This is a good time to write about some very broad changes I expect to come about over the next year in our community as our new engine "Turbo" arrives. Turbo Game Engine, as the name suggests, offers really fast performance using a groundbreaking Vulkan-based renderer, which is relevant to everyone but particularly beneficial for VR developers who struggle to keep their framerates up using conventional game engines. I want to help get you onboard with some of the ideas that I myself am processing.
Less emphasis on how-to tutorials, more emphasis on API documentation
The new engine assumes you are either an artist or a programmer, and if you are a programmer you already know basic C++ or Lua. More attention will be paid to precisely documenting how commands behave. There will be a more strict division between supported and unsupported features. There will be less "guessing" what the user is trying to do, and more formal documentation saying "if you do X then Y will occur". For example, every entity creation function requires the world object be explicitly supplied in the creation command, instead of hiding this away in a global state. There will not be tutorials explaining what a variable is or teaching basic programming concepts.
More responsiveness to user requests, especially for programming features
Leadwerks 4 features have been in a semi-frozen state for a while now. Although many new features have been added, I have not wanted to create breaking changes, and have been reluctant to introduce things that might create new bugs, because I knew an entire new infrastructure for future development was on the way. With the new engine I will be more receptive to suggestions that make the engine better. One example would be an animation events system that lets users set a point in an animation where an event is called. These changes need to be implemented within the design philosophy of the new engine. For example, I would use an Actor class method to call the event function rather than a raw pointer. Emphasis should be placed on what is practical and useful for competent programmers and artists, and how everything fits into the overall design.
Less attempts at hand-holding for new developers
The new engine will not attempt to teach children to make their own MMORPG. Our marketing materials will not even suggest this is possible. The new engine will deliver performance faster than any other game engine in the world, period. Consequently, I think the community will gain a lot more advanced users, and though some of them will not even interact on the forum I do think you will see more organic creativity and quality. In its own way, the new engine actually is quite a lot easier to work with, but the sales pitch is not going to emphasize that, it will just be something people discover as they use it. I love seeing all the weird and cool creations that comes from people who are completely new to game development, but those people were new to game development and did well with Leadwerks had a lot of natural talent. Instead of trying to come up with a magic combination of features and tutorials to turn novices into John Carmack, we are going to rely on the product benefits to draw them and expect them to get up to speed quickly. Discussions should be about what is best for intermediate / experts, not trying to figure out what beginners want. Ease of use is subjective and I feel we have hit the point of diminishing returns chasing after this. If beginners want to jump in and learn that is great, but it is not our reason for existing.
Stronger focus on the core essentials
At the time of this writing, there are only eight entity types in the beta of the new engine. We can't win based on number of features, but we can do the core essentials much better than anyone else. Our new Vulkan renderer offers performance that developers (especially VR) can't live without. Models, lights, and rendering are the core features I want to focus on, and these can be expanded by the end user to create their own. For example, a custom particle system with support for all kinds of behaviors could easily be created with the model class and a few custom shaders, without breaking the performance that makes this engine valuable. Our new technology is very well thought out and will give us a stable base for a long time. I am planning on a plugin / extensions system because its best for this to be integrated in the core design, but you should not expect this to be very useful for a couple of years. Plugin systems require huge network effects to offer anything valuable. We can only reach that type of scale by offering something else unique that no one can match us on. Fortunately, we have something. It's right in the name.
More formal support for good standards
Vulkan has turned out to be a very good move. I don’t think anyone realizes how big a deal GLTF support is yet: you can download thousands of models from Sketchfab and other sources and load them right now with no adjustments. I may join the Khronos consortium and I have some ideas for additional useful GLTF extensions. I'm using JSON for a lot of files and it's great. DDS will be our main texture file format. There are more good standards today than there were ten years ago, and I will adopt the ones that fit our goals.
Different type of new user appearing
With Leadwerks, the average new user appears on the forum and says “hey, I want to make a game but I don’t really know how, please tell me what I need to know.” With the new engine I think it will be more like “hey, I’m more or less an expert already, I know exactly what I want to make, please tell me what I need to know.” I expect them to have less tolerance for bugs, undefined behavior, or undocumented features, and at the same time I think it will be easier to have frank discussions about exactly what developers need.
In very general terms that is how I want to focus things. I think everyone here will adjust to this more strict and well-defined approach and end up liking it a lot better.