As a kid, I had a weird fascination with CPU vs. CPU play. Though I never understood the point of including this as an option, I’d always run it at least once in every game that supported it just to see what happened. Sometimes the ensuing action was as dull as watching paint dry. Other times, it led to a few solid hours of entertainment. In particular, the classic wrestling games from THQ for the Nintendo 64 were my favourites for simulated gaming action, as those fights almost always were legendary.
It’s funny now seeing this phenomenon manifest in new ways on a much larger scale thanks to the efforts of the VGCW and Salty Bet; the latter of whom may have reached the ultimate end game for CPU vs. CPU play.
Salty Bet didn’t start out with that angle. At first, the site’s interface would be connected to the broadcast of real fighting game tournaments for the betting of fake money. However, this model is dependent on being able to broadcast live matches while requiring someone on the back end to manually control the betting mechanism.
To address these points, they pulled out M.U.G.E.N. This open source 2D fighting game engine dating back to 1999 is rife with thousands of characters and stages; almost all of whom are breaking some sort of copyright laws somewhere. If you wanted to see Akuma fight Ronald McDonald or Master Chief square off against Buttercup from the Power Puff Girls, this is the game for you. Sometimes the fights play out like legitimate matches, while others are borderline broken. At its worst/best, characters repeatedly whiff attacks on shorter opponents, characters will lock up and become invincible, or sometimes the game even freezes, which only adds to the drama.
By automating the game and betting mechanism so that it plays out random matches with its seemingly endless pool of characters, Salty Bet has created the ultimate CPU vs. CPU experience. Dream matches can take place and be bet on 24/7 without any sort of human intervention. Since its launch, Salty Bet has consistently been the top fighting game live stream in terms of concurrent viewers during non-tournament periods. It even holds its own when real tournaments are actually happening!
I’ve spent a few hours watching the action and following the insane live chat before creating my own Salty Bet account. I’m really impressed with how well the betting system is handled, as its easy to do and odds for each match are quickly calculated and displayed. Having that piece definitely added a new layer of investment to the proceedings, as I would lose it when I’d lose a bet on a huge upset.
The evolution of video game consumption and culture has taken a weird turn with Salty Bet. Though I may not have been alone in watching the computer play itself back in the day, I don’t think many predicted that it would go this far. It’s hilarious following the live chat now, as the audience debates who is top-tier or their theories on why all Dragonball Z characters are terrible. Who knows where things will go from here, but for now, I know I’m never betting on Goku again.