Please note that this post is in no way flame post towards XIV or a praise post towards guild wars 2, but merely a comparison of the two in pre-alpha stages.
I'm sure most of you who have been following XIV from the start remember the Gamescom videos from 2010, as they were the first videos showing actual gameplay. These videos were from a version of the game just a little more than one year before launch.
The combat was buggy, most players playing the demo could not figure it out at all. The caster class was bugged to the point that players couldn't cast a single spell. The demo was limited to one zone, the graphics were incomplete. It felt very rushed and haphazardly thrown together. The user interface and combat system have went through major overhauls since then to end up with a combat system and user interface that still felt rushed and thrown together at the last minute.
Just recently, out of boredom and fear of XIV's future, I have been looking into other MMO's, as a backup in case XIV fails completely (god forbid). I stumbled upon some guild wars 2 videos from Pax 2011, which just wrapped up. The playable demos of guild wars 2 seem so much more complete than the demos of XIV. Guild wars 2 does not yet have a set release date, all that has been said is that alpha testing will commence later this year, which puts it to be released in 2012 at the earliest.
The demo videos feature a slick, usable UI, a working combat system, and many areas and events. The developers basically said "heres guild wars 2, have fun" and let the players do whatever they wanted - the demo was complete enough to allow players to experience all kinds of content across many different zones. The XIV demo (which remember was, at the time, even closer to release date than guild wars 2 is now) consisted of a developer holding your hand, telling you not to explore or deviate from a single leve quest that many players couldn't even finish due to a buggy battle system.
Collection of demo videos from PAX 2011 - http://www.youtube.com/user/GuildWars2Live#g/u
Like i said, this is in no way a "guild wars is better than FFXIV" post, I doubt i will ever play Guild Wars 2 and am still eagerly awaiting the day that i can call FFXIV a great game. My point is that FFXIV was very, very rushed. I think most of us can agree that the foundations of a great game are there, it just hasn't had enough time to grow into it. That growing stage, however, should have happened before release.