In a nutshell, this is the mechanic of allowing the player to center the camera in any 3D video game without a fixed camera. The main purpose is to keep the player oriented on the action, and thus avoiding Camera Screw
It's often done by pressing a single button, but not always. Sometimes it's a combination of buttons (but this is reserved for games where every other single button command is being used for other things, so there is no choice), or one of the effects of other camera related mechanics (such as doing one effect, and then centering immediately after you release the button). Some rare games even do this automatically.
This has two forms depending on how the camera works:
- FPS Style: In a First-Person Shooter, or a third person game with a behind-the-player camera, the camera merely centers on the Y-axis, as the camera is otherwise always looking directly ahead.
- Third Person Style: In games with free movement unattached to the camera, centering moves directly behind the player character and centers on the Y-axis.
The centering is also either instantaneous or takes a fraction of a second. Even if a game has a rotating camera, centering will still be faster and more accurate.
Compare Freelook Button
, Camera Lock-On
, Free Rotating Camera
FPS Style (especially notable or played with examples only please):
Third Person Style:
- Ace Combat games often feature "Auto Pilot": a button or a button combination, that when pressed, not only brings the player's aircraft to a perfectly horizontal position but also makes sure the cockpit is on top. Unlike most examples of this trope, aligning a plane this way may take up to a second, since the whole aircraft has to be turned around instead of just changing the direction of sight.
- MechWarrior's Humongous Mecha have separate controls for the legs (steering) and torso (camera, aiming), which can make them confusing to operate in close quarters combat. Every game therefore comes with a "Center" button which will align the torso to the legs, legs to the torso, or the mean between the two. Some come with additional "level" button to center the Y-axis crosshair.