DP9, aka Dream Pod 9, the creators of both Heavy Gear and Jovian Chronicles, among other games.
The thing I was missing was a solid understanding of the game Mekton II. While I was busy with BattleTech, the DP9 guys were playing Mekton, and that shaped their view of what it means to be a Mecha game. In a real way, Heavy Gear was a response to Mekton.
Given that Mark A. Vezina (the man behind HG's rules) was also a force in the Mekton sphere, and the original Jovian Chronicles was actually a Mekton II expansion, this should come as no surprise to anyone, but as I digest my new Mekton materials, a lot what seemed strange in HG is starting to make sense.
I'm not going to go into details, since a large part of this microepiphany is "feel" related rather than rules related (in fact, Silhouette and Interlok rules are quite different in their approaches).
With all that being said, I'm now anxious to convert some basic HG mecha to Mekton (I know, blasphemy, right?). I'm certainly planning on doing up some stats for GZG's "Not VOTOMS" mechs I picked up, and maybe even trying to adapt Operation: Jungle Drums.
"Why not just play Heavy Gear?" you ask? Because I am a sad and perverse person, and at the moment I'm obsessed with Mekton. :) Plus, the few times I played HG as a wargame were not as satisfying as I would have like, and I suspect the crunchier and slightly less lethal approach of Mekton would serve my needs.
Ironically, HG may be too hard-science/realistic for my prejudices.