I was struggling with this as well until I realized what they want us to do.
They don't want us to pick a class and "be a pugilist" or "be a thaumaturge".
They want us to think of the character concept we want to play. Don't think of the Gladiator, Lancer, Conjurer etc as classes, but rather as skill titles. This is why most of the skills we learn as the various 'classes' merely require us to be a Discipline of Magic or Discipline of War in order to use them, rather than that specific 'class'. We're meant to mix and match.
Do you want to be a Paladin character? Than grab a sword & board, some Gladiator skills, and some healing abilities from Conjurer/Thaumaturge.
Or play a Paladin with a Lance. Or a Great Axe. Who's to say a Paladin should only be using a sword and shield?
The expectation that they should has been instilled upon us by previous MMO's employing cookie cutter classes that could only function certain ways. We now have the opportunity to define those classes the way we see them.
Want to be a Time Mage? Well I've seen Gravity and Slow, and I know the developers talked about how Haste could work (I don't know if they added it or not). Gladiators can use daggers, and you can pick up various decrease hate abilities from the different 'classes'. Go at it!
That is how I think they're wanting people to approach the game. Come with a concept of what you want, and then build it. For myself, I'm going to be making something sortof like the Ninja class, except more Thief-ish. I'll be starting out as Pugilist, but I intend on buying myself a staff/wand ASAP to get access to a castable heal. Perhaps I'll switch to a dagger at some point, perhaps not.
I do agree, and i have noticed this as well.
I still stand by my opinion that there aren't any true unique fighting styles or abilities in the game yet. Things like dragons spouting fire, using enemy magic, summoning beings, playing songs, rolling dice, having a pet mob, being a walking talking 'death', being a swift and flashy katana weilder, being an assassin, being a holy-fighter, acrobatics, and so forth.
But you're right, you can definitely 'patch' something together. I've noticed how they changed the ability categories. What used to be "lancer" is now "lance". What used to be "gladiator" is now "sword". etc. It doesn't seem the same, however, because it still feels so generic.
It feels like building a character in Oblivion. You can get a chameleon spell from illusion, paralyze poison from alchemy, swift roofjumping from acrobatics, dagger-killing from blades, and so forth. But it's not the same as playing a rogue in WoW, or a thief or ninja in FFXI, or playing assassin's creed, or whatnot.
It's like making your own club sandwich versus buying a 20 dollar gourmet club sandwich. :P
I'm not totally against the system or anything (and we may be going a lil bit offtopic, by talking about the build-a-class system in such depth) but its definitely not igniting the cool feeling of having a class you love and want to play.
For example, will anyone have a favorite class anymore? Will we post pictures of our beloved dragoon or smn or pup or sam? Or will we simply have 'favorite builds', where we post pictures of whatever we happen to look like at the time?
It all seems so undefinied, which is NOT a bad thing, but some class definition would be great.
As it is now, each class doesn't feel like they'd have their own awesome looking AF or whatnot. Feels like they're just normal warriors.
But again, this is in spirit of ffxi. So perhaps we'll still get our cool unique fighters in the future. I just don't want this to become oblivion-esque or DAO-esque in genericness.