Harmonix's Fuser Eschews Gender in Its Character Customization Options

Harmonix's Fuser Eschews Gender in Its Character Customization Options

The makers of Rock Band are taking a freeform, inclusive approach to letting players create their DJ avatars.

For Harmonix's upcoming DJing game Fuser, the most vital bit of customization will come down to the songs you pick and how you mix them. That room for musical expression is the 4/4 beating heart of the whole festival DJ fantasy at play, but customizing your character's stage presence is important too. During a recent demo, Harmonix demonstrated the in-depth customization options and confirmed that Fuser doesn't make players pick a gender or lock cosmetics to a certain body type.

Upon loading up Fuser in November, players will pick a body type and skin tone as the basis for creating a DJ avatar. In a demo build provided to the press, Fuser features eight different body types ranging in weight, build, and characteristics typically coded as masculine or feminine. The types are simply numbered, forgoing any kind of gendered terminology to identify them in the menu. Pick any of them and all the other cosmetic options—from facial hair to tattoos and clothes ranging from crop tops to Deadmau5-esque costume heads—can still be used.

Beyond the physical traits and clothing, you can also pick a personality and dance moves for your DJ avatar to reflect a particular attitude. Fuser will also let players save multiple different looks to their profile, letting DJs take on completely different appearances from set to set without having to go into the character customization menu each time.

Folks looking at your Fuser social profile will be able to see your look and browse your mixes. | Harmonix/NCSOFT

"Really, it's so you can make an avatar that's this totally fantastical version of you, or something completely in your likeness, and you can change it as well," explains Zoe Schneider, Harmonix Community Manager as she walks me through the demo. "I have a few different looks that I rotate between, and it just kinda depends on the mood."

Beyond the body type options and ability to quick-swap looks, the flexibility and inclusivity considerations go even deeper. Schneider points out that there are a few skin tone options for vitiligo and mentioned prosthetics as well. I didn't see any of the latter in the demo's limited menus, but one of the festival promoters—Fuser's guides who teach players about each new venue and mixing mechanic—sports a prosthetic arm.

"You can expect more of that, because we want the game to be representative of the people who are playing it," Schneider says. "Anybody who owns this should be able to find a piece of themselves and be able to bring that to life through our customization options."

Harmonix Product Manager Daniel Sussman says that many of the cosmetics will be something for Fuser players to chase as they earn XP and grow accustomed to Fuser's many layered song mixing mechanics. Music Tokens gained along the way can be exchanged for more songs in Fuser's 100+ song setlist while Style Tokens will go toward customization unlocks.

Fuser will keep your mind occupied with mixing, but your DJ and stage show will always shine in replays. | Harmonix/NCSOFT

Style Tokens can also go toward more cosmetic options for the venues available in Fuser, which run the gamut from stage lighting and fireworks to the accessories the audience is holding. If you're fond of festival staples like glow sticks and beach balls, those are options. On the more outlandish side you can equip the crowd with things like inflatable corgis.

Given Fuser's social features and ambitions, it makes sense that Harmonix is going deeper on customization for the DJs and venues. Fuser will let players share their mixes in-game, and on most platforms there'll be a built-in option to export video clips of performances (the Switch lacks longform exports at the moment, but Sussman says Harmonix is looking into it further).

Having played the demo a fair amount, I can say that the mental load of trying to make a sick-as-hell Fuser mix may make it hard to appreciate all the visual customization while you're playing, but it seems like Harmonix has anticipated this. The aim is to get lost in making the music while also knowing in the back of your head that your look and stage show are on-point.

"All of our good games, our best games, put the player in that flow state where they forget where they are. They forget the controller; they're not really thinking [about] what button they're pressing," Sussman says. "They're in the Matrix of it all, they're feeling the music, intuitively choosing what to play next. It's not a cerebral thing, it's almost instinctive."

It won't be long now until we see if Fuser's freedoms in DJ mixing and festival aesthetics combine to make a winning formula. Harmonix and NCSOFT are readying Fuser for launch on Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and PC come November 10.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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