Studio GPBeta has officially released SAO Utils 2: Progressive on Steam for free. The software is a customizable 3D app launcher for PC inspired by popular light novel and anime series Sword Art Online. It has proven to be a very popular tool, both in terms of its Sword Art Online-style design and its practical use.
SAO Utils 2 is a fan-made 3D app launcher created with the aim of replicating the look of the UI in the VR MMORPG Sword Art Online that appears within the series. For example, when you first start the launcher, it mimics the startup sequence of the series’ FullDive VR machine, NerveGear. After the launcher has started, it displays a UI that is just like the in-game UI seen in the Sword Art Online anime. Menus that look identical to the ones used by characters in the series are laid out right on your desktop.
There is also support for sound effects and 3D-style rendering, which help to create an atmosphere with a VR feel. In addition, it is also possible to switch the UI style to one that mimics the UI in Gun Gale Online, the game that appears within the spinoff series Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online.
A lot of thought has also gone into the functionality of the launcher. In addition to basic functions like being able to quickly open your favorite programs or folders, it also has support for various desktop widgets. For example, the default settings of the launcher display Kirito’s HP bar at the upper left of the screen. This bar is actually showing the CPU load. It is also possible to display other metrics, like GPU load or available HDD space.
There are a wide variety of other widgets, like a chat/mail client and a calendar that shows the anime web streaming schedule in China. It is even possible for users to program their very own custom widgets. The launcher doesn’t exist just to make your desktop look like Sword Art Online, it is a tool with a high level of extensibility.
The launcher was developed by Studio GPBeta, which is the personal studio of Joshua Chen. It was first released in Steam Early Access in May and went on to record around 1,000 concurrent users on a regular basis. However, after the official launch on November 6, the concurrent user count has been peaking at around 3,000 users per day (SteamDB).
The launcher has 350 Steam user reviews at the time of writing, including those for the Early Access version. 95% of those reviews have been positive, giving it a Very Positive status. As one would expect, many reviews praise the launcher for how it replicates the look of Sword Art Online’s UI, but there is also a good deal of praise for its functionality.
Part of the reason that the launcher has been so popular may be that before it arrived on Steam, it had already built up a sizeable userbase during the long period of development under the name SAO Utils.
November 6, 2022, is also a special day for fans of Sword Art Online, as that is the in-series date that the VR MMORPG Sword Art Online officially launched. That is the day when Kirito began his journey within the game—where death in the game world also meant that he would die in real life. This very significant day was chosen to be the official release date for SAO Utils 2.
Speaking of which, to commemorate this special Sword Art Online day, Palmer Luckey, the designer of the VR device Oculus Rift, revealed that he created a virtual reality device that is capable of killing the user. November 6 was certainly a day when the passion of series fans was on full display.
The Steam page for SAO Utils 2: Progressive can be found here. Additionally, there is also a paid SAO Utils: Beta version which includes support for the Steam Workshop and achievements. It is being described as the “donation version.”
Written by. Marco Farinaccia based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-11-11 20:58 JST)