To finish the virtual design, Ves had to fabricate a copy personally. He quickly rushed the fabrication within half a day, which was only made possible due to the outdated technology and the state-of-the-art virtual equipment provided by the game.
Ves quickly let the System evaluate his design, but didn't pay much attention to it besides the extra DP he got from finishing the design. The parameters of Lady Death's Heel looked quite good, but it wouldn't astound anyone who came across this strange-looking aerial mech.
Most of the draw came from the design's strange and extreme mode of delivering death from above. Ves hoped that players would take a serious look at this design once they came across its distinctive profile or got wrecked by it in matches.
Unfortunately, Crazy War Criminal's lack of reputation sent his virtual design at the bottom of the heap as soon as Ves published the design. An uncountable amount of designs flooded Iron Spirit each day, and it would take an extraordinary mech to catch fire from out of nowhere.
Even with his peculiar design, Ves had to compete against even crazier eccentric designs that mech designers cooked up on their own.
Still, Ves already had an answer for this problem. He spent the remaining millions of credits in his second account for a short but intense automated ad campaign.
One of the ways in which Iron Spirit made money was to accept paid advertising for their in-game market spaces. Although people only barely paid attention to any form of advertising these days, the exposure alone helped increase the odds that someone would stumble upon it and decide to purchase his product on an impulse.
Naturally, he set the prices to the minimum possible. Ves did not seek out a profit at all, nor did he wish to cultivate a reputation for quality and class. The price range of his products indirectly indicated its status, and Ves sometimes raised his prices higher than the minimum in order to make a better impression on the crowd.
Not this time, though. He wanted to lower the purchasing barrier as much as possible in order to harvest a quick sum of DP.
"Well, now that I've published the design and spent some money on advertising, my job is done. Now it's up to the market and the player base to see whether my new design catches on."
It was an unconventional mech for sure, but Ves held a decent amount of confidence in its appeal. Even if his buyers maintained a little bit of doubt, once they hopped into the cockpit, the Impaling Bird's instincts that suffused the design's X-Factor should quickly influence their perceptions.
A wicked smile appeared on his face as he thought about the impact that would make. He would have never dared to pull off such a stunt with his physical mechs. One of the most dominant traits of humanity was that they utilized their smarts on the battlefield. Patience, guile and strategy formed the mainstays of their martial prowess.
One reason why humanity predominantly preferred humanoid mechs was because it afforded them the flexibility to employ different approaches.
Ves basically threw all of those complicated considerations away when he designed the Lady Death's Heel. It destroyed its opponents through a combination of two one-dimensional attack modes.
The first strike dealt a crippling blow from above, and the second strike delivered the coup-de-grace.
As long as something went wrong, the Heel would fall in a precarious situation. The lack of legs meant that if its flight system got crippled, it would lose all forms of mobility.
At least other aerial mechs could still use their legs to function as a downgraded landbound mech. Not so for the Heel as its pair of legs had been replaced by a single broad spike that provided the mech with no form of locomotion at all.
"Well, it's not like people care that much in a virtual setting."
What worked on a physical battlefield might not work in a virtual battlefield, and vica versa. Ves prided himself on his understanding of the mech market. Although he couldn't match the breadth and wealth of Marcella Bollinger's market pulse, he always paid attention to these sort of things.
Ves left the Lady Death's Heel to the whims of the market and went on to prepare for the next design phase. He already possessed quite a lot of knowledge, but he hadn't bought any licenses yet, nor gathered any specific knowledge on how to design a laser rifleman mech.
He proceeded to spend the next couple of days on borrowing some relevant books from the Clifford Society's Moon Library. Although he valued his merits very much, the books he borrowed provided extremely valuable first-hand experiences of mech designers trying to design complete rifleman mechs from scratch.
The knowledge contained in these books would benefit each and every ranged mech he designed from this point on, so Ves considered the merits to be well-spent.
"If I'm ever short on merits, I can just do another mission."
Even though most of the Clifford Society's missions came with danger, as long as he could shore up the Avatars of Myth into a competent personal force, he could handle the risks.
Ves quietly worked for several days without checking his sales figures. He didn't wish to procrastinate over each and every sale, and decided to take the initial waiting period as a much-needed break.
When he became bored, he diverted some attention into browsing the MTA's list of component licenses. After finishing his draft design, he had a pretty good idea on what kind of component licenses he needed to acquire to round up his rifleman mech.
He especially paid a lot of attention to different laser rifle models. The weapon model had to be modular and open to extreme adjustments. He disdained the rifle models that came with all sorts of gimmicks and bells and whistles. He was content with a basic rifle with a solid design that didn't cost too much to fabricate.
After four days of placid research, Ves finally couldn't contain himself any longer. He went back to the terminal and logged in with his second identity. He then visited his Crazy War Criminal's store page and looked at the amount of sales.
"Nine-thousand sales! What?!"
To many mech designers, achieving nine-thousand virtual sales sounded nothing impressive. They could easily achieve such a feat in their sleep. These days, Ves would also be able to reach such a height with his primary identity.
However, to achieve nine-thousand sales in four days with a completely unknown account was something else. Perhaps the handful of millions of credits in advertising money achieved some results, but Ves knew very well that the Lady Death's Heel only fulfilled a tiny niche.
Ves browsed the comments of the Heel's product page and found that most of the players left extremely positive and extremely negative comments.
Those who evaluated his model positively turned out to be those that bought a virtual copy.
"DEATH TO ALL MEN!"
"This is my favorite 3-star mech of all time! It's so womanly! I feel gorgeous piloting this mech, and it feels great to stab a man's head from above, before crushing the area between their legs with the nifty hammer! I love it that it has enough reach to do so!"
"Nutcracker! Nutcracker! Nutcracker!"
"In my professional opinion as an amateur mech pundit, this is the ultimate female empowerment mech. Crazy War Criminal is obviously hell-bent on exterminating men, and has come up with this man-hating mech for the sole purpose of putting the brutes in place. I approve!"
The comments provided Ves with a very colored picture. Evidently, most of his buyers had actually been women. As for the men, they posted extremely negative comments in order to discourage anyone from buying this controversial mech.
"Don't buy this mech! It's ugly! Its legs are too tiny and its butt is too fat! Look at that chest, there's hardly any weight in them! If you want to look like an ugly pear, be my guest, but if you want to look pretty, go elsewhere!"
"I hate this mech! This is a disgrace of an aerial mech! Where is the balance?! My swordsman mech can't do anything but wait for death once this mech decides to pick me out as its target! It's opening strike alone is enough to split my mech in half!"
"Any men who pilots this mech is a disgrace to all men! You gender traitors might as well hand over your man cards and undergo a gender change operation, because you're not welcome among us anymore!"
"Ouch! My nuts! This mech is the living embodiment of an enemy of man! It's a flying war crime that seeks to impale men's behinds and crush their fronts whenever they get the chance to do so! This plague of a mech must be stopped!"
The amount of controversy his latest virtual design had sparked completely overshadowed its initial appeal. Somehow, his mech had turned into a focal point of gender conflict.
Ves scratched his head. He never anticipated such an outcome. He underestimated the frustration of the victims and the passion of its pilots.
"Let me take a look at some footage."
Ves browsed some public recordings and played them back, focusing only on the highlights. Time after time, the Lady Death's Heel dove into their victims from the air.
In the first day, the early adopters struggled to hit their targets. They often found their mechs to be difficult to control during a high-speed dive. Over time, they got the hang of it though, and when they hit their opponents, they almost always managed to cripple them. The convenient hammer that came with the mechs always ensured their targets died.
It was only from the second day onwards that the gender disparity began to widen. The female pilots turned into screeching banshees as they openly taunted their opponents on the open channel.
They even started to dive on their opponents in a shallower angle. Instead of aiming for the head or shoulders of their targets, they instead attempted to impale the lower waist whenever possible.
Front or back, it didn't matter, but it was an unprecedented humiliation for any man to allow a woman to jump their mechs in that kind of fashion.
The Lady Death's Heel quickly gained a reputation for being a maneating mech! Women began to flock to the model while the men tried to stay as far away from the mech as they could.
The local players already started keeping a vigilant eye on the skies. As soon as they spotted an aerial mech, they instantly unleashed every bit of firepower they possessed. They could not let the maneating mech come close!
Ves simply laughed when he saw the polarizing responses to the rise of his mech. All the bluster and energy surrounding his mech would quickly disappear once the fad had blown over. Behind all of the shouting and hating, Ves carefully studied the actual battle performance of the Heel.
Besides a number of talented female pilots, the rest of his buyers hadn't been able to make the most out of their purchases. The Lady Death's Heel could destroy any mech in an instant, but it was incredibly difficult to line up all of the conditions.
In fact, many of his customers actually dropped in their rankings.
Still, the design did its job. Ves easily harvested a bucket load of DP. He earned 5 DP every time he sold a 3-star virtual mech. His near-empty DP balance increased by more than 45,000 DP in a matter of days, and would reach the 50,000 DP cap on earnings before tomorrow.
Ves somewhat regretted designing a 3-star mech. 50,000 DP used to be a fortune to him, but the more he progressed, the more he needed to spend to climb even higher.
"I need millions of DP to upgrade my Vulcaneye and my comm augments."
He relied on his Privacy Shield and the Full Stealth augment for so long that he wanted to improve their capabilities. Ves only bought the entry-level versions so far, and to extend their durations, he needed to accumulate a lot more DP than he had earned up to this point.
"That's going to take a while."
In any case, Ves earned more than enough DP to embark on his next task. A shudder ran through his spine as he looked forward at what his next Mastery would bring.