Barges before were paper thin, a 10-hour old character in EVE would have enough skills to destroy one with ease. In addition, only 3 of them were worthwhile. Miners would fly a Retriever, Mackinaw or Hulk, there really was no reason to fly anything else, based on the skills required and the bonuses and capacity of those ships. That was then.
CCP blogged about the changes to the mining fleet, and although the concept is sound, the implementation is a bit off. To summarize, there are basically three types of ship now: tank, capacity and performance. It sounds good in theory. The "Tank" is the Procurer or Skiff, with a high EHP and a small hold. The "Barrel" is the Retriever or Mackinaw, with a whopping 30,000m3 +/- of capacity in the ore hold, and the "Performer" is the Covetor or Hulk, with the smallest ore hold and the fastest cycles. Again, this still sounds good. You can fit up a Skiff or Procurer with a solid tank to withstand gankers in any hisec system, the Retriever and Mackinaw are the kings of the ice field with amazing capacity, and the Covetor or Hulk are the fast cyclers, making them ideal for fleets (or the unlikely lo-sec/null-sec solo mining). Unfortunately, CCP really hasn't built any downsides into the middling ship of the fleet: the Mackinaw and Retriever.
This ship needs to be iterated quickly. It is the ultimate AFK mining machine, which is the antithesis of what EVE should be about - player interaction. I have spent three days mining ice in my "new" Mackinaw. It gets around a 70% reduction in cycle times, and holds 35 sheets of ice, with 26,000 EHP and middling resists (66/63/72/77). It sits, ignored, in an ice belt, for 48 minutes, then I can warp to the station, unload, and go back. Yes, I can (AFK, at work on the sly) pull in 350 sheets of ice during a workday, and only touch EVE 10 times.
If the price of ice doesn't crash soon, it's only because the CFC and the HBC are bridging 800 man fleets around for the fun of it, artificially inflating the price of ice.
Using a Mackinaw in a mining configuration (less than ideal) I'm pulling in about 100,000 units of Pyroxeres every 15-odd minutes.
I'm no game designer, but there is no reason to own or fly a Hulk today. The "performance" boost of a Hulk is no match to the sheer volume and AFK nature of the Mackinaw, and with a 26,000 EHP tank, CCP had better improve their bot detection routines, because real people can mine AFK far to easily with this new ship.
I think the following things need to happen with the barges, specifically the Mackinaw:
- Ore Hold size needs to be revisited.
- Mining Rigs need CPU drawbacks.
- Mining Upgrades need stacking penalties.
- CPU/PG levels need to be revisited on all mining vessels (lowered, in general).
- Role bonuses on Tech 2 ships need to be revisited.
Practically every other ship in EVE requires you to make a compromise (the other obvious failure in this is the Drake). In the Mackinaw, you get a solid tank, with huge capacity, and shortened cycles, resulting in a very imbalanced ship. It's no wonder this ship costs almost twice the price of a Hulk right now.