369 Leaving the Cave
Before he ended his isolation, Ves quickly checked the System. In the last couple of weeks, his DP had crawled up. He noted with satisfaction that ever since the Mech Nursery got their hands on the two Benson production lines, his DP started to accumulate a lot faster.
"Still, it's going to take some time before I can get accumulate a decent reserve."
In order to design a competitive machine that could hold its own in the overcrowded market for rifleman mechs, Ves relied on a number of advantages.
Compared to a regular mech designer from the Bright Republic, Ves enjoyed a decisive superiority in knowledge and ability. His extensive collection of Skills and his enhanced Intelligence far outpaced a regular Apprentice Mech Designer.
His Physics Skill alone enabled him to apply the alien crystal technology to his laser weapon, which was a massive boost.
His extensive library of quality component licenses also enabled him to lift the quality of his design by several increments. Ves could never stop praising the quality of the Trailblazer engine. Oleg's casual work might look nothing special in the Friday Coalition, but in the Bright Republic it had clearly earned the Blackbeak design a lot of renown.
Even if he lacked a number of essential component licenses, he could still purchase a small number of average licenses with his own wealth or his company's wealth. If he wanted to obtain something better, then he could even break open his stash of merits and obtain something good from the Clifford Society.
Ves already considered licensing some supplemental internal component licenses from the Society. A good rifleman mech needed a comprehensive targeting system and various other aids that facilitated accuracy.
He also wasn't entirely able to design a laser rifle from scratch. He still needed a base model to work from because he wasn't about to design a whole host of special components from scratch.
Even when he designed the Tainted Sun, he relied on existing research notes to tide him over in this aspect. In essence, Ves partially plagiarized someone else's work when he designed the graser rifle.
For obvious reasons, it wouldn't be a good idea for Ves to copy the exact same work for his next weapon design. Either he should come up with something original, or leave an obvious papertrail to an existing laser rifle design.
Ves chose to do the latter, because it wouldn't cost him a lot if he wanted to obtain a generic license. He didn't place too many demands on the weapon, so he had no need to work with something expensive.
"Extensive knowledge and good component licenses only form the base of my confidence."
Although it sounded as if he stood above his peers, in fact Ves knew very well that talents could beat him in both aspects. He couldn't forget about Michael Dumont, who had been lying low all this time while ramping up production of his discounted Havalax.
Ves faintly felt as if his rivalry with Dumont hadn't ended yet. Someone was obviously propping him up, because his company certainly wasn't making any profit from selling the Havalax for 50 million credits.
No, the true reason why he felt confident was because he possessed the opportunity to develop a Mastery any time he wanted. While the price was steep, the benefits pushed him up to the same level as the direct disciples of Master Mech Designers.
Only through experiencing the perspective of mech pilots could mech designers develop a mech that fits all of their customer's needs.
Still, Ves had to wince when he saw how much he had to go. He was far too short from reaching 40,000 DP.
According to the rules of the System, he earned 1 DP for every million credits in revenue. To accumulate 40,000 DP, the LMC needed to achieve a turnover of forty billion credits!
That was an insane amount, and couldn't be done in a couple of weeks!
The last time, Ves slowly piled up his DP through a combination of virtual and physical sales of the Blackbeak model, with the former playing the main role. However, the Blackbeak had almost reached its DP cap.
Virtual mechs earned DP a lot faster, but would eventually reached an upper limit where it didn't matter how many virtual copies got sold.
The System treated physical mechs differently. It could potentially deliver Ves a lot DP, but only if he sold them en masse. Right now, his sales hadn't reached that level where it could overtake the DP income of virtual mechs.
The delay grated on him. Until he obtained his Mastery, Ves didn't dare move on to the next phase of his design project.
"I'll figure something out after I collect some feedback. At worst, I'll design another virtual mech."
Ves thought he outgrew the necessity of designing virtual mechs, but reality proved him otherwise. It wasn't really respectable for a mech designer who owned a thriving mech company to go back to the sandbox and dabble with virtual mechs like a kid.
"Oh well, I'll take the hit in reputation so long as I earn enough DP."
After tidying up his lab, Ves exited the labs and private workshop floor and took the elevator up to the fabrication floor.
From weeks of solitude, Ves suddenly experienced a frenetic energy that could only come into being when a large amount of people stayed in the same space. Even though the different halls offered plenty of space, it couldn't obscure the effort poured into the activities that took place.
This was where the LMC fabricated its mechs. Ves smiled as he toured the three fabrication halls currently in use. Each hall hosted its own production line.
The mech technicians all worked seriously around the Dortmund line. As the most advanced production line of the LMC, it required a lot of focus and competence to ensure no flaws emerged in the end products.
As for the other halls, the mech technicians treated them with a little less care, though not too much. The new Benson production lines might not be able to deliver the quality of the Dortmund lines, but they made it up with increased automation and convenience.
Ves spotted Chief Cyril berating a handful of mech technicians slipping up on the job. He quietly approached the man and let him finish his rant.
"Ves." He nodded. "It's about time you left your cave. You've missed a lot. We could have used your help in getting the Benson lines up to speed."
Ves looked at the machines at work and found them to be running smooth. "You didn't need my help. It's best to train the mech technicians into solving their own problems. They can't always run up to us whenever they hit an obstacle."
"Aye. It still took a week longer than necessary to get the production lines on track."
"Are there still any problems related to production?"
"None that requires your attention. Most of my mech technicians have become familiar with working with the Benson machines, and they are already highly familiar with the Blackbeak design. They can pump out silver label Blackbeaks in their sleep."
"That's good to hear." Ves smiled.
When he returned from the Glowing Planet campaign, he relayed some of his experiences to Chief Cyril. After telling the chief technician how awful it was to work with a bunch of sad excuses of mech technicians from Walter's Whalers, he exorted the chief to step up the training of the LMC's workforce.
Ves would rather stab himself in the chest than to supervise a crowd of lazy bums.
After discussing some routine matters, Ves brought Cyril to a private office where he showed him the draft design.
"What you are seeing now is a draft of my next design. It's a rifleman mech with a number of unique points."
Ves explained the overall parameters of the mechs as well as its special laser crystal rifle and the crystal embedded into the chest.
Chief Cyril scratched his stubble, deep in thought. "You don't go for half-measures, do you? This is a risky design. If you can deliver on your promises, I'm sure your design will be a commercial success."
The premise here was if Ves could actually bring his draft to life without compromising on any of its estimated capabilities. Still, if there was one thing Ves didn't lack, it was skill.
"I'm fairly sure I can manage. Tell me what stands out to you."
"Besides the difficulty of realizing such an ambitious design, I think you're going to have a lot of trouble with the two basic concerns of rifleman mechs. Your energy supply and heat management doesn't look very fantastic."
"My design is almost as efficient as the Blackbeak. Certainly, its top speed is nothing to scoff at, but the Trailblazer engine is able to do more with less."
"That's only the engine. There are other components that suck up a lot of power as well, for example that fancy laser rifle of yours. According to your planning, it's supposed to come with both a rapid-fire and high-energy firing modes. No matter the mode, your mech won't be able to persist very long on the battlefield."
Even if it relied on external battery packs, Ves could still not go over the fact that his mech wouldn't be able to carry too many of them. That would negate all of the advantages of slimming down the mech.
"I'm already aware of the power issues. There are no easy solutions to this problem. As long as the rest of the mech is able to deliver on its promises, I think my customers won't mind too much on this issue."
"It's your call." Chief Cyril shrugged. "The second problem is that the armor looks a little thin. Are you aware that the Veltrex armor system won't work as well when you thin down the layers?"
The Veltrex armor system consisted of three fixed layers of armor plating of different compositions. The Blackbeak enjoyed an ample thickness for each of the three layers, so it was able to make full use of armor system.
Chief Cyril pointed out an uncomfortable truth, and that was that Ves took an armor system meant for knights and applied it to a rifleman mech design.
"It's… a less than ideal use of the Veltrex system, I admit." Ves had to concede his faults. "It's true that I'm driven by practicality when I made this design choice. If I had the option, I would have used another armor system, but I don't think the additional spending is worth it. Even though the Veltrex plating loses a bit of effectiveness when they're applied so thinly, they still perform above average compared to the local market standard."
Ves licensed the Veltrex armor system from Leemar. It couldn't compare against the regular compressed armor licenses that circulated in the Bright Republic.
However, it didn't change the fact that Ves had made a suboptimal design choice.
"Do you think it will affect the market evaluation of my design?"
"Hm. Maybe not. It's not like anyone else but other mech designers care about a slight misuse like this. The critics will torch you for this decision, but in my judgement the mech pilots won't care. It may even be of help to your fans. If they bought both your Blackbeaks and some copies of this new design, then the logistics of maintaining and repairing them will be a lot simpler."
Compressed armor was very difficult to fabricate and used up a lot of materials. A single outfit would have an extremely hard time trying to carry all of the raw materials of several different premium armor systems.
If multiple mechs used the same armor system, then that drastically lightened the footprint of any outfit. Some mech manufacturers designed a complete portfolio of mechs that shared the same materials for that reason.
"I think the Veltrex armor system has enough flexibility to be applied to any medium mech archetype." Ves concluded after the chief raised this point. "I don't plan on designing every popular archetype with the same armor system, but it's a nice benefit if I can make it work."