Sam Hendrick, the Senior Gameplay Programmer at Santa Monica, has revealed in a Twitter thread that a touching side quest in God of War: Ragnarok was in fact a tribute to his partner and developer Jake Snipes, who lost his life two years ago due to epilepsy.
The side quest he mentions is 'Across The Realms', a mission where players can gain a permanent boost in all of Kratos's states by collecting four different ingredients detailed in a recipe book. Players who stop to admire the scenery will notice the uniquely shaped hearts engraved within the Norse ruins in each realm. These hearts have the initials of both Sam and Jake written in Norse, and the relationship between them is reflected in the game through the story of Jari and Somr, a loving couple who traveled across the realms together until they eventually found a place to call home.
When Jake was alive, he suggested the idea of implementing the heart to Sam, as a way to commemorate their love for each other. Following Jake's death, Sam pitched the idea to Eric Williams, God of War Ragnarok's director, who accepted the idea and decided to turn it into something much more emotional and resonant.
"I told Eric and the team about Jake's suggestion of our initials carved into a heart. And he and the team returned with that and something even more special", Sam said. The team at Santa Monica Studios had created "a story of two men who find each other in an often cruel world, and who find a place to belong simply with each other". Sam expressed that he wants this story to be one many queer people know: journeying through a world that doesn't always understand you to find a place that truly feels like home. Sometimes, that is simply a person.
Jake lost his life mid-development at just 20 years old due to epilepsy, which is a brain condition that is associated with a high rate of premature mortality due to the unexpected complications and side effects of seizures and anti-seizure therapies. Epilepsy can also claim lives instantly without any pre-complications due to a condition known as a sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, abbreviated as SUDEP. SUDEP is estimated to cause about 3,000 deaths each year in the United States alone, and the deaths caused by epilepsy continue to rise as well, according to recent studies.