What is... M.U.G.E.N?


 About M.U.G.E.N

First off, "Mugen" is a word of Japanese origin, meaning dream, fantasy, or infinite... M.U.G.E.N is a freeware 2D fighting game engine designed by Elecbyte, originally released July 17th, 1999. The program was written in C with the Allegro library. Beta versions  were made for DOS, Linux and Windows, and was distributed through their website. "M.U.G.E.N." is actually an unknown acronym. The creators, Elecbyte, never revealed what it actually means. In fact, they admittedly stated that they forgot what it stood for. Cool. Now enjoy some very early screenshots of the first few years of the M.U.G.E.N. engine in action.


Basically, M.U.G.E.N allows users to create their own 2D fighting game using the core game engine provided. From the playable characters, to the stages, to the background music, to the life bars & power bars, text font, and even in-game character stories... you can pretty easily create and customize anything you want once you learn the programming, and it's not incredibly difficult. If you ever had a dream of creating your own fighting game, M.U.G.E.N is a good "practice run," at the least.


Creating an actual 2D character yourself is obviously a time-consuming process (as it is for a real fighting game developer), as contributors or "creators" for M.U.G.E.N actually take the time to rip the sprites, and code it from scratch. Some use the original characters and sprites from official 2D games, while others use existing characters/sprites to create other various recognizable characters (AKA palette swap). Then there are the die-hards that actually create their own 2D sprites and animations from scratch!


A variety of Capcom, SNK, and Arc System Works characters, coded by M.U.G.E.N. creators, play nearly exactly the way they should from their original games (minus the being-balanced part). But characters for M.U.G.E.N aren't limited to just fighting game characters, as you can see from some of the screenshots. As long as it's a 2D sprite, it can be put it into the M.U.G.E.N. engine. There's really no limit on how many characters you can put in your game either. It really depends on the size of the selection screen, which users can also create from scratch.

 Unfortunately, many user created characters end up missing moves, missing frames of animation, or generally appear or play glitchy. These below average creations have undoubtedly given M.U.G.E.N a certain "cheap" stigma over the years. However, there are a handful of skilled creators that have made characters which are very well done, and actually rival, if not surpass that of real 2D fighting game character sprites. Wizards of the M.U.G.E.N. engine have also created some very impressive alternate versions of characters, as well as some stupidly spectacular (and broken) overpowered versions of them, with Super Saiyan 7 God-tier super moves. Check out some gameplay below.

M.U.G.E.N provides a solid, traditional, and somewhat open ended 2D fighting game engine, very similar to classic 2D fighting games we all know and love. You can almost authentically re-create any classic 2D fighting game any way you want it, putting in characters new and old, or even having many different versions of the same character in the same game. The possibilities are pretty much endless. While the engine is set up primarily for fighting game development, several other game types have actually been created using M.U.G.E.N, including platformers and even shooters.


You can use any image for a background, or an already existing fighting game background. Want to put in one of your favorite fighting game tunes for background music? How about any song ever created... M.U.G.E.N supports MP3, ADX, OGG and MIDI as background music during gameplay, the introduction screen, or the selection screen.


The gameplay engine uses 7 buttons along with the directional keys consisting of the classic layout (three punches, three kicks & taunt). However, characters made for M.U.G.E.N do not necessarily have to use all seven buttons. Specials, super moves, and priority moves included, but don't expect all of their old combos to work... you'll most likely have to create new combos that work for this game engine. M.U.G.E.N characters are also notorious for being over-powered and having infinite combos (infinite jab combos against the wall anyone?)... After seeing some forms of M.U.G.E.N in action, it almost makes Marvel VS Capcom 2 seem like a balanced game.

M.U.G.E.N offers a variety of basic modes. There's Arcade, VS Mode, Team Arcade, Team VS, Team Co-op and even Survival Mode. You can select between 1 on 1 fights, or simultaneous 2 vs 2 fights, which are always action packed. If you're playing alone in 2 vs 2 mode, your ally is controlled by the computer. Both teammates share the same super meter and of course can use super moves at any time during the fight... talk about some crazy combo possibilities!


The legendary Kung Fu Man is the first and only original character created for the M.U.G.E.N. engine by the creators, Elecbyte. This is the closest thing you'll get to a Kung Fu Man TFG Profile, so enjoy.


Kung Fu Man... VERSUS!.... Kung Fu Man... on the M.U.G.E.N Training Stage.  (Pretty much his stage.)


Yeah, he's one generic looking dude (and that's the joke). Kung Fu Man is a basically an underground meme for M.U.G.E.N. (and many users have created fan art and sprites for KFM). As the game engine's development progressed, so did Kung Fu Man, gaining the occasional new move, implementing newly created engine features, and at one point sporting an improved look. His story was never actually fleshed out by Elecbyte themselves, but he's still the beloved "poster boy" of M.U.G.E.N. And ironically, Kung Fu Man actually isn't the worst fighting game character design I've seen. I hear he has a fan club.



Salty's Dream Cast Casino or just SaltyBet for short is a website (Saltybet.com) that embeds a Twitch.tv stream usually of live competitive events like the Evolution Championship Series and allows its users to place virtual bets on said events. When there are no notable competitive events running, the stream runs AI M.U.G.E.N matches and allows people to bet on said matches. Salty Bet is purely for entertainment purposes and no real money will be paid out.

Users that create their account start with $400 in fictional currency of Salty Bucks that can be used to place their bets. Between every match there is a betting phase during which the players can place their bets. If a player loses all their money they get a bailout of $100 Salty Bucks. SaltyBet also features a paid subscription feature named "Salty Illuminati", joining to which allows users to view match records, edit character stats, and make match requests.


Legality of M.U.G.E.N

A member of the "M.U.G.E.N Community" contacted me and informed me that the M.U.G.E.N community asked both SNK and Capcom for approval of using their characters in M.U.G.E.N. SNK actually gave permission for their work to be used in M.U.G.E.N specifically, while Capcom gave their generic email response saying it was ok if their work wasn't used for profit. (Thanks to Lee Tuttle for the information)

The previous license agreements for usage of MUGEN from Elecbyte have expired, and it appears that a new license agreement will never be granted. Therefore, any current distribution of MUGEN has not been authorized by Elecbyte and is illegal, although Elecbyte has never taken any legal action; it has simply disappeared without explanation. Many people choose to continue using MUGEN despite the lack of a new license.


Creations such as characters and stages for use with MUGEN are not a part of Elecbyte's license, but only the software itself is. So it is up to each individual to decide whether or not to violate Elecbyte's license by using MUGEN. Elecbyte itself has not made a public statement since 2003 when they stated that the project had "hit a snag". That it was, in the truth, an excuse to have disappeared, leaving the users and creators without any alternative. ~Source: Wikipedia



 Frank's take on M.U.G.E.N

It was around 2002-2003 when I first heard of M.U.G.E.N. and started messing around with it. I wanted to make a fighting game filled with Capcom, SNK, and Marvel Versus Series characters. At the time, there was a very limited selection of websites with downloadable content for M.U.G.E.N. Backgrounds from many different classic 2D fighting games were usually downloadable in packs, while characters were downloaded separately. I always tested out the characters to see if they were "good enough" to be in my game (weren't missing any important moves or animations). To my surprise, some of them had pretty accurate movelists and played close enough to their original versions. However, in those days, there were no Street Fighter III or Marvel VS Capcom 2 sprites in existence (on the internet)... so options were limited.

I wasted quite a bit of time searching for new or "new-and-improved" user-creations, most of which were characters from Capcom and SNK fighting games. If they weren't from actual fighters, usually the characters available for download were ugly, poorly-drawn sprites with bad animations, Dragonball Z characters, 8-bit Nintendo characters, or just "joke" characters... all of which I wasn't interested in for my project. After a few months... my dream game of "Capcom VS SNK VS Marvel" was actually starting to take form... and I had fun making it. (Unfortunately, I wasn't crafty enough to take screengrabs or record gameplay from my steam-engine (literal steam engine) crap PC back then... so I have no screens of my dream-match game to share with you, but I can continue to tell you about it if you're not bored already.

So... I had upwards of 90-100 characters in my game. Every character had their own stage and theme music (most of which were authentic from their original games). I still remember fighting against Dan in my game... fighting on his SFA3 stage with his theme intact (mp3 quality)!  Sometimes, I had to choose between different versions of stages & BGM's for a single character in my game, for example I could've used Dan's SFA2 stage with his SFA2 theme music instead. I had lots of authentic options available. My epic library of BGM's from Capcom & SNK games really came in handy (thanks Napster!)  Long story short, one day I got bored and eventually DELETED my entire M.U.G.E.N folder (but I did save the data... somewhere.) I'd estimate this was sometime around 2003-2004. 

I had to conserve some space on my ghetto-ass hard drive at the time, and on top of that, I simply got bored and wanted to get back to real fighting games. I gotta admit... it was pretty fun playing the 2 vs 2 team mode... and my authentic Darkstalkers 3 B.B. Hood / MOTW Terry Bogard dream team was nearly unstoppable (please take a moment to 'imagine' their epic tag-team super moves, which connected nicely btw). But there came a point during a 117-hit combo where I had an epiphany... and I had to ask myself:

  "What in the blue hell am I doing? Why am I putting so much time into this 'game' that won't matter at all if I'm good at it? Shouldn't I be practicing my shit in a REAL fighting game?" 


I still followed the M.U.G.E.N. creators community for a while, and the characters that people were making just started to get ridiculous. In my opinion, users were editing and powering-up the characters to a point where it seemed like more of an "insult" to the characters and fighting games. I often wondered if the original Capcom / SNK artists would be offended if they saw what was being done to their characters... and associating them with stuff like this (below)... and much, much worse "R-Rated / X-Rated" things, too. (No *M-Rated material shown in screenshots, sorry.)


 The fact that M.U.G.E.N sprites come in ALL weird shapes & sizes, and have the potential to be thrown into the same game kinda turned me off of the whole thing. There are, however, some more professional / "serious" M.U.G.E.N creators out there who have created some dream match games with 'heart'. I won't deny that. If their goal was a contribution to the continued hype and love for 2D fighting games, I can respect spending so much time creating a game in M.U.G.E.N.


Okay, so sometimes M.U.G.E.N can be funny, I guess....
Bad animation and all. 


In closing, if you haven't checked out M.U.G.E.N and tried your hand at creating your own 2D fighter from the ground up, then give it a go. You'll have a blast once you learn how to use it and it's fairly easy! Or if you're too lazy, you can always download someone else's creation and try it out. If you started your own M.U.G.E.N now, you'll surely have many more characters at your disposal than I did at the time... but a word of advice, the time-consuming "road" to creating your fighting game may very well be much more enjoyable than actually playing it.
These days, M.U.G.E.N is something that you can whip out in front of some oblivious friends for some decent laughs, and possibly some oohs & aahs if you have an impressive character selection screen. The fact is, most games that come out of M.U.G.E.N just don't have that "quality feel" that you'll get from a proper fighting game engine. There is potential for the game engine to be developed further, and it has... but I suppose that M.U.G.E.N is a different version than the one I've been referring to. Plus, you could be spending all that time getting good at actual fighting games... which is something that actually pays off for some people. Just my two cents.
At the end of the day, of course, M.U.G.E.N shouldn't be taken that seriously... it's all just for fun. M.U.G.E.N is sort of like The Matrix... M.U.G.E.N looks like a fighting game... M.U.G.E.N feels like a fighting game... but it's not actually a fighting game at all, contrary to what any obsessed M.U.G.E.N user who got bored with real fighting games may tell you on a message board (are message boards still around?).  Anyway, M.U.G.E.N. is a user-created, code based, figment of our wild imaginations, kind of like The M.A.T.R.I.X On a side note:  I wonder if Capcom spelled F.A.N.G's name as nod to ol' M.U.G.E.N. Whatever, I'm gonna go play a real fighting game now... maybe something 3D. Thanks for reading.    ~TFG Webmaster