Sorry for not being brief!
I love that you're open to taking in this kind of feedback from fans and the overall direction of transparentness that Double Fine seems to be taking as a company, Tim. Don't want to seem like an obsequious suck-up, but I think it's pretty obvious that Double Fine is the standard-bearer for media companies when it comes to this brave new world of anyone and everyone knowing anything about everything (because of the internet). How impossibly amazing and edifying would it be if we could get a real-time behind-the-scenes look at Pixarians working on "Monsters University" or Irrational building their glorious city in the sky? (Sure, we can try to glean information/details from the Twitter accounts of people associated with those companies and the media material released for those projects, but that isn't anywhere close to the level of access you fine folks at Double Fine are providing.)
All right, onto my dimwitted thoughts/criticism of some of the Amnesia projects:
I did not vote for:
Hack n' Slash: You'll find no scathing critique here; the concept for this game is brilliant, and as someone whose knowledge of programming is based solely on "well, people write their code in languages such as C++, Pearl, Python, etc., and the language of code includes much more symbols and numbers than a regular normal/spoken language, and there's if/then statements, and you'll start attending SIGGRAPH and be able to comprehend academic articles entitled "Design and Novel Uses of 5D Rasterization," "High-Quality Curve Rendering using Line Sampled Visibility," "Measurement-Based Synthesis of Facial Microgeometry," and "Fast Generation of Directional Occlusion Volumes," and if you're an isolated nerd in college who is afflicted by the "Forever Alone!" symptom then you spend all your time being a code monkey to get access to exclusive social clubs so that people are forced to talk to you, and that scene in "Wreck-It Ralph" (spoilers!) where King Candy goes into Sugar Rush's code to turn Venellope von Schweetz into a glitch might make more sense to you.
Hmm, those last two might not really be applicable, but my point is that the idea of a game being able to edify gamers on what still seems to be an arcane, esoteric subject to most people, and doing so in a familiar Zelda-esque gameworld, is an utterly fantastic concept for a game. So why the hell didn't I vote for it? Simply because I could tell early on that it was already pulling ahead of the rest of the games in votes and wanted to give other games that needed more help a chance to get into the top four! (I'm such a commie.)
Spacebase DF-9: Not sure how to articulate my criticism for this one considering it wound up in second place, and JP LeBreton seems like a lovely person and clearly wears great sweaters, but I guess the best way would be by saying that throughout my entire life I've had zero interest in "The Sims," "SimCity," "Spore," or any other "God game." I fully understand why a lot of other people like them/get into them, and I greatly respect the people who make them since it seems like an insane undertaking, but the thought of sitting in a room and trying to simulate real-life scenarios in micro and macro environments for 60+ hours just seems like... well, a waste of time. I'd rather donate to Charity: Water or drive to New York and help people in the aftermath of Sandy or do anything that would have a tangible effect in the real world than simulate those same kind of results in a game. (Ha, let's be honest, I'd just rather waste my time doing another sedentary activity like watching the ouevre of the Coen brothers and the top thirty greatest silent films or read, like, a book or something. Have you heard of a guy named Dostoyevsky? I guess he wrote a novella about some brothers who travel to a magical land called Karamazov or something like that. It's supposed to be "okay.")
Autonomous: Man, this one sounds pretty fantastic. And I loved the grainy VCR look of the pitch video, and that high-pitched robotic 80s sound effect applied to Lee Petty's voice. (Or does he spend hours doing guttural exercises in order to achieve this sound effect? One can never be sure.) My only criticism would be that if the "80s-inspired" part of it becomes a focal point and a visual style that you really try to precisely replicate, then perhaps some of that could be kind of cheesy/uninspired, unless the game goes out of its way to poke fun at itself and its 80s-ness in a well-done, restrained, meta way. (Am I saying that anything involved with the 80s was cheesy? What an original and outlandish statement to make!) The design of the Automatons and the concept art showing an overview of presumably one of the levels/maps all looked fantastic and not cheesy, so perhaps my worries are unfounded. (Although I will say it might get kind of boring if every level/map and all of the objects in the world have purple highlights/accentuations--try to mix up the color palette a little bit!) Another way of explaining what I just said would be: as of now it seems like some of your reference points for the visual style are "Back to the Future," "Tron," The Terminator," "Robocop," and "Labyrinth," and I personally think it might benefit from some more "Brazil," "Time Bandits," "Nausicaa," "Blade Runner," and "Akira." Also, once again, I didn't vote for this simply because it became obvious it was going to make it in the top four and I wanted to give other games a chance.
The games that I did vote for were:
The White Birch: A young girl climbing a tower to reach a prize hanging from a white birch tree. Does anything else need to be said? Especially considering I am presuming that the debonair Andy Wood was withholding important backstory details regarding the girl, such as why she's alone in a Stygian forest, and why there would be a (presumably) singular white birch tree to contrast against the impenetrable darkness surrounding her. (Oh, wouldja look at that, the young girl also happens to be a conspicuous porcelain white in the concept art, along with that dove... hmm, I wonder if there could be some symbolic reasoning for this.) This pitch is the one that filled me with the most curiosity and allowed my imagination to work the most in visualizing the game. Really glad it made it in the top four.
Black Lake: This pitch was the second-greatest in terms of sparking my curiosity and imagination. But, I viewed it right after the pitch for "The White Birch" and could not help noticing the similarity between the two in terms of setting/atmosphere. I understand that the narrative, characters, and what you do in both are wildly different, but I do think "The White Birch" might be more amenable to being made in a two-week timespan than the "Black Lake," because it sounds like it would be really difficult to come up with several animals' feverish/waking dreams and the accompanying personification of evil contained therein in that amount of time. I'm sad this one didn't make it into the top four, but if the idea is allowed to be pursued for a longer period of time separate from Amnesia fortnight in order to allow the creators to come up with/craft some truly memorable and compelling feverish/waking dreams for several animals, it could obviously result in a amazing, utterly unique game. (My only criticism would be the implementation/use of lullabies to drive away the evil from their dreams; this sounds great conceptually, but I think it would be very difficult to implement as a compelling gameplay mechanic. Perhaps you fight the evil via traditional combat until it is weak, and then once weak you're able to finish it off by singing a lullaby via an Ocarina-esque mechanic.)
Part 2 below: