Hey, everybody! Thanks for waiting. I'm back from my travels and have some answers or near-answers for you. Hope you like them!
Q: What exactly is it that the Thrush need and why do they need Shay to select it?
A: The Thrush are an elite subculture in Loruna who have selectively bred and inbred themselves to favor certain traits like intelligence, which helped them political dominance. Too much inbreeding has led to negative traits emerging--transparent skin, fragility, and general creepiness. They are seeking out "fresh blood" in the badlands (where Vella is from) to restore some hybid vigor to their genepool. Though as the Thrushmaster states, it's not just about mere DNA, but something more holistic they can't synthesize. Not only can they not synthesize it, they can't even identify the exact component they're mising. But they believe that the instincts of a young boy, coming of age, are sacred and will lead them to the right choice. They also fetishize tall forehead implants, but that's just because they're creeps.
Q: It’s said that only a boy like Shay, isolated for 14 years can make this selection, and yet it seems like he has nothing to do with how maidens are selected. The villages select the maidens. This seems reinforced by the reveal at the end that Vella’s grandmother is a member of the Thrush (a reveal which begs quite a few questions as well). Shay is just grabbing as many as he can and doesn’t seem to have much insight.
A: The villages select who they believe to be the best of their town, and then Shay and boys in his position make their selections from those maidens. At Sugar Bunting/Talon Nebula, shay selected all the maidens, but at Meriloft/Danger System 5, Shay picked the other maidens over Twyla.
As Reid correctly pointed out, Levina is NOT Vella's Grandmother. You're not alone in thinking this, though. Most people assume she is. We added a line to Levinas dialog in an attempt to clarify this ("Your grandpa is just stuck in the ways of old. Your Grandma was the same way, bless her soul.") but not everyone hears this line.
Q: Why does everyone stop trying to kill them when the ships melt?
A: Everyone in Loruna is totally shocked by the Mogs melting and is basically sitting at the controls with their jaws on the floor, not sure what to do. And who knows, maybe right after we cut away from Shay and Vella on the bridge, they started firing again. I also liked teallite's answer here.
Q: Did all those maidens just die in the Mog and why doesn’t anyone care or acknowledge this? If they survive, then how?
A: The maidens are shown (briefly) running out of the ship in the final cutscene, led by Safety Hexipals. That's their jobs.
Clarifying something from Reid's post:
The Thrush did not all die in the explosion. In fact no one did. Hope mentions that the Red Hangar was fully automated.
Q: One thing I do not get about the ending is why Vella and Shay think it may be a good idea to have a meltdown of both ships.
A: Vella states her intention to melt both mogs "before they breed" so she's just still trying to finish the job she set out to do: Kill Mogs. It's true that Shay isn't given a good reason to do this, except for the believe he shares with Alex that he's sure Vella has some reason to do what she's doing. And his desire to use the hugging arms to bring the ships together so he can jump between them. I liked Taekon's answer here too.
Q: Another question (not about the ending in this case): I was a bit shocked that Vella just went into the room with the fusion orb, while in Act 1 Shay had to wear a protective suit. Was that also a fake danger?
A: Yes. If you use the bomb on Hope, Vella asks her if the orb is radioactive, to which Hope replies,"No! Well, we told Shay it was so he would stop playing with it. " But Shay believed it to be true, so he really wouldn't go in there without the suit.
Q: Shay seems to have forgotten that his parents are human. Is this part of the SPLARGH treatment? Is this part of the whole Thrush “therapy”?
A: Deep down, Shay knows his parents are human. He just developed a way of relating to them that was cut off and distant, and this habit affected how he saw them. His parents contributed to this by being busy all the time, communicating to him only through the ship's intercom system, which made them look all fish-eyed and round. Also Shay's age made him vulnerable to this sort of distancing. Shay says on the beach "I mean, I guess I always knew my parents were people... It's just been a while since I thought of them that way." It's really just a literalization of something we all go through with our parents, I think. There's a point in our lives where we all realize our parents are just human beings.
Q: In act 2 you’re supposed to solve Shay’s puzzles using the clues accessible by Vella, and vice versa. Is there a real mental connection between them? This is not clear and many gamers/reviewers think it’s a just a cheap way to make the game harder. I’m sure there’s a narrative reason, because you’ve deliberately used this approach several times, especially in the final puzzle.
A: I always see the role of the player as the intuition of the character. The character is still who he or she is--Shay, Vella, Ben Throttle, Indiana Jones, etc. They are things they want, things they will or won't do ("I'm not putting my lips on that!") but the player is inside their head, giving them ideas. Pick up the hammer. Open the door. Then the character makes up their own justification--"Sure, why not. I could always use a hammer." So in this case, Shay and Vella have a sort of shared intuition. And you're right--it's not fully explained in the game. I didn't really think it had to be. We don't say for sure what the connection is between Shay and Vella ever--what does "shared intuition" mean? Why does shay seem so obsessed with "rescuing" the helpless creature that turns out to be Vella? Were they distantly related? Cosmically bound together? Not stated. Up to the player to decide. But the link is definitely indicated in the game when the two players talk about "going with their intuition." So, that's the most specific answer I can give you!
Also, as Diduz76 says, DOTT!
KestrelPi: In other words I could make a film or a book of DOTT and explain exactly how they solved all the problems on screen/paper so that the viewer understands. But right now I feel like I could do that with BA without making some very heavy assumption about the nature of the connection between Shay and Vella
A: If I were making a film or book of Broken Age, and I wanted to provide a more literal, less metaphysical explanation for the unattributed knowledge, I could easily make it clear that when Shay was young his mom wasn't so busy and Shay spent more time in her room. He saw the picture and the correct wiring patter there (or he saw it on the board in the picture when he was actually there) but he forgot it. Playing with the Hexipal wiring unearthed this forgotten memory, though he doesn't know where it came from. And Vella saw the scrap of paper with the musical star chart in a pile of papers in Alex's ship that we just couldn't see from the camera angle we had, and maybe Alex was idly humming the "return to previous destination" song as she walked around the pyramid. There is at least one "time passes" moment in their relationship, right before the Act 1 boss fight, where a lot of this stuff could have happened. True, it's not shown in the game, but this is my book and/or movie and I can do what I want!
Well, I hope that answers some questions at least!
Thanks for playing, everybody, and thanks for caring enough to ask these questions!