The latest attraction in the Siteimprove bar area is our brand new Siteimprove arcade machine. We had a chat with its creator to learn more about how the machine was born in the wondrous Siteimprove code club.

Picture of the new arcade machine

Morten Ulrich, a member of our Enterprise Management team, has been building software for years. Now he can also add “arcade machine builder” to his résumé. His creation, which can be found next to the bar in Siteimprove’s Copenhagen headquarters, will bring back a lot of memories for any gaming enthusiast.

“It’s an old-school, retro arcade machine with all those games you remember if you’re a certain age. It has the good old-style look, but the insides are a bit more modern”, Morten explains.

Why don’t we have one?

The idea actually originated when Morten visited another company from Copenhagen’s tech hub.

“I’ve been attending events at other IT companies in Copenhagen and one of them had a couple of arcade machines in a common room at the office. It appeared to be used a lot and looked quite fun which made me think, ‘Why don’t we have that here?’”

As he failed to find somewhere to buy the right machine, Morten figured that he could build it himself despite never having done anything like it. So, he set out to learn how to do it and asked our CEO, Morten Ebbesen, for permission to build one.

“It was a very brief conversation. It only took me five minutes to get a ‘go’ from Morten, so after he approved the cost, I started building it.”

Now it’s been two years, spending every Thursday building and testing it, and Morten’s machine is finally ready to go. While he needed assistance from his designer colleagues with stickers for the chassis and had to wait for summer to arrive so he could move the machine outside to paint it, Morten’s main challenge was figuring out what to put inside the machine.

Morten reveals that the original plan was to use a computer and install MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), which would enable him to configure the machine and put all the games on it by himself. However, realizing that it required quite a bit of maintenance, he opted for another solution, JAMMA (Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association), which is a box where all the games are pre-installed. Morten hasn’t yet given up the dream of using MAME, though.

“I don’t know, yet, if I’ll ever build another one, but if I do it’ll be a MAME machine instead. Let’s see. Maybe in a couple of years?”

Morten with his arcade machine

A smorgasbord of games

You can play a staggering number of games on the machine, 2,100 to be exact. You can find almost any of the old arcade games on it and a big chunk of the newer ones. But which game is the most fun? We asked Morten which game he prefers.

“I actually don’t know! I’ve only played 5-10 different ones, so I haven’t really found my favorite game yet.”

Luckily for us, there’s a ‘recommended’ section with a list of 30-40 games to choose from if you don’t know where to start. The machine has been well-received among Morten’s colleagues and many would love for him to make another one. Unfortunately for them, it’s not in the cards for now.

“It’s tough spending each and every Thursday working on it and staying late for long periods of time. But I’ve really learned a lot and it’s been an exciting journey creating this machine. Next time I build one, I know that there are a couple of things I can do smarter.”

The Siteimprove code club

Every Thursday after work, Siteimprove developers meet for the weekly code club, an initiative that offers the opportunity to spend the night working on your own projects with your colleagues.

“We’re getting inspiration for different things and gaining new knowledge in the code club. For us developers, our job is often also our hobby which is why this concept works so well,” Morten explains.

The code club nights usually start with pizza provided by the company after which people start working on their projects until midnight or later.

“As it is right now, we’re between four and 10 people joining every week. But everyone is welcome!”

Going forward, Morten will continue to join up with the rest of the code club, but he will focus on projects with a different scope than his arcade machine.

“Now I will look at a couple of projects that are a little more work-related or have potential to become work-related. Until I find something else to do, that is. The projects we’re working on in the code club rarely run for more than a couple of weeks. Well, except when it’s something we work on for years, like the arcade machine!”

Morten assures us that they have plenty of ideas for other entertaining initiatives for the office. We’re looking forward to seeing what they’ll come up with next!

About Morten

Morten joined Siteimprove in April 2015 as a software developer. Morten is part of the Digital Management unit within our Product Development department located in Copenhagen, Denmark.