Crafting Jon Bolding, (Escapist Senior Editor)
Crafting is one of those spots where Elder Scrolls games have always excelled - giving you the feeling of really going out and collecting materials, as well as building up the skill required, to make powerful artifacts. From what I experienced from levels 1-15 of the beta preview, crafting is a robust and interesting system.
Though, at first, it doesn't deviate far from its roots as a WoW-inspired "collect from nodes, refine, build" system, it quickly adds some interesting variations. First, you're able to break down any items you get into components for further crafting - whether it's swords for blacksmithing or unused enchantments for enchanting. Second, the various things you can place skill points into really start to change what crafting means for any given character. For example, I placed points into having hirelings for several of my skills, which means that I got sent a small parcel of rare materials once daily. It was great, and allowed me to make steady progress on my crafting skills without investing extra time beyond what I picked up questing. I augmented that with skills that allowed me to get bonus materials for breaking down items, and I felt like crafting was a flowing part of my MMO play experience instead of something I had to stop questing to do. On the other hand, if you like collecting materials you wouldn't have to buy those skills. They're completely optional.
In a stark contrast to the early levels of some other MMOs, the gear I was making in The Elder Scrolls Online was consistently and constantly better than the gear I got from quests. It was very rewarding to sink time into alchemy, for example, and have better potions than the ones I was finding on dead enemies. It was strange, however, to spend the same skill points that would otherwise be giving me new spells or attacks on crafting boosts, especially in a game with such a strong player versus player component. I didn't ever feel quite crippled, or behind, because of my many points in crafting boosts, but I did feel somewhat limited compared to others with huge repertoires of combat abilities. Oh well, at least I had better gear than everyone I met by leaps and bounds. Whether that's the case in the late game? That remains to be seen.