The general manager of Codemasters Guildford, the developer behind shooter Bodycount, has left the British publisher, Eurogamer can exclusively reveal.
Adrian Bolton, ex-development director at Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit creator Criterion, follows Bodycount creative director Stuart Black out of the company.
Bodycount is now slated for release in "early summer" next year – it had been due out in the spring of 2011.
Commenting on Bolton's exit, Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens told Eurogamer: "The remit within Codemasters is not to compromise the quality of any content we publish. We're not prepared to compromise the game.
"In common with other software publishers, has that resulted in delays? It's absolutely resulted in some delays.
"As a consequence of that, have we looked at the studio and how the studio's run? Sure, we look at that. I also think that's normal business. I don't think it's any more sinister than that. People have a habit of reading into it, and two plus two becomes five, but we plan to publish the game in early summer next year and we're not being any more specific than that because we're not prepared to compromise on the quality."
Cousens insisted that despite Bolton and Black's exit, Bodycount is in safe hands.
"He's left, but I don't think the company centres around one person," Cousens said. "If I left I don't think the company falls over.
"Someone will fill the void. I don't see it as any threat to either the well-being of the product, the well-being of the studio or the well-being of the company. I don't think it's life threatening.
"Much as bloggers may want to paint the picture fuelled by injured parties, I can tell you companies don't operate like that."
Bodycount was described as a "problem project" to Eurogamer by a source close to the situation. We were also told that the recent changes at Codemasters Guildford were designed to guarantee the game's release next year.
The last time we saw Bodycount in action was at E3 2010 in June. The game has been kept under wraps since.
However, Eurogamer understands Bodycount will be shown to press before Christmas, with a big push planned for early next year.
"I can give you a fluffy answer and say Stuart's looking for new challenges in his life – all the old clichés that get put forward," Cousens added. "We're not saying that.
"We weren't satisfied with where it was. We did make changes, and we're making changes because we're not prepared to compromise our DNA. That's the hard facts of life.
"I read all the stuff on Activision and Call of Duty, and the end of the world is nigh, and the law suits that are flying around and the shots they're taking in a very public way. If you read that, that's bound to have compromised the game. I will tell you that will be the best-selling game this year, so I don't think Activision will be particularly troubled by it."
Bodycount is considered the spiritual successor to 2006's Black, which Black co-created and designed while at EA developer Criterion.
Set in the present day, Bodycount follows the story of a no-questions-asked task force ordered to kill "Targets" on behalf of a "Network". Destructible cover will feature, as will online multiplayer and co-op.
Underneath Bodycount lies Codemasters' EGO engine, which has been used to good effect in DiRT 2 and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising.
"The game's great," Cousins said. "Companies are a team, and there is a team of people down there – 70 or 80 people working on that game – and that game will come out and do just fine.
"We want that studio to grow. We want to do more with it. We do want Bodycount to be a big success and testimony to that studio in the same way to F1 in Birmingham."