Interview: Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield’s Neil Jones on the highs and lows of game development

Official key art for Aerial Knight's Never Yield content update
Image: Headup

Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield launched in 2021 for mobile devices and consoles, delivering a fresh indie adventure. This 3D side-scroller is set in a futuristic Detroit, Michigan, and follows the heroic journey of a man named Wally. Developer Neil Jones, who also goes by Aerial_Knight, was the creative force behind Never Yield from conception to release. We caught up with Jones to talk about the game’s development, release, and post-launch content.

  • LoopBreak: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as an independent black developer while creating Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield?

Jones: Some of the biggest challenges I faced as an independent black dev had been just getting people to take what I was what I was trying to make seriously. As well as knowing when to say no to opportunities and suggestions. Having the understanding that all money isn’t good money and that making something good that you believe in will always be better than just following some blueprint. it’s really hard to tell someone who is offering funding and suggesting changes to your vision no.

  • LoopBreak: As a Detroit native, can you talk about the process of taking your hometown and envisioning it in the distant future?

Jones: I’ve lived in Detroit almost my whole life so it’s always going to find its way into my work somehow, whenever I would get stuck or need an idea of what something or someone should look like I try to just pull from what I know.

  • LoopBreak: Can you talk about the post-launch response to Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield and how it influenced the major update, “Da Update,” that the game received last year?

Jones: “Da Update,” was really cool to work on, when the base game came out I had been working on it non-stop, I was in a state of extreme stress, I only slept about 2 hours a night leading up to the launch and I had redone the ending of the game about 4 or 5 times and still wasn’t happy with it. There was a really small window for the game to launch in between a lot of bigger titles. I was happy with the base game but it was missing a lot of what I wanted to do. I got a lot of really good notes from fans and reviews and I wanted “Da Update,” which took about 6 months to create for all the different platforms, to address a lot of what people had an issue with and try to fix the ending that I really wanted to spend more time on. I am really happy with “Da Update” I really wanted to do more as far as more levels, cutscenes, and music but I think people understood how Never Yield was made for basically no money or funding outside of porting cost. it did what it needed to do and ended with a good set-up for what’s next.

A gameplay screenshot of Aerial_Knight's Never Yield

  • LoopBreak: What advice would you give to independent black developers aspiring to create a game of their own, but are struggling to find the resources/opportunity?

Jones: I don’t give advice to people just because everyone has a completely different path and what works for me might not work for you. If anything, I tell people to just make stuff you like and believe in. If you’re doing stuff, showing it to people, and taking feedback to make it better things should happen.

  • LoopBreak: Do you have any plans to expand upon this universe in the future? Or are you aiming for something entirely different with your next game?

Jones: Yes, just yes lol. I had to take a step back as it was all too much stress but I’ve been slowly getting back into things. I’ve met a lot of cool people that I’m looking forward to working with, I can’t wait for the games industry to see what game(s) I’m working on next; it’s a big step up from where I started so I’m a bit nervous mixed with excited.

It was a pleasure getting to chat with Neil Jones about the highs and lows of game development and his experience as a black indie dev. Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is available now on Google Play, Steam, Epic Games Store, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch. Stick with LoopBreak for more insightful interviews!