I'm yet another person who signed up just to comment on this game (although I've read these forums many times).
dukope: Congrats on the greenlight and the excellent, really interesting game! I've played through a bunch and haven't encountered any bugs of note, which is also pretty impressive. I wanted to give you a playthrough report that might help you make some decisions about balance, since the results seemed interesting.
Because Papers, Please is a game with such interesting ethical choices about who to take a citation for -- from people who obviously just have one misspelled vowel in their name all the way to political refugees and Jorji -- I thought about doing the equivalent of the "pacifist runs" that people do in games where killing is a main mechanic. So I tried a few different "extra rules" of the kinds that people use when they're doing special runs:"Open Borders" Run
The rule for this run was to never turn ANYONE away from the border, but still try to keep your family alive and healthy. This is possible as long as you can process at least 10 (or after rent increase 11) "correct" entries to the country; basically you just have to approve every single person as fast as possible. You also have to make up for the shortfall in pay on days where there's a terrorist attack, which are a little more predictable in terms of how many correct/incorrect entries you'll be handling.
I was able to keep my family in rent, food, and heat until Day 7, where you must search every Kolechian, and you really start to have few "correct passes" coming through. After that, people started to get sick, but I made it to the end without anyone dying. You can also increase your # of successes by prodding the people who just haven't taken out their missing documents, fingerprinting people to get a correct alias or match, etc and the extra seconds are usually worth it.
It's also worth noting that there's no "increased terrorism" downside in the game for playing like this, which I'm not saying there should be; the presence or absence of an effect for passing everyone through a border could be seen by some as an endorsement or rejection of the right-wing idea that borders are needed for safety, though!"Revolutionary Conscience" Run
In order to try and stay in the black I made a different set of "ethical" rules. (Note that I don't believe doing a "pacifist run" necessarily means you're a pacifist in real life, so various kinds of ethical rulesets could be used for games regardless of your real-world politics.)
- People who just seem lazy/inattentive about their missing / expired documents get sent back. People who have a compelling reason (sudden change in requiring tickets/permits, had passport taken away, want to see son, etc) get sent through.
- Jorji goes through because he's clearly a little more helpless than just lazy/inattentive.
- People forging documents are resisting the system or desperate for work, or trying to overthrow the regime you work for, so get sent through.
- Anyone with a name mismatch or misspelling goes through, because bureaucratic crap.
- You may not searcn anyone based on racial profiling (Kolechians).
- You may not scan or reject people for gender mismatch, since as in real life that's unfairly detains/rejects transgender people, or anyone who just doesn't "look like" the gender on their ID, etc.
- You may only detain the human trafficker and the suspected girlfriend-murderer.
This method is a lot more survivable for your family, even though the only people you're "correctly rejecting" are those who just didn't really bother to get their paperwork in order. You still just accept as many people as fast as you can to reach your quote of 10 or 11. (And you still have an economic incentive to help fix those whose situation can be addressed via fingerprinting or asking for documents they forgot to give you.) Basically, you can build up a big stockpile in the early days and then use it up at the end where you have to let the Kolechians through. (I considered saying that you can detain people carrying weapons, but since there's no way to detect them without racial profiling, it didn't fit the ruleset.) Still, it's quite possible to play this way and have a healthy family at Day 9. (I imagine you'll make it more difficult later, perhaps.)"Racist Asshole" Run
This was sort of the opposite scenario, where you are ignoring the criteria given you in favor of some... different logic. And you mostly just rapid-fire reject people to reach your quota of 10 or 11 "correct rejects."
- No Kolechians can enter.
- All other non-Arstotzkans can enter only for transit or visits of less than a month, anyone immigrating or working is not allowed. (Including anyone whose purpose is unknown in early days.)
- Anyone with a mismatched gender or who can be searched due to gender discrepancy is kept out, even if they are Arstotzkan.
- You may detain anyone who can be detained.
This method is VERY profitable, because you can rapidly reject a lot of people without looking for errors, and there are enough people with even minor errors (forgot to produce a document, etc) that you always make your minimum 10/11 needed except on terrorism days.
However, when you get to day 6, rule one causes you to hit an endless loop: there is an infinite line of Kolechian suicide bombers, all with perfect paperwork, who continue to stream in even after the clock runs out and turns into a blank grey box. So it's not possible to play as a 100% anti-Kolechian racist.
Some last thoughts -- if these playstyles seem weird and unrealistic, it's probably because racking up 12 "correct processing" cases and 24 mistakes would probably get someone fired in real life, not let them go home with $60. I don't really want to suggest rebalancing the penalty / payout system since it seems to work pretty well for typical play, and these lopsided ways of playing are still fun. Still, if they need to be capped so that a super-simple strategy doesn't become dominant, maybe it's worth having an extra penalty kick in after five or ten mistakes, etc.
Other things: you can fingerprint to clear up a radically-different photo mismatch, but not a gender mismatch? That seems like a discrepancy. Also, if names are being picked from a random list and won't have an "obvious" gender anymore, I'm not sure how easy it's going to be to spot gender mismatches. A lot of the portraits are kind of androgynous as is, although I guess inexperienced players can just use the discrepancy-finder to determine if the "system" believes someone's appearance is male or female? I guess that's kind of realistic, in a way; gender is notoriously problematic as a validation measure for security checkpoints because it's fairly subjective when security personnel have to make a guess about someone androgynous.