The more Ves immersed himself in Felixia's attractions, the greater his anticipation. The Planet of Cats had a lot more to offer than just their Crown Cats, though to Ves the huge mech-sized apex predators remained his top priority.
Studying the Crown Cats and the other huge cats that didn't quite make it into the top twenty gave Ves a lot of inspiration.
He carefully studied all the footage he could get his hands on. While most hunting teams kept their hunting attempts private, some opted to showcase their bravery and skill by publicizing authenticated footage of their hunts.
Even if most of them ended in failure where only half or less hunting mechs ran out of the hunting zone intact, there was no shame in losing against a Crown Cat.
In fact, participating in a hunt already served as sufficient proof of the bravery of the participants! The honor they gained from setting out on a hunt and making it out alive was sufficient to propel them to the top of the mech hunting community!
"Mech hunters are a weird bunch." He muttered. "Instead of piloting mechs out of money, duty or advancing to expert, they are merely in it for the hunt! I never realized that there are so many proponents and traditions involved!"
Huge game hunting became popular activity in some circles. However, it also attracted a decent amount of controversy.
First, it was an inordinately wasteful hobby. Most of the time, the hunting trips always resulted in a loss, as even if the mech hunters succeeded in their attempts, their prey couldn't be sold for too much money.
Critics also questioned the utility to engage in this violent and costly hobby. Mech pilots who enlisted in the military or signed on to a private sector outfit at least served an important societal function. They contributed a lot to their societies.
Even the mech games served a purpose by providing mass entertainment to a huge number of fans. The mech games also focused on combat between mechs, which was highly relevant to anyone active in the mech community.
By far, only wealthy people engaged in huge game hunting, and only a few of them live streamed or published footage of their hunting trips.
Huge game hunting was all about hunting impressive prey. The more dangerous, the more impressive the prey. No one batted an eyelid if a huge game hunter bagged a docile elephant or something.
In order for a hunt to bring prestige to the hunters, the prey had to be capable of fighting back!
For this reason, huge game hunting led to an inordinate amount of waste as many mechs got trashed during difficult hunts.
A lot of mechs got trashed in order to satisfy the vanity of their owners!
Still, as a wealthy individual himself, Ves recognized the appeal of engaging in this activity for those who weren't professional hunters.
"It's all about earning reputation in a semi-controlled environment!"
A wealthy entrepreneur stood out from their peers if they could boast about an impressive hunt. Even if they weren't mech pilots themselves, merely financing and organizing a hunting team and accompanying them in a successful hunting trip was enough to enhance their renown!
The most valuable invisible currency in human space was honor, which mech pilots mainly earned in serious battles.
Huge game hunting did not involve a lot of honor. What the hunters were truly trying to gain was prestige!
This was a particularly classy form of reputation that enhanced the standing of anyone who possessed it! The recognition of accomplishing something challenging was worth quite a lot in contemporary society!
"Successful huge game hunters brag about their successful hunts in the same way I boast about my wartime exploits!" Ves realized.
Hunting trophies served a similar role as medals.
For this reason, a lot of businessmen, nobles and other wealthy people continually kept this perverse activity alive.
Ves sneered at these peacocks. "These people are too afraid to volunteer in the military during wars. The battles that they might be subjected to if they are deployed to the front are highly unpredictable. If they are receive a safer assignment, then they won't be eligible to earn any prestigious medals."
As Ves experienced first hand, war was dangerous and messy. Your own side tried their best to defeat their opponents while the other side tried their best to do the same.
The huge scale of wars also diminished the individual agency of those who participated in the fighting. Many times, Ves lamented his inability to control his own destiny. During his time in the Mech Corps, he functioned as a tiny cog in a very immense machine that followed the instructions of people far above his head.
"Participating in wars is a dangerous and unpredictable way to earn prestige. Hunting trips are much safer in comparison!"
Big game hunting in person and huge game hunting with mechs both offered crucial advantages.
First, hunting was an activity where the leaders and organizers retained a lot of agency. They got to decide where to go, which creatures to hunt, which mechs to field and so on. The risks were a lot more known, so the people involved could precisely calculate how much danger they faced during their hunting trips.
"As long as the hunters gathered sufficient intelligence, the hunting trips become predictable!"
Second, those who engaged in hunting knew exactly what they were getting into. A legitimate hunting trip still posed a threat, but compared to the completely chaotic battles taking place in major wars, the hunters and anyone accompanying them precisely understood the risks! The chances of something unanticipated happening was very low!
"Even hunting the Crown Cats isn't as dangerous as an actual battle!"
Smart and resourceful hunters planned for every scenario. Those who undertook the most challenging hunts still managed to make it out alive with at least some mechs and vehicles intact.
For this reason, Ves looked down on wealthy people who tried to buy prestige in this manner. While it was certainly impressive to participate in the hunt for a renowned Crown Cat, none of their achievements surpassed his own accomplishments!
"Still, it's better than nothing, I guess." He muttered.
Very few people among the upper classes experienced the hardships that Ves had gone through. These spoiled brats didn't have the stomach to expose themselves to greater risks.
Participating in a hunting trip with assessable risks was already prestigious enough to impress those who didn't have the guts to do the same.
"Well, at least there are some hunters who are doing it out of the love for the hunt."
Ves respected the genuine enthusiasts and professionals in the hunting community. They weren't in it for a season or two, but dedicated their entire lives to the challenges.
"In every hunt, something can always go wrong."
No matter how much the hunters planned ahead and calculated the risks, something catastrophic could always happen.
Perhaps a single attempt may not lead to anything unexpected. However, if hunters continually reentered the hunting zones, then one day they might bite off more than they could chew.
"Of course, the real hunters don't go into carefully-managed hunting zones."
Within the hunting community, the hunters who earned the most prestige consisted of those who entered newly-discovered untamed planets and hunted exobeasts that had never been hunted before!
The competition of earning a 'galaxy first' achievement for bagging a novel exobeast species turned out to be quite intense. A lot of hunters even joined treasure hunting expeditions to the frontier just so they could encounter and hunt down exotic new alien beasts!
Naturally, these hunts were a lot riskier due to the lack of information. Hunting a completely new beast often meant going in blind. At best, they might squeeze in a few days or weeks to observe their prey and assess some of the dangers.
Earning these so-called galaxy first achievements didn't interest Ves very much, but he understood its appeal to others. It was very difficult for space peasants to find meaning in their lives once they became aware of how little they mattered in the galaxy.
Being the first ones to hunt a formidable species of exobeasts was a good way to leave a mark behind.
Ves felt the same way about his works. Thousands of years from now, he'd probably be dead. Much of the details of his life would fade away with the passage of time as human civilization moved on from the past.
The only legacy that he left behind was his work. As long as he advanced to Star Designer, Ves was assured that his mechs would be remembered and recorded into history for eons!
"Reaching Master is not enough!"
Although Masters enjoyed an immense amount of prestige in today's society, there were too many of them to remember them all. Only the most exceptional and outstanding Masters might stand a chance of lasting longer in people's minds than the more inconsequential ones.
If Ves truly wanted to leave a permanent mark behind in the galaxy, then he had no choice but to reach the pinnacle of mech design!
"Designing the Devil Tiger will help bring me a little closer to that height." He smiled. "Isn't that right, Lucky?"
"It's a long road, I know, but I think this little step will be a very meaningful one."
Ves resumed working on his Devil Tiger design. Studying the immense Crown Cats of Felixia gave him a lot of inspiration on how to develop a deadly predator in the form of a mech.
His mech became more refined, graceful and threatening. Mech designers took inspiration from nature all the time, and this was no different.
Ves merely had to be careful that he didn't straight up rip off the contours, skeletal structure and musculature of a single Crown Cat. What worked for exobeasts didn't necessarily work for mechs.
He also wanted to maintain ownership of his own design. If he copied too many elements from exobeasts, then did he truly understand his own design? Ves had to justify every adjustment and avoid changing something just because it would look closer to one of the awesome-looking Crown Cats.
In addition, Ves also had to work with the peculiar properties of ASMAS. Armor and structural integrity posed significant challenges to him. One of the fundamental downsides to smart metal was that they weren't able to offer the same degree of protection as conventional armor systems.
His Devil Tiger partially compensated for that by utilizing substitute ASMAS that incorporated a lot of possible materials.
If the owners fed the mech something cheap, then the substitute ASMAS being formed would hardly be able to withstand a dent.
If the owners manage to scrounge up something more valuable, then the amount of damage the Devil Tiger withstood rapidly increased.
Ves envisioned a situation where the Devil Tiger may start off modestly but slowly accrued patches of exceptional protective sections. As long as its mech pilot or owners found a couple of chunks of medium or high-grade exotics, then the quality of substitute ASMAS that functioned as its exterior armor continually crawled upwards.
It might take years or even decades of scavenging, but as long as the Devil Tiger avoided getting trashed entirely, it could become a very formidable mech!
"Sadly, it can't completely rely on itself to upgrade all of its systems."
The Devil Tiger he envisioned fell short of a mech that could autonomously upgrade and evolve every aspect of itself. The more crucial and delicate systems such as the neural interface and various other critical functions had to be fixed components that couldn't be substituted by any form of smart metal.
This meant that the owners of the mech had to replace old and outdated parts with newer ones over time.
Ves shrugged. "Even with this shortcoming, it's not too big of a deal. As long as the Devil Tiger itself consents with the upgrade, this can easily be accomplished."
At its heart, the Devil Tiger was still a mech that decided its own fate!
Ves wanted to create a mech that held the upper hand over the humans who piloted and sent it into battle. He took great pleasure in bringing such a machine into being that subverted the rules.
"Normally, the humans are in charge, but this time they are not!" He grinned. "Anyone who thinks they can treat my Devil Tiger as a machine they can use and abuse will be in for a very harsh lesson! Hahaha!"