My short time with Leadwerks and its Sockpuppets here on Steam.
At first it looked promising to get a true alternative to Unity "on the cheap", in regards as annual subscription comparison to other engines vs up front fees. The reason for that is, indie developers are on extreme low to no budgets and calculate different than studios taking small risks, only, and are prepared to cut deals on a royalty basis when a game hits the shelves. Or one could spend little to no money for other engines (see below).
With under 100 quid, Leadwerks is in the indie pricelist acceptable with no royalties to pay. The Engine has a clean user interface and eveerything for most parts makes sense how to do things. Every newbie will manage to get around quickly how to use the controls in Leadwerks.
Leadwerks' asset pipeline can be quirky when importing static or animated meshes via FBX (a caution to LightWave users). The asset creation tool should be at least Autodesk FBX convertion tool which is free of charge, before importing anything into Leadwerks. Another topic to address is textures with alpha - Leadwerks will not automate anything for you at this point, instead you have to fix everything yourself and depending on complexity, you can spend hours to get a tree look right.
Leadwerks comes in two flavours; Indie Edition (Lua Scripting language) and Standard Edition (Lua and C++). As such, this is where the Game Engine won't crack the shell to be one tool to rule them all. At least not with the API Documentation efforts been made so far. In fact, it's a disaster to read the API Documentation. Not in everyone's favor to get a skinny bone to chew on. Last but not least, Leadwerks Documentation includes old stuff, depricated or missing non-consistent with the current 3.3 version (including but not limited to like, there is no vegetation painter as opposed to a previous version, no screenspace ambient occlusion, no sample content for the special effects and shaders, glass refraction, not enough from this and not enough from that and overall nothing to offer but "learn Lua").
The bottom line:
Leadwerks is not a game engine, but offers the potential to be one in the future (only time will tell).
Suggestions to free royalty-free alternatives:
- S2 Game Engine - free version for commercial use without royalties (AAA Graphics Engine)
- NeoAxis Game Engine - free without limitations but no full source code access
- Torque 3D Game Engine - MIT License with full source code
The "Developer" of Leadwerks gave me a permanent ban, because I told the truth that Leadwerks is a rip-off. The graphics software doesn't offer a game engine you get.
1. Shaders: no, you can't write a GLSL, instead you have to port it over to Leadwerks to actually work.
2. Asset pipeline - if there is any, instead your FBX files get screwed up and you run into a loop
3. DOCUMENTATION !!! what a JOKE
4. and I could write volumes what a great mess Leadwerks is.
5. don't spend your money on it, get Unity 3D, Neoaxis, Torque, S2 Engine or the 20 quid deal with Epic Games UE4