I'm making an effect system right now (I think, because it may be a material system... or both!). The effects system follows the common (e.g. COLLADA, DirectX) effect framework abstraction of Effects have Techniques, Techniques have Passes, Passes have States & Shader Programs.
An effect, according to COLLADA, defines the equations necessary for the visual appearance of geometry and screen-space image processing. Keeping with the abstraction, effects contain techniques.
Each effect can contain one or many techniques (i.e. ways to generate the effect), each of which describes a different method for rendering that effect. The technique could be relate to quality (e.g. high precision, high LOD, etc.), or in-game-situation (e.g. night/day, power-up-mode, etc.). Techniques hold a description of the textures, samplers, shaders, parameters, & passes necessary for rendering this effect using one method.
Some algorithms require several passes to render the effect. Pipeline descriptions are broken into an ordered collection of Pass objects. A pass provides a static declaration of all the render states, shaders, & settings for "one rendering pipeline" (i.e. one pass).
Meshes usually contain a series of materials that define the model. According to the COLLADA spec (again), a material instantiates an effect, fills its parameters with values, & selects a technique. But I see material defined differently in other places, such as just the Lambert, Blinn, Phong "material types/shaded surfaces", or as Metal, Plastic, Wood, etc.
In game dev forums, people often talk about implementing a "material/effect system". Is the material not an instance of an effect? Ergo, if I had effect objects, stored in a collection, & each effect instance object with there own parameter setting, then there is no need for the concept of a material... Or am I interpreting it wrong?
Please help by contributing your interpretations as I want to be clear on a distinction (if any), & don't want to miss out on the concept of a material if it should be implemented to follow the abstraction of the DirectX FX framework & COLLADA definitions closely.