It's the showdown of the century: God Demitri versus After Image. Demitry is a powered up take on a vampire character from SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos. After Image is a man with a beard from a Mugen user project called Shades of Manhattan. I have never seen either character before, and it's likely they've never seen each other before either.
Salty Bet (opens in new tab) is a pretend betting platform that lets viewers bet fake bucks on user-made custom AI fighters. We've mentioned it before, but today I checked in and it's still going strong. Viewers weigh up the combatants, toss their virtual currency into a pot, and scoop up winnings if their virtual gladiator wins.
Demitri, a smouldering vampire with a significant height advantage (and superpowers) earns the favour of the crowd. The fight starts strong. The Mugen AI programmers behind each fighter have done a good job. They battle intelligently, blocking and dodging with coordination. Demitri teleports forwards and starts a fierce combo, but After Image blinks, and summons ghostly versions of himself. He and his mirages team up and battle back.
It's close, but as the combatants approach the edge of the stage After Image throws God Demitry off the screen. After Image then proceeds to glitch back and forth into the side of the arena. There is no sign of God Demitri. Salty Bet chat members look on in amused, horrified fascination. "WE NEED GOD" shouts one, but God Demitri never returns. The timer runs low and After Image glitches his way to victory. "oh dear" says one viewer.
That's how it goes in Salty Bet. It's unpredictable and hilariously unfair. It runs on Mugen, a free fighting game engine with a roster of user-created characters. There are a lot of bizarre characters in rotation, and plenty of copies of official fighting game characters. You might stumble upon Goku fighting a Final Fantasy Cactuar or, as I found earlier, Obi Wan Kenobi locked in mortal combat with a ninja from a 1995 arcade game called Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors.
It's a short contest. Obi Wan only has four or five frames of animation, and none of them seem to do damage. Kazuma wins.
I find it comforting to know that at any hour of the day, however full the inbox, however bad the weather, Salty Bet is exploiting AI to create improvised comedy for hundreds of people. It's fun to see carefully drawn characters torn from their meticulously art-directed homes and superimposed over a still photograph of some penguins. Marvel gods battle anime schoolgirls for millions of nonexistent dollars. It's an endless, generous supply of internet absurdity. Tim Berners-Lee could not have anticipated that we would use the power of his great invention to make Goku fight a Balrog from Cave Story on an animated disco plane, but somehow it feels right.
Things come to a crescendo in a tense battle between 'Bane's A Big Guy' and a giant green version of Zangief called Kraidgief. Kraid isn't just too big for the stage, he's operating in an entirely different resolution. Viewers put 3.2 million bucks behind him, but turns out Kraid can only move forwards and backwards. Bane's A Big Guy punches Kraidgief repeatedly until it's all over with five words that sum up the nourishing stupidity of Salty Bet.
"BANE'S A BIG GUY WIN."