Yep, Asphy remembers well. Prior to the relaxing of various NSFNET restrictions, most "MMO
's" charged rather high hourly fees to play them.
A couple of examples:
The first commercial MMORPG (although what constitutes "massive" requires qualification when discussing mid-1980s mainframes) was Island of Kesmai designed by Kelton Flinn and John Taylor. Still roguelike, this game became available in 1985 for $12.00 per hour via the CompuServe online service and supported up to one hundred players.
The first graphical MMORPG was Neverwinter Nights by designer Don Daglow and programmer Cathryn Mataga (not to be confused with Neverwinter Nights by BioWare). "Neverwinter Nights" went live on AOL for PC owners in 1991 and ran through 1997. This project was personally championed and green-lighted by AOL President Steve Case. Both Club Caribe and Neverwinter Nights cost $6.00 per hour to play.
Also, if I'm not mistaken, Meridian 59
was one of the first games of its type to offer a flat monthly sub fee as a payment model. UO followed suit and the model has been with us ever since. Back then, such a practice was revolutionary. What a lot of people don't realize is that the monthly sub model emerged mostly because of the spread and emergence of AOL as a means for the masses to get fairly unfettered internet access (at least in the U.S.).
I guess it's a nice response to the pro-F2P people who bitch about paying $15/month:
"Oh, yeah... you think $15 a month is too much to pay? Try $12.... an hour.... back in the 80's!.... and it's just to play on DIAL UP with a shitty UI and sounds that *might* correspond to what is happening on your screen!!!.... Now, quit your complaining, lamer!" ;D