I sat on replying for a bit here so as to not preempt non-staff opinions, but I figure it's been long enough.
The V4 Rescue seemed largely (though certainly not universally) well-received at the time, though a lot of folks were very sad it landed when it did because a handful of fan favorite characters died right before it hit who would have otherwise been eligible (Dutchy, Annaliese, Melissa, I think one or two others).
People played a bit cagey with which characters were or were not going to get rescued. At best, this added some nice suspense and danger in a way rather unique to the situation; with characters now eligible to live, suddenly not taking that option (and thus being condemned to extremely probable death) was a bigger deal again. The flip side of this was that some handlers pushed it a bit further, trying to directly play into the will-they-or-won't-they drama, and ended up writing themselves into corners where it made no sense to not
have their kids rescued and yet they didn't anyways. These sorts of scenes were not looked on very favorably even at the time, and in my opinion have aged exceptionally poorly, since even the dubious benefit of keeping the site guessing has since been lost.
I personally held my rescued kid until the very end of the last day, partially so I could be absolutely sure on my call, partially due to some post order/activity issues, and partially to dodge plot complications that would have potentially arisen due to other characters in one of the escape threads. I'd figured out what I was going to do, roughly speaking, a good bit in advance, but generally kept quiet or feigned ignorance because spoilers are no fun.
I can't speak too much to blacklist reaction. From a staff end, it was an interesting exercise in judgement calls. There was actually a fairly sizable list of edge case characters where I wasn't sure whether or not they were over the line--if in doubt, we tended to err in favor of leaving characters eligible. The cutoff ended up being characters who were multiple murderers without some strong mitigating factor (such as Samantha Ridley, who assisted three suicides [and, funnily enough, ended up the top surviving killer of V4]) or who had only one kill but were clearly playing, usually as a team or partnership of some kind (this is the provision that caught Ema, Nick, and Teo).
Actually, I still have the edge case kids in my notes. This is from whenever I pulled together the initial list.
- [+] Spoiler
- Cisco Vasquez
- Julian Avery
- Jacqueline Myrie
- Jason Harris
- Acacia Salinger
- Simon Telamon
- Charlene Norris
- Kimberly Nguyen
- Josie Vernon
Interestingly, four of them ended up getting saved. I'm glad the blacklist drew some attention towards the characters on it. It was never intended as a punishment for handlers, but was rather a way to complicate the morality of STAR's actions in a way that logically followed from their aims. The blacklist included characters I loved, characters I really did not love, and characters who fell somewhere between the ends of the spectrum.
I think people took a wide range of approaches to determining which character to save, if any. For me, I picked my character who I was most interested at the time in exploring in an off-island situation and who had the least going on on-island (the bulk of her friends and allies having died horribly a few weeks before the rescue launched). It was very much a question of what stories I was interested in telling. This is, actually, where some stuff that eventually ended up in V4's epilogue originated, especially the bit about approaching Mr. McCreery (and I guess the whole concept of searching for that sort of closure). Kimberly was like way down on my list of prospective rescuees, though, like a notch above Aaron.
When the V3 escape was announced, I was like, "Yes! Vindicated!" Funnily, there are still logs from a chat way back in the good old days. I'm posting the whole thing because it's pretty funny, but the parts I'm proud of are from the start (I was still KV back then). This was apparently early April, 2009:
- [+] Spoiler
- Dodd: Anyone have any theories?
Solitair: It was Garnett.
Dodd: Garnett exploded?
Solitair: Yes, Dodd. Garnett exploded.
AnimeDutchess: Primitive A-Bomb? No, the whole island would've gone up, then.
Solitair: Jake Woods teleported onto the island and converted Garnett's blood to nitroglycerin.
Landlocked from x.x.x.1 joined the chat
AnimeDutchess: And the tech is not there!
AnimeDutchess: Hi, Land.
Greg The Anti-Viking: hey LL
KillerVole: My theory is that the missing students banded together and made/stole a bomb or heavy weapons, then took out the terrorists' patrols.
Ella: chris c:
Landlocked: Hay yall
KillerVole: Hi LandLokcked.
AnimeDutchess: I like KV's theory.
AnimeDutchess: They all could've died in thaty explosion, though, and be dead for reals.
Solitair: Sarcasm aside, I agree, and think that Garnett helped them.
Oliver: Maybe the bomb IS the students?
Landlocked: All of them spontaneously combusted at the same time
AnimeDutchess: Like, they turned themselves into a bomb, or...they strapped themselves to it?
Solomir: maybe all their collars detonating at once.....
KillerVole: I wonder whether the missing students have been played out in a locked forum or something.
Solomir: did some weird chain reaction thingy
AnimeDutchess: Or they just fucked up in building it and it blew up too soon?
Landlocked: I'm convinced the missing students and the explosion are related somehow, though >:C
KillerVole: Me too.
Dodd: The truth is, that the missing students ARE related.
Dodd: Fact of the matter is this:
Dodd: Somewhere on the island, there's a GIGANTIC boa constrictor.
Dodd: And you see, it's eaten every single one of the students.
Carol: OH. MY. GOD.
Solomir: boa? what about the radioactive bear?
KillerVole: Oh no!
Solomir: OH, I GET IT
Dodd: And you see, Danya and his people can't have a snake eating the kids.
Carol: EVIL POLAR BEAR
Solomir: THE BOA ATE THE BEAR
KillerVole: So they blew it up?
Dodd: So they took off, nuked the site from orbit. Was the only way to be sure.
Solomir: AND THEN IT BLEW UP BECAUSE IT WAS RADIOACTIVE
Greg The Anti-Viking: so that's what on the lost island
Dodd: I'm actually serious, by the way.
Carol: That's somehow scarier.
Dodd: That's the big twist. It's a big fuckin' snake.
AnimeDutchess: ...Then why wouldn't this be more hinted at in the announcement? They'd clearly have to know about it.
Landlocked: I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHERFUCKIN SNAKES IN THIS MOTHERFUCKIN GAME
Solomir: Dutchess, Dodd's pulling your leg
Dodd: Oh, the clues are undoubtedly there.
AnimeDutchess: In the announcement, they're just as clueless as us.
Dodd: They're just really subtle.
Dodd: The big question is WHICH of the terrorists know.
AnimeDutchess: ...IT'S THAT ONE GUY. UH.
Dodd: But at least one of them has already made a passing reference to the snake.
AnimeDutchess: THE DESERTER GUY.
Ella: IT'S A SNAKE
AnimeDutchess: I'm not going through all the Announcement threads just to find an reference.
Landlocked: SNAAAAKE SNAAAAAKE OHHHHH IT'S A SNAAAAAKE.
AnimeDutchess: Bob the snake?
Greg The Anti-Viking: we need a badger
Dodd: That's all that I can say for now.
Landlocked: Dammit Dodd stop making me want to check the wiki
Dodd: Eh, hey, whatever. I think it's kind of a lame twist, to be quite honest.
Carol: BADGER BADGER BADGER
Dodd: S'why I'm telling you. I'm not supposed to, but fuck it. It's a big snake. It's stupid.
AnimeDutchess: o.o; ...?
Ella: http://bp2.blogger.com/_kXxGwKJvXC4/RzP ... nex_rh.jpg OH GOD NOT THE BEES
Landlocked: The same snake ate like 30 students...?
GameMaker from x.x.x.210 joined the chat 4 seconds ago
AnimeDutchess: That's a lot of fi-STUDENTS.
Carol: XD Ella
AnimeDutchess: Hi,m GM.
Landlocked: Hey Rob
Greg The Anti-Viking: obviously it's hungry
Dodd: Trust me, it was amid my harsh protestations.
Greg The Anti-Viking rolls eyes
Oliver: oh lawdy
GameMaker: Is Oliver... Waffle?
AnimeDutchess: Well, what would you like to have happened to them?
Dodd: Well, not a big fucking snake! I mean...I was under the impression that it'd be like...y'know, normal SOTF game, but then SOMEONE (I won't name who is responsible for their sake) decided that it would be a cool idea
Carol: I prefer LL's theory of Ella having arrived to gun everyone down.
Landlocked: Meee too.
AnimeDutchess: ...I still think they all banded together to create a bomb, but it fucked up.
Dodd: It's idiotic, it's jumping the shark...or snake, so to speak
Solomir: I don't know what would be weirder
AnimeDutchess: But SotF doesn't need to jump anything. It;s still going strong!!
Carol: Well, technically it was my theory, but he drew it very well.
Solomir: if Dodd was right but was saying this because he expected nobody to believe him
Solomir: or if the entire staff really did decide on this as the explanation....
Landlocked: Couldn't you just say it was you know, the traps? o_o
AnimeDutchess: Or Dodd just likes messing with you.
Dodd: YEAH, YOU'D THINK SO
AnimeDutchess: I WOULD.
Solomir: Chris, one of the announcement said that a bunch of them all disappeared at the same time
Dodd: Trust me, I almost quit when I got a message saying "So Dodd went inactive, and here's what happened to him"
Dodd: I flipped the fuck out
GameMaker: Dodd, are you serious?
AnimeDutchess: ...o.o WHUT.
Solomir: I reserve the right be a skeptic
Dodd: I'm sorry, but I just can't hype it anymore
Landlocked: I'm pretty sure he's telling the truth ._.
Greg The Anti-Viking: as you should solo
AnimeDutchess: I...I don't wanna believe that. Snake does not = awesome.
GameMaker: So that's the dramatic ending for Adam Dodd?
Dodd: Yes. The dramatic ending. He gets eaten by a fucking snake.
GameMaker: The guy fucking falls in love on the island, makes the change from a normal teenager to a killing machine, murders the psycho who killed his girlfriend...
Dodd: AND GETS EATEN BY A SNAKE. Can you see why I'm a little unamused?
AnimeDutchess: Gets thrown into it all AGAIN...and he's eaten by a - yeah.
GameMaker: Gets put through the same fucking ordeal again, this time with no one he knows, tries to find a way off of the island...
Solomir: requesting someone to post this on tropes' WMG page
GameMaker: And then he's felled by, of course, his greatest enemy: A GIANT FUCKING SNAKE
Landlocked: Is that going to be like, revealed later, or will the deaths just stay a mystery, then?
AnimeDutchess: No. That didn't happen. We'll stirke it from canon@
Dodd: It'll be revealed later. I'm telling you all because I'm sick and tired of hyping a stupid idea
GameMaker: Yep, that's the dramatic ending that I expected
Dodd: I can't wait for v4, let me tell you xD
AnimeDutchess: o.o You know, I know I'd be pissed if I'd found this out then.
Carol: I suppose it's dramatic enough.
GameMaker: I was reading Adam Dodd, got emotionally involved with the character and went, "Boy, I just wish he got eaten by a snake. That would be just tops.'
Dodd: Shit GM, you and me both!
GameMaker: Fuck it.
Landlocked: The snake didn't cause the explosion, right?
GameMaker: I'm rewriting my version of Shakespeare?
GameMaker: FUCK SUICIDES!
Oliver: Probably did. Fire breath
GameMaker: Giant snake is the way to go.
AnimeDutchess: You know, as a joke, a character in V4 should go around killing snakes, too. Just go nuts and kill snakes.
AnimeDutchess: ALL SNAKES.
AnimeDutchess: That way, no one'll get eaten by one.
KillerVole: Wasn't one guy eaten by a tiger or something?
Oliver: I AM TIRED OF THESE MOTHAFUCKIN' SNAKES
Oliver: ON THIS MOTHAFUCKIN' ISLAND
BetaKnight from x.x.x.176 left the chat 2 seconds ago
Carol: My fourth is going to be relatively unbalanced.
KillerVole: Hi Beta!
Greg The Anti-Viking: no stung by a bee I think that's all
Dodd: She's gone, vole xD
AnimeDutchess: I have SUCH fuel for my SotF fanatic character now.
KillerVole: Oh. Oops.
Solomir: Dutchess...... =(
KillerVole: Bye Beta!
AnimeDutchess: What? I won't say anything now.
Solomir: I have block for what to do in Ice Trail....
Carol: She shall be a snake killer and eater.
AnimeDutchess: o_o; Well, I just role with what you give me.
Dodd: Yes, so I am sorry that I ruined the fuckin' thing but...eugh. Can't take it anymore. Please act surprised.
Solomir: but I'm out of steam >.<
AnimeDutchess: XD; Should we try a different thread-situation, then?
Solomir: I guess I can figure something out eventually
Carol: Do we have to? I mean...
AnimeDutchess: Sometimes, you get new ideas from changes in scenery.
GameMaker: That's even worse than just having him killed offscreen
AnimeDutchess: Yeah, I can pretend.
Solomir: Condolences to Dodd, but I'm in denial
GameMaker cringes at the sheer anticlimaticness of the situation
Greg The Anti-Viking: I'm here with you solo
Landlocked: I'll just pretend, yeah :/
I was really glad to see some of the escapees turn up again in the epilogue and am still holding out hope that we'll someday maybe see the remaining handful capped off.
For V5... it'd depend on the nature of the exclusion list. If it was for the same rough goal, I can actually see a possible case for Paris getting excluded due to his murders by proxy. It'd have been a very tough call, but there was definitely some wiggle room and Paris was differentiated from V4's sneaky folks in that while he generally kept his bad stuff secret from the other kids on the island, he didn't hide it too much from the cameras/observers, so STAR could've figured out something fishy was going on.
Actually, an interesting artifact of the tape delay is that a rescue now would be a lot riskier for STAR/whoever, in that they'd be going in blind (barring some sort of mole situation again). This would probably preclude a similar blacklist from being enacted under most circumstances, which is a nice little side effect from the terrorists' point of view.