NOTE: To those of you who found your way here with Google, this is an idea about how Blizzard could implement an interim solution to the current heirloom problem. These are not instructions on how to transfer heirloom items from one server to another. As of this posting the *ONLY* way to transfer heirloom gear across servers is to put the items into a toon’s inventory and pay $25 to have that toon transferred to a new server.
Blizzard has been keeping at bay the numerous requests for heirloom-item transfer across realms by stating that it is difficult to code cross-server mail and would take some serious restructuring of their server architecture to do so. Most people who so desperately want to send their heirlooms across servers to new toons understand this. Most of us aren’t holding out for an all-or-nothing perfect solution. Really, we just want our heirloom items to get to our new alts so we can roll some new alts before the world comes to an end (oh, wait…). There are several ways that heirloom items could be distributed across realms by copying or slightly modifying coding that is already in-game… *without* restructuring the server architecture.
This isn’t to say that all of the methods listed below are foolproof or flawless. Each of them would require some method of controlling proliferation so that a player doesn’t end up with more heirloom gear than he paid for (more on that after the methods). It just seems to me that this would be a much easier fix than a restructuring of your hardware and software to accommodate cross-server mail.
How they work: Bind to Account vanity pets, such as those purchased from the store (ex: Pandaren Monk) or those gained from promotions (ex: Mountain Dew Battlebot) show up in your mailbox automatically when you create a new character.
How they could be used: Have your heirloom item(s) show up in your mailbox when you create a new toon.
How they work: Recruit A Friend Rewards place a voucher for a single item (typically a mount) on the account management page of your battle.net account. You log into your account management page to claim the voucher, which then asks you to which character and server you wish to send the reward. When you send the reward, the voucher disappears.
How they could be used: Have your heirloom item(s) show up on your account management page and be distributed via a permanent version of these vouchers (i.e. one that doesn’t go away when you send it).
How they work: Certain Vendors in the game only show recipes or other purchasable items when you meet a certain criteria, typically reputation-based (ex: the Thorium Brotherhood Quartermaster).
How they could be used: Have your heirloom item(s) acquired free from a vendor located in all capital cities. When you purchase an heirloom item using traditional currency, it toggles a yes/no availability toggle from this vendor. I.e.: if you have not purchased the item using traditional currency, it does not show up at this vendor. Once you have, however, that item is unlocked account-wide.
How they work: Certain vanity pets related to special events, such as Blizzcon or Blizzard Pay-per-view events provide a unique keycode to obtain special vanity pets, mounts, etc.
How they could be used: Have your heirloom item(s) produce a unique keycode or serial number when purchased. This number could be clearly displayed in the tooltip of the item itself so that it can always be retrieved by the player. By entering this keycode you can retrieve a copy of the heirloom item associated with it.
As stated beforehand, all of these solutions would require a method of controlling proliferation, since most methods would allow you to gain multiple copies of gear with ease. To be frank, though, *unfair* proliferation only becomes an issue with weapons. If a player should end up with 2 copies of, say, a Tattered Dreadmist Robe the only advantage he’s gained is that he doesn’t have to mail the gear between alts as often. IMO, that’s an “acceptable casualty” to the proposed system. With weapons, however, a player can dual-wield two copies of the same weapon and this does give an unfair advantage if the player did not pay for both copies of the item. A fix for weapon proliferation, then, might be to create new clones of all the heirloom weapons so that *all* heirloom items could be unique-equipped. Item duplication is no longer an issue when obtaining multiple copies of something does nothing but take up bag space.
An example of how this could work would be this: you make a copy of the Bloodied Arcanite Reaper, then rename it something like Recovered Arcanite Reaper, and then make both the Bloodied and Recovered Reapers unique-equipped. Finally, you make a vendor where the original item (Bloodied) is acceptable currency to purchase the second item (Recovered) so that people who have already bought two of an item to dual-wield can purchase the second item with their now-extraneous second weapon and continue on their merry way with the same basic gear as before. This method handles the inherent proliferation issue universally, and since the bulk of the work involved is along the lines of cut, paste, and rename, it should require minimal work to enact.
Granted, even this solution means that we lose any enchantment that would be on the transferred gear, but, IMO, most people would be willing to put up with a lost enchant if it means having access to their heirloom gear across all servers. It would certainly put us in a better situation than we currently are until a more perfect and permanent solution (i.e. cross-server mail) can be put into place.