Well, ultimately it comes down to a matter of balancing options with playability. This game already is expected to be tough enough on the majority of computers the player base can afford. I'd rather my computer didn't blow up because it was trying to render a few hundred completely unique character models.
if you argue that having a helmet or headgear on will make all these make no difference. and the dye on the armor will give players uniqueness... but then think about this way, it's like you go to school that have to wear uniforms, everybody look the same.
ok Sephrick is tall, medium black hair
Kachi, short, short black hair... etc
FFXI was exactly that, though. For the majority of the game's lifespan, you had two or three options for gear. If you could equip Haubergeon, you wore that, if not, Scorpion Harness. All else, AF. FFXIV seems to be giving a plethora of options above and beyond its predecessor. As long as I have some options in what gear will be useful, then I can live with the possibility of someone looking similar to me.
But when it comes to hair alone in FFXIV, let's assume they'll limit you to 10 color options just for the sake of keeping theory-crafting low. Nine styles times 10 base colors times 10 highlight colors is 900 combinations. (Note: please, PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong. Math is not my strong suit).
Then, take into account that there are five races, each with two clans and two sexes for three of those (15ish options taking into account unisex races/clans). So you have about 15 choices to make before you ever put your wig on. And each of those 15 choices gives you a new set of nine wig styles. So 900 options 15 times is 13,500 options to make your character's hair unique? As opposed to FFXI's two colors per style? (Dear lord, this math just feels wrong. Be gentle, there's a reason I'm a writer). Then you have eye colors, faces, characteristics. There's such a thing as tedium in character creation.
it's like if you play Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution Soccer), NBA2K or other sports games, there are tons of options for you to choose from.
Think about how less graphically demanding those games are. It's easy to have a game render 10 or so unique models when it's offline and not rendering expansive play spaces. It's all a matter of using resources reasonably.
And as far as being unique from a distance, if you're in a crowded area, your character probably won't load at a distance for people to try to discern you. And if you're not in a crowded area, well, there's less of a chance for you to get confused with someone else.
Edit: I know the first rule of Karma is you do not talk about Karma but ****, two defaulted posts in this thread for me? lol, some passionate snowflakes out there. Edited, Jul 31st 2010 9:12pm by Sephrick