On the Heirloom Conundrum


I’m starting to think that Heirlooms cause more problems than they solve. Or, more correctly, the current implementation of them causes problems.

Above is my banker’s bank on Durotan. These are the heirlooms I have which aren’t currently in use on that server. That’s 27 heirlooms, just sitting around, because I’m not leveling a character of a certain type on my main server. My druid, death knight, and two warriors also have heirlooms on D’tan. If I hadn’t lost my caster leather set, there would be even more.

My secondary “red team” server, Medivh, has another set of heirlooms, sent over when my blood Priestess transfered over there to hang out with folks when my friends went looking for another server to roll Horde upon. But that was before guild heirlooms (helm and cloak) were available, so they’re not complete sets. And, I’m also rolling both Alliance and Horde on that server to hang with different folks, so the whole “red team” thing isn’t really working out.

I’m also rolling alts on other servers, just to check them out.

Yet that bank of unused heirlooms weighs on my mind.

Heirlooms serve two primary purposes, right?

  • Accelerated leveling
  • Competitive PvP through level 69

Like most folks, I wrestle with both of these purposes.

My priestess leveled primarily through healing dungeons without the XP boost heirlooms, but with the trinkets and staff, for a few reasons. The cloth heirlooms lack Spirit, and the blue gear I was getting in dungeons seemed to consistenly outperform the Tattered Dreadmist set for stats. I enjoyed the changing look, of finding outfits which were both interesting and potent.

The trinkets and DHC (with +22 Intellect), though, consistently outperformed everything I found. And they made me a more powerful healer, more effective, more able to put up with the rush of Troll Bears and Tauren Pallys who rushed through the LFD in the early days of 4.0.1.

In PvP, though, which pretty much every toon I roll partakes in at one time or another, the Stamina-laden cloth heirlooms shine. Yes, I had mana problems during serious fights, but I also was better able to handle attacks when I inevitably got focus fired.

The gap between heirlooms and regular gear diminshes 1) the higher you level, and 2) the more you run dungeons/quest smartly. I have to remember the jerk mage I saw in 65-69 AB only had the weapon and trinket heirlooms, nothing else, and he pwned the place. By the time you hit 70, I’m of the firm opinion that only the PvP shoulders should even be considered – everything else needs to have Resilience.

(But then again, I’m a PvP gear snob when it comes to gearing my own toons.)

So here’s the heirloom conundrum: they’re a benefit tied to your account, but also tied to a single server. They’re optional benefits, to be sure – and how necessary they are depends entirely upon your feelings towards them, your goals with your characters, and your playstyle.

Someone asked me once on a video how long it took me to grind out the BoAs I had on Cynderblock, and those calculations made me shudder. To think about how much time I invested in getting 45 or so for everyone? Yikes.

But that time is an investment, or you feel that it is, and so there’s a sense of, hey, I should be able to use these on my entire account, not just on a single server. The lack of cross-server mailing leaves you wondering about whether the time spent was worth it. I find myself going, don’t be an idiot, Cyn, level all your toons on Durotan where the heirlooms are. Why pay $25 dollars to move heirlooms from server to server?

Then the other part of me goes, because time is money, and if I’m really going to level a character, I don’t want to waste time. And Durotan-H is really quiet for me, and there are other guilds I enjoy poking in on, even if I’m just there for the green chat.

Then the cynical part of me says: there is no direct economic incentive for Blizzard to implement cross-server heirloom transfers, and the indirect incentive – general customer satisfaction – will likely not overcome the non-trivial revenue stream Blizzard gets from character transfers just to move digital items around.

If there are multiple reasons why the status quo should be maintained (difficult to implement technology that would erase a revenue stream that doesn’t require further investment, i.e. pure profit/recoup of development spend), and very nebulous reasons why it should be changed (“because it would be nice” is valid, but difficult to quantify), I don’t get my hopes up that things will change any time soon. That’s okay, I guess. I may not like it much, but at least I can get it.

I don’t want this to come off like I’m whining about the lack of cross-server mailing. Oh no, I have a lot of heirlooms and can’t send them to other servers to play with friends at a moment’s notice, boo hoo! I realize how it can sound.

But I really think it’s interesting to take a legitimate customer complaint – if these are bound to my account, why can’t I send them between servers? – and go, wait, what would happen if we had no heirlooms at all anymore?

What if the XP bonus was independent of gear – perhaps it was an XP option that you could unlock after a certain amount of reputation or VP/CP or something – so that after you’d gotten to the endgame once, or twice, or three times, you could visit an Experience Accelerator, pay 10g, and get the XP bonus without the uber gear? Maybe the more toons you got to level cap, the bigger your potential XP bonus you could unlock on all your toons?

Suddenly, you’d have three options – play with fast XP, normal XP, or XP off. You’d still have to go out and get the same gear everyone else has while leveing, but that allows you to experience the gear progression part of the game, which does get lost when playing with heirlooms. Battlegrounds even out early on, too, since the disparity of a character leveling with BoAs versus quest gear would vanish. Twinks would move to non-binding white gear – Psynister’s Hand Me Downs – but that would be far less prevalent than heirlooms are now.

But you can’t go back. You can’t take the BoA gear away and replace it with Experience Accelerators. You can’t yank gear that takes days of effort to acquire, has the promise of never needing to be replaced, holding expensive enchants, and being useful across multiple characters – and not replace it with something. The genie is out of the bottle.

So, like a lot of other players, I sit here and wonder, is it worth loading up a mule with another set of heirlooms and sending her over to another server? How many character transfers would it take, really, to get my heirlooms distributed the way I would want? $25 here and there adds up, is it really worth it?

Don’t get me wrong – I love heirlooms.

But I hate the heirloom conundrum.


Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

5 responses to “On the Heirloom Conundrum

  1. Lara

    I love the idea of switchable, account-bound “experience acceleration”. Sometimes you do want the boost; other times not. I don’t think it’s too late to put the djinn back in the bottle, though–why couldn’t the heirloom gear scale without the xp bonus? Just strip it right off, and replace with some other stat? Really, the only reason I ever use heirlooms now is so I don’t get behind when I’m leveling with friends.I don’t mind heirlooms except that they make it very hard to keep up when others have them and you don’t. It’s impossible to be neutral about them: Either you have some, or you’re trying to keep up with people who do, and therefore you have to work a lot harder than they do for the same results.I wouldn’t be sad to see them re-scaled to be more like a green of appropriate level than a very good blue. That way, players who just want to level fast could still do so, yet players who want to take their time and live off the land wouldn’t have to contend with always being behind the curve. More importantly, I’d like to see the dominance of heirloom gear for leveling PvP reduced a bit. Right now the non-locked battleground brackets are basically unplayable unless you either have a wealthy patron or heirlooms (and usually both).I like being able to level fast without worrying about gear, but I’m concerned that we do so at the expense of everyone else. By definition, a character with heirlooms is either an alt or a transfer. Those who are truly new or just starting over are left in a sticky economy in which the rich get richer while the poor struggle harder.Some good ideas here, I’d love to see Blizzard think about these questions some more.

  2. Rades

    I’ve often recently lamented the fact that Heirlooms aren’t like, reusable enchants or something like that, because dammit I want to USE the shiny gear I get in dungeons! And my main alt right now – Fabulor – is using the silly Mail Intellect heirloom shoulders (the tuning fork ones) because there aren’t Plate Intellect ones. Which I suppose is a different problem.I’ve actually been considering eschewing the Heirlooms on Fabulor, because I have a lot of people at that level range I want to play with and run dungeons with, and I find I don’t WANT these levels to go by too fast!I totally agree with you about the cross-server hesitation though. I’d love to roll more alts on other servers and hang out with people, but the Heirloom thing is such a difficult mental barrier to overcome.

  3. wowopa

    Ahhhh… as an Altoholic myself, I have a love/hate relationship with heirlooms. I have alts scattered all over and I just want scream at times when I see “Binds to Battle.net account”; NO IT’S NOT!!! My main server character slots are full and all but 2 of them are 85s. I too have paid for a server transfer, solely for the purpose of shuffling heirlooms. I sincerely doubt that I will do this again as it DOES add up. /rageI really don’t buy into the technology problem as to why we can’t shuffle heirlooms via battle.net, I mean really; if Blizz can distribute sparkle ponies and core hound pups, why not heirlooms as well?As for the XP gains, on alts that I’m leveling with a (non-heirloomed) partner or with an alt that I want to “level normally” I just use the weapons and trinks. But if I want the XP boost, I do have full sets for every class and it would be nice to have access to them, regardless of which server the alt resides on.

  4. Noise

    If heirlooms bind to my battle.net account, I can transfer them to Diablo, right?If the point of heirlooms is to avoiding leveling, Blizzard should let people pay $.30/level to do just that. People who really just want a level-capped toon can get one. People who are tired of a level range or want to catch up with friends can skip as far as they want.If the point is to have “evergreen” gear that you don’t outgrow, heirlooms should be nerfed. You’re already getting a convenience benefit by wearing them. Why make them powerful when power (at least on the PVE side) is just not an issue. This would also get them out of PvP, making gearing there more interesting.Seems like Blizzard could implement both of these pretty easily.

  5. Stormy

    Wait…paying $25 to move a toon from one server to another just so you can have the heirlooms with you? People actually do that? I…well, ok, it’s your money.