"Bars that get shorter over time"?
March 6, 2010 9:14 PM   Subscribe

In the Sims games, each Sim has a set of bars representing their needs that get shorter over time. Each bar gets shorter and shorter until the need (e.g., hunger) is met. I can imagine the same kind of bar graph being used for a gas gauge or a visual representation of a bank balance. Does that kind of graph/gauge have a name?
posted by hayvac to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Progress bar.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:44 PM on March 6, 2010

In The Sims I believe they're called "meters" (hunger meter, fatigue meter, etc.). In a broad sense, I'd call them real-time or dynamic bar graphs. If you don't mind video game parlance, they could also be "status bars" -- similar to hit points or a power meter, but one which degrades at a constant rate.

On preview: I believe "progress bar" is more used for things that track, well, progress. So it starts out empty and fills up until the task is completed. OP is referring more to a updating status check that tracks the amount or lack of something, with a failure point if it reaches zero.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:53 PM on March 6, 2010

It's definitely not a progress bar. Rhaomi has a better description than mine of the aspects of the meter/gauge that I'm interested in. Is there a name for meters that are designed to run down over time until they hit zero or are refilled?
posted by hayvac at 9:59 PM on March 6, 2010

It's not a term of art but I think if you say "remaining balance meter" the general public will know what you mean. If you don't refill your account balance, you lose your purchasing power.

In video gaming culture the standard terminology for this kind of thing is "life bar", "life meter", "health bar", etc. Even if health isn't the quantity being measured, it's "the visibly measured thing that sucks a lot when it runs out".
posted by mindsound at 10:19 PM on March 6, 2010

For some reason I was thinking of the skill bar progress bar. Brain fart even though I read your whole question =]

A gauge bar would be appropriate for what you're talking about though. In other games "power" type bars that fill up and then deplete when you use "power" from them are called stuff like ninja-gauge, power-gauge, etc...
So the sims ones would be a Energy Gauge, Hunger Gauge, etc...

That's what I call them in games I have designed.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:23 PM on March 6, 2010

It would be difficult to use such a bar for anything that has no fixed upper limit (like, say, a bank balance). You can't say 'my bank account is 25% full' unless it's some kind of savings account with an upper limit, but it would still be weird.

Bars like that are, however, used all the time on such things as mobile phones (cellphones), MP3 players and other battery-powered gadgets. The fact that the bar is often broken up into blocks isn't much of a distinction - it's the same bar, only with rounding to the nearest bar unit (e.g. 43% = 2/5 bars).

However, I don't think people generally make such distinction between a bar that only goes up, one that only goes down, and one that does both. I'd probably use the term 'bar meter' to describe such a thing.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:14 PM on March 6, 2010

To paraphrase an old (1940's) instrumentation textbook I have packed away here somewhere: an instrument that is used to measure or set a quantity that gradually reduces or increases over time is usually referred to as a 'gauge'. An instrument that is used to measure or set a stable or fluctuating quantity is usually referred to as a 'meter'.

I realise that terminology changes over time and with application, and that exceptions abound, but in my experience this largely holds true.
posted by Pinback at 11:18 PM on March 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

Definitely gauge.
posted by anaelith at 1:49 AM on March 7, 2010

The bar-type format is called a bar graph display.
posted by cardboard at 4:06 AM on March 7, 2010

It's a gauge (Pinback FTW), but the decrementing versus incrementing is what is throwing off your description. I think "descending gauge" would work for most of the cases I can think of. I came in here to recommend bullet graphs, but these are ascending. One feature they have which is very nice is that they can go over 100% which is nice in some cases and might be good in your "hunger" case, as when a person is "overstuffed."
posted by zpousman at 5:28 PM on March 7, 2010

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