After taking a 6-week summer computer class at school when he was 13, Tobey saved for a year to purchase a Commodore PET 2001 for $800. He learned BASIC and then 6502 machine language, having graduated to an Apple II. Soon the teenager was a central figure in the Philadelphia Area Computer Society.
At 16, Tobey and a friend started work on a combat flight sim called Alpha Strike for the Apple II, a project that continued for two years. When they went to Boston for the 1983 Applefest they were invited to meet Rod Nakamoto, a long-time games industry executive. Nakamoto praised the game, and later that day introduced them to Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Wozniak was amazed by the visual effects Tobey had achieved with the game. He had recently joined the Board of Directors of start-up game publisher Electronic Arts, and he gave Tobey a business card with a message for EA President Trip Hawkins written on the back: "Trip, Please consider this flight simulator as the finest Apple game ever done. Woz"
Tobey was still only a senior in high school. Less than two weeks later EA had flown him and his parents to Northern California for a meeting. Bill Budge, then the best-known computer game designer in North America for his Raster Blaster and Pinball Construction Set games, urged Tobey to sign a development deal. After his graduation in June he rejected a rival offer from Sir-Tech and committed to EA to produce the newly renamed Skyfox, becoming their second-youngest developer.
Tobey initially continued work on the game at home for several months, but when there was one month left in the schedule EA suggested that he come to California. As it turned out, he would work at the EA offices in San Mateo for almost a year before completing the game.
He worked closely with producer Stewart Bonn and with Richard Hilleman, both of whom later held senior management positions at EA. Although nominally an independent developer, Tobey worked in the EA offices alongside other employees, and was accepted by them as part of the then-small EA team. The only difference was that he was assigned no card key (to avoid problems with California labor laws) and had to deal with occasionally being locked out by accident.
Key to the title's evolution during that year was its re-structuring as a mission-based game, a structure that would be emulated by many later combat flight sims.