With a proficientcy based skill system I have a feeling that As we get better with a weapon we grow stat wise as well as skill. I think this will over lap into the armor system as well. Say you need 50 str to wear this heavy armour, Maybe a "Warrior" class character will be able to equip this particular item early on. However a "Mage" class will be able to wear it as well but at a later time in thier development.
So are there classes in the game? Well yes of course! Like all Final Fantasy games, there will be classes/jobs. Robert didn't explain if there was a job class. His tones expressed that there is some form of job system, but the only need for the system will be to help determine what you can and cannot use. What I did find interesting though is that any character can use almost any piece of equipment in the game that they meet the requirements for. For example, a warrior can wear cloth and a mage can wear armor. The downfall though is that your stats aren't going to compliment what you are wearing, so it is going to make you weaker.
From that interview (i believe it was during the german electronic show with the FFXIV alpha build)
it seems to be heading in that direction. What we have yet to see is what kind of attributes the armor will bestow our characters. Will heavy armor penalize "Magic" stats to the point that it would hinder efficient nuking or healing? Will cloth armor provide melees with higher evasion / parry rates to the point we can balance that with the lack of defence?
SE is stating that there aren't "levels" in their game. But thats not entirely true. It's just hidden in the equipment. I have a feeling that if you took a noob player and a person thats been in game for a year. totally naked vs a rabbit their chances of survival are equal. The high level difference comes from the time spent building up a character to be proficient with a set of gear. So the vet has the upper hand vs the huge dragon as opposed to the noob standing naked or even in decked out gear vs the same dragon.
(not sure if you ever played EvE online, but just because you fly the biggest baddest ship, if you haven't trained the correct skills to pilot that cruiser, you might as well be flying the starter frigate. You'll be ineffective. I think this is how the FFXIV armoury will work)