Alt-F4 #59 - r/place 2022: A Pixelated Tale  2022-04-15

Written by stringweasel, Mr_George, edited by Nanogamer7, Conor_, Therenas, MyNameIsTrez, Firerazer

Table of Contents

A couple of weeks after the chaos that was r/place, resident historian stringweasel took it upon himself to go through the chronology of how the Factorio community tried to leave its mark on the canvas. Battles were fought, alliances were forged, and a lot of fun was had! If the article reminded you of a fun story about r/place that you want to share, we’d love to hear about it on Reddit or our Discord, both of which are linked at the bottom.

r/place 2022: A Pixelated Tale stringweasel, Mr_George

Two weeks ago, most avid Redditors had a momentary lapse of time as they were caught up in r/place. Millions of people were avidly sitting behind their screen. Masses and masses were excitedly waiting for their five minute timer to run out so that they could place their next pixel. They weren’t necessarily excited about the pixel itself, though. No, it was about being part of the bigger picture. Contributing to the common goal of your community. It was about achieving something great together, and leaving something beautiful behind on the r/place canvas.

What is r/place?

r/place started as a social experiment on Reddit for April Fools’ Day in 2017. It was dreamt up by the creator of Wordle, Josh Wardle. It was a white 1000x1000 pixel canvas on which users could place one coloured pixel every five to twenty minutes. With over a million users who placed a pixel on it and about 16 million pixels placed in total, it was a massive hit! Communities worked together to create beautiful works of art, and sent most of Reddit into a frenzy. After three days, the canvas was frozen, solidifying all the art that was created.

The final product of the first r/place in 2017.
The final product of the first r/place in 2017.

Like most communities in 2017, r/Factorio fought hard for space on the canvas and massively enjoyed the event. Our community was strong, even though the game would only officially be released three years later. In the end, on that single canvas, we managed to secure not one, but two locations! One of them was above the famous area of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Here is a nice visualization which gives descriptions to all the artworks that survived r/place 2017.

On 28 March 2022, a reboot of r/place was announced for April Fools’. What followed was an epic period of excitement, dread, cooperation and defeat. This article is an attempt to capture most of what transpired. It was quite the adventure.

The Journey

Timelapse of the our first artwork in r/place 2022 (Source).

It all started with a thread by the moderator SpeckledFleebeedoo in the Factorio Discord server in preparation for r/place starting the next day. It was rather quiet in there, mostly showcasing what the Factorio community had created in 2017. The next day, just like 2017, r/place started with a 1000x1000 canvas and 16 colors. It was time for Factorio to show what its community was capable of again! After a brief discussion in our own Alt-F4 Discord server where the first pixel was placed at {271,555} by stringweasel, the location was forwarded to the official Factorio Discord server, and that’s where it got going. There was no official plan yet, so it was decided to write “r/FACTORIO”, just like in 2017, except we (or I, really) accidentally inverted the colors. It started to grow steadily as word spread to start placing pixels, but our reference image was a hard-to-use screenshot from 2017. Luckily ivanjermakov stepped up and became our first blueprint designer.

The canvas was still empty when the initial spot was chosen, but of course, there’s always the threat of a community drawing over our spot. The first such threat was the Belgian flag aproaching from the south. So peace negotiations were opened and they agreed not to cover our art. It was at this time that the next blueprints were being created, which included belts. However, it was difficult getting the last o in Factorio to be gear-shaped, because the Factorian hivemind was trying to change it back to a normal o. This led to some very strange-looking doughnut-like shapes:

A very strange-looking doughnut-like gear.

It was only after some time that the gear was redesigned and successfully drawn. As soon as the basic idea for the gear was visible (and many DMs had been sent), the troops finished and defended it. Work began on the northern belt. It sparked a controversy: should the belt have alternating grey-black pixels (similar to 2017) at the bottom, or a solid grey line? The bigger issue, however, was that misguided Factorians were undoing any work on the bottom of the belt for two full hours. It was only much later that the belt finally wrapped across the entire Factorio logo.

The first official blueprint (left) used on r/place in 2022, as made by *ivanjermakov*. On the right is one of the last iterations of this blueprint. At the end, it had some underneathies and another blue circuit.

The time of the great belt-controversy was luckily also the time of new friends. Our northern belt was on its way to cover the merry green little boat named Benchy - r/3Dprinting’s infamous mascot. Their ambassador named SevenAndAHalf came to ask for peace, as they had to move their beloved Benchy once already before. It was excitedly decided that we will become friends with them, and have Benchy riding on our belt! However, again, it took some time to convince the isolated troops that the belt should go behind the green boat. Regardless, good relations were established with r/3Dprinting, and many r/Factorio pixels were placed fending off Chile and preventing them from destroying Benchy’s roof. Benchy’s bottom even became part of our official blueprint, and SevenAndAHalf became an honorable ally!

Soon Benchy was on the belt, and our belt was making its way around the bottom of our logo. By this time, there were three gears (“Factoriooo”?), and it was decided that two of these gears should be replaced by circuits. Yet again, the unnamed Reddit troops were viciously defending the gears, making it impossible to draw ivanjermakov’s beautiful circuits over it. Here is where our very own Nano stepped in and created a Google Sheet showing the proposed image along with the designated coordinates. As a unified voice, Nano and SpeckledFleebeedoo screamed “charge!”, and we all placed our pixel simultaneously. Suddenly, a fresh green circuit materialized. Success! This method was used quite often from that point forward for inserters, science packs, and even fish. However, everything wasn’t sunshine and roses, as you might expect.

xqc looking at r/place.
Some streamer decided to execute an unsolicited attack which almost hit us (Image captured by aptly named user mxdanger)

At around 38 hours in, the streamer xQcOW unleashed a powerful Purple Void. Big streamers caused a lot of trouble and controversy over the course of r/place, because with tens of thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands!) of viewers under their control, it was very easy for them to completely obliterate smaller communities. This wouldn’t be the last time we’d be under threat from a streamer. Luckily, this time the void didn’t reach us, as we were being defended by strong neighbors like r/onepiece. It was forming strong alliances with our neighbors that made our artworks last for so long. We were also lucky that the streamers were often distracted by the stronger communities, like Osu, Star Wars, and France, to name a few. This location was fairly safe, except for the continual attacks on the US flag north of us, with Chile ultimately defeating them. There were many concerns that over-zealous attackers would barge through our neighbors Besiege and RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) and attack our belts, but this luckily never materialized.

Doubling Down

At around the 27 hour mark, the canvas size unexpectedly doubled, as did the number of colors, as did the tension. Many communities were scrambling for space while trying to determine what to draw after the initial rush of trolls and flags. Even in our community tensions were high because there were suddenly many excited voices with design ideas and attack plans on what to do with this new space. After some floundering, we ended up securing the area around {1600,550}, because as yauz suggested, this would make it possible to connect an underground belt to our western location, which is at the same y-level. Thus, a plan was put into action. We would secure the area with belts initially, as laid out by pg’s blueprints, while we waited for ivanjermakov’s pixelated interpretation of the Factorio gear. This gear blueprint was later improved on by apatton, which used only five colors, making it look nicer and would make it easier to defend.

The gear just after initial construction amidst fighting of a Black Void.
The gear just after initial construction amidst fighting of a Black Void.

As you might know, the area was secured successfully. Allies were made, battles were fought, and pixels were lost (more on that later). However, the first doubling of the canvas wasn’t the last trick up Reddit’s sleeve. No, after around 54 hours, the canvas doubled in size yet again, now being 2000x2000 pixels! There was so much open space, which for a long time was wild with flags and Amongi. Luckily, this move was anticipated by the Factorio community, and we had a plan! As Mr_George mentioned, in order to build big, we needed to build together. A type of mutual artwork shared between different communities. Nano made a great suggestion to build a train. We would build our famous locomotive, and then other communities could ride on the wagons! Quickly the talented Discord moderator Maxreader drew up beautiful pixel-art for this idea. We also reached out to potential partners for this project, including communities like Mindustry, Unturned, Sea of thieves, Germany, Risk of Rain, India and r/furry_irl.

The mock-up of our train with custom wagons for r/furry_irl and Mindustry. Unfortunately, only the Mindustry wagon materials.
The mock-up of our train with custom wagons for r/furry_irl and Mindustry. Unfortunately, only the Mindustry wagon materialized.

This time, as the canvas doubled again, we were much quicker in securing a location around {500, 1200} (which was recommended by Stuckey). The problem was, so was everyone else! We quickly ran out of room and were tucked in tightly - next to big flags and quite a salacious neighbor. There was also a potential collision with the Risk of Rain community who was constructing a figure over the nose of our locomotive. They were contacted and in a successful peace deal, it was agreed that they would move their figure a few pixels lower, and in turn they get a dedicated wagon. That allowed us to finish the locomotive and first wagon, occupied by our friends Mindustry. We tried to build more wagons for more allies, but there was no space. We even contacted the Portal community to build a portal for the train to drive through, which would allow us to build more wagons. They were too busy though, because the were already doing three big projects at the time. This forced the r/furry_irl, Unturned and Risk of Rain communities to unfortunately give up on the wagon project, and progression stagnated.

Timelapse showing the lifetime of The Train (Source).

Finally, as you might have noticed in the timelapse above, the train lost its nose at some point. The event that caused this was much closer to a stampede than a battle. On the right there was a beautiful Mexican flag, which wasn’t threatening our train at the time. This flag was likely kept from expanding further left by our tantalizing southern neighbor. However, this southern neighbor was being vandalized, which at some point triggered a vigilante community to completely destroy it. The problem is that this provided the oppertunity for the Mexican streamer to expand west to its full size. And in the blink of an eye, the locomotive’s nose was cut off by the Mexican Flag. There were attempts by us (and even the Mexican Discord who were one of our allies) to keep the train, but this was ultimately unsuccessful.

However, this might have been a blessing in disguise, because all focus was required at the gear. It was mayhem.

The War of The Nut

Here is told the story of the War of the Nut. Not a lonely battle, but war, since it involved endless battles around the Factorio gear on the first canvas expansion. Our gear, or as our enemies mistakenly knew it as: The Nut.

Timelapse showing the lifetime of our monument, our beacon of hope, our gear (Source).

As mentioned earlier, the area was originally secured using belts. This was a good strategy, because space was very quickly being claimed by other communities. The improved gear logo was also well-liked by the community, and construction started soon after the space was secured. However, construction was only about half-way done before the first attack - The Void. It already heavily damaged our neighbor - #100Devs. Luckily, we sent spies into The Void’s Discord, who discreetly relayed their information to us, so we knew their plan. This is where good allies and deep friendships were created, because as a combined effort between Pikmin, Danidev, #100Devs and even Norway, we were able to fight off The Void! They seemed to have accepted defeat, and preferred to redirect their attacks to the north. With the help of our new friends, we defended our belts, and soon our gear was completed.

People around us seemed to really enjoy the gear, because soon our neighbour Romania’s ambassador Ironic_Onion contacted us. They proposed that we should expand our belts over their flag, but only if we matched their colors with their flag. And so another alliance started with Romania! Construction on our new belts were well underway when a new foe approached: Ecuador. As a country with a population of 18.1 million people, they were approaching fast, while our troops took defensive positions. The problem was that their people weren’t online - meaning they weren’t on a single united Discord server. On top of that, the r/Ecuador subreddit removed all posts related to r/place. The chances of peace talks looked dismal. So dismal in fact, that our official Ambassador Mr_George started a long search to get in touch with the Ecuadorians, even joining six of their Discords. However, negotiations with Ecuador turned out to be too difficult to establish. The Discords were occasionally agreeing to peace and maybe allying with us, but it did not stop the Ecuadorian hivemind. Many hours later, it seemed that all peace talks were forgotten, because they attacked again! This time their attack was more powerful. They destroyed DaniDev and started removing our belts. Again our ambassador Mr_George jumped between their servers frantically in an attempt to achieve piece. There was even a half-cog-half-heart shrine created to show good faith, but to no avail. We admitted defeat, and after they built their letters into our territory they stopped, luckily.

In the brief moment of peace we decided to focus on polishing our design. We were even able to connect our first and second artwork with an underground belt. But alas, it was short-lived, as we were being attacked by Romania. However, the alliance wasn’t broken, their troops were simply misdirected. They were constructing the famous Romanian Infinity Tower, but the workers were overzealous, building it higher and higher - just like the Babylonians. Again, our ambassador was out and talking to the Romanians to tell them that their tower is breaking our peace treaty. They were unable to stop their hivemind of workers, but they did jump in to help us defend our belts. This approach worked, and soon our belts were safe again. It also helped that we could focus on the Romanian Tower without worrying about a flank by Ecuador, because they were sleeping.

It was at this point that the canvas doubled yet again! This allowed the new train expansion project to start, but greatly reduced the number of defenders at the gear. Our troops were distracted, and Ecuador took their chance yet again. This time however, they were led by a Spanish streamer who directed their attack to the innocent Pikmin below us, our trusted ally. Together with our other neighbors, we fought off this attack successfully, helped them rebuild, and even grabbed some more canvas area. As always though, this victory was short-lived, because an even deadlier foe was awaiting for us while our focus shifted back to the locomotive.

The streamer xQcOW deploying his deadly void army close to our beloved gear.
The streamer xQcOW deploying his deadly void army close to our beloved gear.

xQcOW has a gigantic following and was wielding an incredible, corrupting and almost unstoppable force. He used it to deploy a deadly black void, and this time it was very, very close to home. It passed within a few pixels of us, obliterating #100Devs and Nep Nep art in the process. We were relieved that they didn’t hit us, but the mood was still somber. We were helping our allies rebuild, knowing how close we were to being left in complete ruins. Luckily the rebuilding went well, and we even had a few hours of peace.

As you know, though, there is no real peace in the War of the Nut. The Ecuadorians attacked again, this time expanding towards our gear and cutting off the bottom half of our belts. In their mind, our already-faltering alliance was forgotten. They seemed to stop after capturing part of our belts, but this was only the dawn before the dark night. Our troops were tired, and angry that a Polish streamer arrived and started attacking our neighbor Romanian Flag, which was defended by a Romanian Streamer. This was a large battle, so large that we started losing belts in the cross fire. Everybody knew the canvas was ending in a few hours, so time was short to leave a permanent mark in history. However, the invasion of our neighbor was only the start of our demise. Why? Not only did we forget our alliance with the Romanians, but the Ecuadorians saw it as an opportunity to attack the Romanian flag too. This forced the Polish flag to retaliate tenfold - it was all-out warfare. We sent emergency transmissions to our allies: “Hold the Nut!”, but due to this unfortunate sequence of events the Polish death machine completely obliterated our entire presence on the Eastern canvas. With mere minutes left on the timer, nothing remained of us, Nep Nep and Pikmin. With sadness in our hearts due to the destruction of our most precious symbol, we relished the fact that we still had our western artwork, which withstood the test of time. As for the gear - it will always be remembered in our hearts.

A mural made by our friends from #100Devs.
A mural made by our friends from #100Devs picturing some of the unsung heroes that played a part, directly or indirectly, in the The War of the Nut. It shows, from the left, a blue heart by Celeste, Dogoo from Neptune Hyperdimension, Leon Noel from #100Devs, a yellow Pikmin, Neptunia from Neptune Hyperdimension, Arceus by Pokémon, a duck with a knife by, and a bengal tiger called RITchie, the mascot of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Made by *Trainer_Brendan* from #100Devs

Thought Mural of Friends and Allies

One of the most interesting things was fighting against our own hivemind for the belts! Several times I tried to change the colors of the belts to dark blue, but the hivemind was in protection-mode and kept reverting it back to cyan!

— Telokis

I missed the r/place event in 2017, but really wanted to participate. So I did this year. Factorio is by far my favorite game, so without hesitation I checked its Discord for community plans of r/place. Across four days I worked on multiple designs, coordinated the work and even coded the basic tool to overlay coordinates over images. It was an incredible experience.

— ivanjermakov

Through r/place, I noticed a massive difference between us, and you, Factorio, while collabing - that we used construction bots, and you haven’t. Funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

— router, Mindustry Moderator and Building Coordinator

Those with a keen eye may have noticed something not Factorio-related in-between the rest of the builds - a little purple flower. This addition was a personal request from me to the Factorio community. My wife is currently pregnant with our first child, and when she arrives in a few months we want to name her Violet. Thank you to everyone who helped keep the violet safe on the canvas.

— agenteightysix

It’s surprising how easy it was to completely construct our designs from scratch, yet how hard it was to maintain them. Pretty on-brand for Factorio, I’d say.

— yauz

I still think we should have covered the canvas in as many belts as possible.

— SevenAndAHalf, r/3Dprinting

I’m happy I could help my favorite game in such a historical event. It was worth every pixel I gave and every hour I didn’t sleep.

— Mr_George

Risk of Rain wants to give a MASSIVE thank you to the r/place Factorio community for helping us out tremendously as our allies! We really couldn’t have done it without you!

— Jaco, Risk of Rain Official r/place Server Owner

The Finality of the White-Void

In the last moments of r/place, the White-Void came. This was Reddit changing the canvas’ color palette so that only white pixels could be placed. Slowly we started erasing the art we had spent three days creating, defending and fighting for. We were undoing every single pixel that we spent sweat and tears agonising over, waiting for the timer to reach zero. In a beautiful twist of fate, we cleansed all the battles, stress, and obsession that held us for 83 hours, and left behind only the memories. It allowed us to release the stress of who ended up with the perfect art. Rather, it shifted the focus on the journey we - over six million people - experienced together. Maybe it even shows us that it’s not what we leave behind that’s important, but rather the relationships we build on our journey.

Timelapse of the final moments as the White-Void came and cleansed the canvas, leaving behind only memories. (Credit).

Or maybe Reddit simply wanted to do something different than they did in 2017. There are many communities now reconstructing the canvas as it was in its final state before the White-Void came (like here or here). What is significant however is how valiantly the Factorio community performed during the r/place saga. There were many foes around that threatened our well-established area. Trolls, rainbows, hordes of Amongi, and multiple deadly voids. But the community always stood strong, and importantly built strong alliances with our neighbours by incorporating them into our master blueprint. We preferred peace negotiations over inciting wars, kept our areas secure rather than performing dangerous retaliations, and always preferred belts over bots. This allowed us to withstand the test of time, and thus have our monument carved into the halls of time, never to be forgotten. Or at least, until the next r/place or Amongi inevitably take over.

Appendix - Our Allies

As a last note we would like to thank all the ambassadors of other communities who built alliances with us. It would not have been possible without you all. It was great working with you, building with you, and battling with you. It was an honour!

Community Ambassador(s)
Belgium redbart, BelgianPixel, AquaBoy
3D Printing SevenAndAHalf
Rochester Institute of Technology Mr_George, CoderMason
PlaceEU Fabi, Jonah, Treehearth
One Piece Cameroon
Colombia Lockrick, Mr_George, Leridon
Mindustry Valoneu, yaryuya, Meep of faith, BasedUser
Besiege milk, Titoino
Dwarf fortress brine909
Montenegro spiritthefox
United Art Factions envy2000
Peru Adrian HV
Trackmania Filegzeug, FalameHorus
#100devs 54m4n, Crafty
Karlson cZar Void
Pikmin jfryk, jame, DreamsFox, Mistophant
Neptune BistreeYaSpatHochy
Romania Mr_George, Ironic_Onion, Toma
LOTR Njorsky
Popheads SevenAndAHalf, mxdanger, Ghostly
Red Devils robbie
Chara Ghostly
ACS EpicExplosivesGuy, OffAndSphere
Dyson Sphere Program Ludus Machinae, Appw
DuckFace Brandino Burák
Satisfactory AnnO, KronaSamu
r/furry_irl dowotdashdotdot
Risk of rain Mr_George, mxdanger, cbhv4321
Unturned mathyou, P9nda
r/196 SevenAndAHalf
Void Spy hornhonker1, mxdanger, iHouqLF
Ecuador Mr_George
DaniDev CoderMason
Hytaleinfo BlitzStrike_


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