Tasks in ORG are the fundamental unit of gameplay in that they are how players recruit new agents, build new ships, raid and bombard worlds as privateers in the service of national polities, research new technologies, and a hundred other things.
Of the various aspects of tasks, a task's duration interacts with trait bonuses and penalties in several ways that are useful for an aspiring director of an org to master.
Let's look at a few of these...
Every task has a duration before it will complete. Once kicked off, a task will continue to count down even when the player is not logged on. Rewards do not scale on a one-to-one basis with time, however, meaning two tasks that essentially do the same thing but have different durations will reward at different levels of efficiency. As a general principle, longer tasks will operate at a lower level of efficiency, although the total output will still exceed the any single pro rated instance of a shorter task.
This is a lot easier to explain with an example:
Task A and Task B both produce Refined Carbonates, but Task A has a duration of 5 minutes, while Task B has a duration of 50 minutes. Let's say Task A produces on a success 100 Refined Carbonates; if one were to simply treat Task B as a longer version, Task B - being ten times longer than Task A - would produce 1000 Refined Carbonates on a success.
Obviously, this isn't fair to the player who sits there and refreshes Task A every 5 minutes, and indeed, this is actually taken into account - Task B would more likely produce, say, 30 Refined Carbonates.
So why would someone want to use Task B if Task A is more efficient? At a difference in duration of 5 minutes versus 50 minutes, most players would generally just repeat Task A to get the better return, but what if the difference in duration isn't 5 minutes and 50 minutes, but 5 minutes and 5 days? At that point, when a player is ready to take a break from the game or go away for the weekend, Task B is a lot more useful.
In addition, orgs that achieve certain benchmarks can sometimes open up different versions of tasks which which provide different durations and different levels of efficiency as a reward for their accomplishments.
Pro-rating means to count based on amount of time in proportion to that amount of time, all of which is a mouthful to say in Org certain kinds of modifiers are calculated based not on a flat bonus or penalty but proportionate to the duration of the task.
For example, let's say the player's org has an agent with a trait that grants a +10 bonus Reputation for the Venusian Republic to a player who successfully completes any task that agent is slotted in. If there was no pro-rating, this would mean players would always be incentivized to slot such an agent on the shortest possibly tasks that offered Reputation for the Venusian Republic.
The problem is, this isn't actually what the intention is for the trait. The desired incentive is that a player should feel free to slot such an agent on any task that generates Reputation for the Venusian Republic regardless of duration. (Duration should still be a consideration, note - just not for what agents you are slotting on it).
What actually happens, thus, is that the agent's +10 bonus Reputation increases based on time at a flat rate, meaning if Task C has a duration of 5 minutes and Task D has a duration of 50 minutes, Task D will produce proportionately more Reputation than completing Task C would generate.
Traits and Time
Traits - the special effects that your agents, facilities, and ships have attached to them, some of which you can trade for and adjust, some of which are fixed - can have the ability to affect the duration of a task.
This can be enormously valuable; a trait that reduces a task's duration by 20% means a 5 day task will take only 4 days, or a task that takes 5 minutes will only take 4 minutes. In any single use of this the effect is nominal, but when repeatedly used over the course of weeks or months, the cumulative effects translates into substantial benefits for an org.
Since all agents, facilities, and ships have negative traits, there are also traits that generate duration penalties, though these penalties can be compensate for with other, positive traits affecting task duration, or simply tolerated in light of the agent, facility, or ship's other positive traits as they impact the task.