Often on internet forums, Ultima Online (UO) is made out to be the first graphical MMO. In the context of the forums, it is usually mentioned to show how 'hardcore' or knowledgeable a person is. So in the interest of correctness, Ultima Online was not the first commercial graphical MMO.
That honor belongs to Neverwinter Nights (NWN). (As far as I know)
No, this is not the Bioware game. NWN started up in 1991 and ran on AOL. I was fortunate enough to play this game for a bit. Luckily, I came along when there was no extra cost to play, as it used to be $6 an hour! Instead, I was given a whole 5 hours a month to be online. Needles to say, extra usage charges applied many months.
Check out these graphics!
- PvP, including ladders and tournaments
- Guilds, sanctioned and unsanctioned
- Sanctioned status gave message boards hosted by AOL
- In-game events
- Multi/Dual classes
- Yay Clam! (Cleric and Magic-user)
NWN went downhill when AOL started to offer unlimited time. Too many people with too much time ends up making things less fun, who knew? ;)