I first heard about it through a school friend, who would regularly talk about how fun it was. We (family) didn’t have a PC until a few months later, but we did have a PC magazine with the WC2 demo bundled with it.
Once we got our PC, I eventually got around to trying the WC2 demo, and I did find it enjoyable. Every few months I’d look at the demo again, trying different ideas and strategies to see what happens. It grew on me over time.
I sometimes wondered what the full game would be like, and what these extra units were which were ghosted out and unavailable in the demo.
While I did play games occasionally, I didn’t consider myself a gamer. Gaming culture as a whole felt quite alien to me, and most of my exposure to games was through my brother, who loved gaming.
It was about 3-4 years after first trying the demo, that I eventually bought the full game. It was in fact the first PC game I bought. And for the next 3-4 years I became very interested in it : playing through the campaigns and melee maps, designing maps of my own, and setting myself other challenges.
It’s fair to say it was my favourite game throughout my teenage years. And comparing it with other games I had seen/played, I firmly believed this to be the best game ever made. The depth and beauty of it was something to behold.
Eventually I grew bored of it, and I moved onto Starcraft. I struggled to decide which was the better game. The SC engine was undeniably better, and despite greater depth and balance in it’s design, my experience overall with SC was considerably less enjoyable.
Around 2005, I learned that WC3 was actually a thing, and I bought it without hesitation. To this day I consider WC3:ROC the best game ever made. I should also point out that it’s expansion pack WC3:TFT changes the dynamics of the game entirely, and imho, strips out the joy, turning it into another starcraft.