Before I say anything, I know that I sound extremely foolish by starting this topic or even talking here at all. But I believe I have genuine questions and I hope that you people out there will be kind enough to me to give me some advice.
My epic vision/goal/dream that all of you would probably laugh at would be a game based off of a serious of books I used to read, about some feral cats (sounds pretty dumb already, right?). In my head I would like it to be something like a big epic Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess-style thing, that follows a fixed story line with certain worlds, and those types of 3D graphics and animations. It would not have weapons (cats don't have weapons!) but it would likely have to include other functions such as that type of battle and action system; several buttons do several things or create some sort of particular action. There would be things that I can't even think about programming that would have to be implemented for the game to be created as I see fit. There would also be many, many, characters that would need to run well on AI. And, foolishly, I can imagine movie-like cutscenes to help advance the action. Slightly differently, however, the characters would be confined to a quite finite world with no bosses or the like, and would have to perform actions that even I can't comprehend right now. Not to mention that it would all take place outdoors with no human characters whatsoever. It would be the most enormous project that any one person could actually try to embark on, only as a pathetic hobby to recreate some dumb books.
Yes, I know that I sound pretty dumb and all right now, but I also know that this isn't something I can start right now even with the best game engine. I don't have very much significant experience either, only with some minor coding and hexing in an old computer game of mine and a couple pathetic attempts at C++ (think "hello world!") when I was too young to know what in the world I was doing, anyways. Not to mention that I forgot basically all of what I have learned of C++, and that it now appears that it's pretty dumb to start learning with that language anyways. I know I won't be anywhere near my epic dream anytime soon (haha) but I would like some advice.
So if I need to start with simple games with pingpong and other clones like that, do I need just a compiler or do I need a full-on engine? I honestly wouldn't know.
However, when I get into more complicated 2D games, I have the sense that any and all work would be divided into two different fields: animations and graphics, and then the actual programming. When I get to this point, would it be a good idea to get an engine, such as Unreal Development Kit or something? As it appears to me, these engines can take a good load off, like with the whole Kismet thing.
And whenever I am actually awesome enough to embark on my dream project, I'm pretty sure I would need something like the Unreal Development Kit. For those purposes I would like support for large worlds and terrains, and natural stuff (like speedtree for trees, it sounds very useful as far as I can tell). What engine would have a not-so-horribly-steep learning curve that could make my aspirations possible?
Well, thanks to anyone that responds. I must repeat again that I totally have the idea that it will take me a lot to get to where I want to go, but I appreciate any help, whether I will use it now or later.