Yo Vidmaster, thanks for giving it a playthrough! And sorry I haven't replied earlier, just in the middle of moving houses/states, so precious forum time has been hard to come by. Overall, to be honest, I totally feel your points on the BoN mission proper - especially on the pitfalls of frontloading tens of pages of info before the player hits the mission. That's something I didn't appreciate until I watched Red Mage Joe playing through it on his stream, but upon reflection, I think I felt the (unwarranted) need to pad the mod out on its original release to justify it being a single mission standalone mod. If I was going to FRED it again today, I would probably move some of the CBs to the Tech Room and slim down the briefing a fair bit. It also wasn't particularly character driven in the same way the bonus mission was, so the emotional attachment one feels to characters in the BP-verse wasn't really there. I suspect that could definitely contribute to a lack of something that's a bit hard to put your finger on. In any case, no creative offering is going to resonate with every single person it touches, but I really appreciate your feedback.
On the other hand, I'm glad you enjoyed the bonus mission - that was a true team effort from the community, and was a lot of fun to write (and re-write) and FRED. In terms of out-of-game background, it was influenced heavily by the experiences of some of the people I served in the military with, as well as a small amount of my own experience. I was fortunate enough to serve in what was virtually a peacetime Army by the time I had finished my training, but many of the more senior soldiers/officers I served with had been in combat. They had some harrowing stories that I hope I did some justice to, but also some very interesting (read: severely unhealthy) coping mechanisms and thought processes in response to combat stress and survivor guilt. There were also some tremendously angry people amongst them who demonstrated rage on a level I don't think I'll ever see again in my life. The perception of war that I had after all of that was of bands of extremely young adults being asked to make decisions far beyond their years, of being constantly emotionally and physically frayed by stress and sleep deprivation, and there rarely being a right decision, with the only wrong decision being to make no decision. And that all of that over a prolonged period of time would either turn you into a wreck, a psychopath, or both, with only a very small handful of people emerging as stereotypical "good people". While not every part of that mission may have landed for everyone, I'm glad to hear it at least mostly landed for you. I'm certainly looking forward to working on some similar stuff in the coming year.