Do you like fighting games? Betting? M.U.G.E.N.? No? Well it doesn’t matter, you will like Salty Bet anyway.
Salty Bet is lunacy. It’s a simple idea that’s also niche, obscure and weird, but paradoxically is also accessible and appealing to almost anyone.
Salty Bet’s full name is Salty’s Dream Cast Casino, and it existed initially as a way for fighting game fans to engage in a betting meta-game during fighting game competitions. It’s effectively just a Twitch stream with a fictional currency and a betting game layered over it, and it became very popular within its own little community. So popular in fact that you couldn’t watch more than five minutes of the most recent fighting game tournament EVO without hearing it mentioned, although to be fair it was a sponsor.
The weird thing about Salty Bet is that it’s found a bigger audience in what is effectively its “off season”. You see, during tournaments the streams will feature famous fighting game players in high level competitions playing games like Super Street Fighter 4, King of Fighters XIII and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Big famous games and big famous players competing for real world money in high stakes games. Salty Bet is supposed to be just a nice little accompaniment to the main event. A little salt on the main course I guess.
When the tournaments are over and all the competitors go home, Salty Bet continues, but in a very different form. You know when a live concert ends and the house lights come up, then the PA system plays some songs? It’s a bit like that. The stream continue, but it’s just AI fighting AI now. And they’re not playing Super Street Fighter 4 now. They’re playing M.U.G.E.N., which is a kind of fighting game construction kit where the community create their own characters and AI routines for them. Diverse and schizophrenic would be two accurate descriptions for M.U.G.E.N. If you didn’t know anything else about it, you’d probably just think it was a retro 2D fighting game with some very odd pixel art. You’d also wonder why Winnie the Pooh was being Dragon punched by Evil Ryu.
M.U.G.E.N. is a hot mess. Any time you give gamers an opportunity to create anything they want, they will create a huge cast of super heroes, existing game characters, penises, funny derivations of existing characters, Mario and the cast of Naruto and Dragon Ball Z. M.U.G.E.N. may not include a huge cast of penises (not that I’ve seen yet anyway), but it does include every game, comic and pop culture character you can imagine. In a fighting game. Are you beginning to see the appeal? There’s well over a thousand of them, and they all have AI routines and move sets. And some are very powerful, while some are completely broken. Your judgement of the characters power in their respective franchises will get you nowhere when it comes to choosing a winner. In the world of M.U.G.E.N. Superman is not likely to defeat a character from My Little Pony. In fact, quite the opposite.
So at the start of each fight you can see the chat on the stream and try to figure out where to place your Salty Bucks (the in game currency). There’s no real money involved in the betting, although you can sign up for a subscription (which they term “joining the illuminati”) to get more Salty Bucks and to get access to statistics on the different fighters. This information is really useful, but if you play for long enough on the site you start getting an idea of how the systems work and how good each character is, and part of the fun is the unpredictability of the whole thing. Like sizing up a race horse or judging a prize fighter at the weigh in, the part where you inspect each character and internally debate their chance of success is the most enjoyable aspect of the whole experience for me. Will the tiny hit box on this Yoda mean he is more likely to win. Should I, as everyone says “always bet on boobs”?
In its incarnation as a Mad Max style arena for every pop culture character in the world, Salty Bet has crossed over from its fighting game ghetto and has major mainstream appeal. It’s headily addictive, and when you “get” it, you may find you’ve gone to “that place”. You know the place I mean. It’s your dark room, the monitor lighting up the early morning as you look through bleary, tired eyes and say to yourself in an unconvincing fashion “just one more, then sleep”. They call it “The Salt Mines”.
Salty, the man behind it all, has some tips for you. He says to Bet on anything created by MelvanaInChains, Sander71113, RajaaBoy and ReubenKee, as they are most likely amazing. Oh, and contrary to what the community might say, “Always bet on DBZ”.
You can try it here. See you in the mines.