Start with the boring stuff
When logging in, I know my first instinct is just to play. But my advice, as counterproductive as it seems, is to wait. Instead of rushing off to explore all of the game's vistas, you should put your house in order first.
If you were lazy and still use a bunch of dated gear, that all will need to be replaced. Your inventory and that of your retainers will be a mess, however carefully you organized. Items will have to be re-stacked manually in several places. New gear will be grabbed, gear sets will need to be assembled, and so forth. Rushing off to just get started with the game already will leave you in a worse place than if you had been a little more patient.
Instead, start small. Get your inventory in order, sell off things you now know you won't need, and take stock from there. It'll be a chance to ease back into the game anyway, and doing it now means not having to do it later when you're suddenly all jumbled up.
Pick up your utilities
All right, you've gotten your inventory sorted and replaced those dated bracelets that you didn't feel a need to replace before. Good work. Now rather than plunging onward with your storyline, let's hold back a little and ask yourself what you actually need for future benefits.
The level 10 storyline quest is when you unlock inn rooms and levequests. Similarly, your gear set unlock is the third storyline quest for the class you started the game with (which is also level 10, but you may already be overleveled for that). The dye quest out in Vesper Bay is level 15 and requires just an Orange Juice. The level 15 storyline quests unlock the airship.
Just as you want to put your immediate affairs in order, you also want your abilities unlocked and usable. Yes, you'll have certain legs up on brand-new characters, but not everything is automatically unlocked for you even if you used to have access. Decide which of these features is most immediately important and get to work; I highly recommend picking up your gear sets as soon as possible because manually switching is one of those things people have never wanted to do anyway.
Know your limitations
During the last beta phase, the level limit is 20. That means that any experience you would earn with a higher-level class is lost and gone forever. It would be wise to minimize the time spent on any classes between 20-50 just to avoid throwing good experience after bad. (It's possible that these experience rewards will be provided retroactively; I wouldn't bet on it.) These extra bits of experience likely won't amount to all that much in the long run, but there's no reason to make your life harder when it doesn't need to be.
If you don't have any classes below 20, be vicious with what you need to do. Any quests that require a combat class should be done with something at level 50, and any quests that aren't strictly necessary should be ignored. Sidequests can be picked up later when you'll get something for them. Obviously, characters who start in Limsa as Arcanists have a leg up, but if your character is a hardcore Ul'dahn, I'm the last person to tell you to sacrifice personality in favor of game mechanics.
Do note that if you have a class at 50, there's no reason not to pick up and clear every single class quest for that class. It's not as if you'd get experience anyway.
Crafting and gathering are both fine activities for your time in this beta. Yes, you can spend it leveling combat classes, but there will be a lot of people new and old leveling those. If you've always neglected crafting or leveling, or if you're coming in as a new player, consider the option of focusing on that economic foundation.
Remember, if you're being focused, you'll have many sidequests left for any new classes. Any lower-level classes will also be granted an experience bonus compared to your highest-level combat class, something that crafters and gatherers don't get. This seems like the perfect weekend to become very good at all manner of craft, even if it means a bit less time doing other things for the weekends.
Remember, it counts
The hardest habit to break will be remembering that this is the real thing. We've all been training ourselves for a while now to treat the weekends as disposable, something fun to tool around in, but now it sticks. If you sell all of your items this weekend, they won't be around next weekend. We're playing for keeps now.
Oddly, I find that more relaxing.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next weekend, with early access in our faces, I want to discuss fairness to new and returning players (and a lot of other things outside of just the column).
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.