Updated: Apr 25
"Ultimately, our prize for us all, is that we...combined our [community] together as one for the first (if not second) time in this decade."
- Ezoiar, Union Task Force Commander and Peacekeeper Captain
On April Fools Day 2017, a 'five-day experiment' hosted by Reddit began called r/place. Users could place a single pixel on a massive canvas with a cooldown of several minutes. Five years later, the event returned on April 1st, 2022. However, this time, LittleBigPlanet found its place on the canvas despite armies of streamers, trolls, and other fandoms vying for control. If not for the efforts of a few dedicated few who started the movement, as well as the dozens of others who contributed to the effort under the umbrella of the Union Task Force, the tree would not have survived. This is the story of what would later be called 'Operation Arbor'.
What is r/Place?
Reddit's pixel-placing r/place event is a bit of a mystery to those unfamiliar with it. Users with a Reddit account can place a single pixel on a gigantic canvas. They can choose the color from a specified palette. After placing the pixel, they have to wait five minutes before they can place another. However, newly created users or accounts that Reddit suspects are used to cheat the system have much longer cooldown periods.
Those that want to draw larger art pieces on the canvas are therefore forced to unify with large forces of pixel placers to achieve their goals. They can also freely place pixels on art people have already created, so there is risk of 'invasion' or 'attack' by other users. Those with very large forces have a distinct advantage over others. The question is, would LittleBigPlanet stand a chance against the armies of massive livestreamers and more active communities?
Ezoiar, the LBP Union's Peacekeeper Captain, thought so.
Before r/place began, Union Peacekeeper Captain Ezoiar was made aware of the event's return. "When I heard that r/place was coming back, I was so excited! I told my friends about it and I had ambitions to create Sackboy originally, so I started a poll in the r/littlebigplanet subreddit and the majority voted yes!"
Ezoiar initially appealed to the LBP Union Scribe team for help creating a pixel art template for Sackboy, but this attempt was unsuccessful. It seemed that the Union wasn't quite as excited for r/place as Ezoiar was, and they may not have even been aware of its scope and importance. Regardless, he pushed forward, finding one other user to build the LBP tree on r/place.
The First Tree
The first tree designs were made by an unknown user. The final 'small' design was created by Robot#5899. They decided to make the design as small as possible to make it easier to maintain and create in the face of threat from other users on r/place. They first attempts were made in the top left corner of the canvas just under the Genshin Impact logo near these coordinates,
710, 999 1st 77, 120 2nd 61,142 3rd
However, they had little success on their own and needed to find another way to secure the tree's safety.
They decided to reach out to a much larger force called r/greenlattice in the hopes of making a diplomatic agreement. Green Lattice would allow Ezoiar to build the LBP tree on their territory. In exchange, Ezoiar's team would help defend Green Lattice territory from attack.
There was some delay in building the tree, as when Ezoiar reached out to r/greenlattice there was an ongoing invasion. However, after not too long, the tree you see above was created, marking LBP's place on the canvas!
However, it wouldn't be long until disaster struck.
Destruction of the Tree
Thanks to the livestreamer 'Asmongold', the first LBP tree was destroyed in a devastating attack along with several other artworks in Green Lattice and elsewhere. It was replaced with a massive image of 'pot boy' from Elden Ring.
When I personally heard news of the incident, I initially resigned that LBP may not be have the support it needed to maintain its position on the canvas. I told Ezoiar that we might have better luck next year with a more organized attempt. However, Ezoiar told me r/place wasn't annual. After all, the last time they did it was 5 years ago. It was then that I decided that none of us had given Ezoiar the support he needed from the beginning.
It was time to take back LBP's place on the canvas. Despite being out shopping at the time and needing to be back home soon for work, I decided to do something I never expected I'd have to do. I reactivated the Union Task Force.
Union Task Force: Operation Arbor
Long ago, in the days of the old Union when it was an alliance of clans, the Union Task Force (UTF) was the Union's military arm. It was originally created by the Union's founder and President Godman2k7 with the intent of uniting military-oriented creators and players of the Union. It was originally based off of the British SAS, representing a special forces unit for the Union and not intended to be a full-scale military. The politics of all that is a bit much to explain here, but needless to say I generally have been trying to avoid bringing back that aspect of the Union.
However, on Sunday, April 3rd, at 2:21 PM EDT, I made this announcement on Discord:
UTF Commander Aeywoo reflected that "I found it fun that the community was more resilient to negative streamer influence meaning the overall image wasn't tarnished." Indeed, the destruction of the original tree perhaps served as a catalyst for what happened next.
I knew that in order to maintain LBP's hold on r/place for 2022, we needed to organize on a much larger scale to not only build the tree but also defend it from attack. That was something I knew only the Union Task Force could do. Following this, I quickly created a reaction role for the Union Task Force in our settings channel. I knew also that Ezoiar knew much more about r/place than I did, and I was about to have to leave for work. Due to this, I appointed Ezoiar as the Union Task Force's Commander. After all, if not for him, this wouldn't have been possible.
Quickly dozens of people enlisted in the UTF and sought out orders in our r/place thread. Maintaining our alliance with r/greenlattice, construction of a new tree began.
It became clear quickly that the Union's efforts needed more organization as chaos flooded our r/place thread. I charged Ezoiar with the task of recruiting several commanders from the server that could help strategize and organize the UTF to build and defend the LittleBigPlanet tree.
Those commanders were potato farm, Oxy, Arcadius, Ezoiar, and Aeywoo.
Ezoiar put so much love and effort into organizing people, and the others put so much work into this that I couldn't just stand by and watch. So, I grabbed the new fancy role and started actively helping. Michael Youngling threw me into a chat and was like "yo you wanna be a commander?" And now the rest is history.
- potato farm, Union Task Force Commander for r/place 2022
Together, the six UTF commanders managed to rally the ever-growing UTF to stake a new claim a bit north of the invasion at the edge of r/greenlattice's territory. People from around the community came to support the effort, and by the end of the event the UTF's total force was composed of 72 people.
Expansion to Include r/littlebigplanet
Soon the tree was completed. Throughout the rest of the event, the tree was modified and improved based on feedback and voting from UTF members.
"Since we got a lot of people," Ezoiar recalls, "I suggested we expanded south to include "r/littlebigplanet" and we needed to invade 'Arvis Z' which again we succeded. They later came back but the UTF received assistance from r/greenlattice while I was sleeping." There were plenty of unauthorized artworks that would occasionally be created on r/greenlattice territory, and Arvis Z was one of them. The UTF utilized 'shotgun' tactics devised by Ezoiar. This involved waiting until pixel cooldowns of UTF members had reset and then attacking at the same time. It proved to be largely effective against the unauthorized art. Once Arvis Z was destroyed, 'r/littlebigplanet' was written below the tree. This is the name of LittleBigPlanet's unofficial subreddit.
Alliance with PT Ticket
"When I woke up the next day, a group of people who made 'PT ticket' wanted to be allies!" Ezoiar explains. "In exchange for our protection, they created Sackboy's face just to the right of the tree!" He also explains that a similar defense pact was made with the 'white blob' face you can see below Sackboy's face in the image above.
Border Dispute with Imp Emoji
Later as r/place drew to a close, the emoji east of the LBP tree suddenly became purple, turning into the evil imp emoji. They began attempting to expand into LittleBigPlanet territory, trying to draw the horn of the imp by overlapping it with our space. The UTF rushed to defend the border. Eventually, the emoji returned to normal by the end of r/place.
As time went on, the Union Task Force's mission became somewhat stressful for many involved. UTF Commander Oxy reflects that "Towards the end I was wondering if there was gonna be massive griefs to the entire map." Indeed, there was the persistent looming threat of invasion at any moment, one that the UTF may not have been able to repel in time. potato farm also writes, "There was this looming fear that everything we had worked for would vanish right before the end, and that all of our work would seemingly have been for naught. That's what kept me tied to my phone during all this."
USC Starblazer and UTF Commander Arcadius also recalls, "The last tree upgrade really made me worried, as it was quite a major effort and it could've resulted in uhhhhhh... okay fine, I was just jealous. Also, the fact that we didn't know when r/place ended made me really anxious." What he's describing was the disagreement on what to do with the tree after securing its position. There was some debate over how it should look. On one side, many wanted to improve the design, while others wanted to keep it simple to make it easier to defend. There were also several competing ideas for designs, and not all made it through to the end. potato farm shared similar thoughts, saying that she "was worried we wouldn't be able to agree on what to do or have people follow the plan"
End of r/place 2022
Eventually, Reddit ended the event by making it so that the only color of pixel anyone could place was white. This resulted in the destruction of the entire canvas, reducing everything into an empty, white ocean. Thankfully, the r/littlebigplanet tree survived until this moment, meaning that LittleBigPlanet successfully defended its place in Internet history on r/place 2022!
Is it sad to say the end was my favorite moment? It was bittersweet, watching all of the people I worked with over the course of a few days rapidly say goodbye because our work was done, there was no more we could do. It was like, there was the acknowledgment that we all did something great together, but we'll never know when or if we could do that again. It was truly the end, but I think we all grew closer from it, so it was my favorite.
- potato farm
This would not have been possible without the efforts of not only the Union Task Force commanders, but everyone who participated! An entire list of everyone who helped is not available, but we were able to put together a list of everyone who obtained the Union Task Force role to get updates and orders on building and defending the tree. Click below to expand the list.
Union Task Force r/place 2022
RoaringLion (GMT -5)#1508
NEON NIGHT 999#3237
ClothKid | LBP#5938
Znowu mam bana no ja nie moge v2#4634
Smile.exe 🗕 🗗 🗙#4171
A Random Name#3121
There were also several people part of the r/place team under Ezoiar's wing before the UTF was reactivated. These people have a special role on our Discord server called 'early veteran' and are composed of the following,
Early r/place LBP Veterans
Some staff from r/littlebigplanet subreddit helped too, including Dylan Jalopy!
I was asked what would become of the Union Task Force after r/place ended. After the end of the event, I immediately formally deactivated the UTF, and I joked that "I have a feeling people would be very concerned if I kept a standing military alive for no reason". The mission to build the tree has been named 'Operation Arbor'.
Perhaps the UTF will be needed again, but for now, all who participated in the event get to keep their UTF roles.
Thank you to everyone who supported the efforts to build the LBP tree on Reddit's r/place this year! Next time r/place returns, we'll be ready once again.
There are plenty of people who helped who did not get the UTF role on our Discord server, so if you helped out please leave a comment down below! We invite you to share your experiences as well. How did you help with LittleBigPlanet's project on r/place? How did it make you feel? Share with us down below!