With the declining profitability of his only Mark II production model, Ves could not sit back and wait. His rough projection of the future revealed that his profits diminished at an alarmingly fast rate.
While he considered taking another loan, Ves ruled that out after figuring he did not wish to become more reliant on external actors that might not have his best interests at heart. Banks that extended huge loans to companies often demanded a voice on how to run the company.
Ves absolutely abhorred such a possibility.
As for selling merits, he'd be making a huge loss if he went through with such a transaction. Merits were extremely valuable and hard to come by. Even a single merit represented a chance to obtain priceless knowledge that he couldn't get from the System.
While the System's Skill Tree allowed him to learn many standard skills, Ves learned that they contained no personality. What he meant by this was that the knowledge held no biases or special insights developed over a long period of designing mechs. Sometimes, this should be an advantage, but other times Ves would miss out on crucial perspectives like Master Olson's focus on endurance and longevity.
Ves vaguely sensed the System's requirements for advancing a skill from Journeyman-level to Senior-level demanded a thorough understanding of the field. This meant that he had to broaden his range and become acquainted with many different viewpoint held by different experts in the field.
Mech designers ordinarily hoarded such knowledge. Even the System didn't provide him with different perspectives on the same subject. Thus, merits formed the only way for him to advance in the future.
"I can still decide to exchange it later as a last ditch effort." He decided. He hadn't exhausted all of his other methods.
He decided to follow his mech broker's suggestion and look for events where he could showcase his ability. A quick search on the galactic net returned dozen of conferences, competitions, show events and exhibitions starting in the next couple of months in the Republic alone.
Most of these occasions demanded strict requirements to any participating mech designer. No ordinary Dick, Tom and Harry would be allowed to bring their horrible designs and amateurish mechs.
The classiest events that attracted the richest clientele only opened their doors to Journeyman Mech Designers and higher. Ves had to rule these prestigious events out and lower his sights to those that welcomed Apprentice Mech Designers like himself. These occasions generally drew a poorer crowd that cared more about getting a bargain than ordering a quality mech.
He shook his head. "These sound more like flea markets than proper opportunities to show your talent."
Ves studiously combed through the various events and tried to find one which offered him the best possibility to close a lucrative deal.
He found one in the Vintage Festival.
It celebrated the coming passing of lastgen mechs into obsolescence. With the next generation of mechs about to arrive, a number of people who grew up during the rise of lastgen mechs more than twenty years ago found it difficult to say their goodbyes to these reliable workhorses.
To them, their love of lastgen mechs represented a nostalgic love of their childhood experienced. They used to play with toys of lastgen mechs and played the models in virtual simulations in their adolescence. Even if their performance had fallen off these days, their heartfelt love for this period of mech development remained more important than the specs of the following generation of mechs.
"These are my kind of guys." Ves remarked with gleaming eyes. Many of the attendants to these festivals had money to spend and didn't care too much about the latest innovations. They only wanted go back in the past and relive the glory days of the last generation of mechs. They'd easily overspend on anything that struck their fancy.
The only problem was that many of his fellow mech designers knew this as well. While the Vintage Festival allowed Apprentice Mech Designers to showcase their lastgen designs, they conducted a strict selection of every applicant.
The only upside to the Festival was that Journeyman Mech Designers disdained to compete on sales at such an event. These well-established mech designers focused more on selling their currentgen designs than revisiting soon-to-be-extinct dinosaurs, so not a lot of journeymen bothered to take notice of the event.
The few that did sign up for the Festival mainly wanted to show off their vintage prestige models in the centerpiece exhibition. The majority of the actual sales occurred in the side halls where various hopeful apprentices hoped to make some easy money from their outdated production licenses.
"There's one thing strange about this Vintage Festival. Why would the Vintage Festival which focuses so much on lastgen mechs invite younger designers to sell their mechs?"
Some of them hadn't even been born during the golden years of this period. Ves himself barely remembered anything of that generation.
He came up with a number of guesses. The most probable reason was that every enthusiast of lastgen mechs already owned genuine vintage models, or simply found them to be old and familiar. Perhaps they wanted to see what the younger crop of mech designers could make out of this old period in mech history.
"Lets see how past Festivals have gone."
When Ves read through the articles of past Vintage Festivals, he got the sense that these middle-aged customers sought two things at once. They wanted to see and purchase great models that brought them back to the past, but they also wanted to see something fresh that proved that lastgen mechs hadn't reached the end of the road.
These two desires contradicted each other. Many apprentices either stuck to the base model and tried to reproduce them as faithfully as possible, or designed radical new variants that performed much better than the originals.
The downsides to each approach resulted in poor sales to most apprentices hoping to earn some money. Those that tread familiar ground could never surpass the models fabricated by the original manufacturers. Those that spent a lot of effort designing new variants ended up with models so far removed from lastgen mechs that they lost the essence of that period.
Some apprentices tried to take the middle road by making only minor tweaks to the base model, but many visitors shook their heads at these timid attempts to present something remarkable. The mech designer's lack of courage reflected back in their work, which often looked and felt as if designed by a bot.
"It's not easy to persuade the visitors to pull out their wallets. None of these people are easy to please." Ves surmised after reading through the summaries of the public sales reports.
While it didn't include any private transactions with special conditions, many mech designers struggled to make a sale.
Ves hoped to succeed where many others had failed. Unlike the other designers, Ves had a secret weapon. Mechs with an abundant level of X-Factor evoked strong emotion to anyone who saw them. Such machines should make a powerful impact in the sea of mediocre mechs that others put on display.
The entire festival revolved around the themes of nostalgia and authenticity. These were subjective criteria that could only be judged with feeling and emotion, something which Ves had a lot of practice in bending them to his will.
"If I can get this right, I'll have the crowd eating from the palm of my hand."
He decided to apply for the festival.
When Ves looked at the requirements to participate, he found them to be troublesome but attainable. The Vintage Festival only offered a venue to mech designers who were able to deliver. Since Ves owned his own workshop, he possessed ample qualifications to participate.
He only found a snag when he found out that he had to present at least three different models to the organization. The Festival took place about a month later, but the deadline for participation ended only three weeks from now.
"I'll have to work hard to meet this deadline."
Fortunately, his new machines should arrive in time for him to produce an original Caesar Augustus.
Yes, Ves wanted to fabricate the expensive, untarnished original Caesar Augustus. With the imminent arrival of his alloy compressor and CTM, his workshop finally gained the capability to reproduce the base model's highly advanced armor system.
It should be the centerpiece of his presentation. Even though the white elephant flopped on the market, its iconic look and features made it live to see a bright future in the form of toys, action figures and simulator reproductions. Many of the kids and teenagers at that time aspired to pilot this prestigious model.
The main challenge Ves faced with this model was to determine the right feel for this model. He once toured a couple of mech halls on Bentheim and personally witnessed a couple of great examples of the Caesar Augustus.
Each designer or fabricator left their own unique imprint behind in their work. Even though their influence was slight, it still provided the mechs with their own unique flavor. The better designers left a stronger mark behind.
"There's a lot of depth behind each quality reproduction."
The very best copies fabricated by the very best mech designers conveyed a strong blend of flavors that told a rich story. Even though their strength paled in comparison to what Ves could accomplish on his own, their rich experience and untold depths of knowledge provided them with a distinct advantage.
"It's like comparing a candy to a moldy cheese. Even if the candy offers a very strong flavor, those with more sophisticated tastes will prefer the cheese."
Ves had to tread carefully in this matter. If he failed to impress the crowd with his chosen vision, he could say goodbye to any potential sales.
Besides the Caesar Augustus, Ves planned to offer a gold label Marc Antony Mark II as the second model in his application. The Mark II represented a modern, cheaper take on the Caesar Augustus, which should ordinarily not sell very well in an event like the Vintage Festival.
His recent experience with modifying the DarkSpear gave him an idea on how to tackle this problem. He could modify the Mark II both visually and emotionally in order to appeal to the festival goers. Even if it was a longshot, it was worth a try.
"In any case, the Mark II already satisfies the condition."
Besides tinkering with the X-Factor, the two models required no additional work. Ves understood both designs from top to bottom, so he could immediately begin to fabricate them as soon as he received his shipment of raw materials.
"I still have to figure something out for the third model."
While Ves could take the lazy route and offer the old Mark I, he really didn't wish to embarrass himself. The Mark I was vastly inferior to the Mark II and should be consigned to the recycler. His pride as a mech designer refused to consider showing up at the Vintage Festival with the Mark I as an example of his current ability.
That left the most time-consuming option. "I'll have to design a new variant."
Since Ves already planned to offer an original model and a radical variant, he figured he should offer something that fit in between. Even though the Festival disdained such boring machines, Ves felt confident he could break the mold with the help of the X-Factor.
"The less changes I make, the faster I can get this done."
With a time limit of a couple of weeks, Ves couldn't afford to invest his attention on another radical variant. He blamed himself for not checking out these kinds of events sooner. Some of them really provided a good opportunity for him to make some money.
With a tentative plan in place, Ves decided to consult his mech broker and his publicist. As professional marketers, he should listen to their advice.
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