The Mech Touch Chapter 1045
1043 Dare To Design
"You have no idea how preconceptions run deep in the mech market." Professor Ventag stated. "First, think about the meaning of the word 'market'. It's a gathering of people who exchange goods and services to each other. The key word here is people. Without people, mechs won't get produced and sold. And while people can act somewhat rationally at the macro level, they are not devoid of bias."
A light went on in Ves' mind. He remembered the Skull Architect ranting against the imperfections of the mech market one time. The fugitive Senior Mech Designer once railed against some of the biases as well!
"So what you're saying is that because people have learned that super-medium mechs are a bad idea, they'll automatically be predisposed against my mech concept?"
"It's worse than you think, Mr. Larkinson. They'll take the initiative to disparage your product to their friends and on the galactic net. The negative feedback that will ensue as soon as we publish such a mech will impact our personal reputation and the reputation of our companies severely. It's fine if you decide to stray off the beaten path and ignore the rules that have been in place for centuries. Not everyone is as open-minded, however. Your design becomes a major problem when you impose your eccentric decisions on the market."
As much as he hated it, Ves knew that Professor Ventag might be right about the mech market's intolerance for his deviant design.
Yet did that discourage him from pushing through with the concept he came up with? No. This the only practical way to implement his vision for a mech that emulated Qilanxo's defensive prowess to a degree. He felt passionate and motivated in making this vision come to life, to the point where he suspected that he might even be able to advance to Journeyman on the spot as soon as he completed the design!
He only felt so good about his mech designs a couple of times. Such a feeling of hope and certainty was hard to come by, and Ves knew he wouldn't be nearly as passionate if he was forced to discard his current vision and start over from scratch.
He was emotionally invested in the vision he came up with! Although provoking a backlash sounded rather bad to Ves, he was still young and he could afford to make some blunders early in his career.
Yet it was an entirely different when it came to someone older and more established such as Professor Ventag and NORA Consolidated. His company spent decades building up its brand as a trusted indicator for quality mechs. If NORA became tied to his controversial mech design, it would incur much greater reputational damage, to the tune of missing billions of credits in monthly sales perhaps!
"Do you recognize my dilemma?" Professor Ventag asked with a smile. "There is a large risk in becoming involved in such a controversial mech design. In my eyes, the costs outweigh the benefits. From a marketing standpoint, it does not make any sense to incur a substantial backlash and depress the sales of my other products in order to introduce a risky new concept to the market with uncertain sales potential."
"So you disapprove?"
"I do. My company will not want to be involved in your radical mech design. The damage to our reputation is simply too severe."
Ves hunched over in defeat. Those were very compelling reasons why they shouldn't design a super-medium mech. Would he really have to discard this groundbreaking mech concept? Perhaps he could still save this idea for later and develop it on his own rather than involve a Senior.
Half a minute later, the professor smiled at Ves. "However are you really so resigned to let our companies and the market dictate which mechs we ought to design?"
"Professor?" Ves asked with a puzzled tone.
"I can tell you believe in your mech concept. The logic behind it isn't bad either. So from a technical and design standpoint, your current ideas have merit. This will insure at least some sober mech buyers will see the appeal in the product. If we hold some highly-targeted marketing campaigns, we might be able to break even at the very least."
"Even so, breaking even will not undo our other losses." Ves recognized.
"If the market reacts as I predict, you may be right. Yet your thinking is too narrow. Our gains and losses aren't confined to reputation and finances."
The professor leaned back in his chair as he let Ves work out the meaning behind his hint.
Half a minute passed as Ves parsed the greater meaning. "Are you saying.. there may be other benefits?"
"I am. First, let us consider your personal benefits. What price are you willing to pay to advance to Journeyman? Many mech designers never catch the impetus that is required to make the jump. They are too timid and not confident enough in their design philosophy to proceed with designing the mechs that conform to their beliefs. They are too concerned about practical constraints and the reaction from the market to take a bold step forward. In your case, I have a very good feeling about your progress if you proceed with this vision of yours."
Ves nodded. "I feel so as well."
"That alone makes this project worthwhile for you. Sometimes, a mech design doesn't have to make sense to benefit you. Companies rise and fall all the time. In the worst case, your company might go bankrupt. Is that so awful? As long as you successfully advance to Journeyman immediately or shortly after publishing the design, you can enter the mech industry again from a much higher vantage point. There are always investors willing to provide seed money to get a Journeyman back in business."
While Ves did not wish for the LMC to flounder, Ventag was right that it wouldn't be impossible to start anew. The damage to people's livelihoods would be very large, though. He would also suffer other repercussions. He wanted to avoid such a destructive outcome, if only to keep his power base on his home planet secure.
"What about you, professor? Will you be able to benefit personally as well?"
"I have some ideas. You've inspired me, Mr. Larkinson." The professor smiled amiably. "Are you aware of my specialty?"
It took a short time for Ves to remind himself of that fact. "You're specialized in damage control. Your mechs have a greater capacity for withstanding damage!"
NORA Consolidated's mech catalog featured products that possessed a higher average of redundancy and compartmentalization than its direct competitors. Even without the use of thicker armor or more expensive materials, their mechs were always able to survive one or two more hits while other mechs would have collapsed already!
"My specialty does not specifically favor any particular mech type. Whether I'm designing a knight mech or a rifleman mech, I can improve upon both of them when it comes to absorbing damage and maintaining their functionality even when their armor has been breached. However, the most significant aspect of my specialty is that the more room I have to work with, the more I can express my advantages."
Ves lit up at that. Basically, Professor Ventag's strong point was designing an exquisite internal architecture for a mech!
There wouldn't be much for him to tweak when it came to lean and narrow light mechs. Yet larger mechs offered much greater internal volume. This amplified the possibilities at Ventag's disposal.
While a heavy mech would be ideal for him to showcase his talents, a super-medium mech still offered distinct advantages compared to regular medium mechs. It wasn't much of a detriment for Professor Ventag to work on a super-medium mech design!
"I admit that I have long adhered to the rigid division of weight classes." Professor Ventag said regretfully. "I truly wish I possessed some of your open mindedness. I have never truly participated in the design of a super-medium mech. The thought simply hasn't entered my mind, and without a logical and compelling mech concept like yours, I would have never come up with a reason to do so. What Seniors like me fear the most is stagnation and running out of viable ideas. So believe me when I state that I will make some definite gains in my own research if I work with your mech concept. That is worth the damage to our reputation and our earnings."
"So.. reputation and money are just resources for us to expend in order to advance our ability to design mechs?"
The professor nodded in approval. "That's the right mindset you should take. There are some who take it too far, but the best mech designers are those who pursue their own interests rather than pay an undue amount of deference to market demand and public opinion. It is never a bad idea to explore and apply your design philosophy in greater detail even if it sets back your business career. An Apprentice is an Apprentice. A Journeyman is a Journeyman. The two are so vastly different that there is no comparison between their value."
While Ves got his point, he still couldn't quite get over the consequences to their reputation and earnings. He also noted another point of concern. "Our reputation is vital to keep our backers and allies content, right? If we drag down our own reputation, will our supporters still be so generous to us?"
This was a very real concern for NORA Consolidated because it possessed strong ties to the Tovars and Rittersberg. As for Ves, his principal backer was Flashlight, an organization who ruthlessly pursued their goals regardless of their means. If Ves tanked his own company somehow, he would be going against their pragmatism by reducing the value of his company.
If Ves advanced to Journeyman, he could make up for the losses somehow, but if he didn't then Flashlight wouldn't be pleased.
"That is indeed a very serious concern." Professor Ventag conceded. "Yet it is not as bad as you think. Innovation has a price. Innovation can also shape your reputation in other ways, not all of them bad. If you become known to produce innovative designs, even if they have mixed results, the few successes you've achieved will be sufficient to make up for your flops."
"So if I keep designing these kinds of mechs, the market will get used to my eccentricities?"
"Correct. By starting with experimenting on unusual design concepts, you build up a tolerance in your reputation for designing mechs that do not completely conform to current market demand. That is a useful trait to acquire because it allows you to get away with mistakes more often. It can become a key part of your brand! Any backers you have will be much more pleased with that outcome because it is so rare in the mech industry."
The professor's explanations were very high-minded, but Ves was sincerely convinced by the professor's answers. Everything had a price, but innovation was never easy. Advancing up the ladder should be the core focus of every mech designer!
Ves was surprised that Professor Ventag maintained such a strong focus on advancement. He thought that the Senior had lost himself into his political games, but it turned out he maintained a sober mind with regards to his associations with the Tovars, the DCTI and Rittersberg.
"Dare to design." Ventag summed up his point. "Money and reputation are the end goals of vulgar, short-sighted mech designers who will never advance beyond the Novice and Apprentice stages. If you follow market trends to a religious degree, all of your designs will only follow the crowd and be lost among the competition."
"A true mech designer isn't afraid of setting market trends instead of following them like a sheep!" Ves remarked.
With Professor Ventag's encouragement and support, Ves decided to adopt his current mech concept of a super-medium space knight for their joint design project. They refined his concept even further in their subsequent discussion.
Although the professor needed to return to the talks in order to provide expert council to the negotiators, Ves returned with high spirits. The risk of incurring backlash from the market no longer concerned him that much. Even if he received a flood of criticism, it would all be worth it if he advanced to Journeyman before he reached his thirties.