In fiddling around with the FFVII PC editing program Cosmo, I came across this strange background, located within the game's field data archive:
What is that little red man? I certainly didn't remember seeing anything like that while playing the game. However, what I found even odder was that there was no "regular" version of this background, which could've been the one I remembered from FFVII. Confounded by this discovery, I posted the image on the Citadel's Forums.
I got a fairly large number of responses. Seb theorized that the little guy is the "signature" of the background artist and/or programmer, and that since it was too late to change the CG background, the empty chest in that scene (which is a separate sprite) was added to cover it up. It seemed like a perfectly plausible theory, since the empty chest in the Desert Prison is one of the game's mysteries. However, when I checked out that part of the game for myself, the results I got were especially baffling:
Notice that the chest doesn't completely cover the area where the "red guy" is in the first picture, and is even placed further right. BlueJay expressed doubt, saying that Cosmo might've added something to the background itself. So I downloaded Gast, a similar image viewer made by a different programmer, and searched through the Desert Prison backgrounds again-- getting the exact same results that I did with Cosmo.
Thus, the mystery remains: what exactly is the "Red Man", and how did the game's programmers manage to cover up his existance, without the use of a second rendered background?
--Reeve, October 2004
UPDATE - January 2005:
I recently learned that the foregrounds and backgrounds of each individual background image can be viewed separately. Here are the respective ones for the pit in the Desert Prison:
So it seems that what was behind the "red guy" was preserved in the "background" layer, and the figure itself was somehow masked out in the finished version of FFVII. Still, I thought it was an interesting little find...
UPDATE - April 2007:
Since this page went up, several visitors have noted that the "red guy" may have something to do with Test 0, a monster which seemed to have been a battle test for the game's programmers (more about Test 0 can be found here). It's possible that the "red guy" was supposed to trigger this "test", but of course, this is unknown.