My hope is that instead of gear giving generic job-neutral abilities, primary job abilities are somehow attached to them or can be attached to them. That way you could equip any character with abilities from various jobs through your gear. For balance and for replayability of low-level areas, gear might be given levels or ranks and you could only use it and its corresponding abilities when your current main job is of the same rank. But that sounds suspiciously close to a character level, which they've said they're not using. In fact, they really haven't said anything clear at all about combining job characteristics.
Well, in the system I described, weapons give the job-specific abilities where armor gives job-neutral abilities (though armor could give no abilities at all). It's fully possible that after you learn something from a weapon, you don't need that weapon type equipped to use it, but then I wouldn't see how your job would be determined by your weapon (which I would probably prefer, honestly).
This ranking system that you're describing would help recreate the feeling of starting over when you change jobs like XI does, but I'll wager they've dismissed the idea. A lot of people, while they liked being able to change jobs, did not like having to start over with a fresh slate and go through the same areas all over again. I think that's something they'll shy away from. The people who like that aspect can always create a fresh new character, and while it's not "the same," it's a better overall compromise for the playerbase I think.
About the only thing I see wrong with it, is the fact SE really hit home the Weapons part of equipment for character advancement. I can find a single quote that ties Armor to how your character plays, but that can be taken in a non-learning sense. Even Leeory's story and the Logo is weapons-focused. But that begs the question, if armor isn't tied to advancement, what purpose does it serve?
What I think is that it will be some combination of temporary stats and/or learned stats and/or abilities. They really haven't said enough to wager a reasonable bet, but let me explain my reasoning on these:
Equippable, temporary stats: Just like gear in FFXI and pretty much every other game. It's kind of hard to imagine that there won't be equipment like this, though it's possible. It's also possible that gear is the ONLY decider for your stats. Since you don't level up though, it's a pretty safe guess that in some way or another, your character stat growth will depend heavily on gear.
Learned stats: As just explained, this would be a way in which you could grow stats without leveling up. There's little indication that it -is- there but it's kind of the next best guess given what we know is -not- there (xp). And in this way, you can choose your own stat growth more or less, but you're still limited to primarily melee stats if you're on the fighter path, or magic stats if you're on the mage path, because presumably you can only equip either melee or mage clothes at once.
Abilities: They could be temporary or learnable, but either way the point would be in having abilities that can go between jobs/weapons. I would imagine they'd be learnable, but who knows. If they're temporary, then your armor would essentially create your subjob. If they're not, then they'll probably be pretty bland abilities because everyone could have them.
Also, what about gatherers? If abilities are locked to equipment, and gatherers are as a matter of the profession naturally afield, what happens to them when they get aggro? Would you have to allow gear swaps and all the godhood that implies just to keep a gatherer from being a sitting duck?
This raises a good question-- it's my speculation that you will literally be able to switch between the four disciplines whenever you want, even mid battle. You probably get Leve points for whatever equipment you are wearing when you finish the leve. So you can simply switch weapons to gain access to other abilities you've unlocked, or you can change disciplines entirely and change all of your armor. There may be some penalty imposed, like a stun, and you might not be able to do it while actually engaged with the enemy. Does that answer the question?
You were looking at restriction via effectiveness before, what made you drop that?
I think restricting people via effectiveness could work out just dandy with what little we know.
I don't think I ever really talked about that, at least not the way you described. Maybe I touched on it briefly in the Hybrid thread?
Well, I guess all I have to say about that is that I don't think they're going to do it that way, so whether or not I think it's a good idea is irrelevant (to this discussion). Despite it being irrelevant, I have to say I'm not really a fan of that particular idea. But I'm not a big fan of any system where gear and stats are heavily interdependent.
I don't see SE removing character growth from the game in favor of making stats based entirely on equipment or anything else.