Okay, I'm going to talk a little bit about Pattern Adaptation Control (PAC). I'm not going to talk about the nitty-gritties in this post, just the general idea. Nitty-gritties will come to those who wait.
When someone plays a game, they are toying around with a rigid rule set. The exact nature of the rule set doesn't matter to this post - it could be Tetris, it could be Final Fantasy 47. But it is important to remember that both the AUDIOVISUAL components and the PLOT/LEVEL PROGRESSION count as definite rules - an action causes a reaction. That is, of course, in addition to what you would normally consider game rules, such as 'four connected puyos vanish' and 'you get money for killing slimes'.
The thing about a rigid rule set is that it is predictable (even if it doesn't make any kind of sense), once you've been exposed to it. It forms a pattern, and the player is in there, learning the rules, mastering the pattern.
Obviously, there's some very definite twists on this. For example, the pattern you get from playing Tetris is a wholly different kind of emergent pattern than the one you get from advancing a narrative - a pattern that is only marginally interactive.
But the core idea is the same. Your job is to manage the player's understanding of the pattern. You want him to enjoy the pattern, revel in its permutations. And he wants to. Everyone who sits down to play a game is thinking, "golly-gee, I hope this is fun". All of them. "Golly-gee".
So why do we produce shitty games? We know what they want. Why don't we give it to them? Because we (and by "we", I mean "they") don't know how.
The art of Pattern Adaptation Control (PAC) is precisely that. It controls HOW, WHEN, and WHERE the player adapts to a pattern by controlling the methods with which the pattern is revealed and played. It also makes clear what elements the 'best' patterns for this purpose have. In theory, it works for highly emergent patterns - such as Tetris - and also for rigidly progressive patterns - such as a narrative.
In my game-du-jour I'll be using early PAC theories to attempt to lure the player into the pattern of the game. I'll tell you some of THOSE details later.
I like PAC. I am, as far as I know, the only person who knows anything about the subject. I'm the PAC-man. Goo-goo-ga-joob.