It actually has a lot of interesting similarities. No AH, no NMs, only areas available were the ones connecting cities and a few dungeons within, and they even gave us a free month (although it was due to server/login issues more than the game just not working well). The initial level cap was also 50, and there was a lot of talking about how there was nothing else to do in the game but level up. I think the fastest people hit the cap in something like a month.
There were a lot of big changes within the first few months, like the addition of things like the above-mentioned NMs and AH, but also some other things that many people consider basic parts of the game. Two big ones that stand out in my mind are the change from TP being generated from being hit to being generated mostly by hitting enemies, and the "level adjustment" formulae. The former completely changed how people partied from all working to spread around enemy hate to having one tank. The latter is difficult to explain, but you can basically think of your level itself as being an attribute that determines how things play out - for instance, beyond just whatever your STR and Attack are compared to the enemy's VIT and Defense your actual level compared to the mob's matters. This was not the case early on and when it was added it made the game a lot
more difficult and more reinforced the need for partying.
They also had no HQ results from crafting early on, ammo was only stackable to 12, and all kinds of other things that were changed within a few months and barely remembered by most people.
I didn't, however I might have some more reading material for you, though if you've already seen this, feel free to disregard it. Heh. http://zeusls.llima.net/download/ffxiupdatehistory.html
This basically covers a whole lot of stuff from FFXI beta right up to a little after the NA release. Kudos to the people who found and translated the majority of this some time ago.
This is a pretty good summary except the guy is so negative about everything it makes you wonder why he kept playing. It's more of a record of problems than of fixes and additions. Past 2003 it just descends into a useless rant about how foreign players destroyed the game and SE is stupid and cheap for doing it, but we have patch notes starting around then at least. Edited, Nov 2nd 2010 2:19pm by TheMoreYouKnow