So what exactly makes a character memorable in a certain game, film or other media? there are many elements that have to be well thought out and planned in order to portray a convincing and believable character whatever the medium.
In regards to modern day games, characters have become ever increasingly complex in a technical aspect which has created new technologies in order to bring a character to life.
However, this has not always been the case, as for example, there are many games which are renowned for there characters even though they are mutes such as Link and master chief. Many previous console generations have had there fair share of mute characters whether intentional or due to technical limits. However, mute characters allow the player to essentially "become" the character in the game and allows for further immersion into the games world. Characters themselves though need to have there own personalities and traits that identify them as individuals from the rest. This can be done in a number of ways such as having characters with certain possessions to give them an interest, a history and more of a back story.
However, on a technical stand point, it is now possible to portray characters more realistically in terms of animation, expressions and so on.
An example of more human like expressions and behaviour can be seen here.
This is a render of Nathan Drake in the production pipeline. Here we can see composite maps being added onto the arbitrary mesh for in game use. The purpose of creating these extra normal maps is to help form a believable convincing character. These expressions would be used in game to show Drakes understanding of the events happening in the game world.
Below are some high resolution sculpts that would be baked onto normal maps for use in game.
All of these extra additions start to come together and bring a character to life. this extra level of detail for me, really brought out the personality of Drake in the game and was able to portray more emotion in the game such a seeing the humour or fear on the characters face.
Other elements are being included for characters such as actors who are used for motion capture. This allowed the animation and fluidity of a character to be greatly increased. for example this technique is used heavily now for cut scenes and certain pre script animation in games, such as jumping over a wall. This added with a fully expressional character with a history and personality can really start to become very convincing and allows for heightened immersion for the player. other such factors is the interaction of the character with the in game world.
One area that has always been of particular difficulty is the voicing of characters and the lip syncing. when this is not done to a high level of precision, the immersion and believability of the character breaks down and leaves the player drawn out of the game. this is another reason why mute characters are often quite a popular choice when creating a character.
All of this however, is rather useless if there is not a believable world and story to accompany it. many game stories can be extremely simple while others can have such a history and back story it almost seems impossible to understand the entire games universe "Metal Gear Solid series". the presentation of a character in a game can be done in different ways too such as through in game events or cut scenes such as the mgs games.
Essentially, the core elements needed for a character to be convincing for a player come down to a believable game world were the character is set in, a convincing story and solid personality along with the technical elements depending on the purpose of the game.