The Mech Touch Chapter 1036
1034 New And Familiar
Ves wanted to tread into designing spaceborn mechs for a while now. Even though he lacked serious design experience in this area, his extensive amount of time as head designer with the Flagrant Vandals gave him more than enough insights on how spaceborn mechs worked.
Witnessing the likes of their internally-developed Inheritor and Hellcat mechs in combat and dealing with the aftermath of every battle tended to bring him up to speed with this class of mechs even if he never designed one from scratch.
He knew their main design traits and their strengths and weaknesses. Different from landbound mechs, their legs didn't serve as the foundation of their mech frames. Instead, all of that importance went into the flight system mounted on their backs.
This flight system not only consumed a lot of energy, it was also a major weak point present in every spaceborn mech due to its fragile structure.
Unlike legs which could be armored and weighed down as much as a mech designer wanted, the flight systems were as fragile as sticks in comparison. Armoring them helped protect them against shrapnel and incidental damage, but the currents state of flight system technology didn't allow them to be covered under many layers of armor.
This basically forced any spaceborn mech to carry around a permanent target on their backs.
The various dynamics introduced with the addition of a flight system onto any mech put aerial mechs and spaceborn mechs into drastically different machines compared to landbound mechs.
Even so, Ves felt ready to make the step into designing a spaceborn mech. Laida Nnvist's tutoring, his own studies, his broad experiences in working with spaceborn mechs with the Flagrant Vandals, his design work on the Evaporating Spear during a ritual duel with the Church of Haatumak and also his work as a supervisor for the mech designers working as analysts to dissect the Vesian mech models at Frozen Point Research Base all gave him an ample amount of theoretical preparation for this task.
It was harder to design a spaceborn mech than a landbound mech. While many mech designers immediately hit the ground running by designing spaceborn mechs from the start of their careers, such a luxury was only relegated to the rich, powerful or well-prepared among starting mech designers.
Even Ves did not dare to enter the market for spaceborn mechs until now.
The added difficulty and complexity around spaceborn mechs meant that there was significantly less mech models for sale from the bottom end of the market. However, the competition was just as fierce regardless.
Having successfully brought two different mech models to markets, Ves did not fear the challenge of trying to compete in the busy spaceborn mech markets. Still, just like before, he needed to be prudent and thoughtful on how to position his next product in the market.
Even with Professor Ventag's help, it was extremely unlikely that his products would be able to capture a big chunk of market share in any of the major product categories.
"What kind of mechs do you want to design, Ves?" Lord Javier idly asked as he took a swig of his mug of beer.
Ves first explained his rationale. "I want to design something new. The LMC won't benefit if I design a successor to my two prior mech designs when they remain enduring sellers. Yet I also wanted to stick to my strengths. I would be doing Professor Ventag and the market a disservice if I rashly design a mech from an archetype I don't have sufficient experience in working with. Considering these concerns, I've come up with the decision to design a space knight or a spaceborn rifleman mech. I also considered designing a spaceborn light skirmisher inspired by the Inheritor mechs of the Flagrant Vandals for a time."
That cause Lord Javier to raise his head. "A light skirmisher? That sounds interesting. Why did you rule it out?"
Yes, Ves truly considered designing a spaceborn light skirmisher. One of the most prevalent mech models he fixed and tweaked while he held the position of head designer was their ubiquitous Inheritor mechs. He held very strong feelings for this modest but extremely mobile-centric mech model.
Such inspiration served as great fuel in any design endeavors related to the Inheritor mech model.
Yet practical concerns hindered him from pursuing this particular passion. "A light skirmisher is by nature more affordable to manufacturers and buyers that want a quick and cheap option to bolster their numbers. Rarely do you ever hear of premium-priced light skirmishers, while mid-range light skirmishers are also in low demand. They're predominantly sold at budget or bargain bin price levels. Not only that, the competition is so high that profit margins are thinner as well. If I want to keep my mech design relevant for at least twenty years instead of just five years, then I will have to start with a high profit margin!"
The higher the profit margin, the longer his mech model remained economically viable to produce and sell! The longer the LMC and NORA Consolidated sold copies of their joint design, the more they continued to associate with each other!
As long as the joint design remained relevant in the market, the LMC would continue to be able to borrow the reputation of the larger and more successful company!
It was like an older brother helping his younger brother get his footing.
After witnessing the scale and prosperity of the Kadar-Neyvis Group and knowing that the NORA Consolidated dwarfed that company, Ves had no illusion that the LMC was merely a footnote in comparison. It could definitely benefit from the help offered by a big brother.
With longevity as a goal, Ves needed to design a mech with sufficiently high profit margins. This gave him greater room to adjust the pricing of the mechs based on the design according to the circumstances.
The passing of years, the introduction of a new mech generation, the fluctuating prices of raw material prices and changing market sentiment all affected how much it cost to fabricate a mech and how much it sold for in the market.
It was almost certain that he needed to keep cutting the prices of his existing mech models over time. Older was cheaper. This was a fundamental rule in many markets, not just with mechs.
In this regard, it was better for him to design a more expensive than a cheaper one. Therefore, as much as Ves pined over designing a light skirmisher, he would be making an awful decision from a business perspective if he mindlessly gave in to his passion.
While it was possible to design a premium light skirmisher whose excellent performance more than warranted its considerable price tag, it would be a very niche product. That would be an enormous waste of Professor Ventag and NORA Consolidated's help in designing a mech that could capture some actual market share in some of the hotly-contested product categories.
"So it's either a space knight or a rifleman mech, right? I don't have a lot of experience in piloting a mech in space, so I can't give you a lot of advance. What I do know is that the latter is sold a lot."
Space was big and empty. The fighting distance predominant in space battles was usually at least ten times as large as the distance adopted in land battles. That gave ranged mechs an undeniably strong edge, though the mobility of most melee mechs was also significantly higher in a space environment!
Ves recalled the rumors he heard on what the next generation intended to introduce. "They say the next mech generation will feature a strong evolution of laser weapon technology. If I want to design a rifleman mech in the current generation that will somewhat remain relevant in the next one, I should stick to weapons with physical damage types. In this case, I could opt for a ballistic rifle, a kinetic rifle or a railgun."
Lord Javier whistled. "Railguns are expensive, right? They're also fragile and more prone to break I heard."
"You're right." Ves nodded in agreement. "They're not very practical in states like the Bright Republic. Ballistic rifles are usually cheap but there's not a lot of profit to be made there. Kinetic rifles affords more room for innovation and they're more desirable in space battles as well."
"Even so, rifles with physical damage types lose out against laser rifles in one important aspect. It takes time for rounds and projectiles to reach their target. With how often mechs begin to fight at long range, that travel time makes those weapons useless unless the mechs can close in. Do you really think you can design a spaceborn kinetic rifleman mech that sells well?"
Ves shook his head. The flaw pointed out by Lord Javier was a serious detriment to the value of any kinetic rifleman mech design. At least railguns propelled their slugs and physical projectiles fast enough to mitigate the impact of travel time at longer ranges, but conventional rifles lacked that power.
"Now that I think about it, it's just not a good idea to publish a ballistic or kinetic rifleman mech unless I'm absolutely confident my mech comes with a compelling feature that compensates for that critical weakness."
A gimmick like the alien crystal technology incorporated in the Crystal Lord served as a good example. His landbound laser rifleman mech design would never be able to stand out from the market without the exotic features the alien tech brought to the table.
Right now, though, Ves couldn't think of any exotic tech that he could apply to a spaceborn kinetic rifleman mech design. The prospects of designing a successful mech of this type became dimmer and dimmer in his mind.
He decided to shift his attention to his third choice. Would it be practical for him to design a space knight, or would he be forced to rule it out over practical concerns and contemplate other alternatives?
"What do you think about knight mechs?" Ves asked Lord Javier.
Since he had a skilled mech pilot at his disposal, he might as well milk him for all he was worth!
"I can't say too much about the mechs themselves. They're too slow and sluggish to my liking." Lord Javier scoffed. "In my experience, the people who pilot knight mechs come in three categories. They're either bums who don't have the skill to pilot more mobile mechs so they're relegated to piloting a slow but easy mech type. The next category consists of decent mech pilots with a versatile skillset that are forced to pilot knight mechs because none of their colleagues can do any better."
"And the last category?" Ves asked, though he already had an inkling of the answer from his first Mastery experience.
"The true believers. The noble knights in shining armor." Lord Javier sneered, making his contempt for these delusional fools obvious to Ves. "Some of these guys and girls are really serious about this chivalry nonsense. Even so, I can't deny that they're usually the best mech pilots that can handle knight mechs. They don't treat their machines as a cumbersome burden. They embrace its sluggish mass, its formidable protection and combine it in a momentum-based fighting style that allows them to hit harder in a single blow than any other mech type except lancer mechs."
Ves neglected to distinguish between the different kinds of users of his mechs. Influenced by his Mastery, his previous Blackbeak design squarely aimed towards the chivalrous mech pilots, though it did not exclude other types of customers. However, there was no doubt that this mech was harder to pilot due to its higher mobility and performance ceiling.
The question was whether Ves should design a space knight with similar parameters to his old Blackbeak or diverge from that and break new ground?
"There aren't actually a lot of mech pilots in the third category, right?"
Lord Javier shook his head. "Nope. It's crap, and most mech pilots know that. Most of the time, mech pilots are assigned to knight mechs. They never do so out of their own volition because let's face it, there's joy in piloting a mech that acts like a mobile damage sponge for the enemy. To these mech pilots, it's better if the mech in question is easy to pick up and master. A high skill ceiling isn't necessarily good if the skill floor is raised as well. Do you get what I mean?"
"I understand." Ves nodded.
Basically, he'd be able to sell more mechs if he designed space knight designed specifically to accommodate all-rounders as opposed to specialists in piloting knight mechs.
Yet doing so would also diverge from his prior knowledge and experiences. The question Ves currently faced was whether he should defer to his experience or market demand.
Should he venture even further into new territory or stick with the familiar now that he already made the major decision to venture into spaceborn mechs?