The weekend's Valentine's holiday event over in WoW provided me with a lot of time in which to play EQ2 while waiting for the Valentine's Trick-or-treat cooldown to expire. (If Blizzard is going to implement something that requires 10 seconds of my attention every hour - and precludes me from doing anything that takes more than 59 minutes with my remaining time if I don't want to lose precious looting opportunities during a very time-limited event - I'm going to spend the rest of that hour doing something else.) A few ongoing impressions of some of the places where the game differs from its competition:
Recruit a friend hijincks
SOE recently implemented a recruit a friend program similar to WoW's version, but with two interesting quirks.
First, the recruiter gets the usual perks (free month of subscription and a mount), but the recruit ALSO gets various items that are not ordinarily given to newbies. These include a cloak (seems that EQ2 cloaks are primarily cosmetic) that offers a 24% runspeed bonus to all your characters - a comparatively big deal in a game where relatively fast mounts only hit the mid-50's. The upshot is that it doesn't make any sense to start a new EQ2 account without getting a referral from someone (any past or present subscriber is eligible), even if you have no intention of ever playing with them. I got one from G33kg0dd3ss, and I'm sure either of us would be happy to send on more invites to anyone who is interested.
The other quirk is that the bonuses kick in immediately when the "recruit" account subscribes (where WoW's version requires that the new account STAY subscribed for several months). If I'm reading this right, that means that there is effectively zero cost to you for the first month of a second account for yourself, and/or spouses/familiy/etc, since you would have paid for the month on your main account either way. That's much better than any other game's trial setup, because the new account gets an entire month and isn't subject to the usual limitations that are placed on trial accounts to prevent abuse. Hopefully this isn't abused so badly that SOE decides to clamp down on it, because I'd definitely try to see if my wife likes the game for the price tag of $0 and a free mount for myself. :)
Entry level bags for all!
And now for something completely different, namely EQ2's crafting system.
EQ2 has a separate experience system for your crafting class. This is a big improvement over WoW's all-or-nothing chance at a skill point, which decreases as you outlevel recipes, eventually forcing you to make items that you don't need solely for the chance at a skill point. Interestingly, crafters get to try the entry level recipes of all the professions before they have to pick their specialty. Being able to make level 1-9 weapons/spells/armor may not seem like a huge bonus, but this also means you can make your own bags and boxes.
EQ2 characters have six bagslots on their person, at least two slots in the Broker (AH equivalent, you can only list as many items for sale as fit in the bags you install there), and a ton of potential bag slots in your bank. I thought the bank looked small at first until I realized that every slot in your character's bank (and also your 8-slot "shared bank", which can be used to ferry items to your alts) can be occupied with a bag full of stuff (even including additional empty bags). That's a lot of bags, crates, backpacks, etc. Being able to craft my own - lightweight 6-8 slotters and heavy 8 or 12 slotters - is a great ability, especially since I'm doing this with materials I'm gathering myself as I level.
Crafting for fun and profit
Overall, I'm having fun with the crafting system, and am almost keeping pace with my adventuring experience level (though I can't make stuff from the current tier yet because I'm still adventuring in the newbie zone). The actual process of making items is much more interactive in other games - you do have a chance to fail a recipe (which generally only costs you some of the cheaper/vendor ingredients, you always seem to get back the valuable materials) but you can also have greater success and produce multiple doses of potions and food.
The only issue I have with EQ2 crafting right now is that I may have picked the "wrong" profession. I was planning on becoming a jeweler, since that's the profession that makes spells for rogue classes such as my Fae Dirge, but I don't have the crafting experience level or, more importantly, the materials I'd need to make my most recent spell upgrades. It doesn't make sense to use lower-quality versions of my bread and butter combat spells while I try to catch my crafting level up.
For my main, I think I'd be better off making some kind of consumables that I would use but would not buy on the open market. The two choices there are:
Alchemists - would not require a respec since I haven't gotten far enough to need to pick a subspecialty, and would let me make potions and spells for any future fighter-class alts
Provisioner - makes food, but I'd have to figure out how to respec and would lose several crafting levels in the process
I'm leaning towards the alchemist, simply because I can do provisioning on a crafting alt - EQ2 tradeskills aren't capped by experience level, so I could pick a race with a racial bonus to provisioning, level it to level 10 so I can actually select the tradeskill bonus on the alt in question, and park it by the nearest kitchen.
Overall, crafting in EQ2 seems a lot more fun than in other games. It is still possible that I would be better off selling my rare materials and using the cash to buy stuff that I actually need, but at least I'm having fun with the process where in other games (LOTRO, Warhammer) I usually end up harvesting to sell stuff if I do crafting at all.