sometime between late September and early October, which gives you time but also creates a deadline. So keep that in mind.
Comments, your own advice, and other opinions are welcome via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below. Next week, I should have had time to chew over the news from VanaFest, so expect some responses.
Saturday morning edit: Unfortunately, there is no way for me to fit in an entirely new column in reaction to Seekers of Adoulin right now, as it was announced well after this column was written and prepped. Next week, expect a column full of unabashed squealing. Because dude.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.