Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
One cool thing about having been a games journalist is that there’s a detailed public record of some of your favourite personal gaming experiences. I came across my write-up of the first time I played Skyrim, at a preview event, and re-read the whole thing. I’d forgotten what exactly happened, and reading the story of my adventure like this actually captured more of its magic than just firing up the game again. The game no longer has what I got from it that day, but the story does.
I’d forgotten how amazing the first 10-20 hours with an Elder Scrolls game are. Such a sense of adventure, freedom, a beautiful country to explore, a personal journey where the little stories you encounter get tangled up in the systems of the world as they react to your reckless decisions. Waiting for a storm to pass. Holing up in a shack for the night. Finding something amazing.
That build skipped the intro, and I start by turning 180 in an attempt to explore off the beaten track – it’s funny to realise the walled-off town I ‘discover’ up the hill was Helgen.
“In Skyrim, a mage is an unstoppable storm of destruction. In real life, a mage is just an illusionist: they can’t do much except trick you. If one of them turned out to be the world’s only hope of salvation, hijinks and sudden death would inevitably ensue. Since these are my two favourite things, I’ve decided to try playing this way.”
Hope you enjoy/enjoyed it. It totally reinvented the game for me, made the world feel dangerous in a way it hadn’t since I first started. And something about having no weapons or armour makes the experience more convincing – I found myself appreciating the scenery more, being happy to trudge through the sparkling snow on a sunny day.
It makes me really want a Skyrim Survival Mode. One where you remain realistically vulnerable at all times, and leaving a town is heart-thumpingly tense. You’d need to eat before you could sleep, and sleep once a day to stay sharp. The only impetus to risk the wilderness would be to hunt animals, gather ingredients, or hope to find something valuable enough to sell for food before you find something too fast to run from.
I ordered my elf mage to move somewhere, accidentally told her to attack my dog. This kills the dog.
Skyrim is out, my review is up, and it’s spoiler free.
Although I was hugely privileged to get to play this early, there is a special kind of agony to being this excited about a game and believing you’re just about to get hold of it, every day for nine days.
I was out for my parents’ anniversary dinner the night the mail finally came in, and the code was waiting when I got home late. It was going to take seven hours to download, so I set my alarm for six and went to bed.
I haven’t woken up early for Christmas since I was about 12, but for Skyrim I woke up at 4, then 4.30, then 5, then 6, then 6.30, then 7. Every time the download had about two hours to go, and it seemed to get slower as it went.
I made breakfast, tidied my room, exercised, showered, brewed coffee, did laundry, cleaned my kitchen, fretted, and then finally saw it finish. It would definitely crash. It would be encrypted. It would work, then be removed from Steam the next day.
But it worked, I had time to play it thoroughly enough to review before the embargo, and it was this good.