Salty Bet: Masocore Metagame

There's obviously been a lot of hot talk about Salty Bet recently, both on Giant Bomb and elsewhere, and from Jeff's enthusiastic pitch on a recent Bombcast I knew I had to check the site out. I'm not going to explain in detail here what goes on over at Salty Bet – you either know what it is, or you don't and can just pop in there to check it for yourself. Suffice to say I've never had so much fun or lost so much time watching what boils down to an elaborate and sporadically broken attract mode. I haven't written a blog post in a good while; that I'm doing so now may be an indication of how much of a stir Salty Bet's particular brand of nonsense has created in my waking thoughts.

At first, it seemed I could barely pick a winner. I'd lay down Salty Bucks on characters I recognised, their opposition seeming to be crudely drawn monstrosities a third the size, only to see my champions obliterated in a flurry of limbs and insane effects. But after my initial flailing and failing as a fledgling bettor, I slowly started to see repeat characters or telltale indicators pop up. I was slowly building up a mental database of who was stronger, what each character's traits were and who they could beat. Sure, I'd lose when I made a foolhardy bet on a match where I knew neither combatant (I've since learned that I really don't have to bet on damn everything). But I would always just put that down to the learning process I was going through.

Believe it or not, tiny red Godzilla vs giant MS Paint Wario is one of the more normal matches you could see.

Another part of the learning process is recognising that Twitch chat is pretty much useless as part of the learning process. I quickly realised that it was full of conflicting (dis)information, and that the only real way to win any sort of money is to ignore it and use it for comedy purposes only. And even that is strained through a Olympic-standard barrage of everyone saying the same meme every three seconds. Darude's Sandstorm, anyone?

So, after rapidly coming to the conclusion that the formula for any reasonable success is to be patient enough to learn what's what and to never trust the chat, I found I could build up a bit of money (and promptly lose it, rebuild, rinse, repeat). But I'd still see people getting absolutely irate about the obviously lopsided bouts that were occurring. The chat would be flooded with ALL CAPS INCREDULITY, bellowing that they'd been hoodwinked out of their virtual savings.

Now, if you went for a day at the races and had zero idea about the form of any of the horses, just chucking money on a hopeless nag because you liked its name, could you be angry if it ran dead last? Who's at fault that due diligence wasn't done? I simply couldn't understand why these people were so angry – didn't they realise it just meant they hadn't sussed the rules out yet? And that's when I saw that, as much fun as the game of betting and winning can be, there's something way more compelling at play. To me, the dollar amount is merely an indicator of how well I'm doing in Salty Bet's metagame: knowing the expansive roster of fighters.

I get a lot more pleasure out of knowing I bet right rather than knowing I bet big. Mastery of the game isn't about having the most money so much as it's being able to correctly predict the winner of every fight. I'm certainly not at that stage yet, and I still make my fair share of dumb calls with the occasional impatient rush of blood that loses me a bunch of money. Hell, as I'm typing this I've just lost $10K on a member of the 71113 stable, a group of characters I previously thought nigh infallible. But I'm still enjoying the process, even if the constantly expanding cast of fighters means I'll never truly "beat" the game.

You see what I'm saying, right?

Further to my personal epiphany of what Salty Bet's metagame is, last night it dawned on me that it's a masocore metagame to boot. Titles such as I Wanna Be The Guy (a game that Salty Bet shares a similar fuck-your-copyright aesthetic with) have you learn through repetition, dying and retrying maybe hundreds of times before you memorise and successfully avoid all the unfairly concealed pitfalls. Being destroyed and picking your wiser self up is the only way you'll beat that kind of game, and the same is true of the nature of Salty Bet.

Of course, the site's other draw is that it's just fun to watch a doofy menagerie of mismatched opponents jerking around a screen to a schizophrenic soundtrack. Yup, I've just convinced myself that I need to check in on what's going over at Salty Bet. Time to bid farewell to another few hours (and probably more than a couple of ill-invested Salty Bucks).

23 Comments
23 Comments
Posted by Fredchuckdave

I Wanna Be The Guy has some level of skill involved, Salty is just memorization/not getting fucked by clones that you didn't know about. Personally I have around an 80% "win" ratio but anything below 100% with the wrong bet at the wrong time and you're back at square one. If you're good at Simon Says you can be good at Saltybet too.

Posted by buzz_clik

@fredchuckdave: I'm not saying they're exactly the same thing; I'm just drawing the parallel that memorisation is the key to overcoming odds that are stacked against you. As I said, I Wanna Be The Guy is a game, and the hazy, ethereal guff that I'm talking about is a self-defined metagame. But (unless you're amazingly lucky) mastering either of them takes a lot of interaction between your metaphorical head and a metaphorical wall.

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Edited by Fredchuckdave

@buzz_clik: Well having a Subscription basically negates about 90% of that metagame, and maybe the biggest component of the game is basically never going all in once you're above a certain amount of salt. If there was no subscription it would be a lot more nuts and interesting I imagine (odds wouldn't be completely fucked on 80% of matches for instance).

Posted by buzz_clik

@fredchuckdave: Nope, because as I'm saying, the metagame isn't so much about the money. That's the actual game, and is just an indicator of how well you're doing at the metagame of having total knowledge of all the fighters.

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Edited by Fredchuckdave

@buzz_clik: Total knowledge of an ever expanding pool of fighters of whom there are at least a few thousand and more than a handful of which look exactly the same but potentially behave differently. Again this is simply pure time investment with nothing else involved except for not suicide betting; it doesn't really have a "metagame" unless you invent one for yourself as you seem to have done, carry on. There's also this strange assumption that matchups will behave the same every time they playout and because this is AI that is just plain not the case, since it isn't a 10-0 matchup every time out or close it will take you even longer to reach this point of total and absolute memorization; say 10 fights between every single competitive fighter for each grouping; maybe 200 fights per fighter on average; so that's 800,000 matches which take about 3 minutes to complete and bet on (average unless they speed up some elements in the future), 2.4 million minutes or 40000 hours or 1667 days. More than 4.5 years, if they don't change the roster at all.

For something to have a "metagame" it needs to at least be ascertainable within a reasonable time frame; most people are already losing interest in it and it hasn't really expanded that much past the original 6.5k peak or so. Now if it was exclusively "real matches" then maybe there'd be something to your theory, say 400 top characters and 400 slightly below top characters, but that sure as hell isn't happening with the present management.

Edited by FluxWaveZ

That's an interesting take on Salty Bet, but I would agree with it more if there wasn't the hidden element of there existing multiple versions of a same character with different properties to each, but all with the same name. It's not prevalent, but it still adds an aspect of randomness to the betting. Stuff like that can end up causing major upsets like the big one that happened tonight:

The bets on Patchouli were lopsided because of her precedent in battle, but something unexpercted occurred that caused her to lose abruptly as it wasn't the same Patchouli we were all used to. That's the random element that prevents this from being a total game of memorization, but also of luck and precaution (the latter being more relevant to the cash values).

Also, the fact that subscribers have access to the statistics of each character makes it so that bettors can have an idea of the strength of all characters without having seen them, which takes out the need for them to actually memorize each character individually (although the newer characters tend to not be updated on the stats pages for a while and the stats page doesn't differentiate between the characters' different versions).

For something to have a "metagame" it needs to at least be ascertainable within a reasonable time frame; most people are already losing interest in it and it hasn't really expanded that much past the original 6.5k or so.

The initial crowd was WAY less than 6.5k viewers. Actually, when I started the thread on Giant Bomb, the peak was in the hundreds.

Posted by Fredchuckdave

@fluxwavez: 6.5k was around what it was at 3 or 4 days ago; all due to Jeff pretty much; but isn't really receiving massive zeitgeist influx or anything. Now if it was very smoothly run and there weren't hundreds upon hundreds of just plain terrible characters and matches/matchups then it could theoretically keep expanding for quite a while; no reason an optimized version of Saltybet or whatever the new one was called couldn't have 25000 viewers or possibly even more.

Posted by Dalai

I learned quite a bit from the many hours of Salty Bet gaming I've done. For example, I now know what a waifu is. Also, I learned from the chat you always bet on waifu.

I'll eventually move on over time to playing actual video games, but it's a lovely distraction at a great price.

Posted by Fredchuckdave

@dalai: Chat is actually getting somewhat more honest over time so the standard metagame knowledge of Always bet opposite of what the chat says is falling through; now if only we could bet on whether the chat would tell the truth or not.

Posted by Mirado

As others have said, throwing in fake versions of powerful characters with the same name sort of defeats the point of memorizing matchups. Really, even if you are fairly certain there are no fake versions of a specific character, the AI is such a crapshoot that it may just forget that it has supers (even if said super is a OHKO "mexibeam").

For me, this is VGCW without the plot. Usually busted, sometimes brilliant, often hilarious, slightly rage inducing, and a good way to spend a few free hours.

Posted by buzz_clik

For something to have a "metagame" it needs to at least be ascertainable within a reasonable time frame...

Eh, not necessarily so. I'd class Achievements/Trophies systems as a metagame, and they have neither a limit (well, outside the number of games in existence) nor a time limit on how quickly you have to garner them.

Oh, and I did say in my original blog piece that I'm fully aware that total knowledge of a perpetually growing roster is an impossible task. This whole thing is, as you say, my own takeaway from Salty Bet.

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Edited by Fredchuckdave

@buzz_clik: Fair enough, if it actually retains your interest for more than a week or so I'd be interested to hear more.

@mirado: Pretty good summary; it's much funnier than VGCW at times but not as reliably amusing.

Edited by Mento

SB's sort of run its course for me. Nothing's being done about the absurd odds that make it very difficult for a salt miner earn more than a dollar for most of the one-sided fights, due in part to all the subscribers and the massive amount of cash they drop on bets. It's not like I'm about to start paying for SB either, as amusing as it all is.

I'd say they could some modifying of the core betting rules (I've advocated setting the odds maximum as 1:10 a few times), but that doesn't fix the other issue which is that the site has simply gotten too big to cope with the traffic. The last few times I went there there's been one error or another that made it impossible to play. It's a great idea, but it's also a passing fad that I'm just about done with.

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Posted by BisonHero

@mento: Yeah, agreed on all counts. I want to like how dumb SaltyBet is, but the subscriber/Illuminati features completely break the whole thing for people who don't feel like giving random internet guy a few bucks. Once you're a salt miner, it's honestly better to always bet everything on the guy not favoured to win, in hopes of an upset. Sorry, but betting on the guaranteed winner and getting just $1 every single fucking match gets tedious really quickly. Yes, occasionally there's a match where the odds are 10:1 or more even, but it's becoming exceedingly rare, and the metagame of "maybe it's a shitty clone!" is the opposite of interesting.

Posted by McGhee

WAIFU

fuuuuck, that's so dumb

I love it.

Edited by Sinusoidal

@mento: Yeah, agreed on all counts. I want to like how dumb SaltyBet is, but the subscriber/Illuminati features completely break the whole thing for people who don't feel like giving random internet guy a few bucks. Once you're a salt miner, it's honestly better to always bet everything on the guy not favoured to win, in hopes of an upset. Sorry, but betting on the guaranteed winner and getting just $1 every single fucking match gets tedious really quickly. Yes, occasionally there's a match where the odds are 10:1 or more even, but it's becoming exceedingly rare, and the metagame of "maybe it's a shitty clone!" is the opposite of interesting.

This is why I quit. Too many of the hardcore fanbase know exactly what to bet, so the odds are perpetually shit for the winners and it's nigh-impossible to make it out of the Salt Mines unless you get really lucky on a nerfed clone you happen to bet against, and even then you're not exactly gonna make huge scratch off a $10 bet.

Edited by Bongos

@sinusoidal: What if all fights are 1:1 odds? That way all fights are hype.

Edited by sqrabbit

I turned off chat and had a better experience. I also bet at least 1-5$ on unknown matches just to keep leveling up.

Posted by rebgav

@mento said:

I'd say they could some modifying of the core betting rules (I've advocated setting the odds maximum as 1:10 a few times)

That would lead to massive, exponential inflation. Millionaires would become billionaires in three bets, miners would become millionaires in six bets (assuming they started at $1.) Everyone would be salt-rich and no-one would enjoy it.

I think that the correct answer to the problem is a combination of curating the roster so that there are more competitive matches and reworking the betting system so that there are max limits on bets, some sort of money sink to help balance the economy (to counter the constant distribution of currency by the minimum balance safety net), and a rewards system for successful bettors to encourage more risk-taking.

Edited by Vuud

The only things I've managed to learn is that waifus will let you down, and Vegeta is the prince of jobbers.

Posted by Mento

@rebgav: Well, sure. But some obsessive idiot is always going to game the system and have millions and billions. If there's a hard limit on odds, it won't matter how much of their ludicrous fortune they put down because it won't imbalance the payout with that maximum in place. The people who are weird about having a huge stockpile of fake money can see their fortunes grow and grow and not have it interfere with everyone else's enjoyment. I have no idea how badly those huge numbers will mess up the already fragile coding, though.

Maybe that reward system could be used in tandem to counter it somewhere. Maybe every billion you get a special reward avatar or something. That whole Call of Duty prestige angle.

You're probably right. Were there a simple catch-all solution to all this the dude in charge would've made it happen already.

Moderator
Edited by rebgav

@mento: You know, my earlier reply was the product of a sleep-deprived mind and, even though I haven't slept since then, I have no idea what I meant. It might have been the rantings of a crazy person.

Posted by Fredchuckdave

@vuud: There's a couple of pretty amazing Vegetas out there