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Video Game Delegation Penalty

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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 Healing Herbs in The Lost Woods. However, having a steady supply will help you save the world, so you ask your NPC buddy to do it. You can gather 10 herbs every day, so why is it that when he collects them, 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, such as it being the result of Artificial Stupidity if the AI is just plain bad at handling the task.

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.


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Examples:

Examples have been alphabetized. Please add new examples in appropriate alphabetical order.

    Adventure Games 
  • Quest for Glory IV has a "strategy mode" in which, rather than the player directly controlling the Hero's actions, allows the computer to do so, based on the Hero's current skill levels and settings defined by the player. However, the AI controlling him is rather sub-par, and no matter what settings you use generally ends up using the Attack! Attack! Attack! strategy.

    Idle Games 
  • In Tap Titans 2, your inactive progress is generally a lot slower than your active progress unless you put several points into Silent March (increases offline speed) and Ambush (chance of finding multiple spawns per enemy), and it cannot progress past your maximum stage. Furthermore, you can only encounter the Game-Breaker (until it was nerfed) Portar during active play, who skips you 50 stages when killed.
  • 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.

    RPG 
  • Dragon Age: Origins allows you to take control of any member of your current party. The (up to three) characters not actively under your control will be controlled by the AI. You set orders for them to follow using the Tactics system, which enables you to automate how your characters respond to situations in combat. This allows you to setup your party members to work together efficiently without needing constant direction. However, even with very specific Tactics set, the AI-controlled characters may still not do what you want or need in a given situation. If you need them to do something very specific, your best bet is to switch to controlling that character manually and executing the action yourself.
  • The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall generates a background for the Player Character based on your answers to a series of questions during character creation. These questions affect your starting skills, equipment, and reputation. Answering them in certain ways (you'll likely need to consult a guide) can make you a Min-Maxed powerhouse) and can hand you a Disc-One Nuke starting weapon. You can also choose to skip the questions, which has the game answer the questions at random. Skipping can be quite detrimental, however, as the game is likely to saddle you with buffs to skills you don't intend to use and can give you poor starting equipment.
  • 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—though the defenses you set up may beat you to the chase. 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.
  • Final Fantasy XII has a Gambit system which allows you to set orders for your party members who are not actively under your control. This allows you to setup your party members to work together efficiently without needing constant direction. However, even with very specific Gambits set, the AI-controlled characters may still not do what you want or need in a given situation. If you need them to do something very specific, your best bet is to switch to controlling that character manually and executing the action yourself.
  • 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 massive 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 it's 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 with somewhat lesser stats at higher levels than it would have had if you leveled it up yourself. Since the main reason why people used the Day Care in the first place is to breed Pokémon, which said move deletion can ruin, Pokémon Sun and Moon removed the experience gaining mechanic entirely.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Crusader Kings: Your ruler characters have a demense limit based on a number of factors, if they hold more territories than that they take penalties until they dole them out to vassals. Vassals pay a fraction of the income that personal estates produce, they only provide troops to certain conflicts and hold back the majority of their levies, and are prone to rebelling if their lord doesn't appease them enough.
  • 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.
  • Stellaris caps the number of inhabited star systems you can actively control without suffering heavy penalties to your economic output. Taking control of additional systems past your core system limit forces you to set up AI-controlled administrative sectors that manage the planets and habitats within. It's widely considered a Scrappy Mechanic not only because the sector AI is very prone to making stupid decisions about what to build, but also because you'll never get more than 75% of the outsourced systems' resource output transferred to you. The rest goes to the sector's internal stockpiles to be used for autonomous expansion. That sectors have a habit of rebelling against your rule, instigating armed revolts and breaking away from your empire to form an entirely new nation that opposes yours, doesn't exactly help to endear the system to the player base.
  • 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. They can be absolutely deadly when properly using Hit-and-Run Tactics, but are 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.
    • In Total War: Shogun 2, due to the way Auto-Resolving Naval Battles is calculated, it is highly recommended that you play them all manually. Owing in part to Artificial Stupidity, the calculations can be skewed and unreliable. To note:
      • You have two Nanban Trade Ships against one Bow Kobaya. If you fight manually, the Bow Kobaya will never survive or even inflict any damage. If you Auto-resolve, the Bow Kobaya will inflict minimal casualties and hull damage on one Nanban Trade Ship.
      • You have eight Medium Ships against one Large Ship. If you fight manually, the Large Ship will surrender or be sunk with minimal or no casualties to your fleet. If you Auto-resolve, you will lose at least one Medium Ship.
      • Large, slow Ships are strong in manual battles but fare poorly in Auto-resolve whereas Small, fast Ships will get crushed in Manual Battles but seem to tip the odds more favorably in Auto-resolve.

    Space Management Games 
  • City-Building Series:
    • 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.
    • In Pharaoh, 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 a single go/should only be exported if you have enough left over to finish the monument, despite the absurdly huge quantities involved (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). Similarly, he considers goods required for the tomb as part of the quantity required to import, which can quickly exhaust your treasury if you don't dispatch them quickly.
    • 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).

     Sports Games 
  • Madden NFL:
    • This is especially prominent when playing defense. On offense, under most circumstances, you control whichever player has the ball. The other players will run their routes or block as designed, with their attributes (especially "Awareness") playing into how well they do these things. On defense, however, you can take control of any player. The ones you aren't controlling can almost certainly be expected to perform worse than they would under your control. One of the most prominent examples occurs when the opposing QB rolls out out of the pocket. Pursuing defenders have the option of either going for the QB (at which point the QB will try to pass the ball), or dropping back in coverage (at which point the QB will try to run with the ball). This is a desirable situation in real life for the offense, as it forces the defenders to choose and should leave one of the options open. However, in the game, if you are not controlling the closest pursuing defender, expect to see him get indecisive and hover in between, leaving both the pass and the run wide open. This can even happen with defenders who have maxed out Awareness.
    • In Franchise Mode, you may choose to skip over offseason events such as the free agent signing period and the draft. Do so at your own risk, as the AI may decide to, for example, sign multiple expensive free agents at one position leaving you without enough cap space to fill other needs. It may draft players at positions where you already have excellent players and good depth, meaning those players won't even see the field while leaving gaping holes at other positions on your roster. It may allow a young stud to leave via free agency while re-signing an aging player with decreasing stats to a multi-year extension.
  • In combat sports games with a career mode, such as Fight Night and UFC Undisputed, there are often training minigames for building your stats. These are painfully repetitive, but automating them results in a fraction of the stat gains.

    Survival Horror 
  • 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."

    Miscellaneous 
  • When you buy desserts (which act as power-ups) from Angel Cake's bakery in the Nintendo DS game Strawberry Shortcake: Strawberryland Games, you can choose between baking them yourself and having Angel bake them for you. The former choice gives you two desserts, while the latter only gets you one.

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