Ves already worked with gimmicks before. Back when he designed the 3-star virtual variant of the Hoplite, he adapted one of the spear-wielding knight's gimmicks to the Young Blood.
The gimmick consisted of various enhancements to the shield of the Young Blood so that it would be able to bash its shield with greater speed and momentum.
The implementation came with a number of flaws. The Young Blood could only enhance its shield bash for a limited number of times, because the batteries embedded into the shield carried only so much charge. In addition, the components lacked sufficient sturdiness and could easily be rendered inoperable.
"Still, it doesn't matter if the actual implementation is disappointing. It's an attention grabber."
The mere existence of the gimmick attracted a lot of attention. The Young Blood became known as the ultimate shield-bashing knight mech and its existence had been imprinted on countless Iron Spirit players.
The best gimmicks bestowed otherwise normal mechs with seemingly inconceivable superpowers. Meanwhile, the worst gimmicks actually turned out to be a detriment on the battlefield.
No matter the case, a gimmick always attracted a lot of attention, thereby making them the perfect marketing material.
Ves knew that purist mech designers disdained the use of gimmicks. They would rather focus their efforts on maximizing the core performance of a mech. The more a mech designer emphasizes a gimmick, the worse the overall performance of the design in question.
Adding a gimmick to a mech always came at the cost of weight, space, power or heat management. It also raised the price of the mech and disproportionately increased the maintenance burden.
"A good gimmick justifies its existence. A bad gimmick becomes a weight that drags down the design."
Ves did not even have to browse the galactic net to come across countless failed implementations.
For example, one iconic example often bandied about in the mech industry was the Grenadier. Nominally, the designer designed the Grenadier as a Skirmisher. However, it carried a bandolier of high-explosive shells on its torso.
The purpose of the Grenadier was to sneak behind enemy lines and inflict severe disruption with minimal footprint. Compared to missiles, grenades took up a lot less space and weight, and didn't require any launchers either. The grenades also didn't cost a lot of time and money to produce.
Alas, the actual implementation fared much worse than the designer had intended. Almost every Grenadier that got caught got blown up when its opponents focused their fire on the bandolier. The Grenadier might be carrying around a lot of explosive might, but compared to missiles, they lacked much of the preventive measures against premature detonations.
"I also can't forget about the Adaptris."
The Adaptris was a so-called multi-environmental mech. It was a heavy mech that was simultaneously an aquatic mech, a landbound mech, an aerial mech and a spaceborn mech.
The mech designer of the Adaptris piled his mech up with so many systems that it could adapt in almost every circumstance. The logic of the Adatris was that since it could be fielded in almost every situation, it could be produced and fielded en masse. The advantages of scale would eventually outweigh the inherent inefficiencies in the design.
Heavy mechs always strained the resources and industrial capacity of a state. If the Adaptris could be produced in enough numbers, then the heavy mech component of its military force would become ten times deadlier.
Sadly, the designer had a few screws loose in his head. He somehow succeeded in pitching the idea to a handful of third-rate states, which allocated a huge portion of their limited industrial capacity in producing these gimmicky heavy mechs.
For all their adaptability and theoretical performance, the mech designer hadn't actually designed a good mech. The heavy mechs came laden with flaws due to the excess of different systems stuffed inside their frames. The most fatal flaw was that they ran out of power up to seventy percent faster than a normal heavy mech!
With countless more examples just like this, the mech industry adopted a wary stance towards gimmicks. If a mech designer wanted to add something special to their mechs, they should better restrain themselves and keep their implementation modest.
Ves did not intend to flaunt that rule. "The only mech designers who resort to gimmicks are those who can't compete the normal way."
Why did crazy designs like the Grenadier and the Adaptris come into existence in the first place? It was because their mech designers faced too much competition!
They couldn't compete against the market with their normal capabilities!
"It's too difficult to compete directly against mainstream mechs!"
The dominant trans-galactic corporations ruled over the galactic mech industry from their headquarters in the galactic center. Design teams numbering dozens Masters and hundreds of Seniors focused all of their immense expertise into perfecting a single standard design at a time.
How could any average mech designer compete against the best that humanity had to offer? Even though the galactic center was tens of thousands of light years away from the galactic rim, any newly published design from the center would instantly reach the rim through the galactic net.
Within a single week, mech manufacturers around the galaxy would instantly produce at least a billion copies of the new design. Within a single month, the number of copies might surpass a trillion.
The amount of demand for the latest mainstream mechs from the most reputable trans-galactic corporation could make any single mech designer die from envy!
Fortunately, many states wouldn't allow these trans-galactic corporations unrestricted access to their mech markets. They adopted a variety of measures, from tariffs to quotas to give their domestic mech industry a chance to survive.
States had to be careful in implementing these trade policies.
If they acted against foreign mechs with a heavy hand, they risked coddling their mech industry into complacency. Without the pressure of outside competition, the state's domestic mech designers faced little incentive to exert their full efforts into maximizing the performance of their mechs.
The difference might not become evident in a couple of years, but this sort of change always took its time to seep into the vitality of a state. After twenty years or more of continued decline, the strength of the domestic mech industry would be a shadow of its former self.
The mechs that proliferated in this state that closed its market to outsiders wouldn't be able to measure up against the mechs of their rivals. Many states ended up grinded beneath the feet of their neighboring states because they disregarded outside advancements.
On the other hand, if a state treated foreign mechs too leniently, then their domestic mech industry would eventually atrophy, crippling its ability to design purpose-built mechs for their mech forces.
This indirectly weakened the state's ability to wage war, because mainstream mechs would always be analyzed to death by the entire galaxy. Their strengths and weaknesses would quickly become clear to all, including any possible opponents. It would be trivially easy to exploit these traits if an entire mech force consisted of the same handful of mainstream mech models.
"The Bright Republic is in a difficult spot. I can't blame them for opening up their market to mainstream mechs."
The Bright Republic had to square off against the Vesia Kingdom, a larger and more populous third-rate state. It couldn't afford to put too many restrictions on the high-performing mainstream designs that constantly proliferated from the galactic center.
These extremely well-designed mechs provided the Mech Corps and the various private forces that operated within its borders with a readily available supply of high-quality mechs.
Naturally, the Vesians often exploited the well-known weaknesses of these mainstream mechs, but that couldn't be helped. Much more importantly, the pressure of galactic competition separated the wheat from the chaff. Incompetent mech designers had no place in the Republic. Only the best and most resilient mech designers continued to survive under these circumstances.
"Still, I'm far away from competing against the mainstream mechs in an upright clash. I can only resort to tricks."
Ves already had something interesting in mind. Before his latest trip to the Joe System, he agonized over the problem, but after he explored the crystal ruins, he quietly formed some ideas.
The key to his gimmick lay in the composition of the crystal structures. Even if he didn't understand the circuits embedded into the crystals, he would still be able to attempt to reproduce a copy of the naked crystals.
All of this became possible due to his timely purchase of the Vulcaneye. The crystals bared all of its secrets against the powerful multiscanner.
As Ves studied a projection of the crystal's composition, he put his formidable knowledge and enhanced mind to use. Could he fabricate the crystals by himself?
"It's not possible." He shook his head. "It's too costly."
Coincidence or not, the composition of the crystals from the crystal city utilized exotics available in the Komodo Star Sector. Perhaps that might be why the crystal builders left behind a presence in the Joe System.
However, an unimaginable amount of time had passed since the passing of the tiny alien species. The Komodo Star Sector back then looked a lot different than today. Several of the core ingredients could only be found in the center of the star sector, smack dab in the middle of the Friday Coalition.
"Now that the Friday Coalition is clashing directly against the Hexadric Hegemony over the Glowing Planet, they'll keep all of their high-value exotics to themselves."
Ves also couldn't forget about the drying imports. The surrounding star sectors also became engulfed in war. Few shipments of rare exotics made it all the way to the Komodo Star Sector these days.
"If I can't use the original composition, what about using substitutes?"
Substituting an expensive or scarce material for a more readily available one happened all the time. Ves was no Master Katzenberg, but his breadth and depth of Skills and Sub-Skills gave him the basic qualifications to figure something out.
"If labs contain samples of pretty much every exotic available in the Republic. As long as Lucky hasn't emptied them all, I'll have a good chance of creating an inferior copy."
Ves fixated on the crystals because they formed the key to lowering the bulk of his laser rifle. He already applied some of the insights he learned from the crystal ruins into cutting down the bulk of the Tainted Sun. However, he could have done a much better job if he had some actual crystals to work with. The gamma laser rifle eventually failed to live up to its potential.
"My next laser rifle will be a far cry from the Tainted Sun."
He already gained a lot of experience designing the laser rifle's big brother. Graser rifles demanded the utmost in terms of integrity, tolerance, power supply and heat management. Ves faced a lot less pressure if he designed a regular laser rifle.
"The first gimmick will be to implement as much crystals as possible in the laser rifle."
Ves already envisioned the laser rifle being smaller and slimmer than a standard model. Combined with the reduced weight of his rifleman mech design, the entire package would allow mech pilots to move faster and nimbler on the battlefield. At the very least, its mobility could compete head-on against the swiftest mainstream mechs in the same weight class.
"Still, this isn't enough."
A better laser rifle only scratched the surface. Ves intended to embed a crystal in the frame of his design as well.
A bold idea surfaced in his mind. He imagined a large crystal embedded in the head or the chest of a mech. It would accumulate energy over time, perhaps even absorbing enemy laser beams to charge itself faster. Once its energy accumulated up to a critical point, it disgorged its entire charge in a single powerful light beam.
The idea sounded very fanciful and unrealistic. At the very least, Ves couldn't recall any mech that had used such a gimmick. While many designs did in fact embed laser projectors directly onto the frame of a mech, only the most expensive second-class or first-class mechs employed such a gimmick.
"Laser projectors are vulnerable and present potential weak points. I'll have to find a way to reproduce a crystal that's both resilient and affordable enough."
Ves turned to his lab and eyed the handful of high quality equipment. This would be the first time he put the capabilities of his lab to test.