Q1. The developer journal states that skill challenges are linked to non-combat skills, and gave quite a few examples but I notice none were gathering skills. So will all non-combat skills have a challenge or will there be other ways players interact with the game to mine, gather etc.?
A1. That's tougher than it sounds. Often the ratio of gathering to crafting is quite high. For example, it may require a couple kg of iron to make a sword. Having skill challenges for crafting seems reasonable, while for gathering it could definitely become repetitive. So, the plan at present was to challenge the player in other ways. Specifically, identification, and possibly proper handling. So the "skill" involved in gathering would be much more passive, and less active. For example... oh look, there's plant A.... wait, I misidentified plant A... it's actually plant B, which is poisonous...
The followup to that is, processing materials. Processing materials could still be skill challenges. The one I'm still interesting in figuring out, but am really excited about... is processing sand into glass, for example. So I guess the final thing to say on that is, there's still a lot we don't know about all the different professions, what the best way to challenge the player is for a particular skill, etc...
Q2. Do you think that the number of Skill Challenges available will lead to enough variety in game play for those players wanting to concentrate on a non-combat role? Especially producers who will be specialising on certain items.
A2. (This was actually answered by Beo's question, didn't notice the repeat, including the answer here fo completenes.)
Anything you do repeatedly will eventually become boring. This is more a function of players choosing to do something repeatedly than our skill challenges. We plan to provide several different challenges which may require multiple of them to craft a single item. And of course they'll become more difficult and challenging as your attempt higher quality items.
However, if players insist on sitting there running the same skill challenge over and over again, it'll be no less boring than watching a progress bar. But, our hope is that the crafting system favors quality rather than quantity when it comes to advancing. So, we expect there will be a lot less "crafting grind" than in other games, because people won't need to craft X items to advance their skill. They just craft an item when they need one.
Q3. Can you explain a little more about books that provide skills? Do these take a long time to read, can they be read online, are those that would get you to an apprentice level easy to find?
A3. Not answered.