If you read this before the end of the 2nd December 2014, and you are wanting to be be able to write a 3D game, get this now. Its incredible value at 50% off. If you have and use visual studio and write code in C++, and want to use it to write a game, splash out and get the Standard version too. I bought mine in a previous sale, with -25% off, and have invested many hours in using this latest version during the beta testing of 3.3.
There are lots of video tutorials on you-tube, which are really useful for a beginner to understand how to start to use Leadwerks. The Forum http://www.leadwerks.com/werkspace/
is a great community resource, which is always worth a visit when your stuck, answers to many of your questions can be found by searching in here. If its not already answered you can ask the community, and there are some really great people who have been using Leadwerks for years, including Josh (Leadwerks CEO) who respond with knowlegeable answers.
The steam workshop is really improved in version 3.3 and the community provide free resources for you to use in your programs. For the indie edition you can even publish your completed game, or prototype onto the workshop for other Leadwerks users to try and comment on, this also gives you a count of the number of subscribers. In addition the latest feature of publishing games also gets you a web page for you to customise, and can create links to standalone zips of your completed game for non leadwerks users to try, though I haven't actually got to this stage yet.
For those who want to create their own models, you can update Blender, with an export utility thats provided, and then make models and import them into Leadwerks. Other vendors such a WorldCreator can also be used to create landscapes and these can be imported using the RAW files, which you can then paint and alter in Leadwerks, or you can just create landscapes directly in Leadwerks. Many other proprietry programs can also be used to create models and can be imported into Leadwerks.
Water effects can be found in the forums, I have recently been adding this to my Work in Progress. You can create your own textures, from photos, crop them to squares in GIMP 2.8, other photo editors also work, and either reflect them horizontally and veritcally to form a new tile, or for images like grass or mud simply use the Filters > Map > Make Seamless to get a tile that you can port straight back into Leadwerks. Then you can use Leadwerks to make a normal tile, that will give your tile 3D surface effect. There are hundreds of textures already availabe on the Workshop, provided by the community, in addition to the starter set you get with Leadwerks installation, so don't worry even if you don't yet have the artistic skills.
You can paint your map with the workshop and built in textures to start with then simply replace the textures with your own as you make them, and you dont have to repaint the map to do so, as the painting is done by layering the textures. Simply replace one of the 16 textures in the terrain tool, with your own.
If your not into landscapes you can use CSG brushes, ie basic geometry for builing your map, boxes, cones, wedge, cylinder and sphere, and compound geometry Arch, torus and tube. Or combine both methods.
With Leadwerks you get an animated model, called a Crawler, which you can easily colour and size to your requirements. It comes with a script which can control its behaviour to some extent, and you can adapt the script to make them respond in slightly different ways.
Once you are near to finalising your map, you can run a Build Navmesh tool, which will scan your map and mark out all the places that are navigable by the Crawlers. This can be viewed in the editor to see the pathways between places on your map. The Leadwerks engine automatically uses this Navmesh to control pathfinding for the Crawlers without having to code anything yourself. The Navmesh does take a few minutes to complete, on slower pcs, time to put the kettle on.
You get 1 pistol as a starter weapon, other weapons are available in the optional (pay extra for) FPS weapon download, and there are some more free ones on the workshop provided by the community.
You also have ambient lighing and detailed lighting to add to your scene, these can be incorporated inside models, like car headlights for instance, use spot lights inside the model, to shine out and use a point light outside the model to show the headlight shining.
You can also add particle effects, called emitters, to your map and by tweaking the colours, make steam, or smoke, or lava blobs.
Overall its a fantastic tool, and its has a royalty free commercial license builtin to it, so no more royalty payments need to be made to leadwerks, even if you go on to sell the game you make commercially.
There are always things that can be improved, and Josh does a great job of taking Leadwerks forward adding features to the beta release, the latest version 3.3 has just gone live, I guess about 6 months between releases.
This product does need some coding skills to get the most out of it, but if you don't code, you can still do many things like creating landscapes adding crawlers and still have a lot of fun. The FPS weapon pack is already to use and requres no coding skills to use it. The scrips that make the gameplay are available to look at and amend, so once you understand how things interact, you can start by changing some of the scripts values, such as walking speed, and see how the gameplay changes, many of these values can be made to appear on the scenes list of items, as each entry can have its own script tab and you can show the values being used and change them.
I would reccomend having a decent PC, with a SSD drive, as this will save you a lot of loading time. I have an NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti graphics card and quite often get 60fps wondering around my levels. In ceartain areas though, through bad coding or design of a level can cause this to drop to 5 fps, but with a bit of tuning these bad areas can be brought back up to 15fps, without too much hassle, like for instance turning off shadows on the Crawlers, or reducing the number of particles used in an emitter from 9000 to 300, but making them much bigger.
The workshop could do with some more animated models, with some nice movements, jumping, stagering, lunging, rolling etc. So if your an animater, your work would be a most welcome addition to the community workshop.
Hope you enjoy your Leadwerks experience, I know I have.