I got 2 questions, the 2nd is more some kind of opinion question.
Everybody heard of panda3d, OGRE and IrrLicht: they are great engines, with a lot of features. With OGRE you can do almost anything imaginable if you just learn the engine, with Irrlicht you can do a lot, but the engine is a little more beginner-friendly and lightweight. Panda3D is also great, python eases things, but a lot of things are also doable.
Before the new age of programming brought by the evolution of C++, 3D games that needed to be run on slow machines were programmed in C, but since then, we everyday push the transistors to further limits, forgetting how horrible it was to program games in the "old time". Okay maybe it was not horrible, but since 3D programming is complicated doing 2D, and since most engines support shiny stuff like shaders, scene manager, scene nodes, NURBS, shadows, animations etc, isn't out there some simple 3D engine or renderer that would just fit to people who has enough with plain simple 3D, without textures or just really simple textures ?
Since I heard "don't reinvent the wheel", I'm sure it's a little too much to learn how to make a complete engine using D3D or opengl, and since I'll learn D3D this next in a 3D programming school, I thought that with all the free engines out there, there must be one that is fitting my need.
Since the good old days of the PlayStation, I still view the upcoming of hi definition graphics (like the 360, PS3) like a plague: It is always harder to learn how to program more sophisticated software, it is challenging and gives a satisfying result, but in the end, it is still a stupid program that renders pixels !
I feel the fun in games has either not evolved at all or just really dropped compared to the old days where the guys making the game were not needed to just feed the eye of the player, but were meant to give an experience and fun.
I feel that nowadays games are just software that shows the available technology, but except some pearls, games are not ideas anymore, they are just some kind of demonstration of how invested dollars can shine in beauty on the CEO who doesn't know shit about how a game is made and what is really possible to do.
Well except independents games of course which will shine one day or another thanks to the XBox Live and Steam, but it is far from allowing programmers and designers do what they want. I'm not saying "evil corporations" etc, but I sense that photo realism is just a bummer: even if we have thousands more computer power, what is the point to try: we can't really "simulate reality", since it contradicts the laws of physics... We could compute a alternative reality, but still it would very complicated to design...