Friday, April 23, 2010

A Tale of T2 Crystals

To use T2 Crystals or to not use T2 Crystals, that is the question. Actually, it is more likely an intensely debated subject. I've seen a lot of miners who fly their own Orca alongside their Hulk and have countless hours grinding the rocks who say T2 Crystals are useless. I've also seen countless people who think they are better than sex on a summer afternoon. I've typically fallen into the previous camp. I looked at the cost, the extra training time and heard about the break rates and decided they aren't for me. But now that I'm getting myself maxed out on pretty much everything that has to do with mining I find I need to revisit the issue.

It is kind of hard to complain about the cost of T2 crystals when I'm flying a Hulk next to an Orca I also own, I have an Obelisk in the hanger, and a Highwall mining implant shoved in my head. So here is an in-depth analysis based on nothing but the math. My apologies if I'm repeating information found elsewhere, but no where have I seen people really take the issue to the bottom of the well. They tend to merely harp on one or two things and ignore the larger issue. So dive with me into math and statistical analysis as I explore whether or note T1 or T2 crystal are the better choice.

The Problem with T2
The main two problems that most people cite with T2 crystals is the cost and fact that they break so quickly. Really these are the same issue - the faster the crystals break the more often you have to replace them, and replacing them is really just a matter of cost. So how often do they break?

T1 crystals have a volatility of .1 this means that 10 out of ever 100 cycles (on average) will cause volatility damage to the crystal. T1 crystals 1hp and the volatility damage is .025, so after 40 damaging cycles the crystal breaks. This means an average of 400 cycles in the life of a crystal. For the T2 crystals all that changes is the volatility, which doubles to .2 this means that 20 out of ever 100 cycles (on average) will cause the damage, so your life span goes down to an average of 200 cycles.

This math is not perfect due to the nature of probability. T1 crystals are more likely to live beyond the average lifespan than T2 crystals. If you imagine a crystal with 1.0 volatility would always take damage and then never live beyond 40 cycles. However, for a rough and dirty estimate it makes sense to assume that you need two T2 crystals for ever T1 crystal.

The average cost for T1 Kernite Crystal when I looked was around 30,000ISK. The average cost of a T2 Kernite Crystal was over 300,000ISK. Factor in that you need two T2 crystals for the cycle life of a T1 and you are looking at 600,000 vs 30,000. That is quite the difference. It is easy to see why many people look at the T2 mining crystals and wince in pain. So what are the benefits?

Why T2 Crystals Rock
The main benefit that people exclaim when they are talking about the virtues of T2 Crystals is the increased mining yield. T1 crystals multiply the yield of your strip miners by 1.625 (or 62.5% more than without a crystal). T2 crystals multiply the yield of your strip miners by 1.75 (or 75% more than without a crystal). So you can see that on paper it looks like a 12.5% increase. Sound good right?

Everyone knows that Time = ISK and in mining the higher your yield % the more you get for your time. I just finished a mining run with my T1 crystals. In that run I took in enough Scordite to net me about 16,000,000ISK if I just refined and sold the minerals to existing buy orders. Not a bad haul if I may say so myself. So lets assume that I bothered to shell out for the T2 Crystals. On paper if I did the math and took in 12.5% more minerals I should get 12.5% more profit. That would have meant almost an extra 2 million ISK!

That extra ISK would more than pay for the cost of my T2 crystals, and that is assuming they even broke. My T1 crystals go a long time without breaking, so over the life of a crystal a T2 would mean at least an extra 4 to 10 million ISK. So it seems obvious that T2 crystals are the way to go right?

Arg... There be Math!
Perhaps not. One thing that a lot of people tend to forget is that mining is not just measured in percentages. It is measured in cycles. So what we have to really figure out is whether or not these crystals will saves us cycles. Take a look at this data.

The yield was calculated based of my yield, which is pretty close to maximum. I have all of the requisite skills to 5 and I have the Highwall Implant for an extra 5% yield. You can clearly see the 12.5% difference between what my yield would be with T2 Crystals instead of T1 Crystals. What I then did was survey a number of rocks to get a feel for what the average size of an asteroid is. Using those sizes I calculated how many cycles of the strip miners it would take to eat the rock.

These numbers have to be rounded up for partial cycles, because even if an asteroid only has 10 veldspar left in it, the game will not inform me of this until I completely deplete the asteroid. Looking across the chart you see that a lot of the time the rocks take the same amount of cycles to deplete. In fact what you would find if you looked at the range of cycles is that the majority of the time (regardless of rock size) it is going to take the same number of cycles to deplete. There is a mathematical point at which it will always see a benefit from using T2 cycles, but it doesn't kick in for a long time, as in you wouldn't notice the difference unless you are running across 40,000 units of kernite or 1,000,000 units of Veldspar.

But wait! There's more!
However, rocks come in all shapes and sizes, so I needed to do a better analysis. I took rocks of every size within a range (2000, 2001, 2002, etc) and calculated how many times the T2 lasers would save me a cycle. I tried to use realistic ranges for asteroid sizes. It would be foolish to calculate the cycles for 40,000 units of Kernite or for 5000 units of Veldspar. The results were quite interesting.

I found the result for Scordite to be quite surprising, but it is a combination of the smaller size of the rocks and the larger yield of the Crystals.So what does this mean? It means that depending on the rock I have anywhere from a 7% to a 33% chance of saving a cycle. If we disregard Scordite and just concede that it probably isn't worth mining Scordite with T2 Crystals we can get an average 29.30% of all rocks will save us a cycle. But what does that mean really?

It takes me an average of 40 to 50 asteroids to fill an Orca to the brim. If I assume that out of the 50 rocks it takes I will save 1 cycle on 30% of them then I'm looking at saving a total 15 cycles. That is going to save me over 10 minutes of real time in filling my Orca (15 cycles divided by 3 strip miners times 2 minutes per cycle). That is a decent savings I suppose, but is it worth the investment?

Remember my earlier hypothetical mining trip where I filled my Orca for the tune of 16,000,000 ISK? That took me roughly 90 minutes. That comes out to roughly 177,777 ISK per minute. That means that the 10 minutes of saved time could equate to roughly 1.7 million ISK.

So what I'm really saying...
In the end I guess the T2 crystals are a value (except in the case of Scordite). Though when you get into them you are dealing with probability and chances. It isn't like the jump from a Retriever to the Hulk or from flying solo to flying with an Orca. When you get up to highest levels of mining the benefits come in the margins. It is easy for me to justify the expense of a Highwall implant, because unless I get podded that will have months upon months to pay for itself a little at a time. T2 crystals are a riskier prospect. They definitely can increase your minerals/time ratio but they also won't do you a damn bit of good 60% of the time.

I suppose I could create a spreadsheet where I can enter the value of the rock and it will tell me if the roid is worth using a T2 crystal on, but that would be a bit insane. Also, I know that you can constantly hammer your survey scanner and stop your lasers halfway through to save time if they are chewing on a small rock, but that again is a bit to actively engaging for me. I enjoy the zen of mining. Crunching numbers is fun, but I don't want to do it constantly for each individual asteroid.

Having gone over the numbers I have to admit that despite my initial reaction to T2 Crystals I really will have to try them out and see. I can admit when I've been wrong, and I think I was wrong about T2 Crystals. Hopefully I'll see the type of increase I was able to find on paper when I actually put it into practice.

I hope you enjoyed this little guide. It is probably the most technical post I've done yet so my apologies if it is rambling. But I hope that this can somewhat definitively answer the question as to whether to go for T2 Crystals or not.

But what about...
This afterword is to address a couple of issues that people may have with the analysis I made. If I don't address your concern please leave me a comment. If I still don't address your concern assume it is either because I hate you or I don't want to look stupid when you point out my mistakes.

Why did you only do Veld, Scor, Kern, and Pyrox?
Where I mine that is what is around. I stuck with what I knew so that I could give accurate sizes for the asteroids. Also, while I hope others find this useful the process was mostly for me to work out what I wanted to do next with my character. If you want you can apply the same methodology to any ore type to figure out what T2 crystals are worth investing in. I can tell you that I probably won't bother with Scordite.

My numbers for mining yield and cycle time are different. Does this change anything?
A math major can correct me if I'm wrong, but yes. The percentages of rocks that you will benefit from having T2 crystals will go down based on your base yield since crystals just multiply this base number. The larger the difference between the two yields will increase the cases where having a T2 will result in few cycles. Don't trust me? Do your own math!

You are crazy, it makes sense even for Scordite!
Yes, I am crazy. Yes, it may make sense, but the benefits drop significantly. We are talking about saving 3 minutes as opposed to 10, and that only means an extra 500,000+ isk. Figure that 3 T2 Scordite crystals can easily can cost 1.2-1.5 million isk and suddenly the benefits don't seem quite as meaningful. Plus, remember a 10% chance will occur less than 1/3 of the time of a 30% chance due to deviation.

Where the hell did you get your numbers?
Info on mining yield and crystals was pulled directly from in game. Information that was used to calculate my earnings was based on Eve-Central prices pulled from their API into a spreadsheet I run. Information on rock sizes was based on flying around to a couple belts and doing some quick estimates. For more information on probability take a higher math course, that stuff hurts my brain.

When I look at mining crystals the probability is listed as .1%, not 10%. What gives?
This, I think, is just a typo on CCPs part. If it were .1% then you'd get an average lifespan 40,000 cycles instead of 400. That would mean a crystal would last roughly 80,000-120,000 minutes of use. This works about to 55 days of constantly mining. I doubt I've spend that much time in the game since getting my Hulk, let alone that much mining, and I've burned through crystals already. The figure of .1 meaning 10% is far more reasonable.


  1. I just ingested this post, great effort. So am I right in saying that the bigger the rock the better the rewards of using T2 crystals?

    Would be interesting to see the differences between using T2 crystals in high/low sec space.

  2. Basically the bigger the rock the more likely you are to save a cycle. It has to do with the difference between amounts in pure m3 and what they translate to in rocks. So there is a range from 1735m3 to 1867m3 where T1s will take two cycles and T2s will take one. There is another range from 3470m3 to 3734m3 where T1s will take 3 cycles and T2s will take two. The range for 4 (T1) to 3 (T2) cycles is 5205m3 to 5601m3.

    So if you look the difference in the first case is 132m3, then 264, then 396, and it will continue on (508, 640, 772, etc.) So as the rocks get larger and more cycles then the range where you will save a cycle increases. Where it ultimately becomes better 100% of the time to use a T2 is at around 14 cycles. I've never run into a rock so large that it needs 14 cycles, so that is why I say it's not a realistic scenario.

    I also don't know about low sec mining and what the rock sizes are etc. But basically the larger the m3 of the rock the more likely you are going to benefit. That is why Kernite and Pyroxeres seem to fair so well. Kernite has a unit size of 1.2m3 and Pyrox of .3m3 so on average Kernite and Pyrox rocks are the biggest type you'll find.

    Does that makes sense?

  3. Good Post, Well thought out.
    Funny I have T2 crystals for all high sec rocks except Scordite. Just because I mine it so infrequently (Only when stripping a belt)

  4. What's interesting is that in Genesis Scordite has recently been the highest yield of ISK/m3. Maybe at some point in the future I'll share my AWESOME mining spreadsheet that automatically pulls mineral prices for any system you choose and calculates your profit (before fees).