Then the industry broke my heart--the first time. The game I had worked on for many months was canceled; not my fault, but there are always thoughts like, "If I had only worked a little harder on it, maybe they would have liked it more." I use this analogy now as a defense against those thoughts: Just because we couldn't save the sinking ship doesn't mean that we caused it to hit the iceberg.
Saffire ended up having fiscal stability problems, and eventually I quit to move with my wife to the San Francisco Bay Area.
My experience at Saffire and a great contact got me a job at Namco (famous for Pac-man, Dig Dug, and Pole Position). Namco was big-time. The teams were huge, the pay was almost triple what I made at Saffire. I was awestruck with how tight a ship they ran. And they were impressed with me, quickly expanding my roles and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, even Namco had fiscal problems. After a couple years, they laid off nearly everyone (80-ish people, if I remember correctly) in development, except for me and five other guys. I don't think I was the best designer, but my salary was probably the smallest (yes, even at triple the pay)...so perhaps I was the best value at the time. The good part of the layoff for me was that as the sole designer I had a lot of opportunity to guide and direct the games. But Namco had a penchant for cancellations too, and eventually it wore at my faith in the company. They broke my heart the second time.