4x4 Archipelago post-comp release (and some quick thoughts)

I’ve been working on an update to 4x4 Archipelago for the last couple of days, and I’ve just released it. Version 1.1 can now be found on itch: 4x4 Archipelago by agat (IFDB links will also direct you to this version. 1.0 is still available in the IfComp 2021 section of the IfArchive).

I planned to share some design notes, too, but Andrew Schultz did an amazing job of analysing various aspects of the game in this strategy thread: 4x4 Archipelago strategy, etc. (warning: spoilers!) and I don’t think I have much to add here. Thank you, Andrew!

(If anyone has questions about particular aspects of the design, procedural generation etc., feel free to ask them in this thread, I’ll be happy to answer!)

Some quick thoughts to sum up things:

I’m very happy with how well 4x4 A did. I didn’t expect it to place so high, nor did I expect so many positive reviews for a game that is too long for Comp, procedural, has little story and lots of (sometimes grindy) combat.

I’m especially glad that many people commented they played 4x4 A for more than two hours, did multiple runs and/or planned to revisit the game. I aimed for replayability with this one, and it feels great to know I apparently succeeded!

The thing I’m the least proud of are the bugs. There were many; I sort of expected that, considering the scale and complexity of the game, but I’m still disappointed with myself for not eliminating more of them before Comp. If you encountered annoying and/or game-breaking bugs in 4x4 A, I’m really sorry. I tried to fix all the bugs players reported ASAP (I think I might have broken the record for the number of updates during IfComp – I stopped counting after the 6th or 7th one), and I’m grateful to people who did report.

Above all, IfComp gave me confidence that there is an audience for a game like 4x4 Archipelago. This, and the various cool improvement/new feature suggestions I received motivated me to continue working on the game, so just to let you know – content updates are coming!

Version 1.1 is mostly balancing changes, intended to improve some of the weak points players discovered.

Detailed changelog

Balancing changes:

  • In the Treasure of the Four Captains main quest, Captain Flynn will now only appear after you’ve gained 5 Renown and convinced the Old Sailor to help you (in addition to all the other requirements). This is to balance the Four Captain quest with the other two main quests, which at one point require gaining 5 Renown. Previously in the Four Captains quest you could skip talking to the Sailor if you knew where the map pieces appeared.

  • “Mystic” allies are slightly boosted – they have increased attack bonus and damage, and use their special skills slightly more often.

  • Bottled Explosion base price increased from 500 to 1000 silver.

  • Harpies have a slightly lower chance of dropping Bottled Explosions upon defeat.

  • Mercenary Emblem base price reduced from 3000 to 2000 silver.

  • Physical Shield Potion and Magic Shield Potion base price reduced from 1000 to 500 silver.

  • Allies now gain a damage bonus to all attacks and status damage inflicted, equal to the player’s Charisma level. Charisma 2 also grants allies a +1 attack bonus.

  • Changes to gathering stories at the inns (Charisma special activity): four of the stories now require Charisma 2. Increased reward for collecting all stories – the player now gains 500 EXP in addition to all the other rewards.

  • Wandering merchants now offer additional items for sale to characters with Trading 2.

  • Old Tamer’s quests now grant the player EXP [100/200/400].

New content:

  • Heavy crossbow – a new non-legendary ranged weapon, can be bought at the Great Market. Deals 4-11 damage.

  • Stone Skin – a new level 2 spell, can be learned at the Academy. Grants a Damage Reduction bonus equal to 2 + 1/2 Spellpower (rounded up) for 6 turns. Cost: 14 MP.

Other changes and fixes:

  • Once you’ve talked to the Enchanter/Witch/Old Sailor in connection with the main quest, the name of the island where they live is mentioned in the Main Quest section of the Journal.

  • If you have 7 or more Renown, you no longer have the option to pay the wandering minstrels for composing a song about you, they will only do it for free.

  • Some enemy attack descriptions changed, to avoid situations when the game stated “the enemy hits you, but misses” (“hits you” changed to something else).

  • Changed the message for the player’s attack missing when the enemy is stunned – you will no longer see a stunned enemy “evade” or “block” the attack. (Now with a stunned enemy the message always just states “you miss”.)

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I’m glad I could pinch hit for writing out strategy suggestions! I played 4x4A more than once as a break between games whose genres weren’t my wheelhouse. It was samey enough to feel comfortable but different enough with each playthrough that I didn’t get tired. I figured I should share what I learned & maybe that would help drum up discussion of other worthy games.

Also, great job keeping 4x4 updated and being active on the feedback thread on itch.io. Perhaps this is a good template for future comps for bug reports/feature suggestions!

It’s really cool to see the balancing tweaks. The price changes in particular seem to jibe with my impressions of how useful some items were.

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