Ok, so I played in Closed Beta, Open Beta, and now launch. Watching the progression of this game has really made me appreciate the lengths SE has gone to with listening to the playerbase and making improvements. Things are certainly not perfect, but the game has come a LONG way.
First off, the UI. It has really improved a VAST amount. With the inclusion of a hardware mouse, along with just cleaning up the UI pacing, this really is nothing more than a MINOR annoyance now. Selling items is FAR more responsive, as is crafting. Screens don't take more than a couple seconds to load (at MOST) and everything just feels more responsive. While it is still not perfect/instant, it is a large step forward.
Second, the crafting system. When I first played the closed beta, I felt that the DoH crafting was an absolute chore and just not worth my time at all. Now, in actual release, I am in LOVE with the crafting system. Aside from the UI issues, they have definitely increased the amount of successes while crafting and the rewards as well. Doing just the basic rank 1 crafting leves I have gone 8/8 on them, with only a couple of fails in total. Each successful craft gives 3-400 rank xp and 1500 physical xp! To be honest, I'm actually wondering if they made it TOO easy to craft! I'm not complaining, and plan on taking as many crafts to cap as I can now as I really think the system has seen vast improvement and is now one of my favorite parts of the game.
Skillups. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like skillups in general have seen a slight bump. I reached rank 6 Marauder in about 20 mins of battling and the initial quest-line leve. Granted, the curve will obviously make it slow down over time... but from the perspective of someone new to the game and not used to ffxi, the pacing is absolutely fantastic and it really draws the player into the gaming experience. In Closed Beta I almost dreaded fighting mobs because I never seemed to get enough skillups, but now I feel like the pace is perfect. There have only been a couple of battles that I have recieved no rank xp.
Class abilities. They actually stay in the slot you put them if you change classes and then change back! I can't tell you how happy this makes me. I know it was probably a minor gripe in the scheme of things, but man am I glad they put this in. It means I won't have to re-edit my macros for every class when I gain levels. I just set it once, and its there for the long haul. If I need to change it, I change it once and I'm all set. Yay.
Ok, now I don't want to make this seem like a fanboy post so I will point out the things I think can still be improved. One of these is still the UI. Although it is much improved, there is definitely still some work to be done. My last mmo was WoW (sucky game, I fail, blah blah) and the UI in that game was instant. I know FFXIV will be like that soon, but it is not there yet. Another gripe I have is that NPCS seem to take FOREVER to load. I have waited almost a full minute for all of them to load in heavy traffic areas like the Adventurer's Guild and that just won't cut it. I have a feeling that is more just a server lag issue and something that SE will get fixed once they figure out their exact server loads and make some adjustments.
Other than that, I am very satisfied with this launch. On top of all the praise, one last thing I want to say. I got the game at 1pm EST today. I was playing by 2pm EST. To me, it absolutely does not get better than that, especially with a game as graphically intensive as this. Kudos to SE for really listening to their playerbase and coming through when it matters most.