What's the best method for making and baking hair onto an ingame character model? I've seen people manually creating hair using textured planes, and others sculpting hair in Zbrush giving it quite a thick stylized look. Some engines even simulate hair in realtime, while the base character mesh is essentially bald.
But most games seem to use hair shaders for their high poly character renders, and textured planes for their ingame character models. How do they do this? Is it easier to not worry about the character's hair until creating the low poly model?
Why didn't you just google video games that have nice hair?
You're literally immediately let to Nvidia Hairworks and AMD TressFX.
There really isn't any 'best method' there are as many approaches as there are artists.
What all of them have in common though is that they are tedious, difficult and requires a lot of honed skill and patience from the artist to pull off.
First you need to understand how to design haircuts, and style hair as if you dealt with real fibers.
Doing offline content with fiber meshes and assorted techniques this knowledge will go a long way to let you achieve the correct look.
To then translate a haircut design into poly plane for real-time rendering requires you to develop a deep bag of tricks to enable you to create the impression of voluminous fibers
sitting on flat strips of polygons. You will have to learn how to overlap them at curved angles to disguise this fact as well as possible.
You also wanna learn exotic techniques like how to tweak vertex normals to cloak the the shape of the hair mesh even further (much like normal thief-ing foliage).
Texturing good looking poly-plane hair requires you to develop a steady hand that can make smooth flowing long brush strokes.
Stock shaders are a ill fit for describing fibrous curved strand-groups on flat surfaces, so knowing how to program your own shaders and having the willingness
to tinker and experiment is also instrumental to generate interesting looking lowpoly hair, unless you can obtain one created by some skilled tech artist.