I'm sure many people out there will agree with me that now days games really do struggle with making characters that relate to gamers. Sure a large number of people out there think Master Chief is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or that Dante's jacket is a sweet piece of cow hide, but how many gamers can relate to characters on a human level? Understanding what problems they face and honestly wondering how they can get themselves out of this predicament? The last game I honestly related to a character was Tommy Angelo from Mafia 1 and that was a very long time ago.
What is it that makes characters appear more human? There are many answers to this question but one answer that I tend to agree with was found in this video from the Playstation blog. who is an actor and voice actor with a very impressive resume was interviewed over at E3 09 about his role in the upcoming game Uncharted 2.
The video starts to get interesting around the 2:10 mark, where Nolan gives everyone an insight into how the developers of UC2 have given the actors a chance to project themselves into the characters they are voicing, giving them more personality.
Nolan_North wrote: What I brought to Nathan Drake is a part of myself, and you can't help but do that. On set we have a lot of fun and I think that's one of the reasons why this game is so great, when you have that kind of chemistry and strike up that kind of relationship with your fellow cast members that's when you're going to get a really good product to come out on screen.
The effect of this is that the developers have created a character that people can relate with. Even if it is only thinking "yeah that can be me" because they are human or just another average Joe in the wrong place at the wrong time. There really is no right or wrong way to design characters for your game, and with modders it would be even harder to deal with this problem. One team who excelled within the space of memorable MC's was Offtopic Productions with The Nameless Mod for Deus Ex.
Jonas_Waever wrote: What we did with Jeremiah was just to let him pretty much be himself - that is, he didn't put on a macho voice or anything because he had 3500 lines to record and it would be a huge strain on him if he had to make voices, I think that also helped him identify a little more with the character because Jeremiah did I think 12 characters for us, but Trestkon was the one where he got to use his normal voice.
If you should learn anything from the above examples is that a large part of what makes games memorable is the connections players make with the characters, either good or bad but connections all the same. Developing your characters to accommodate to your target audience and understanding what is needed will not be an easy task for any aspiring game developer, but beginning from the personality is a great starting point.