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3D graphics?

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ok, I''ve worked with OpenGL and Direct3D api''s, and I''ve read all sorts of articles on managing data, and I''ve got a fair understanding of the basic concepts I think. my math is a bit weak, but I think I''ve got it enough to manage now. however, things still don''t seem to be clicking. I would eventually like to write a 3D game engine, but I just can''t seem to grasp how all the different concepts get put together. it occurs to me that I''ve never built a 3D game on an existing engine. This lacking experience could be hurting my understanding, because I have little idea of how an engine should behave if I''ve never gotten extremely in-depth with using one. Is this line of thinking correct? maybe I should download a freeware engine and write a game with it first? I thought the best approach would be to learn from the ground up, learn how API''s work, learn how the math works, learn how the engine works, and then I''ll be able to use the engine effectively. But maybe I should start at the top and go deeper instead? Any suggestions on where I should go next? 3D graphics have always tripped me up (I try not to feel inferior because of it, I can see plainly I''m not alone on this) but I''m more than competent as a programmer, I just think I need the concepts presented properly. Would you recommend that I try to develop a fair sized project on a freeware engine to start with? if so what engine would you recommend? I prefer 3rd person action/adventure/rpg type games (not a big fan of fps, though I recently played halo, and admit it''s the first fps I''ve liked, so if first person games are that much easier (no camera tracking algos) maybe I could tolerate one to get started . anyway. recommendations recommendations recommendations. what type of game is easiest? what engine should I use? right now I''m only setup for win32/directX dev''ing, but that should change soon and I''d like to stay as portable as possible.

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