The Story of Ulillillia

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The internet is full of unique people who have put their personality on display for potentially millions of spectators.
Some are celebrated, some are mocked and even hated. Some have a certain wholesome charm that make them unique.
Some have experienced the whole spectrum of public opinion.
But one individual who rose to internet fame in the early 2010’s serves as an example where the initial exposure was…
so peculiar…
that many didn’t know how to interpret it.
Nick: “But there’s another unusual thing. You’re probably wondering…
what is this here all about? This seems a bit odd…”
But as the internet grew to know this person, his creativity and outsider thinking, what was once mocked began to be…
respected, admired and even considered inspirational.
Nick: “Originally, I had the reign spaced 1/8 of a scale in unit, all the way out to two scaling units…
which is about where this tree right here is, approximately, give or take a little bit.”
This is the story of Nick Smith, also known as Ulillillia.
Nick: “At first glance it seems rather…
on the unusual side.”
The story of Ulillillia began in the early…
2000s, when the satirical site Something Awful was one of the most popular online forums…
serving as the breeding ground for some of the Internet’s earliest memes and inside jokes.
Often, forum members would discover an obscure website deep within the internet, which might include…
potentially bizarre or comedic content, and these forums would discuss and analyze them in the irreverent way they became known for.
In December 2001, a thread popped up centered around a troubled high-school student who went by the unique name of Ulillillia…
although his real name was Nick.
His website, an early internet Angel Fire blog, not unlike what many similarly aged kids of the early 2000s were creating…
featured the writings of an alienated young man who was clearly retreating into his own fantasy reality in order to cope with problems of fitting in.
“I’m currently an 11th grade,” his About Me section read. “I have over 60…
bullies and no friends. These bullies actually give me some valuable rewards.
I have a massive defense value that is more than 50% above average. I’ve taken so much damage and recovered…
so often, my defense raised in exchange to being more resistant.
I absorb insults. All insults have a positive effect on me. The worse the insult, the better the effect.”
The Something Awful forums had their own particular code of conduct that some may have seen as chaotic, and…
many of the initial responses to Nick were that of ridicule.
Posters mocked him, some even spammed his guestbook with obscene pictures.
However…
as more of Ulillillia’s webpage was brought into the discussion, the tone pivoted.
What this individual lacked in the ability to connect with people his own age…
he was clearly able to replace with incredible quantitative reasoning…
imagination and creativity.

In a page titled “My Color System” Nick provided an in-depth explanation of how he saw colors in hexadecimal format…
factoring in luminosity and distance, even how to adjust for environmental factors such as fog, complete with animated…
examples Nick made himself.

An overview for something Nick dubbed his “Status System” was laid out on a different page.
Using his proclivity for numbers and his interest in video game character statistics…
Nick found a way to break down each attribute in his life he wished to improve upon…
be it short story writing, his reading comprehension for the novels he was assigned in class, to even doing the dishes…
in mathematical formulas which he used to measure progress.
Everything he did would grant him experience points, as if he were a role-playing game character leveling up in a variety of skills.
Nick had essentially figured out a way to gamify his life.
On another page Nick detailed something called his “Mind Game,” which was an ongoing open-world experience he played purely in his imagination.
Illustrations of all of its menus, character parties and controls were provided.
And according to this write-up on Forces of Geek, his tendency to slip into his mind game at unpredictable…
points throughout the day is why he chose to postpone obtaining his driver’s license.
A dream journal organized into categories and often accompanied by Nick’s own animations was listed on another page…
along with some calculus to explain the dream physics in numeric…
representations of what he called the fun factor and scary factor of each dream.
Nick had even begun making a video game based on his dreams, a 2-D physics-based platformer called the “Supernatural Olympics”.
Nick: “This is 800 miles per hour, and if you think this is fast…
try instant teleport. 9000 miles an hour.”
There was no denying Nick was exceptional, although the unique way his mind worked didn’t come without its disadvantages.
He’d restricted his diet to a handful of unhealthy foods, such as cheese pizza.
He had a self admittedly irrational fear of blue water…
due to its causing death for many of the early videogame characters of Nick’s childhood.

And this was far from being his only irrational phobia. His fear of mirrors led him to make this diagram of a department store…
color-coded with danger areas where walking through the sight line of a mirror couldn’t be avoided. Outlining a strategic path…
Nick would take an order to pick up the items he needed.
Certain six-letter words beginning with the letter P…
such as person, gave Nick feelings of unease and he would often scratch them out of his school papers.
While some members were inclined to suggest traditional help–family intervention, therapy, and medication.
Others argued this would destroy his creative spark, and what he truly needed was nurturing and direction.
Many wanted to reach out to Nick and some even began emailing him, but they were urged to stop by others…
as it wasn’t known whether such attention would be helpful or hurtful.
One users summed up the entirety of the discussion by writing the following…
“It’s been fascinating watching the mood of this thread go from scorn and ridicule,
to stark fear and bewilderment, to a cautious empathy, to outright sympathy, and now to righteous guardianship.”
The safest course of action many agreed was to simply observe Nick…
to interfere as little as possible and see what he did with his creative energy. And over the years they witnessed…
Ulillillia go on to make some of the most unique artistic creations the internet has ever seen.
Nick: “While you were away I took note of your walking and I noticed you have about a one inch bounce.”
Friend: “I have a once inch bounce?”
Nick: “Yeah, every step you take your head goes up and down about one inch.”
Friend: “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
Nick: “Neutral.”
It wasn’t long after the initial Something Awful thread that Nick’s YouTube channel was discovered.
Luckily for those who were interested the channel provided a very thorough documentation of his day-to-day life…
which he lived alongside his parents and sister in the small town of Minot, North Dakota.
It included projects he was working on…
Nick: “If you look closely, you can see the trees here…
although they kinda blend with mountains fairly well, but to get the best view…
upsy daisy!”
And how he spent his leisure time…
Nick: “I’m having fun gathering orbs to the infinite!”
One could get a complete picture of Ulillillia if they were willing to spend the time watching.
Although his website had already provided evidence that Nick’s imagination and ability to channel his focus could produce some interesting projects…
what this website had failed to mention was that in 2000, he’d written a novel.
Nick: “I’ll be at the Twin Cities Book Festival offering my book “The Legend of the Ten Elemental Masters” for sale…
fifteen dollars per normal copy…
$18 per autographed copy. Hmm.”
The story is based on what Nick described on his website as the ten elements, along with the chart describing…
how each element either strengthened or weakened the other.
His prose, uniquely his own, reflects the way Nick’s mind operates.
Assigning numeric values to nearly every detail, characters given height and weight descriptions to the decimal point.
Colors represented in hexadecimal format.
“Ivan is a 14-2/3- year-old eighth grade student who is a sports enthusiast with an above average muscle mass.
He is a 152-pound Native American 70 inches tall.
He wears short, white socks…
medium priced, fairly old running shoes, an orange cotton t-shirt, and dark blue violet…
elastic silk capris.
The capris have holes 1/16 inch in diameter forming equilateral triangles spaced a quarter inch apart.”
And like many of Nick’s creations, reader confusion was unacceptable, and so he’d created visuals to accompany the text.
But perhaps what caught the majority of attention was that Nick had continued making video games.
Years after the release of the supernatural Olympics, Nick set out to expand his original game to create a fully playable…
representation of his mind game, which he called “Platform Masters.” The coding, self-taught as it is…
leaves no detail unpolished. As the character moves, Nick’s use of parallax scrolling…
maintains a realistic perspective to the trees in both the foreground and the background.
The purpose of the game was to land on the goal platform before the time ran out…
with enemies and collectibles along the way. But what made this game truly unique was the nearly limitless…
freedom with which the game granted the player. Most notably the height in which characters could jump.
Nick: “Easily see the earth curvature going on and the stars should easily be visible…”
With over 300 levels and many beautifully rendered worlds. This game was to be Nick’s opus…
Unfortunately, Nick’s focus was not as singular as one might hope. As evident in many of his uploads, his affinity for spending countless hours playing…
video games with the sole intent of uncovering bugs and glitches…
often ate up large amounts of his free time.
This addiction was so rampant that Nick’s obsession with one video game in particular…
Bubsy 3-D, a mid-90s PlayStation 1 platformer in which he spent…
500 hours in level 2 alone was what he began to be known for.
Nick: “These are some secrets in the second level of Bubsy 3-D. I know this game extremely well…
Did you know that even this isn’t the highest possible place you can stand on in this level?”
Years past and although Nick continuously posted progress reports on Platform Masters many began to worry that he may never release it.
Otherwise Nick seemed to be doing alright.
Although his personality quirks were still on full display, he’d managed to find workarounds to some of his more harmful lifestyle habits.
Using his typical mathematical approach to self-improvement Nick shed…
80 pounds of body weight by simply degreasing his pizza, as shown in this tutorial posted to his channel.
Nick: “Each gram of fat has nine calories…
Each gram of carbohydrates is four, protein is also four…
however, one thing to note is that…
when food is very warm fat tends to be a liquid and…
and thus you can use paper towels to soak it up!”
By the early 2010’s Ulillillia had become a full-blown internet celebrity, with many popular forms actively following him.
Articles about Ulillillia were being published on pop culture websites.
The Something Awful forms who’d been keeping up with him…
all these years decided to reach out to Nick to see if he’d be willing to do an Ask Me Anything.
Now that Nick was an adult in his mid-20s there wasn’t much resistance to the idea…
And many had been curious to get a deeper insight into his unusual thought processes. One of the first questions centered around Nick’s music preferences.
For years he’d been listening to only a handful of songs.
Mostly video game soundtracks, but had chosen to make different variations of the songs by increasing and decreasing the beats per minute.
He claimed this was for a variety, so he could get 20 different songs out of one.
Someone asked if he had any friends either online or in his home life.
He answered in classic Nick fashion defining friendship as those who coexist somewhere on the compatibility scale…
with 6.25 to 25 being an acquaintance, and 100 to 400 being a best friend.
He’s only had three people in his life to ever reach bestfriend status.
When asked about the unique name of Ulillillia…
he responded that he’d chosen it because it contains the word ill twice, and he considered himself to be mentally ill.
Many just wanted to offer encouragement and to let him know they couldn’t wait to play his game when it was released.
But as the years continued, a release date for Platform Masters seemed as far away as ever.
Nick was a perfectionist, constantly improving things about the game, reworking graphics, expanding levels…
Nick: “Carnivalesta redesign is now complete, and wow…
is it way more detail than it has ever been before!”
A being a one-man production team for a technically impressive game with over 300 levels and no budget whatsoever…
Even an estimated release date seemed like too much to ask.
And in 2011, these fears were compounded when tragedy struck Nick, his family, and his hometown of Minot, North Dakota.
News Reporter: “This morning the center of Minot, North Dakota is filling up with water and over the next week that city of 41,000 people expects its worst flooding in history.”
The flooding of Nick’s hometown caused the relocation of over a quarter of the city’s population.
Streets had to be navigated by boat…
The National Guard came to assist with evacuation, and the city’s infrastructure,
businesses and private properties saw more than a billion dollars in damages.
But the timing for Ulillillia couldn’t have been more unusual, as this was when a film crew had traveled from New York in order…
to make a documentary about his internet celebrity.
The film was to be produced by a group of three filmmakers who formed the company Everything Works.
Over the course of six weeks…
They followed and interviewed Nick and his family, as well as the citizens of Minot, gathering footage for the film.
Early the following year. They released this trailer…
Nick: “Hi, I’m Nick Smith AKA Ulillillia. Welcome to Minot, North Dakota.”
The excitement for this upcoming documentary was substantial and perhaps the pressure to release something worthy of the attention…
It had been getting overwhelmed and stalled the team of filmmakers.
Time passed, with the documentary still an editing limbo and its supporters growing increasingly restless…
Finally in April of 2013 Everything Works producer Trevor Duwyn released a statement on his blog explaining the delay…
Apparently they had toured a draft of the film to various unnamed festivals where it was poorly received.
With their confidence shaken the team decided to begin a complete re-edit of the film.
“Nick would never release his game until it was good enough to meet his high standards and attention to detail,”
Trevor explained, “and I refuse to betray our honor, Nick’s legacy, or the audience that has waited anxiously.
You deserve a great and interesting documentary about Nick and you are going to get that.”
Although many understood the missteps of inexperienced…
Filmmakers and agreed that a delayed film was better than a bad film…
the lack of updates following this statement left fans of Ulillillia with waning hope.
Many attempted to reach out to the filmmakers, even offering to buy the raw footage in order to edit it themselves.
But with over six years since the last communication from the filmmakers, coupled with the fact that Everything Works seems to have disbanded…
the intimate glimpse into the life of Nick Smith may tragically never surface.

Due to Nick’s diminished online presences internet celebrity is faded in recent years.
Although he still seems to enjoy interacting with the fans and friends he’s made throughout his time in the internet limelight.
In September of 2016 a YouTube channel called Alex Yard and Knuckles appeared…
featuring interview footage of Nick speaking about his new job…
moving out of his hometown of Minot, as well as some classic Nick topics such as his dreams.
Nick: “My dreams are kind of foretelling the future such as airline flights…
I would’ve never thought I’d do that back then. Heh. Or that I’d go swimming in very clear, very blue water…
Which is something I’m so wanting to do these days.”
He still writes fiction and released his second novel “The secret in the Basement” in 2015.
Although we still haven’t seen a finished version of Platform Masters, the videogame he’s been working on for over a decade…
It seems he’s still fine-tuning to his version of perfection, and perhaps one day he’ll be ready to release it to the world.
Nick: “It’s because everything is going by 192 mile an hour.
Of course. This isn’t the only world with this kind of traffic either.”
At 35 years old, it’s likely that Nick still has much more to show the world. And although the glimpse into his life…
he’s allowed us to see shows of mind fraught with challenges…
It also shows a peculiar, yet at times inspirational individual.
From his artistic creations, his analytical and mathematical modes of thinking, his approach to
self-improvement, to his methods of overcoming his phobias…
Ulillillia has cemented himself as one of the most fascinating characters the Internet has ever seen.
Nick: “Blue water kills you, or at least that’s what I would have said twenty-one years ago…
I wouldn’t have even touched a rain puddle of all things, and yet here I am…
sunken up to my neck in it, and it’s about as blue as it can ever get. How blue?
I’ll dunk the camera under and show you.”
Thank you to fellow youtuber HomeStarRunnerTron for recommending this topic to me. If you’re interested in checking out their channel…
I’ll link it in the description.
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