I am on the hardcore end as a puzzle-person, so I too would have appreciated more interactive solving stages. I get what you're trying to do; that's just my position in the audience.
There are some places that could have been more interactive even without being puzzles. I'm thinking of the audio playbacks. Say there was an additional field on the photo-scheduler where you could select an audio to play -- either to attract the bristletongue, or to make the monument react.
(I have the sense that you designed the game that way originally, and then removed the manual option to streamline the interface. Which is fine too -- stripping out everything but your core mechanic is usually a good plan. But I feel like I wanted one more axis of choice to explore, day by day.)
I know that typing in the rover passwords was makework, but I appreciated it, because I was taking an action to make plot happen. Ditto the "verify, call" actions on the phone calls. (I guess those were there to keep the following email exchanges paced right?) More interactivity of that sort, even simple stuff like selecting audio clips to broadcast, would be good.
Another down-side of all this automation is that plot elements can blow past without the player paying enough attention. For example: what *was* the translated message from the monument? I guess k. gave me a summary of it, but I never had that moment of "Lo, I am reading an alien message that I helped translate."
(Maybe a photo of the inscription with k's notes scribbled on it, so I can follow. It doesn't have to be a full-on conlang.) (Although that would be awesome too, of course.)
I've stuck to the free mode -- four-hour delays -- for the past... 40 days, I guess. That worked well. It was something I could follow as a daily activity without screwing up my sleep schedule or interfering with my (work-at-home) job. If you get out of beta and run another episode, I'll pay up and try the one-hour cycle. That probably *would* interfere with getting real work done, but since I'd finish in two-ish weeks at that pace, I'd cope.
I did not share Jason's complaint about the ending. Keeping Edna as a running mystery is fine by me; I expected it, in fact. The happy ending, okay, it was kind of cheesy, but I'll roll with it at the end when the tension is already coming off.
stesen wrote: "...there should be some resolution of each thread, not just one of them." I guess this gets back to the automation thing. You could say that the "mystery of the inscription" plot thread was resolved, but it was both off-stage and somewhat off-hand, so it didn't feel like much of a resolution.
In one of the other forum posts you wrote:
we really wanted to take that awesome feeling of being part of a story and share it with people who have never played an ARG before -- and who would never have any interest in participating in the standard frenetic community-driven ARG.
Extrasolar didn't quite hit that for me. It's a single-player game with the timed-casual-play model. (Kingdom of Loathing, etc.) (Actually, Planetarium is a better comparison, but nobody remembers Planetarium any more, sigh.)
I *am* one of those people who avoids the frenetic-community-ARG, but I think "community" is a critical part of the formula. It's not real unless you're in it with your friends. So I'd just avoid the "ARG" comparison altogether.
(The most ARG-like elements were the by-sites -- the XRI site, Jane's blog, and Exoleaks. But these were only flavor text. I looked at each of them only a few times, and mostly near the start of the storyline.)
Again, this is not a complaint. Extrasolar is a good example of what it is. Hopefully you have some sort of multi-player element in your far-flung dreams, but it's obviously not going in soon.
I feel like I should talk about "grind", but I'm not sure I have a coherent comment. Hm. Try this: I think the game could benefit from having more scales of progress. Even if that's "take ten photos of each species for our catalog, get a gold star."
You've said you want to avoid grind. In one sense, you've failed; the game is a very great deal of doing the same things over and over. If I am going to spend a day moving toward the next obelisk, taking photos that only reveal known critters, I'd like to feel that there's *some* incremental reward. The changing landscapes and critter habitats are a little too sparse to satisfy that.
Okay, enough back-seat driving for one night. Thanks for running this and letting us in to test! I hope it's a hit.