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Video Game Delegation Penalty

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A game mechanic punishes you for delegating tasks to the AI or a NPC.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
BeerBaron on Jan 12th 2018 at 1:01:13 PM
Last Edited By:
BeerBaron on Jan 16th 2018 at 12:07:47 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Some games allow you to set certain mechanics to "automatic" or assign certain tasks to a NPC. After all, you're The Chosen One and the only person who can stop The End of the World as We Know It! You've got better things to do than pick fruit at a farm. However, that fruit is a Health Food and/or can be be brewed into a health potion, so having a steady supply of it will help you save the world. There are ten fruit trees on the farm, and you can pick one piece of fruit from each per day. But why is it that when you assign your NPC buddy to collect it, you only get five?

You've just experienced a Video Game Delegation Penalty. By setting a certain in-game task or mechanic to "automatic", or by delegating it to a NPC, you get a less desirable result than when you do it yourself.

In some cases, this may be done for game balance. If setting a tedious task to automatic yields the same result as doing it yourself, why would you ever bother? In other cases, there is far less logic or justification behind it...

This trope is about game mechanics. If going above and beyond is required to get a preferred ending, see Earn Your Happy Ending and Golden Ending.


Examples:

  • Total War:
    • Throughout much of the series, you can choose to manually fight battles or have them automatically resolved. In cases where you vastly outnumber an enemy force, choosing to automatically resolve the battle will cost you far more casualties than manually playing the battle would.
    • In Rome: Total War, Horse Archers are a Fragile Speedster unit which requires significant micromanaging on the battlefield. However, they can be absolutely deadly when properly using Hit-and-Run Tactics. Unfortunately, Horse Archers count as disproportionately weak in auto-battles. If you're playing as a Horse Archer heavy faction, expect to manually play every battle as all but the most overwhelming matchups will result in losses when resolved automatically.
  • Fallout 4:
    • You can grow a number of crops at your settlements. Assigning a Settler to take care of the crops not only prevents the crops from dying, but surplus crops (those not required to feed the Settlers) will automatically be placed in the settlement's workbench. However, if you go to the settlement and manually pick the crops yourself, you'll get those crops as food items in addition to the surplus crops harvested by the settler.
    • If one of your settlements is under attack, you'll get a message (and quest objective) to defend the settlement. You can personally go to the settlement and defeat the attackers, saving the settlement. However, if you choose not to , the settlement has a chance to successfully defend itself based on the ratio of defense to resources. For a massive settlement creating 100+ food/water, the best odds of it successfully defending itself against an attack, even if you've turned the place into an absolute fortress with 100+ defense, is a 69.4% chance. In most cases, when you get there, your defenses will annihilate the attackers before you can even locate them. However, if you aren't present, that same settlement can inexplicably fail to defend itself nearly 1/3 of the time.
  • Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator has the "Mediocre" ending, one of the worst of the Multiple Endings. You "achieve" it by going through the game without buying any objects or salvaging any of the animatronics. In the ending cutscene, Tutorial Unit passive-aggressively tells you that you did a horrible job, and you're fired.
    "You stood on two feet and convinced someone that you could do something, when in fact you couldn't. Now get out."
  • Dawn of War: Dark Crusade and Soulstorm both allow you to auto-resolve invasions of your territory. This can fail even if you left the territory brimming with turrets and troops, as the AI doesn't follow the Straight for the Commander strategy of throwing all troops at the enemy HQ for an instant win.
  • Inverted in Zeus Master Of Olympus and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom: both allow you to simply bribe invading armies to go away. This is much faster than actually fighting, which cuts into your manpower, slowing down production for months, and frees you from having to maintain expensive troops. That said, if you maintain zero troops whatsoever other cities will happily attack you.
    • Played straight in Zeus with the auto-combat system in which troop movements are handled by the computer, usually resulting in losses because the troops only go to their preset positions instead of defending outlying suburbs.
    • Pharaoh (in the same series as Zeus and Emperor):
      • The overseer of Commerce will automatically adjust the minimum amount of goods to remove from sale if a request is made for them (though this amount can be manually set). While this works fine for most trade, he has an annoying habit of informing you that you have enough goods to fulfill a request just after the deadline passes, and considers that building materials should be imported in absurdly huge quantities (while some monuments do require a minimum amount of materials to be placed, the bigger ones don't need the entire stock to be present to be built as this would require covering half the map in storage facilities).
      • In Zeus and Pharaoh, honoring the gods can net you some very interesting blessings such as increasing trade frequency or instantly killing enemy armies. However, to prevent you from getting overly reliant on them there is a limit to how often you can pray/hold festivals per year, and in Zeus sacrifices regularly lower your sheep/goats/cattle, which need to be manually replaced (there's no automatic warning that your livestock population is getting low).
  • Zombidle: Bob falls asleep after a while if you don't actively click to deal damage, letting his monsters do the work for him (kinda the point of being a necromancer), and many items increase DPS or skulls gained as long as long as he's sleeping. Sloth Form is a spell that greatly increases DPS for a while, which most players have painstakingly increased to 5 minutes (the spell's cooldown). A much-hated update caused Bob to wake up when Sloth Form is used, reducing those item's effectiveness to near-zero.
  • Mass Effect 2 implements this in a way that straddles the ludo-narrative continuum: you can, theoretically, choose to perform the bare minimum of the recruitment missions and to ignore all Loyalty Missions before jumping right into the Suicide Mission endgame. Doing so, however, both skips a good half of the game's content, leaving you underleveled for the finale, and guarantees that you get a massively Downer Ending. Overall, the more character-centered missions you ignore before the endgame, the harder said endgame gets, both gameplay-wise and narratively, effectively punishing you for not engaging with the game's content enough. On the other hand, there is just one mechanic that punishes you for Taking Your Time too much, which is easily circumvented if you always finish all available character missions before tackling the next main story quest.
  • In most Pokémon core series games, you may choose to leave one or two of your Mons at the Pokemon Day Care. Pokemon in Day Care gain one experience point per every step the player takes. While its nice to have a Pokemon leveling-up while you simply walk around, there are several drawbacks to this method. For one, Pokemon in Day Care will not evolve. Two, if a Pokemon reaches a level where it can learn a new move, it will always learn that move; if the Pokemon already knows four moves, its first move will be forgotten and the new move will be placed last. This can lead to your Mons forgetting moves you wanted while learning moves you do not. Third, the Mon will not gain Effort Points as it would have if you leveled it up yourself through battle. This will leave it will somewhat lesser stats at higher levels than it would have had if you leveled it up yourself.
  • During the Trial Sequence in Neverwinter Nights 2, your character is framed for the massacre of a village, and assigned a wizard named Sand as a defence lawyer. The overall outcome of the trial doesn't affect the story in any major way note , but speaking on your own behalf gives you a chance to earn the "Master Orator" character trait, while letting Sand speak on your behalf will always result in a guilty verdict (since he's an Insufferable Genius who understands the law but pisses off everyone else in the courtroom).

Feedback: 12 replies

Jan 12th 2018 at 1:46:06 PM

Freddy Fazbears Pizzera Simulator has the "Mediocre" ending, one of the worst of the Multiple Endings. You "achieve" it by going through the game without buying any objects or salvaging any of the animatronics. In the ending cutscene, Tutorial Unit passive-aggressively tells you that you did a horrible job, and you're fired.

"You stood on two feet and convinced someone that you could do something, when in fact you couldn't. Now get out."

Jan 12th 2018 at 10:03:12 PM

  • Dawn Of War: Dark Crusade and Soulstorm both allow you to auto-resolve invasions of your territory. This can fail even if you left the territory brimming with turrets and troops, as the AI doesn't follow the Straight For The Commander Strategy of throwing all troops at the enemy HQ for an instant win.
  • Inverted in Zeus Master Of Olympus and Emperor Rise Of The Middle Kingdom: both allow you to simply bribe invading armies to go away. This is much faster than actually fighting, which cuts into your manpower, slowing down production for months, and frees you from having to maintain expensive troops. That said, if you maintain zero troops whatsoever other cities will happily attack you.
    • Played straight in Zeus with the auto-combat system in which troop movements are handled by the computer, usually resulting in losses because the troops only go to their preset positions instead of defending outlying suburbs.
  • Zombidle: Bob falls asleep after a while if you don't actively click to deal damage, letting his monsters do the work for him (kinda the point of being a necromancer), and many items increase DPS or skulls gained as long as long as he's sleeping. Sloth Form is a spell that greatly increases DPS for a while, which most players have painstakingly increased to 5 minutes (the spell's cooldown). A much-hated update caused Bob to wake up when Sloth Form is used, reducing those item's effectiveness to near-zero.

Jan 13th 2018 at 5:35:53 AM

Does this count for Idle Animations? If so, then I have a few examples:

Jan 14th 2018 at 1:07:24 AM

Video Games

  • Empire At War. Whenever you use auto-resolve on a battle (whether in space or on the ground), you almost always take much more serious losses than if you fought it out manually. This is because you can avoid losses by clever tactics, e.g. concentrating your fire on the most vulnerable opponents and using your units' special abilities properly.

Jan 13th 2018 at 7:16:16 AM

"Some games allow you to set certain mechanics to "automatic" or assign certain tasks to a NPC."

I thought this is about the game punishing you for being neglectful in general...

Jan 14th 2018 at 6:50:27 AM

  • Mass Effect 2 implements this in a way that straddles the ludo-narrative continuum: you can, theoretically, choose to perform the bare minimum of the recruitment missions and to ignore all Loyalty Missions before jumping right into the Suicide Mission endgame. Doing so, however, both skips a good half of the game's content, leaving you underleveled for the finale, and guarantees that you get a massively Downer Ending. Overall, the more character-centered missions you ignore before the endgame, the harder said endgame gets, both gameplay-wise and narratively, effectively punishing you for not engaging with the game's content enough. On the other hand, there is just one mechanic that punishes you for Taking Your Time too much, which is easily circumvented if you always finish all available character missions before tackling the next main story quest.

Jan 15th 2018 at 6:21:44 AM

Thanks for the example replies everyone!

@F Rizer, the difference between this and simply being neglectful is that the game gives you an option in-between - automatically having something done. And choosing that option gives you a less desirable outcome than doing it yourself.

Jan 15th 2018 at 9:52:06 AM

^I read F Rizer's comment as indicating that the title's use of "laziness" implied something more general than what you describe. You might want to consider a title like Video Game Delegation Penalty instead, since you're focusing specifically on cases where delegating an action to an NPC/the computer gives a less desirable result than doing it oneself.

Jan 16th 2018 at 6:49:06 AM

@Not On Any Flatbread - That's an excellent point. I updated the trope title and description.

Jan 16th 2018 at 11:53:22 AM

During the Trial Sequence in Neverwinter Nights 2, your character is framed for the massacre of a village, and assigned a wizard named Sand as a defence lawyer. The overall outcome of the trial doesn't affect the story in any major way note , but speaking on your own behalf gives you a chance to earn the "Master Orator" character trait, while letting Sand speak on your behalf will always result in a guilty verdict (since he's an Insufferable Genius who understands the law but pisses off everyone else in the courtroom).

Jan 16th 2018 at 11:23:17 AM

  • Pharaoh (in the same series as Zeus and Emperor):
    • The overseer of Commerce will automatically adjust the minimum amount of goods to remove from sale if a request is made for them (though this amount can be manually set). While this works fine for most trade, he has an annoying habit of informing you that you have enough goods to fulfill a request just after the deadline passes, and considers that building materials should be imported in absurdly huge quantities (while some monuments do require a minimum amount of materials to be placed, the bigger ones don't need the entire stock to be present to be built as this would require covering half the map in storage facilities).
    • In Zeus and Pharaoh, honoring the gods can net you some very interesting blessings such as increasing trade frequency or instantly killing enemy armies. However, to prevent you from getting overly reliant on them there is a limit to how often you can pray/hold festivals per year, and in Zeus sacrifices regularly lower your sheep/goats/cattle, which need to be manually replaced (there's no automatic warning that your livestock population is getting low).

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