It's always easiest for me to talk about what worries me. So let's start there. I think Infamous has some really fantastic design elements - in particular, how the base building directly feeds into henchman recruitment. It's thematic, intuitive, and strategic. Putting together a team of henchman and sending them out on a contract half-way around the world is evocative and initially, pretty tense. But I am concerned with the "simplicity" of contract resolution, and I am concerned that contracts are currently too easy to successfully complete.
Let's take this contract as an example: Take Revenge Upon Your Nemesis. This is a "Hard" difficulty contract, which requires a team size of 2 henchmen. You'll need to roll 5 successes to succeed. If your henchmen possess Brawn as a trait, you'll be more likely to succeed.
So there's some strategy is enhancing your odds here. And you quite possibly will have some juicy choices when determining the composition of your team. For example, one of your team members could be: 1) a Scientist with 5 Intelligence - but no Brawn, 2) a Beast with 3 Brawn, 3) your Lackey, who has 1 Brawn but also lets you re-roll all your dice once. Who will you choose?
BUT - and here's where my anxiety lies - when everything is said and done, you're simply going to gather up some custom dice - roll them - and count up your successes. If you get at least 5, you'll walk away with 8 Infamy, 5 Money, and an Injury. If you fail, you'll get 1 Infamy, 3 Money, and an Injury. The question is whether, fundamentally, this contract resolution process is psychologically satisfying for the player.
Greater games than mine have been based on repeated "skill checks." Arkham Horror/Eldritch Horror come to mind immediately, but the list goes on and on. Shoot, we might-as-well put D&D on that list. My concern isn't necessarily the role that luck is playing here - although that's part of it - but rather if rolling dice will feel enough like sending your team on a dangerous mission. It's an issue of abstraction.
For example, I imagine a (different) game in which you take your team, plop them onto a separate board that represents the specific location they're infiltrating, and you now take tactical control of a squad of villains. Movement, weapons, line-of-sight, rolling dice to hack electronic locks, stun guns, skill checks of different varieties, you name it. That's going to feel like going on a mission - but in Infamous, that would 1) turn the game into a tactical minis game, which is definitely not what I want it to be, and 2) make the game last 10x as long. One advantage of abstracting down the team's efforts to a single dice-roll is that it makes the game move quickly and smoothly - especially since the other players are waiting to take their turn, while you resolve your contract.
But sometimes players buy games with expectations. They read about building a team of henchmen and sending them out on contracts, and they imagine something much more than what I'm building here. They really want a different type of game (I'd recommend they play Freedom Force).
I'm not going to change the fundamental nature of contract resolution in Infamous, but I can see myself constantly tweaking difficulty. Right now, I think things are too easy. In my last solo (4-supervillain) runthrough, I probably achieved success on 90% of my contracts. That's too high. If players consistently succeed, the tension of the dice-rolls later in the game will dissolve. But maybe I'm achieving a high success rate because I'm good at the game and know how/when to press my luck. After all, if you play Infamous well, you know how to 1) recruit the right henchmen for the job, 2) build the right rooms to support your team, and 3) spend your resources (time, money, henchmen) wisely to achieve maximum value each round.
The other factor playing a role here is the Supervillain strength/weakness. I've built in a specific strength and weakness for each Supervillain. For example, Dr. Hominoid gets to draw 2 Scheme cards instead of just 1 when he visits the Underground. These Scheme cards basically let you mess with other players more.
You can play Infamous where 1) everyone is playing vanilla supervillains and you ignore their strengths/weaknesses, 2) everyone is using their supervillain strengths (easier game), 3) everyone is using their weakneeses (hard more), or 4) everyone is using both. You can even mix and match, allowing you to handicap some players.
The vast majority of playtesting has been with people using strengths but not weaknesses. As such, my statistics are primarily based on easy mode. So perhaps a 90% success rate isn't surprising, or bad. But this is something I need to think about and play around with a lot more.
At a more fundamental, philosophy-of-fun level, I wonder if there's an optimal success rate that appeals to people. Games where you fail over half of your skill checks, I think, are considered tough. I'm thinking 66% success is possibly the right target. Just gut instinct. If you go on 5-6 contracts per game and fail 2 of them on average, that feels about right. And that's assuming "average" play - not blind idiocy (which should lead to a nearly 0% success rate), or high-level play (which should increase your rate substantially).
Lots to think about.