In a nutshell, this is the mechanic of allowing the player to center the camera (either behind the player character or where the PC is facing) in any 3D video game without a fixed camera. The main purpose is to help keep the player oriented on the action, and thus avoiding an Event-Obscuring Camera.
It's often done by pressing a single button, and sometimes it's a combination of buttons (but this is usually reserved for games where every other single button command is being used for other things), or overlapping with other functions (such as doing one effect, and then centering immediately after you release the button). Some games even do this automatically (usually if the player is still for a few seconds).
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 (as the camera spins to the centered position). Even if a game also has a rotating camera, centering will still be faster and more accurate.
Often this will use the same button as the Camera Lock-On, and the game automatically switches between which function depending on if there are any enemies withing lock on range. Other games will overlap with the Freelook Button, and releasing that button will center the camera; in short, just tapping and releasing the button still acts as camera centering.
See also Free Rotating Camera.
FPS Style (especially notable or played with examples only please):
- 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.
Third Person Style:
- Dawn of Mana
- Demon's Souls overlapped with the lock on button. This also was done in the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne.
- In Dynasty Warriors, the block button also doubles as this function.
- Same in Samurai Warriors.
- Epic Mickey
- Final Fantasy XIII
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
- God Eater Burst
- Some of the Grand Theft Auto games do this when driving. Hitting the side/behind view buttons centers the camera once released. Other games have a dedicated button.
- Jett Rocket
- Katamari Damacy
- Some of the Kingdom Hearts games.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time uses this with the camera lock on. Most of the 3D Zelda games since then have done the same.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has this by clicking in the analogue on console versions, and it's very useful after you finish fights after moving the camera around a lot.
- Monster Hunter
- No More Heroes
- Overlord I, or at least Overlord: Dark Legend.
- Phantasy Star Online, Phantasy Star Universe, and Phantasy Star Zero.
- Some of the Ratchet & Clank games.
- Splatoon and its sequels.
- The Spyro the Dragon games, once you release the freelook button.
- Super Mario Galaxy, but only in certain spots.
- Super Mario Sunshine