[In the third of a series picking out the most notable Game Developers Conference 2009 lectures, sister site Gamasutra examines the Game Design Track, with newly added talks from the World of Warcraft: Wrath Of The Lich King, Mass Effect 2, and Warhammer Online creators.]

Game Developers Conference 2009 (organized by Gamasutra parent company Think Services) is set to take place in San Francisco's Moscone Center from March 23 to 27, 2009.

With nearly 280 sessions now confirmed for GDC 2009, we'll be taking a track by track look at the conference's line-up over the next few weeks.

Third on the list is GDC's Game Design Track, which will help attendees "understand and exploit the possibilities of new technologies," and also explore the "challenges and ramifications of the interaction between new technologies and established techniques."

Notable highlights thus far announced for this track are as follows:

- The 'Cruise Director of Azeroth: Directed Gameplay within World of Warcraft', Blizzard Entertainment's Jeffrey Kaplan explains the guidelines and philosophies directing the creation of World of Warcraft content, and will also provide an informative look at the popular MMORPG's "quest system and how it has changed over time, with Wrath of the Lich King being the latest evolution."

- Project manager Corey Andruko and lead technical designer Dusty Everman will present a highly anticipated session on "The Iterative Level Design Process of Bioware's Mass Effect 2." The two will examine major issues encountered while building the original Mass Effect, and will share the sequel's new level-creation process.

- Mythic Entertainment's ribald Paul Barnett will share how his team managed to take a beloved franchise like Warhammer and "convert it into to an MMO that's fun in its own right", as he recounts humorous anecdotes from the Warhammer Online developer's process of 'Making an MMO Based on a Beloved IP (Without Pissing Everyone Off)'.

- Last year's Game Design Challenge champion, Infocom veteran Steve Meretzky, will compete against two as yet unrevealed combatants in 'The Game Design Challenge: My First Time.' The contestants will pitch a game concept that brings the themes of sex and autobiography together, providing for a session full of "extremely innovative and uncomfortably revealing design thinking."

- In his 'Vast Narratives and Open Worlds, Part Deux -- Big Huge Problems' session, Ken Rolston -- lead designer of the recent Elder Scrolls games -- will talk about his new open-world RPG with Big Huge Games. Along with BHG's lead designer Mark Nelson, he'll discuss the "unique and varied challenges associated with designing a vast open-world game, how to avoid them, and what to do when they inevitably occur."

In addition, a number of other already announced lectures are notable highlights in the Design Track:

- In 'Player's Expression: The Level Design Structure Behind Far Cry and Beyond?', Ubisoft's lead level designer Jonathan Morin will share "proven design tools to support extensive player’s expression," as well as "examples on how to use those in the future to expand beyond what was done on Far Cry 2."

- Lionhead Studios's Peter Molyneux will display visual and playable examples for a range of both successful and failed ideas from his studio in 'Lionhead Experiments Revealed', depicting "cutting edge technology from several different disciplines."

- In 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Design Lessons Learned from Rock Band', Harmonix senior designer Dan Teasdale looks to inspire designers to "subvert the yearly franchise excuses that kill design innovation, and strive to push forward on innovating in their own titles, regardless of development time, franchise, or mechanic."

The full Game Design Track line-up to date includes many more notable lectures and roundtables, including discussions on breathing life into open worlds, camera-based gaming, screenwriting techniques, and many more.