Players unlock unreleased content in live service game ultimate hacker style: setting their system clocks forward a few weeks

 Wuthering Waves - A female character readying to fight.
Wuthering Waves - A female character readying to fight.

In the modern gaming era, it always feels like live service games are perfect black boxes only their developers can understand or control⁠—but sometimes, something happens that shows just how ad hoc and fragile all these systems are. Case in point: players managed to access unreleased content in the Genshin-adjacent gacha game, Wuthering Waves, by just moving their system clocks forward a few weeks.

The exploit was shared to Bilibili by user Lù xiǎo xiǎo (路筱筱), then brought to Reddit by PisangMinyakRebus. As for how to get to the unreleased stuff, it was really that simple: you just had to log into the game, then alt tab out and set your system time forward. It seems like developer Kuro Games pre-loaded some of Wuthering Waves' upcoming content and time locked it, but went off the end user's system clock instead of a central server. Lù xiǎo xiǎo demonstrated an upcoming trial stage for one of the gacha game's characters as an example of the exploit in action.

But if it isn't gone entirely by the time you read this, the exploit will likely soon get nipped in the bud. PisangMinyakRebus commented on their original post that the system time bug had already been patched on Chinese servers, though at the time users in other regions were still able to replicate it. PC Gamer's own Wuthering Waves player, features producer Mollie Taylor, noted that a new update has already come in on European servers, but she understandably doesn't want to risk a potential account ban to test it.

So the time warp bonanza seems to be over as soon as it began, but it's still a delightfully bizarre thing to see happen in this day and age. I was already familiar with singleplayer games that relied on system clocks for in-game events and could be manipulated that way: Animal Crossing is probably the most well-known example, but you could also wait for a boss to die of old age in Metal Gear Solid 3.

This story serves as a little peek behind the curtain when live service games are usually so opaque and proprietary, and it boggles my mind to see a brand-spanking-new online game get undercut by such a low-rent exploit⁠—though Kuro Games seems to have been remarkably quick on the draw at patching it out.