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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.
FPS Style (especially notable or played with examples only please):
- Wolfenstein 3D - Trope Maker.
- Quake - Trope Codifier for the WASD scheme (the four keys are used to move forwards, backwards, and strafe left and right respectively, while the mouse used to aim and look around).
- 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.
Third Person Style:
- The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, and the 3D Zelda games since then.
- Overlord, or at least Overlord: Dark Legend.
- Epic Mickey
- Crystal Bearers
- Super Mario Sunshine
- Super Mario Galaxy, but only in certain spots.
- Jett Rocket
- Katamari Damacy
- The Grand Theft Auto games do this when driving. Hitting the side/behind view buttons centers the camera once released.
- Some of the Ratchet and Clank games.
- Dawn of Mana
- In Dynasty Warriors, the block button also doubles as this function.
- Same in Samurai Warriors.
- Phantasy Star Online, Phantasy Star Universe, and Phantasy Star Zero.
- Some of the Kingdom Hearts games.
- The Spyro games, once you release the freelook button.
- Final Fantasy XIII
- No More Heroes does this in a very stylish fashion.