The Mech Touch Chapter 649
648 Philosophical Clash
Reno Jimenez developed a style of designing mechs where he attempted to extract the maximum level of performance at the cost of stability, control and longevity. This increased the parameters of his design's spec sheet, but customers weren't fooled. They knew his latest designs came with poor value for money. Many of his mechs broke down in five years or less.
"This is the attitude of a scientist and a pioneer. He pursues his own interests over that of the market and his customers. It's not that his designs are bad, but they are outright ignoring the trends of the market."
Different from the Senior, Ves had always adopted a market-based approach to his design work. Every time he designed a mech, he looked at the actual situation of the market and moved on from there. Essentially, he let his market research dictate the basic parameters of his next design.
He rested his finger on his chin. The contrast between their priorities formed an interesting comparison. "The Skull Architect already knows from the start what kind of mech he wants to design. As for me, the exact shape and form doesn't matter to me. All I want is to design a mech that sells well. Everything is a means to an end."
That didn't mean Ves cared nothing about his own advancements. His hoarding for knowledge and his experimentation with the X-Factor all proved that he possessed an inquisitive mind. It was just that an Apprentice Mech Designer operated under far less pressure than a Senior Mech Designer.
One was a youth in the mech design profession. They weren't expected to come up with anything radical. The other represented an elder in the craft. The mech industry and mech market expected more from their results. Their designs had to push against the envelope.
If their newer designs didn't one-up their older designs by a fair margin, then they were considered stagnant!
"Mech designers that are stagnant don't have a bright future anymore. They've given up on blazing a trail and are instead content with ending their journey halfway."
Ves pegged Professor Velten as a person who had already given up on her life and the opportunity to advance. Instead of working at some prestigious institution, she instead took up an upscore posting with the Flagrant Vandals.
"It's different with Jimenez. His designs are burning with ambition. I don't think getting exiled to the frontier is going to stop him from his research."
Certainly, getting kicked off the membership rolls of the MTA and being exiled to the frontier hampered him a lot. After receiving the fear-inducing moniker of Skull Architect, the man probably wasn't in the best situation right now.
His story served as a strong warning to Ves of what could happen if he breached ethical lines.
"At least my own spin on the Leiner Grey won't let me to that point."
In contrast to the original design, the Leiner Grey completed by Ves went into a completely different direction. While Ves valued performance just like any other mech designer, he really didn't wish to sacrifice stability for a small boost in power and other attributes.
"A mech is the steed and armor of the mech pilot. Mech designers like us owe it to the mech pilots to fashion a war machine that can lead them through a battle without any sign of faltering. A mech that is so unstable that it will fall apart at the slightest misstep is a greater enemy to the mech pilot than his opponents on the battlefield."
This was his conviction. Certainly, prioritizing stability never led to exciting mechs on their own, but Ves had no doubt he could solve this problem in another way, such as resorting to the X-Factor or various technological gimmicks. If nothing else, Ves could always lower his price standards in order to provide better value for money to his customers.
He did recognize that his approach may not be a daring one, at least when it came to stability. Innovation demanded a daring approach to exploring the unknown. Taking risks came with the job.
"In that sense, I've disappointed the Skull Architect's expectations."
The Leiner Grey design came with an unspoken challenge. It challenged Ves to match its wild extremes, to push its performance to its limits, stability be damned. Doing so would mean that Ves agreed with the Skull Architect's standpoint.
That was unacceptable to him. Philosophically, he believed that mechs had to fit the mech pilots, not the other way around.
Some mech designers pursued their calling by pushing the limits of the technology and materials at hand to deliver a superior mech. To be fair, most of the innovation and advancement in the field of mech design came from their many contributions.
Yet a mech was inexplicably connected with their mech pilots. Mech designers had complete control over the design and construction of a mech, but possessed no influence at all on the mech pilots who actually used them. This lack of control over the latter led to a tendency for mech designers to forget about mech pilots, treating them as an outside variable in the background.
A different school of mech designers adopted a very different perspective. Usually by necessity, they needed to design mechs that pilots were comfortable with piloting, otherwise they wouldn't be able to sell any mechs.
Faced with a choice between higher performance and more comfort, many mech pilots actually chose the latter.
"It's not that they enjoy missing out on that extra margin of power, speed or defense, but if the mech becomes too difficult to pilot, those hardware gains are entirely wasted."
A mech that performed ten percent better but became twice as hard to control for a specific mech pilot might eventually perform twenty percent worse. So the net performance change was actually a reduction of ten percent!
Naturally, this consideration varied wildly depending on which mech pilot got to pilot the mech. A skilled mech pilot possessed a much larger tolerance for difficult mechs, while average mech pilots with more modest genetic aptitudes could only settle for simpler mechs.
Some might scoff at lesser-skilled mech pilots and dismiss them as ants. Yet they also happened to comprise the majority active mech pilots, with a much greater number of untalented potentates in reserve. This was a huge market for mechs, one which Ves had guiltily ignored when he grew his mech business, but intended to fix that in the future.
"Designing elite mechs all the time will unnecessarily narrow my reach. There are only so many elites to market my mechs."
Ves didn't have much experience with designing a mass-market mech, but his duties as a head designer for the Flagrant Vandals taught him much. He became intimately familiar with the traits of cheaper mechs, and knew what to look out for when designing these kinds of machines.
Out of the three internally-developed designs, the Hellcat and the Akkara mechs catered to the cadre of the Vandals. Powerful, expensive and difficult to master, they served as the mainstay of the Vandal mech roster.
In this sense, his Blackbeak and Crystal Lord designs shared the same DNA. Elite mechs only came up to their full potential when matched with an experienced, talented mech pilot.
"It should be different for a light skirmisher like the Leiner Grey or the Inheritor models."
Though one operated on land and the other in space, they served the same role. They served as the scouts, flankers and ambushers of a mech force. They worked best in battle when deployed in packs or in greater numbers, so they should ideally be accessible to mech pilots.
"If there's one thing I've learned from toiling over the Inheritor mechs, it's that there's only so much performance you can squeeze out of a skinny mech frame."
The lightweight class tended to be a poor platform for elite mechs. There simply wasn't enough room to stuff in enough goodies. Anything that mech designers wanted to add to the frame needed to be lighter and take up much less space than an equivalent component to a medium mech.
This instantly magnified the costs and reduced the benefits of those expensive additions.
So in short, it wasn't cost-effective to elevate a light mech to the performance standard of an elite. For better or worse, they felt most at home when they served as expendable mechs.
"Expendable mechs are easy to lose, so the mech pilots that bring them into battle shouldn't be too valuable. Limiting the skill range of a light skirmisher model to elites is a tone-deaf response to the demands of the market."
That didn't mean a market didn't exist for premium light mechs. Many veterans and talented mech pilots grew up with light mechs and had come to favor this weight class over the others. These mech pilots needed light mechs that could keep up with their skills. In that sense, the difficult but promising Leiner Grey fit their needs.
This was where his take on the Leiner Grey came in. "If I have to describe my own work, I'd call it the Leiner Grey Simplified Edition."
Of course, he would never publish his design with this unflattering name, but it aptly described what he'd done to the puzzle presented by the Skull Architect. Though Ves was only limited to filling up the gaps in the design schematic, it provided him with enough leeway to steer it away from its original configuration as a powerful but barely controllable mech.
He pretty much did so by dialing back the energy being provided to the different parts and to program hard limits on the amount of power they exerted. Perhaps one or two changes in this vein wouldn't affect the design by a drastic amount, but when Ves performed the same tweaks over and over again, it all added up.
The changes he implemented throughout the design flattened the performance curve, smoothing out its peaks and valleys. This had the effect of tempering a wild, bucking horse into a calm and docile mount.
Unfortunately, this also resulted in a comprehensive loss in performance. The Leiner Grey turned from an exciting, high-performance mech into a boring but reliable workhorse.
It still maintained some of the strengths and of the original version, but became extremely accessible. Ves in fact slanted towards the other extreme when he put his own stamp on the mech.
"Comfort and pilot accommodation has always been a priority to me. A mech functions best when the mech pilot is at ease with his own machine."
A key factor that helped him turn the Leiner Grey into an accessible mech was that Ves borrowed the insights from his Masteries. Though the System only threw him into the cockpit of a knight mech and a rifleman mech, Ves easily applied the common lessons learned from those valuable first-hand experiences to the light skirmisher design.
From his detailed studies of the Leiner Grey design, Ves keenly realized that the Skull Architect lacked the special touch that came with acquiring a Mastery. As far as he was aware of, the Senior Mech Designer based all of his design work on second and third-hand experiences.
In some way, that was a huge shame, since the Skull Architect's designs would never mesh completely with his customers. On the other hand, his callous attitude towards the mech pilots that were supposed to depend on his products also led him to his current path of pursuing an extreme in performance through maximizing energy transmission.
"If the Skull Architect experienced at least a single Mastery, he would have felt a lot more empathy to mech pilots. He'd be a different man right now."
Ves stayed true to himself when he solved the puzzle in his own way. Now he had to submit his work to the man he sought to earn his approval.
"Will he be pleased to find out that I've taken the opposite approach?" Ves grew nervous all of a sudden. "I don't have any other choice. There's no way for me to hide my principles when I design a mech."
Just as Ves learned a wealth of information about the Skull Architect from the Leiner Grey, so would the Senior be able to read through Ves.