I've been playing with gmax for over 2 years now and am still figuring it out. It's really an AMAZING program (can't believe it's free!) once you get to know it. I'm working on a project which I hope to sell as a way to help pay for college, but I'm not releasing any details to anyone in an effort to give me the freedom of deciding when and how I want to work on it. Just start out making boxes and cylinders...play with animations...you'll get the hange of it.
There is also a program from Abacus (http://www.abacuspub.com
) called FSDS2, that is easier to use. Of course, you have to buy it, and IMO, it's not as powerful as gmax. If you're willing to work at it, gmax is the tool to use.