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Free Rotating Camera

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The ability to rotate the camera independently around the player character in a third person 3D video game. The purpose is to allow the camera to face any direction the player chooses, no matter where the PC is facing. This flexibility has made it one of the most popular camera controls implemented to avoid Event-Obscuring Camera and Camera Screw (especially since it can just be mapped to the shoulder buttons or second analog stick).

It isn't perfect, though. It's not as fast as Camera Centering (why some games include both controls), and it's not always a good idea to rely too much on it, especially if the level design doesn't take these factors into account.

There are four main variations of rotating (depending on control availability or designer choices):

  • "Rotation Alone": Rotating circularly along the X-axis alone. Often all that is needed when a game is mostly on a flat plane or with limited platforming.
  • "Rotation And Tilt": Rotating along the X-axis and tilting along the Y-axis. This is similar to the controls in a First-Person Shooter, and in fact some Third Person Shooters allow the player to move freely while using this control to aim the camera. But for most games, it's just to allow the player more viewing angles.
    • The reason full circular tilting along the Y-axis isn't done is that it could go at angles that themselves would be event obscuring. Sometimes it's also used to prevent 'unfortunate' angles on female characters.
  • "Rotation And Zoom": Rotating along the X-axis and zooming in and out along the Y-axis.note  This allows more visibility among open spaces, while using the close view in tight spaces. In some games, zooming in enough turns into a Freelook Button. This type is most common among Nintendo games.
  • "Rotation, Tilt, And Zoom": Including all three forms can be very useful in certain games, such as strategy games where the field and terrain necessitate every possible view. This shows up a lot in Strategy RPGs.

Which button turns what direction depends on the setup of the game. Sometimes turning along the X-axis means pressing right will the camera counterclockwise, and left clockwise. The opposite in a similar manner to turning with an FPS. Unfortunately, not all games state which rotation direction is "standard" and inverted". Tilting on the Y-axis is also standard and inverted, with the latter being like a flight stick. Some games let you choose between standard and inverted controls. Games that don't can often lead to Damn You, Muscle Memory!.

Also, which buttons are used will, of course, vary depending on the games and controller. The standards are the shoulder buttons or right analog stick for gamepads, and the mouse or Q and E keys for PC games.

Compare Orbital Shot (rotation used in movies), Always Over the Shoulder (the camera rotates with the player).

Contrast Fixed Camera.



  • Super Mario 64 uses "Rotation And Zoom", but is the Trope Maker for all of them, as the Guinness Book Of World Records has acknowledged it as the first game to feature a controllable camera.
  • Spyro the Dragon (1998) does "Rotation Alone" with two of the shoulder buttons, and the other two were strafing (by way of rolling). But for some reason, the next two did rotation for the other two shoulder buttons as well. Later games did "Rotation And Tilt" or "Rotation And Zoom".
  • Ratchet & Clank games use "Rotation And Tilt" when in the "Third Person" camera mode.
  • Sonic Adventure
    • Sonic Heroes includes both this and shoulder camera rotation.
  • Epic Mickey uses "Rotation And Tilt".



  • RuneScape Classic featured a very limited "Rotation Alone" camera. RuneScape 2 updated the camera to a "Rotation, Tilt, And Zoom" camera, although tilt and zoom are tied together (tilting up will also zoom out). RuneScape 3 modified the camera once more allowing the tilt and zoom to be controlled independently.




Real-Time Strategy

  • Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War and Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War 2 use a "Rotation And Zoom" camera when the player wants to do close ups on the action.

Edutainment Games

  • WolfQuest gives you the option of "Rotation Alone".

Fighting Games