Chapter 243: Feedback
To clarify Gavin’s question, Ves thought about his competitors. Some mech designers made a career out of their ability to develop fantastic designs but turned out to be awful businessmen. They didn’t know how to run a business or hire someone trustworthy that did.
In contrast, the more business-savy mech designers made the most out of their limited means. Even if their designs lacked a spark, as long as they marketed their product correctly, they ended up presiding over a vast consortium of production facilities.
Right now, Gavin hinted that Ves leaned towards the former while having ambitions for the latter. While the two did not fundamentally conflict with each other, the market might not think so.
“It’s a great-looking design, fantastic even.” He explained. “It fits right in with the display models you designed for the Vintage Festival. Yet most of the designs we see on the battlefield are predominantly plain. If they have any decorations at all, it’s usually the unit emblem and whatever personal crest the pilot is using.”
Ves had to admit that his runaway creativity prompted him to go overboard in adding art to his design. As he looked at the projected schematic, he felt that it would be a huge shame to diminish that aspect. The draft he drew up already matched up with the images in his mind.
“It’s an artsy design, there’s no way around it. Maybe it will scare some people away, but making great-looking designs has always been an interest to me. A good design should have an iconic look.”
This aspect had always been present, but his increased creativity practically forced the matter out in the open. Ves felt the downsides to upgrading his major Attributes to suddenly. Sometimes he couldn’t help himself from acting on his impulses.
“So are you marketing your product as a battle mech or a show mech?”
“Definitely a battle mech. With the specs it carries, it’s a waste to use it as a decorative ornament.”
“Hm, if you’re determined to go this route, then you should make some adjustments to your strategy.”
Gavin proceeded to outline his suggestions. “You can have the best of both worlds. You don’t have to choose between selling out or maintaining your artistic integrity. Simply stick a gold label to your current design. You can associate the silver label to your dumbed-down mass-market variant.”
“I see.” The idea had a lot of merit and solved the dilemma Ves was beginning to develop. He could accept toning down the detail on his silver label variant if he could retain them in the gold label base model. “I like the sound of it. Simplifying the design will also make it easier for the mech technicians to fabricate the parts.”
“You’ll also elevate the gold label version into a desired product with this strategy.” Gavin pointed out. “The extravagant appearance of your mech will turn into a boon since it will only be rarely seen. Anyone who buys your gold label product will feel privileged for owning it, just like with your other limited edition mechs.”
“So it’s basically taking advantage of perceptual contrast.”
“Exactly so. It’s like evaluating a pile of dung. A small mound is ugly and smelly, but people will prefer it if their only alternative is an even larger mountain of dung.”
Everyone laughed at Gavin’s words. Ves shook his head. “They’re both dung, so I don’t think that analogy works in this case.”
“You get the idea. By the way, why did you use a bird theme on your landbound mech? Shouldn’t you be designing an aerial mech instead?”
“Uh, oops.” Ves sheepishly let out and scratched the back of his head. “I didn’t think about that incongruity. I’ll probably design an aerial variant once the base model achieves some success. For now, it’s not important that my mech can’t fly. It’s merely decorative, anyway.”
Many designers incorporate mythical beasts as themes for their mechs. It wouldn’t be to odd to come up with an eagle mech or a dragon mech as landbound mechs, for example.
Calsie and Gavin didn’t have much else to say about his design, while Carlos lacked too much experience. Only his chief technician possessed the background to dig deeper into the feasibility of his design.
“There are two more aspects about your design that look sketchy. The specs suggest you’re aiming to keep the weight down so that you can enhance its mobility. Don’t you think you’ve gone too far? The most basic job of a knight is to endure attacks before they go through and hit more vulnerable mechs. Depriving your design of the maximum affordable protection makes your knight suboptimal for that specific role.”
Ves had thought about that issue. “You aren’t wrong. I deliberately set out to design an offensive knight with a decent amount of mobility and agility. I think the tradeoff is worth it in this case because the quality of the Veltrex armor system will be able to compensate for the lack of thickness.”
“Do you realize how unusual it is to publish an offensive knight design? The use of defensive knights is standard doctrine. When someone is seeking to procure a knight, they always default to designs that excel in defense. Gavin, what’s the ratio in the current market?”
“It’s about four to one in favor of defensive knights. That means offensive knights only take up twenty percent of the market share for knights.”
Ves saw an upside to that observation. “That also means that the market for offensive knights is a lot less crowded. I’ve done my market research. Defensive knights are easy to design so they’re crowding out the market. It’s a lot more challenging to design an offensive knight and it can’t be done without a high quality armor system.”
They argued a bit more about the feasibility of his design, but Ves had already set his course. Nothing Cyril said could change his mind.
It was not as if Ves set out to ignore the wisdom of his advisors. He simply wanted to do something new. After all his work on the Caesar Augustus and its variants, Ves preferred to enhance his catalog with something lighter.
“There’s nothing wrong with sticking to your own judgement on things. That’s why you’re the boss. You have no one else to blame but yourself if it turns out you’re wrong.”
A company ran on the whims of its boss. Sure, larger corporations possessed a more refined corporate governance, with the board of directors overseeing its general directions while the various executives decided on the specifics. The larger they grew, the more they resembled states.
Even with an annual revenue of over a billion credits, the Living Mech Corporation still remained stuck in its startup days. Ves hoped to change that very soon after his grandfather sent him some retainers to beef up his administrative department.
“What’s the other point you want to make about my mech?”
Chief Cyril pointed at the rear of the design. “That spade is an eccentric addition to your design. I’m not arguing the utility of including it, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the concept of your mech. You’re selling a 60 million credit knight to the private market. At that price, the mercenaries who buy your products will be putting them in leadership positions. Digging is something that’s done by grunts, not by officers.”
“I think you’re a little too optimistic about that statement. According to my market research, mechs don’t always have the right supplies on hand. It’s tough to carry adequate supplies around on a fluid battlefield. The integrated spade should prove very useful against the Vesians with their penchant for missile bombardment.”
“You won’t convince anyone to purchase your mech on this feature alone. It’s not something you can brag about and expect to be taken seriously.”
“Even if it sounds extravagant, I’m willing to bet my customers will be thanking me for embedding that spade in my mechs.”
His design resembled a work of art, but a robust internal architecture underneath its attractive exterior. Combined that with a nucleus of high quality components, his design should be more than ready to tough it out in the field.
That said, Ves only drew up a superficial design so far. It remained to be seen whether he’d be able to realize the potential of his design by solving every engineering challenge in his way.
After wrapping up his conference with his confidants, he decided to solicit the opinion of his mech broker. Gathering feedback and getting second opinions formed a very important part of the formal design process. He called Marcella over the comm and showed off his draft.
“Looks like you have a very solid idea of what you want to design.” Marcella commented. “You’d be surprised how many mech designers muddle through their design process without a clue of what they’ll end up.”
She began by asking a couple of obvious questions that Ves had already discussed with his employees. Surprisingly, she expressed neither approval or disapproval at his visual design.
“I’ve seen weirder things in my life. Mechs come in all shapes and sizes. I can work with any kind of design as long as it works.” Her words reflected the attitude of a veteran mech trader. “Rather than say the market is more receptive to certain designs, it’s more accurate to say that most designs start off as a blank slate. It’s up to your marketing to drum up demand for your product.”
“It’s going to be my debut mech, so I’m guaranteed to receive some free publicity.”
“I’m aware of that, but don’t think you can sit back and rely on the press to market your mech in your stead. There are many people who don’t pay attention to this kind of news. I highly recommend you set aside some funds for an ongoing advertising campaign.”
“How much money are we talking about?”
“A hundred million credits if you want to spend the absolute minimum.”
That took out a very sizable chunk out of his cash. Ves hated the thought of spending so much money on something that had no effect on the quality of his design. Yet Marcella didn’t lie to him about the necessity to have a marketing apparatus in place at the time of his design’s introduction. Ves risked missing out on a huge chunk of early sales if he couldn’t get a message out.
Besides this comment, Marcella sounded very positive about his design. The estimates specs ensured that it would be a good fit for his targeted price point.
“There’s only one problem with releasing a design at this point in time. The next generation of mechs is only nine years away. Your currentgen design will be relegated to the bin of lastgen designs in less than a decade. While you can take advantage of refined and discounted component licenses this late in the current generation of mechs, you’ll also have to deal with early depreciation of your design. It’s an unfair trade-off.”
“There’s nothing I can do about the timing.” Ves shrugged. “If my design pans out, I’ll have the capital to participate right at the start of the next generation of mechs.”
After discussing more details, Ves ended the connection. He considered asking his grandfather and some other people for advice, but called it off after considering they’d hardly bring anything new to the table.
“I think it’s time to spend my warchest.”
Now that he completed a draft design, he should have a good idea on what kind of components fit with his mech. With a budget of around a billion credits, Ves had to be prudent in his spending if he wanted to compliment his existing component licenses. He sat down next to his terminal and visited the MTA’s internal market.
With his design still fresh in his mind, Ves hoped to obtain everything he needed so that he could move on to the next phase of his design project.
“Let’s see what I need.”